In my opinion, female masturbation, as well as other “female” topics (such as menstruation) is still a big taboo in our society. Only now (in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century) is the mass media starting to talk about this topic (and most of the time causing some nervous laughter) in a more or less open way. A few months ago the “Satisfyer Pro” phenomenon emerged, which gave another push to the normalisation of female self pleasure.
But this wasn’t always the case around here (Portugal, the Iberian Peninsula, Europe, the Western World…), and in a large part of the world it still isn’t.
Anyone who has read two or three of my articles knows that I like to approach almost every topic from my own experience. First because I think it’s the most authentic way to talk about things and second because I believe that by sharing our experiences we can eventually help others.
This is for me one of the most important issues regarding the fight for gender equality. And it is a matter that concerns me personally because I carried, throughout my childhood and part of my adolescence, a trauma related to the taboo of female masturbation (which if 15 years ago was still a big taboo, even more so 30 years ago).
My experience with masturbation started before I knew anything about sex or sexual desire. As strange as it may seem to some people (probably due to the effect of the old taboo) it is not uncommon for little girls (likewise little boys) to discover on their own that genital area stimulation is very pleasurable. I must have been about 2 or 3 years old when I innocently started rubbing myself on pillows (literally).
At those ages, masturbation is purely out of sensory gratification. In normal situations there is no sexual significance and that was also my case. The proof is that I did it in front of everyone. For me it was just something pleasant, just like scratching if I was itching, or eating sweets (I always had a sweet tooth). In my head there was no revelation that it was (in the adult world) considered inappropriate.
My pediatrician at the time mentioned to my mother that my sex life would start early because of my precocious self pleasuring behaviours (WTF?!).The taboo wasn’t only amidst healthcare professionals but as well within my family. My mother did not know how to deal with the situation (I don’t know if my father has any sense of this story) and spoke to her older sister to help her solve the “problem”. My aunt had the great idea (sarcasm alert) to tell me a scary story about how, if I kept doing “it”, my pubic bone would wear out and disappear. This while illustrating what would happen to my “ladybits” by rubbing a carrot on the marble kitchen countertop (as the orange vegetable crumbled before my terrified gaze).
The problem was not that I was masturbating (masturbation is something natural and healthy at all ages), but that I was doing it in public. What informed people do when they come across a child masturbating in public is explaining to that child (as often as is necessary) that although doing “it” is not “bad”, is something private that we should do when we are alone, not in front of other people and even less in front of strangers.
Now you ask: did my aunt’s strategy work? Yes, but not as she expected. I didn’t stop masturbating, but I started hiding myself to do it , not because it was something intimate and private, but because it was something bad for me, for my health, and if someone saw me doing it they would surely get mad at me. I would masturbate with a huge feeling of guilt because I thought that by doing so I was putting my health at risk. And that’s how it was for almost 10 years.
Throughout those years my relationship with masturbation changed, it started (as is also natural) to have a more erotic character, but as it was taboo I kept thinking that “that thing” I did was shameful because it was bad for me. I didn’t know that “it” was a natural thing, which was called masturbation.
Until one day I went to the theatre with my mother to see a play during which they often used this word that I had never heard: “masturbation”. When we left the theatre I asked my mother what it meant and she explained to me that it was when people gave pleasure to themselves by stimulating their genitals and that it was something natural and healthy unless there was some kind of addiction (I’m paraphrasing, I don’t remember the exact words she used anymore… this was over 20 years ago). And then she added something like: “you used to do it when you were a little girl, I don’t know if you still remember”. The world stopped spinning.
So “it” wasn’t bad after all, it was natural and healthy? My pubic bone wasn’t going to disintegrate after all? Was all that guilt pointless after all? All the times I had suffered in silence were unnecessary? Could all the nightmares in which terrible things happened to me for masturbating have been avoided?
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so angry, but I didn’t show it, I was ashamed too. My mother never knew that their intervention had a great impact on my psychological and sexual development. Even today I have nightmares related to the feeling of guilt that masturbation caused for almost a decade.
In our society boys are expected, sooner or later, to start touching themselves and masturbating. When adults see a baby boy touching their weenie they think it’s funny, they laugh and think it’s normal, later on when boys start masturbating everyone accepts it as natural and normal, so much so that usually (and correct me and if my assumptions are wrong) parents give boys some privacy so that “embarrassments” won’t happen. My perception of our society leads me to think that this is not exactly the case (or it wasn’t 30 years ago) for girls.
I myself have many questions regarding this part of the story. What followed up afterwards, after knowing what masturbation was, will be shared in my next article, so stay tuned.
Some of my questions are:
Would things have been different if my pediatrician at the time had been someone more evolved and less conservative? I remind you that he made a parallel between two things that have nothing to do with each other — masturbation at the age of 3 and how this would accelerate my entry into sex life (there is no study that indicates that people who start masturbating earlier also start their sex life earlier — I researched — and this was not the case, I started my sex life at 16/17 years of age, all very much within “normality”).
Did my mother’s opinion change during those 10 years? Because if not, what sense did she have in trying to get me to stop doing something that was perfectly natural and healthy, when she could have just explained to me that I should do it when I was alone?
Do you also think it’s important to normalize female child masturbation? Should we talk more about it? Is it any different these days? Are today’s mothers and fathers generally prepared to deal with girls who masturbate in public in a sensible and non traumatic way? Do you think that my experience was a needle in the haystack and that the majority of society (my family being an exception) at the time already saw female child masturbation as something natural?
Do you think masturbation is something natural and normal? At what age did you start masturbating? Are you willing to share something of your story with me? With us? Do you have questions for me?
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