The Wednesday Weigh-in: Dirty Girl Masturbating Edition

photo of sleeping half-naked woman in chair with the caption Masturbation: It's not just for men you know

As a long-time masturbation enthusiast and firm believer that respect for autonomous female desire could actually, like, save the world, this article on Dirty Girl Ministries, which aims to cure women of masturbation and porn “addictions,” makes me so sad.

As others have said, a group that believes all “sexual thought” (yes, even that momentary flash of what you’d like to do to Ryan Gosling!) outside of marital intercourse is “dirty” seems to be doing little more than further pathologizing the natural human desires that these women have become convinced are shameful by our sex-negative culture.

Which is the real shame. Masturbation has provided the longest, most consistently-satisfying sexual relationship of my short life. From those first curious tinglings climbing up the sliding pole at the playground and the early years of well-worn stuff animals that moonlighted as “boyfriends,” it’s one that, like any good relationship, has continually evolved. Sure, it’s had its ups and downs. At times, seduced by the thrill of an actual human dude, I’ve been neglectful. At others, during seemingly interminable single spells, I’ve become bored (as people so often do) with such a familiar, sure thing. But, we’ve evolved–me, myself, and sometimes my vibrator–with an ever-exciting mix of new techniques, fantasies, locations, and the occasional onlooker. And after a dozen plus years, I’m still learning new things about myself, my body, and my desires–even when I don’t have a partner to explore them with.

And yet, apparently, the stigma around female masturbation persists–even as sexual taboos are broken all over the place. A recent study of U.S. teens found that while nearly three-quarters of boys reported having ever masturbated, less than half of girls did. That’s gotta change–and we can start by talking about it. So dish, Feministing. When did you start masturbating? Did you struggle with the stigma our culture attaches to it? What role has it played in your developing sexuality?

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25 Comments

  1. Posted August 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I tried a few sessions as a teenager, which were all unsuccessful because I was ignorant of my own anatomy and how it related to pleasure and achieving orgasm alone. When I turned 19, I moved out of my parent’s home and inherited more privacy. This lead to me watching a porn DVD which I’d smuggled from friends who were using it as an ironic thing to make fun of. It was a really gross film in retrospect, but seeing women being brought to real orgasms helped me learn how to explore my body and make myself happy. As time went on, I finally worked up the courage to buy toys and started watching erotic material that was more centered on the pleasure of women. Now it’s something I can’t live without and it’s helping me to feel healthier and less likely to seek out random sexual encounters with people whom I don’t intend on building a relationship with. Especially now, as I’m sort of in a long distance relationship type thing. SKYPE helps alot too!

  2. Posted August 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I started at age 13, mostly because my hormones were going crazy and I felt like I couldn’t NOT do it.

    And, yes, I struggled mightily with it. I was so embarrassed. I was sure I was the only one doing it, but I didn’t want to stop, either. So I just kept quiet about it. I will say that if I had been surveyed in high school and asked if I masturbated, I would have lied, lied, lied on that survey. There would be no one and nothing outside of myself and my pillows that knew what I was up to.

    After college, I calmed down about the stigma. I got to know just how common it was. However, it’s still something that I consider private. I don’t tell my husband if and when I’ve masturbated (and I tell him EVERYTHING). I’ve never done it in front of a sexual partner to climax. I’m not ashamed. But it’s something that feels like it’s only mine and I’m not ready to share it.

    As far as shaping my sexuality, I definitely know what works for me now! I’m not afraid to ask for pleasure from my partner and definitely consider my pleasure (along with his) as a goal when we have sex.

  3. Posted August 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I think I first discovered masturbation (though I didn’t know it was called that, obviously) when I was about five or six. I just knew, for some reason, I liked it when I touched myself “down there”. Sometimes I got caught doing it while in bed at night. :(

    I struggled more with the religious stigma (I was raised Christian) than cultural. I was taught doing such a thing wasn’t really right, even though there’s nothing in the Bible about it. It wasn’t until my 20s that I shook it off and realized that there was nothing wrong with it, that it was completely normal, that it was the best and safest way to figure out what I like sexually, a good way to release any tension (sexual or otherwise), etc. It also ultimately helped me get rid of all the other beliefs I had about sex and sexuality in general, and now I feel freer to explore things.

