Our contributor Abby Spector, who is majoring in Feminine/Gender/Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University, has a confession to make:
I remember the day well. I was twelve and had stayed home from school. “I feel sick,” I told my parents. I was skilled at feigning illness, especially on days when there were math tests or timed mile runs. All I needed was a warm towel and a whiny voice and the house was mine. I curled up on the couch with a Harry Potter book-on-tape, ready for a day of much-needed relaxation (I was an anxious 6th grader). Ten chapters went by. I was bored.
A Cosmopolitan sat on the coffee table next to me. Every time my sister and I flew we were allowed to buy a magazine at the airport kiosk. Cosmo was her choice. Naturally, I wanted to know what my older, more sophisticated sister found within these glossy pages. “How to Master 69 Every Time!” I opened the magazine expecting to find an article on multiplication with prime numbers. Let’s just say I was confused, intrigued, then pleasantly surprised to learn 69 was not math-related. I read the article three times. After the third, I wouldn’t have needed a warm towel to fake a fever: I was hot all over. Harry Potter was still on. “Then Hermione took Harry to a dragon egg…” The soothing, British voice was white noise. Instinctively, I began masturbating for the first time.
I knew this tingly, shivers-all-over sensation. Playground slides, balance beams and some lucky games of doctor introduced me to the joys of clitoral stimulation. The difference was, those times were by accident. Now I was in control. And boy, was I excited to exercise that control! Three to four times a week I explored the inner-workings of my nether regions, learning what felt good, what felt better and what felt best.
My liberal parents had taught me about masturbation: “Nothing is wrong with feeling good,” my mom said. Upbringing can only go so far. Societal pressures eventually whittle their way into even the most hippy-raised adolescent brain. Boys at my school talked about jerking off and a man on the poster in front of the movie theater had his penis inside of a pie, but what about girls? From what I could tell, normal girls didn’t masturbate. My nightly activity had to remain a secret.
After a while, this sense of secrecy became fun. I felt like I invented female masturbation. No inanimate object was safe from my sex drive: scrubbed cucumbers for penetration; the tip of an unpeeled banana for clitoral stimulation (not the smoothest option, in hindsight); and larger, softer things (stuffed animals, pillows, etc) for the whole-body pleasure of being with another being. I could roll around my bed, my imagination stimulated by the thought of being with someone else. Thanks, Mr. Bear!
When I was fifteen, I went to summer camp (not band camp). One day I was hanging around with a group of girls, just talking about boys and past flings, the typical pre-dinner conversation. Nothing scandalous. That is, until Willow spoke up: “I miss masturbating.” Willow had her eyebrow pierced and played the electric guitar. Her long, red hair was always tied back in a scarf she got at a street fair in Peru with her rocker boyfriend. In other words, Willow was cool. And she masturbated? I was shocked. In response, all the older girls claimed they couldn’t masturbate. “I tried, but I couldn’t get off knowing I was doing it to myself,” they said one after another, as if it were the mantra of the ashamed. I smiled. I had something in common with Willow!
I returned home that summer a raging, Birkenstock-wearing feminist who was prepared to start a sexual revolution. The world needed to know about female masturbation. Little did I know that the world had discovered my secret. Most women gave their vulva some lovin’ on a weekly basis. The problem was that no one talked about it. If not for Willow, I might have remained the silent type, guiltily hiding under my covers to give myself the good ol’ two finger tango.
But I would not be kept silent. I began casually bringing up masturbation in conversation. This was hard. Everything related to female pleasure seemed off-limits for discussion. At parties I would slip in a comment about how getting fingered from someone else felt so much worse then fingering myself or ask in Ten Fingers (a popular, tell-all drinking game) who in the circle masturbated. Slowly but surely my peers began talking. The masturbation revolution was on a roll.
A couple weeks ago I was talking with one college friend about her nonexistent masturbatory practices. I was shocked and, to tell you the truth, a little saddened by the thought of her lonely vagina. Within seconds we were on our way to Babeland, a sex shop with a branch conveniently located five blocks from my apartment. The goal: a vibrator. When I had gotten my first vibrator for my 18th birthday, I thought I was going to hate the feeling of a plastic phallis shoved into my hoo-ha. Needless to say, I was wrong. Vibrators are the best battery-powered appliance on the market. Thanks to Babeland, Hannah now agrees.
Ten years have passed since I read that article on 69. Harry Potter cassette tapes are no longer my porn of choice. (Although, I’m not going to lie, in my fantasies I still occasionally ride Daniel Radcliff’s broomstick). I am still on a masturbation crusade, convinced that open dialogue would educate women about their bodies and the importance of pleasure. So, readers of the world, pop some bubbly, light some candles and curl up in some clean sheets. It’s time to start loving yourselves!