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female-masturbation
Credit: Caroline Chin

Let’s talk about sex. Well, almost. First, let’s talk about the benefits of sex, like improving immunity, helping heart health, relieving some instances of minor pain, and improving sleep. The list goes on. What if you could reap these health benefits — a reduction in stress, better sleep, relief from menstrual cramps — without the need for someone else? I’m sure many of you are sitting there going What is she talking about? You can do all those things plus more if you just take three minutes out of your day and masturbate!” You’re absolutely right. But female masturbation, though immensely beneficial for personal and physical reasons, is still seen as a taboo topic in today’s world, despite reports that up to 81% of women have enjoyed a solo session. 

Why are Penn students willing to accept the casual hookup culture that permeates our campus, but not female masturbation? Arguably, masturbation can be less emotionally confusing than this hookup culture, yet it’s more stigmatized. One can’t help but wonder if that’s due to the fact that a hookup is typically perceived to occur between a man and a woman, while female matsurbation is only for the pleasure of the woman. So my question is, why are sexual encounters where men benefit more normalized? And how can we combat this idea? By talking.

It’s not only men who find the topic of female masturbation embarrassing. I’ve brought it up with close friends who have turned red and refused to discuss the topic. While I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, or pressure anyone into a discussion they don’t want to have, this embarrassment runs deeper than a simple unwillingness to talk with me. Women’s sexual empowerment has historically not been a priority. So let's make it one. It can be harmful to grow up assuming none of your female friends are masturbating due to to the lack of discourse surrounding the topic. Studies have found that 58% of  17 year old girls report having masturbated. But have they talked to each other about it? Not talking about masturbation can make you think you’re abnormal for doing something completely human. You internalize self-induced sexual pleasure as an anomalous occurrence that you need to hide and be embarrassed by. You grow up ashamed for enjoying something that should only be viewed as healthy.

Women have sex. So why is it still surprising that we masturbate? Personal exploration of sexual preferences should be encouraged, not swept under a rug for future sexual partners to find. Getting to know your own body makes it easier for you to enjoy someone else getting to know your body. 

Female masturbation is also an unseen affair in pop culture. We’ve all seen movies or shows where a man pumps one out real quick, or at least mentions doing said deed. Rarely do we see a woman taking her bra off after a long day and enjoying some much needed girl time. If we don’t see representations of female masturbation in media, including dialogue about female masturbation, how are we supposed to know it’s a perfectly normal thing to do? It’s not like a typical sex ed class in the United States covers the topic either, due to the fact that there’s no national standard or curriculum. In Ontario, Canada, an outdated sex ed curriculum (from 1998) was recently updated to include topics such as masturbation, sexting, gender expression, and consent. Male masturbation has been normalized through constant conversation, media reflections, and expectations for men to do it. That’s totally fine. But let’s include some female masturbation in this expectation.

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. That should be a lesson everyone knows by now. However, if masturbating is something you do want to try, or have always done, don’t let the harmful stigma surrounding it stop you from enjoying yourself, and being open about it. Make yourself feel the best you’ve ever felt.

The best part — you truly don’t need anyone else: anyone else’s permission, anyone else’s time, or anyone else’s approval. So what are you waiting for?

SOPHIA DUROSE is a College sophomore from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is sdurose@sas.upenn.edu

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