  4. Posted August 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I was 11. Sexual desire as a concept was a new, exciting, but also overwhelming thing. It consumed my thoughts from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed at night. The best analogy I can think of is if someone turned a fire hose on full-bore. I went from no sexual interest to borderline sexual obsession, and apparently this was true for other boys my age, also.

    I masturbated multiple times a day and my only true fear was not getting caught. With time, I began to realize that I had a high libido. Masturbation was a release. It still is. It’s a kind of incentive for me. If I have to do something I know I’ll dislike, I can use masturbation as means of pleasure and a means of release.

    I will say that the practice did allow me to understand what was most sexually pleasing, but when I later had sex with another person, I had much more to learn. Some aspects carried over, but I had to arrive at a different conclusion with a different set of variables. Still, I’ll always be a fan.

  5. Posted August 24, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I started masturbating when I was ten – before I ever knew there was a name for it. When I was 14 or 15 I remember thinking that the guy I liked might be mad if he knew that I masturbated (I thought it was only normal for guys). I’m comfortable with it now but it’s still mostly a private activity for me. My favorite masturbation perks: natural sleeping aid, and menstrual cramp relief!

  6. Posted August 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I started masturbating long before I knew what masturbating was. However, in my very religious household, I knew that it was something I must keep hidden. My family made it very clear that masturbating was breaking one of the ten commandments; that I was an adulterer for doing it.

    I can’t tell you how many times I promised Jesus that I would stop…and then I broke my promise. I begged him to help me stop, because I knew that it was bad and evil, but I just couldn’t do it on my own.

    As I grew older and I learned more about my own sexuality, masturbating stopped feeling dirty and turned into something that just plain feels good. I still prefer not to share it with anyone else. My boyfriend doesn’t get to watch me masturbate, that’s something special between me, myself, and I.

  7. Posted August 24, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    the first time i masturbated was after i watched dirty dancing when i was 8. and it’s been a constant in my life ever since. when i started taking some medication it killed my sex drive and i was depressed that i didn’t want to masturbate anymore. I made my doctor switch me to a different medication.

    and yes, i experienced the stigma. I didn’t know what i was doing or that there was a word for it, but i figured it was a sin and used to pray to god to ask forgiveness, promising i’d never do it again. but i’d always do it again. even after i abandoned my religion, i didn’t get over the stigma until a friend of mine tried to console his younger brother after his mother walked in on him masturbating. it was at that point that i decided to openly talk about masturbation to help other’s come to terms with the act.

  8. Posted August 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I was 22 years old before I masturbated and enjoyed it. I tried before but failed to climax, and I was terrified for years that I was abnormal for not being interested in exploring my own (or anyone else’s) sexuality. I had NO ONE to talk to about this because this is the era of compulsory sexuality, especially in college, and who wants to admit that the sex everyone claims to enjoy so much just isn’t fun to you? I think it was the development of physical and emotional maturation that allowed me to finally masturbate and enjoy it, but previously those parts of me hadn’t aligned.

  9. Posted August 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know how old I was (around 10 I think, possibly younger), but it was definitely before I knew what it was. I was an imaginative kid and it felt good, though it was also a continuous learning experience. (I only experiment by myself, however)

    I was never so affected by culture that I felt it was “wrong” (non-religious liberal family), but neither did I know much about sex–I didn’t even think of it as sexual until I hit my teens. So I eventually decided it was like picking your nose: don’t do where you can be found out, and don’t talk about it.

