Arielle Pardes | Go screw yourself
The Screwtinizer | Your best sexual partner is just an arm's length away
March 1, 2012, 12:46 am · Updated March 1, 2012, 11:02 pm·
I had just reached the ripe age of 16 when my mother marched into my room — fresh from watching The Oprah Winfrey Show — and announced: “We need to get you a vibrator.”
My mother had adopted the idea from sexpert Laura Berman, who was doing a segment for Oprah called Having the Sex Talk With Your Kid. One of the most controversial bits of the segment was Berman’s recommendation for parents to encourage their teenager daughters to use small, clitoral vibrators as a way to “normalize sexual exploration.”
To be clear, I was mortified. Masturbation is simply not polite conversation and I wanted my mother and Laura Berman to get their business out of my panties.
Solo sex has a long history of taboo. In the age of Freud, women who touched their hoo-has were diagnosed with “hysteria,” and men who beat their meat were warned that they could go blind. To prevent these horrifying consequences, Victorian-era parents were marketed an array of anti-masturbation devices, ranging from modest chastity belts to intrusive urethral rings, which pricked the penis if it became erect.
Despite its historical reputation, plenty of people still believe that thou shalt wank thyself. According to the Kinsey Institute, masturbation is among the most common sexual behaviors, with about 90 percent of men and over 60 percent of women claiming to have touched themselves.
But while our pants are down, our lips are zipped: masturbation is seldom discussed, let alone praised. While few of our parents invested in chastity belts or tied our hands to our bedposts at night, most of us weren’t raised with an honest, positive dialogue about self-pleasure.
When former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders suggested in 1994 that masturbation should be taught in sex education classes — as a way to promote abstinence, mind you — she was promptly forced to resign.
In a later interview with National Public Radio, Elders stood by her statement. As a sexual health advocate, she mentioned that developing a familiarity with your genitals is a good practice in monitoring sexual health: basically, if you know the geography down south, you’ll be able to detect an irregularity, like an unusual lump or a suspicious discharge.
More than that, whacking off is a super safe alternative to having sex with another person.
“Masturbation has never gotten anybody pregnant, never made anybody go blind, never caused anybody to go crazy,” Elders listed. “And, as I always say, you know you’re having sex with somebody you love.”
Well said, Elders. Could our own fingers be our best sexual partner?
Think of it this way: just an arm’s length away, you have unrestricted access to a sexual partner who is available every time you’re in the mood, can’t give you a sexually transmitted infection or cause an accidental pregnancy, doesn’t care what kind of underwear you’re wearing or how recently you’ve trimmed your bush, knows exactly how you like to be touched and is motivated by your pleasure and your pleasure only.
If you know of someone who fits this bill, lucky you. If not (and I quote from this year’s performance of The Vagina Monologues): “Stop being optimistic, get a vibrator.”
Getting a vibrator is exactly what Berman recommends. Not only does masturbating help women understand their orgasms but it also demonstrates that you don’t need to rely on anyone else for your pleasure. By the way, women consistently rank masturbation as the most reliable way to get off.
“You’re teaching them about their own body and pleasuring themselves and taking the reins of their own sexuality,” Berman explained in her 2009 Oprah segment. To nervous parents in the audience, Berman also mentioned the advantage that adolescent girls who are comfortable masturbating “don’t ever have to depend on any other teenage boy to do it for them.”
Perhaps this is what my mother was getting at when she marched into my room nearly four years ago. Sex with yourself is not only satisfying and self-empowering — it’s the safest sex you can have.
So seriously, go screw yourself. The best sex of your life could literally be at your fingertips.
Arielle Pardes is a College sophomore and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies major from San Diego, Calif. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Screwtinizer appears every other Thursday.