#Sexual Health

International Masturbation Month: Dear Ladies, Find Your Own Meaning Of Pleasure

masturbation month
International Masturbation Month: Geez! You didn’t know such a thing even existed? Well, you are not alone. In a society where most people to date are embarrassed and ashamed of masturbating, it is an alien thought to recognize, dedicate, and celebrate a month for masturbation. And that’s precisely why this event becomes all the more important.

Masturbation day was first declared by Good Vibrations (a sex shop in America) to honor Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders after she was fired by Bill Clinton. Her only guilt? She dared to suggest on a public platform that masturbation be included in the school sex education curriculum. Yes, it is hard to lose your job. Her comment about wanting to teach young people about masturbation was in response to the then-ongoing AIDS epidemic. In her expert medical opinion, masturbation was a form of safe sex that would lessen the transmission of the virus. Every year since then, we use this day to acknowledge the sacrifice of the doctor and raise awareness and education about masturbation.

Have times changed since then?

Not really. Majority of women still feel embarrassed to do and/ or talk about self- pleasuring. Many of us still believe that good girls do not masturbate; that mothers do not masturbate. While you can find several men talking about their adolescent experiences with self-pleasure, we rarely find a woman in that mix. As a sexuality educator, I try to spark conversations via each and every post that I make on my social media pages. While I get many private messages from my female followers who connect with the content, I rarely see anyone publicly interacting with it. Women who agree with me in the DMs also tell me that they cannot share the same content because they do not want their family or friends to see it.

Even during the time of Third Wave Feminism, where all taboos that surround women are being shattered, I am still waiting for other women to talk about the taboo of masturbation. There is a lack of open support from women on this topic that forces other women to shy away from the topic. We can unabashedly talk about the wage gap, menstrual problems, and other gendered issues. But what about female sexuality and desires? Why are they shoved back to the back of your mind, away from the spotlight? Sure, a friend or a relative might judge your outspokenness. Sure, you might receive a creepy text from a man who does not believe in boundaries. But the solution to such responses should never be silencing your sexual voice or refusing to support other women when they dare to talk about it.

To substantiate my claim, these are some testimonies from women when we asked them about their opinion on masturbation:

“Always scared. Even now. I am a 25-year-old with a baby.”

“I never had an orgasm even though I am almost 30 now, and I never masturbated before until recently as touching oneself is considered gross. But then one day I felt I should touch myself, and I still didn’t have any idea what masturbation was all about. I was doing it wrong for months until one day accidentally my hand rubbed against my clit, and that is when I finally orgasmed.”

When I get such responses, I cannot help but think how misinformed women are about their pleasure. How we picture female pleasure itself is wrong and reductive. Most of us tend to think of masturbation as harshly rubbing or fingering. We desperately need to expand our view of masturbation. For a woman, masturbation could be something as smooth as reading a book and touching her vulva. For another, it could be using multiple toys to pleasure herself.

If you want to find pleasure, find your own meaning of pleasure.

I once questioned a past acquaintance on why she believed I was wrong for using my platform to talk about female sexuality. The answer was one I have heard many times – it is against our Indian culture. The sexual shame that we have acquired is another unwelcome side effect of colonisation. For proof, we need to look no further than Kamasutra, penned in the third century way before the puritans got a hold of us. The Indian sage Vatsyayana actually encourages female masturbation more than male masturbation. The rigid, narrow mindset that we adopt when we view masturbation and sex is alien to us. It was ingrained in us as a way of control. It is time to take our power back and embrace our roots – the forgotten times where we were free to explore our desires and sexuality without having the shackles of shame holding us down.

Pallavi Barnwal is a certified sexuality coach and founder of a sex-positive platform Get Intimacy. She has been featured as a sexpert in publications such as Huffington Post, India Today, Vogue, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express, Times Of India, BBC, Deccan Chronicle, Femina and more. She specialises in helping people gain courage to talk openly about sex and relationships and equipping them with actionable tips and skills so they can start having more pleasure both inside and outside their bedroom. The views expressed are the author’s own.