  10. Posted August 24, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Always been a huge fan, even before I knew what masturbation was. At age 5 or 6 it was a regular hobby, and I freely enjoyed it, rubbing a blanket between my legs to get that ‘feeling’. Understandably, my mother decided to take me to the side one day and tell me the straight truth about what I was doing and that it wasn’t exactly appropriate for kindergarten naptime. I asked her how it could be so bad if it felt so good. One of the things I love about my mother; that being the timid and straight-laced housewife that she was, she looked down and me and told me, “Oh, no, there’s nothing wrong with it at all! It’s just something people do by themselves. So remember whenever you want to do it, close the door”. Thus began my illustrious career of masturbation, from my graduation of household objects (hairbrush handles!) to my very first vibrator, to my current relationship in which my boyfriend celebrates my openness with this and even graciously offers to be an audience. I swear to you, in my teenage years I could have rivaled my male peers!
    So that’s my masturbation tale. Happy beginning, even happier ending!

    • Posted August 25, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      I was 10, and I was also “caught” by my mom. I didn’t even realize I was orgasming at the time, but I just knew that I liked to rub myself until for some reason I felt something really intense and then I felt like stopping. Sometimes I was in the middle of a fantasy and was disappointed that I didn’t hold out until the end. My mom approached me about it and told me that it was completely normal as long as it was done in private. She said she started when she was six (although I can’t imagine how, living in a room with 3 sisters).

      Having that conversation with her completely molded my views on masturbation. Without her support, who knows how I would have felt about it.

  11. Posted August 24, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I love my personal masturbation inauguration. I was 16. It just happened so naturally. I had always felt comfortable resting my hand between my thighs on my vagina. It just felt most comfortable there. And then one night, it just turned into more. I just discovered it all by myself, all alone in my bed- just me, my fingers, my emerging sexuality, and the Goddess giving me a wink.

    I did not have the same experiences getting to know sex. They were intimidating, confusing, and hurtful. I’m not happy about the experiences through which I came to know sex. In fact, I had sex before I masturbated and had my first orgasm!

    Although my inauguration into sex was negative, steeped in the teen culture of pressured sex, my entry into masturbation was personal, natural and beautiful. It’s a very fond memory indeed.

  12. Posted August 24, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    wow, dirty girl ministries is soooo not what I thought! lols. I started pretty young, and I do recall a lot of stigma and shame, as I was raised Baptist. I used to promise Jesus I’d stop if my grandma would get better (she had cancer). That was a long time ago, now I kinda giggle thinking some imaginary religion dude would give a rat’s ass if I touched myself. Still a big masturbator, it relaxes me and sends me to sleep, although I find that if I can hold off for a day or two before seeing my GF I end up coming harder when we get it on. One odd thing is I’ve never liked porn really, and can’t deal with vibes, I will play with dildos though. I guess I didn’t think of porn as something meant for me…or maybe I’m just not super visual. In any case, I like making up my own stories and fantasies, and telling my lady about them is hot… The vibe thing is a physical thing I think, its just too intense, sorta hurts. I did master the dripping tap in the bathtub thing at a very precocious age :) My GF teases me about it actually, b/c I will text her that I’m gonna ‘take a nap’ and she knows that usually means at least one session, sometimes two…I just have a high libido, I guess… I don’t necessarily think masturbation is a particularly good or bad thing, I just think its normal. How else are you gonna fall asleep? :)

  13. Posted August 24, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    A warning, this comment will be quite explicit. I’ve always been het but the first time I masturbated it was to another boy. His name was Joel, it was nap time in kindergarten and he had tears running down his face from what I don’t know what, and I remember getting aroused thinking about it by myself at home. I neither climaxed or came, I stopped early because I was scared. The first time I climaxed (dry), much later, I was so scared I didn’t touch myself again for a long time. The first time I came, I was equally scared. I did feel ashamed, I did feel I was damaging myself. Only once did I bring it up to my parents, they just said, never do that. They didn’t tell me anything else. Only much later after all that did I find out what masturbation was. But even at age 16 I thought it was shameful and I tried to quit.

