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Among other national holidays celebrated this month, May has been named National Masturbation Month. As I sit and think about female masturbation and the openness of female sexuality, in general, I realize that it is still a very taboo subject when it doesn’t involve pornography or male pleasure as an end result. Why is that? Why is it still deemed unusual for women to pleasure themselves and speak freely about it? Masturbation is treated as almost a “rite of passage” for boys transitioning into their prepubescent stages, as it’s expected for them to begin touching themselves at a young age. But we are subconsciously promoting shame among girls for doing it. Even after the sexual revolution of the ’60s and ’70s, and in a supposedly post-feminist era, the idea of women and masturbation together remains a little too complex for some.

The idea that women can enjoy sex on their own has yet to gain cultural acceptance in some places. It’s as if time froze in the ’50s and many social conservatives still see it as unethical, or freaky. Pop culture often depicts women touching themselves as overwhelmingly pornographic as if it’s only something women branded as sexually liberated can partake in as opposed to every girl. It’s like the idea of having a bowel movement. We all do it, and it’s a natural bodily function, but some hold on to the idea that women don’t do it. There are some women who won’t even talk about it in the presence of men or women alike.

A study on sexuality conducted at Ohio State University surveyed women and found that they were more likely to admit they masturbated if they were guaranteed confidentiality. However, their male counterparts spoke openly of pleasuring themselves and even overshared at times.

I recently had a conversation with one of my male friends on the subject of masturbation. He gave me a detailed description from start to finish on how he sets the mood, as well as the rhythm he uses, and it was literally the most natural and amusing conversation I’ve ever had on a sexual subject.

But when I brought up the subject with a few girlfriends, I got hit with the “I know we’re friends and all but…” responses.

So why can’t a normal girl like me just touch myself on a Saturday night while watching a Netflix movie because I feel like it? Why can’t I initiate healthy conversations of self-exploration in a group chat with my girls without getting shut down or being hit with “OMG” from them? It makes me wonder, does female desire make us uncomfortable? Are women not allowed to be horny just because, and without purpose? Why aren’t some women even comfortable talking about it with other women without clutching their pearls?

In light of Masturbation Month, it’s time to remove the stigma from the act. If you ever find yourself tempted to touch down there, here are some things to consider: Female masturbation has several health benefits, from preventing cervical infections by relieving the urinary tract, to strengthening the pelvic floor and balancing hormones. Aside from these amazing health benefits, getting in tune with yourself also has several psychological and emotional benefits. The most obvious being that it’s a mood booster. And many times we have sexual encounters with men that flop because we expect them to know all of our buttons and what gets us off, but we don’t even know how to do that for ourselves. By exploring our bodies, we learn the rhythm and the things that we like. Having open discussions about masturbating allows us to articulate to our partners what we like; it’s a confidence booster because it’s showing others that we are in control of what pleasures us. Sharing these feelings and experiences with friends also allows us to learn and teach each other how to change our perception of female sexuality and masturbation. So if you find yourself in the middle of the day having the urge to love on yourself just because, do it and enjoy it. Take your time, savor it, listen to your body and know that there is nothing dirty about it…unless, of course, that’s the vibe you’re going for.

For more on the health benefits of masturbation, check out this article.

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