This blog has tackled state violence against its people, rape culture, deprivation at the hands of capitalism, and our society’s long, violent history, just to name a few daunting topics. These issues, especially when they hold a mirror to ourselves, are intimidating to read, much less write about. They take a lot out of the author and consumer both, yet they need discussed so many of us out there get to our keyboards and, to the best of our varied abilities to that. It is not the bravery of standing against hostile police at a rally, but it takes a gumption of sorts. So what topic could be so intimidating that one struggles for over an hour on how even to begin to discuss it? The answer, no surprise, is masturbation. Even less of a surprise, once that cat is out of the bag, so to speak, is that it is specifically female masturbation.
Even more precisely adolescent masturbation. Just putting those words on a page is an invitation to all sorts of unsavory accusations. The kind of allegations that just being trans forces me to live with on a daily basis and that hate mongers hold up as reason to deny me my basic dignity. The kind of remarks that hit particularly close to home for me for deeply personal reasons. Girls under 18 pleasuring themselves is something you are never, ever to speak of, lest you be painted a nasty pervert.
Yet anyone with half a brain already knows it is a thing. Though maybe less of a thing than for boys because of the stigma attached to it. I decided to write this post when a friend jokingly said she could no longer get her shame vibrators from a store I suggest we boycott. In answer to my question why she would need to go there rather than an adult store, she pointed out that at the time she was buying from this place, as opposed to online which was not an option at the time, because she was too young to get into an adult store.
Being socialized male as a teen, going through male puberty, I can tell you the secretiveness, scorn and stigma around masturbation just is not there for the fellas, even from a young age. Usually from the age thirteen forward the discussion is one of respecting boundaries, your own privacy, and mom’s squeamishness come laundry day. Indeed in all but the most stringently puritanical family it is a time of jocular discussions about coming of age. The boy is becoming a man because he can spread his seed with joy.
For women, however, the subject is ignored all together, and pushed under the rug if brought up. Not until we are adults are we allowed to discuss it, and even then, it is only polite to let everyone know you feel like a freaky pervert for pleasuring yourself, when men your age are at that point expected to do so as a matter of course with it rarely being thought of as even amusing anymore. It is as casual as breathing to them, and rarer than opals for women. At least, that is the narrative that is supposed to be respected.
To actually dignify your young teen daughters questions about her desires and needs is treated as a trap, a mistake that will label you a bad, even abusive parent that encourages nastiness from their child. We guard young women’s sexuality not just from men their parents (okay, their fathers) do not approve of, but from themselves. We burn into their developing brains that to pleasure oneself is inappropriate and selfish, that it makes you a deviant so they go into womanhood not knowing or expecting the orgasm that they deserve. Yes, take deep breaths, I mentioned the word orgasm regarding teen girls. If a boy can have one, so can a girl, and it is just as much her right as his.
Seriously, how many of even the most “woke” people you know would discuss this, with open mindedness and compassion, with their daughters. How many mothers, again, even among progressives, would take their thirteen year old daughter to get her first vibrator? How many fathers would leave the website open for their seventeen year old to buy her own? You all need to be encouraging your daughter’s agency and you need to do it when they are going through puberty, not when going through their so called sexual awakening in college.
Because this is more than just about the big “O” it is about the little “ohs.” It seems like an immature subject but it speaks to the most basic aspect of ourselves. If a young woman cannot claim ownership of her own pleasure, how can she claim ownership of her political, personal, or financial destiny? How can we challenge rape culture when we instill in young women the idea, from an early age, that they are not allowed to enjoy themselves as boys are? The answer is we cannot. Our girls deserve this, both for their futures, their sense of self they develop, and for their needs now.