  14. Posted August 24, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    I was in 7th grade. Ironically, the first time I masturbated came after I had been reading a religious book (was raised Roman Catholic) that talked about peep shows and being invited to masturbate. This was shortly after a PSR class about how masturbation was a sin. I had never thought of doing this by myself…I had been aroused before but did not know what it was. I can say that the church put the idea in my head ;) Though honestly, I really believe I would have discovered it on my own after a while. I had been having sexual feelings for quite some time and never knew there was a release.
    This translated later in life for me to a desire to help women with their sexuality. I became a sex toy consultant. I LOVED being able to educate women about their sexuality in whatever form it took. I also love knowing that I don’t have to depend on a partner to fulfill my sexual needs. It was an Independence Day of sorts…

  15. Posted August 24, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I started masturbating when I was 11 quite by accident and I felt horrible about it. I was (and still am) a Christian and even though I can’t remember masturbation ever being explicitly talked about, I felt a lot of shame about what I was doing and thought that I must be breaking God’s heart. I read books on sexual purity and tried to stop, but I’ve never had very discipline, especially when it comes to not doing things I like to do. In my late teens I decided that I would just keep doing it because I liked it, even though it was probably wrong.

    Eventually, I talked about it briefly with some awesome people. I never wanted to talk about it, but I was so torn up about it that I felt I had to. I talked about with my mentor at church, who took a very traditional view of masturbation and encouraged me to pray and read more books, but she also told me that masturbation didn’t affect my relationship with God, which was incredibly comforting and, I think, paved the way for my future views on masturbation. Later, in my first few years of college, I talked with a friend about it and she (who was also a Christian) told me that it was my body that God had given to me and I had every right to make myself feel good. I took her words to heart and my shame diminished significantly.

    Now, two years out of college, I own a vibrator and masturbate regularly, loving every minute of it! I love that I can be sexual, even though I’m not in a relationship and have never had partnered sex. I love that I know how to give myself an orgasm so that I don’t have to rely on anyone else for one, which I think sounds a little cheesy, but it makes me feel a lot more in control of sexuality. Masturbation has also provided an awesome way for me to love my body. Loving my body is hard, especially as a fat woman, but learning about it and spending time with it and working with it to make my whole self feel good has allowed me to be more comfortable with myself. I don’t think masturbation should be shameful at all and now I actually think it makes God sad when His followers feel embarrassed about or ashamed of their masturbatory habits.

  16. Posted August 24, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    I like how their website explicitly says “Dirty Girls Ministries is on a crusade against the evils of female masturbation”. So male masturbation is ok? Why is that? Nice touch.
    I was about 7 or 8, possibly younger. I didn’t know what it was called, but it felt good so I kept doing it. My parents didn’t explain what it was called but said I should only do it in private. Later when I was older and first heard the word, I asked for a definition and my parents told me that it was what I had been doing all along. The only time I felt ashamed about it was when I was asked about it by my peers. I thought it would make me a slut if I admitted to it.

  17. Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I began masturbating when I was 12. It was sort of an accident. I was laying on the edge of the bed, and while sliding down to sit on the floor, the friction of the jeans gave me a sensation that even startled me…but I liked it, so I continued! After a few times I became very ashamed and promised I wouldn’t do it again, but I couldn’t keep that promise. I wasn’t until a couple of years back that I finally accepted female masturbation as normal. It mostly made me feel ashamed because I’d only thinking of what my mother would say if she’d caught me. I think one day i’ll tell her…just to see if I accurately imagined her reaction. :p

  18. Posted August 25, 2011 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    The earliest memory I have of masturbation/touching myself was probably when I was six or seven, and my friend and I used to play or set up Legos or something on opposite sides of the bed where we couldn’t see each other. I’d reach into my underwear and look and simply just touch myself. I don’t recall getting ‘pleasure’ out of it persay, just more of a curiosity.

    Then probably when I was 16/17 I would again touch myself and it felt good and nice, but I probably still knew so little about how my body worked that I still had never climaxed or had an orgasm.

    It was probably after having intercourse, exploring (mentally and physically) what felt good for me that I really knew what felt great and it became more of a consistent thing to do. I only recently (maybe in the last half year) discovered how great a vibrator-dildo feels and immensely enjoy using that, when my boyfriend isn’t here as well as when he is.

  19. Posted August 25, 2011 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    I was 21. I lost my virginity to my first boyfriend at 21 and had very very little sexual experience before that. When I was young I was always scared to explore sex withbous because I thought I was being bad or dirty or slutty, and then as I got older I was scared to try anything because other girls had more experience and I was afraid boys would laugh at me when they realized I didn’t knowhow to give hand or blow jobs. But once I was in a steady relationship I jumped into sex pretty quickly. I think it was partly due to embarrassment about not being able to do hand or blow jobs, though I don’t at all regretdoing it. Anyway, when he was home for Christmas we were talking on the phone and I said I missed him and missed sex. And he asked me why I didn’t just masturbate. I admitted that I never had and didn’t know how and he said “just do what I do to you.” the first time I didn’t climax or anything but I tried again a day or so later and it worked. I couldn’t believe no one had ever told me I could do this. I’m still disgusted with the fact that as a young girl no one ever said: here is a safe way to explore your sexuality with no bad consequences. Now, at 23, I still have a long way to go, but branched out into vibrators (so exciting) about a year ago, and I try to tell people about the benefits of comprehensive sex education every chance I get. Girls should be allowed to explore their own bodies and to know that they can please themselves without partner. It would definitely lead to more women and girls understanding and taking charge of their own bodies and sexual decisions.

  20. Posted August 25, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Hands down the best argument for changing the societal rep. of masturbation is the fact that when you are having a sexual dry spell, in terms of finding partners, you can meet your needs without having to go out and look for sexual interactions that don’t meet or fulfill your other needs. We don’t have to settle for unsatisfactory or unsafe partners when we can satisfy ourselves.

  21. Posted August 25, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I too started masturbating at a young age, probably 1o or 11. I fortunately was the claimer of a hand-held “back massager” that came into my family, and started using it to masturbate (although I was already experimenting with masturbation before that). I definitely didn’t even know what masturbation was. I was also orgasming without knowing what an orgasm was. I would masturbate until I got the “good feeling,” as I called it in my head, and then I’d rest for a few, and go at it again until I had several orgasms and felt satisfied.

    I don’t mind opening admitting that I masturbate if it’s a topic of conversation. I just hate that there is such a stigma surrounding female masturbation. This post is spot on though– we really just need to start talking about it more.

  22. Posted August 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing, y’all! It was so fun to read all your stories. I feel like they should all be collected in a nice little coffee table book. Seriously.

  23. Posted August 25, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    The first times I did it I didn’t know what I was doing. But I was 11 when I started, I hid in my room, moreso because I didn’t want to be naked in front of my brother doing that, then because of a stigma. But I also refused to tell him what I was doing and wouldn’t let him in the room when he heard the noises I made. I’d say I was doing pullups in my bunkbed or something. I didn’t know masturbating was seen as wrong until I went ot church and found out that THINKING about sex was wrong. I left the church a few weeks ago, got sick of feeling bad about what i was doing and getting the 3rd degree for having mentioned it. Anyways! My mom thinks it is wrong, but she does it, though she does it for ‘medicinal’ purposes, which I believe. I do it cause I want to have an orgasm. We are tense on that but okay none the less. do I still have stigma? yes. I haven’t told many people about masturbating, but moreso cause all my firends either know I do it or are christian and don’t want to know anyways. *shrug*

  24. Posted August 26, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I don’t remember exactly how old I was – but it was around 5 or 6 years old. I still remember doing it under my bed (when I could fit there) as a little kid. Been doing it pretty much every single day ever since. Couldn’t imagine life without doing it.

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