I remarked to Miguel earlier this evening that there’s not much about sex I find shocking.
“I guess the things I find shocking are different for me than most people,” I said in a very slightly self-satisfied tone, “Like the things I find shocking are very poor manners, and, you know, the republican party. Like that right-wing icon guy without health insurance. That shocked me. And then I was depressed. Those are the two phases of shock.”
Consider that statement retracted. I happened upon this little gem of an article on the infamous anxiety-producing Holy-shit-this-cough-means-I’m-going-to-die website, WebMD.
I cannot resist a play-by-play commentary. The article, about sex, quite literally made my jaw drop like a cartoon character. I reserve this kind of critique for very special cases, and I think it’s more than appropriate here. Please, tell me if you disagree. I present to you, “Female Masturbation”:
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Masturbation
Although men may joke and tease each other about their solo sexual activity, women are typically less forthcoming about their own self-pleasuring. With a very close friend, some may compare notes discretely about the best vibrators or the stress relief going solo can provide.
OK, let me first note that there are no articles about “male masturbation”. That is simply referred to as “masturbation”. So, from the get it’s implied that we’re “special” and “different”. HOWEVER! Just you wait and see how many times both the word normal and the use of scare quotes around that very notion are used. Also, men’s supposed jokes and teasing are oh-so-forthcoming. How honest.
But women’s masturbation is not generally a common topic of conversation among girlfriends.
Oh, really? Because my girlfriends and I talk about it pretty commonly.
Maybe it should be, say sex therapists.
Oh hold the phone. Sex therapists say it’s OK? Well, then.
They point out that women’s masturbation can have benefits both for health and relationships.
I don’t know about you, but I find that “it feels AWESOME” is a pretty good argument on its own.
Here are five things about masturbation women may not know:
1. “Normal” masturbation in women takes many forms.
Most women, like men, have masturbated at least once in their lives, research suggests. Frequency varies, and there’s no “normal” for that. There’s no ”normal” cutoff age, either, with the practice continuing into the 80s and beyond.
Research suggests?! If a suggestion is all that research has brought us today, in 2009, when we know things like the particular gas composition of the nearest star, I think maybe there ought be a little more research.
Women may feel guilty about it, especially if they are in a committed relationship, but there’s no need for guilt, sex therapists say. Sometimes a partner is tired, out of town, or otherwise unavailable. And it doesn’t mean a woman needs to go without.
I really love how we’re making sure this article is so credible and full of no-spin journalism. It’s like, “Hey, don’t look at me. The sex therapists say this. I know, it sounds nuts, but that’s what they say. What is this sex therapy, you ask? Yeah, I don’t know either. I don’t even think it’s a real job.”
And kudos for those logic-based excuses plus the assumption that a woman is partnered in the first place. (If she’s not, you know, she’s either a slut or a nun.)
There is no one “method” of masturbation in women that’s normal. “A range of ways is ‘normal,”’ says Paul Joannides, PsyD, a psychoanalyst in Waldport, Ore.
Fingers and vibrators are two common methods of women’s masturbation. More than half of 2,056 women, aged 18 to 60, used a vibrator either during masturbation or intercourse, says Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, Bloomington, who led the survey.
Other women who masturbate report they use the back of a vibrating toothbrush head, the handle of a hairbrush, or water jets in the bathtub, Joannides says.
Although some experts worry about side effects from vibrator use, such as genital numbness or pain, less than 30% of the women in Herbenick’s vibrator survey said they had experienced them.
I might be going out on a limb here, but I wonder who “some experts” are. They certainly couldn’t be men who might feel intimidated by a big ol’ dildo or a AA battery operated stimulus of which creates sensations they themselves, poor things, could never duplicate. Certainly not men who might, somewhere, in the back of their minds, fear a woman’s sexual power.
But another expert, Frank Sommers, MD, a Toronto psychiatrist, worries that excessive vibrator use during masturbation could desensitize women to orgasms with a partner. “I tell my patients, ‘Look on a vibrator as whipped cream — you wouldn’t want to eat it every day.’’’
He believes too much vibrator use ‘’habituates your autonomic nervous system to such stimulation that a human could not duplicate it.”
Oh! Hey Frank. Mr. Toronto Psychiatrist. Didn’t see you there.
2. Masturbation can improve your mood — without the ”obligations” of partnered sex.
However a woman chooses to masturbate, it can improve her spirits. “It can improve a depressed mood,” says Kathleen Segraves, PhD, a sex therapist and associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University and a therapist at Metrohealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “Not clinical depression, but the ‘blue funk’ days.”
This sounds like it was taken directly from a 1950s advert’s copy for “personal massagers”. “To the skin it brings a little flush of color that lingers.” And “to the body it brings a tingling, cheerful glow that invigorates and refreshes!” How quaint. On a more serious note, I will fully attest to masturbation improving clinical depression. It may seem a tricky connection to make, but somehow, learning to make yourself feel good with this totally Rx-free release of happy-sappy-whee chemicals that naturally occur in your noggin kinda makes life seem a little bit brighter on the whole.
“With solo sex, there is no distraction, and you can focus on your own experience without making sure someone else is having a good time,” she says.
It doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner, maybe just that you need to think only about yourself sometimes, experts say. “The woman doesn’t have to be outside her head, wondering, ‘Am I taking too long?’” Segraves says.
I’m going to take this opportunity to point out that the average time it “takes” for a woman to orgasm (a word that’s suspiciously missing from this article) is FORTY-FIVE minutes (Kerner, Ian, PhD. She Comes First. New York: HarperCollings, 2005). Average. So, you know, think about that the next time you’re eating pussy. Not to mention the fact that, guess what, I can draw that sucker out for as long as I please.
3. Masturbation can improve your sex life with your partner.
Women who masturbate on a regular basis learn what feels good for them, Segraves says. “It helps build sexual confidence,” she says. “It helps you guide the partner when you have a partner.”
OK! First statement I can really get on board with.
You can say, for instance: “Please put your hand here,” and not be embarrassed, she says.
Get out. You can ask for what you want? Men (and you just know they’re talking about heterosex here, as usually) can’t read minds?
Women who use a vibrator during masturbation tend to have better sexual functioning with a partner, Herbenick says.
I am just floored by all this advertisement for masturbation. Ask yourself, When was the first time I masturbated? Children know it feels good, naturally. But then our culture just goes and fucks it all up with guilt and puritanism and before you know it, you’re writing “I vow to never do THAT again” in your diary, like the nine-year-old me (the nine-year-old who was fully exploring sex with her girlfriends, was never sexually molested or battered, and believed in Baby Jesus, but believed herself to be–and the entire concept of–a “virgin”).
Sex therapists typically recommend masturbation for women who have a difficult time reaching orgasm. It can help them learn about their body and feel less self-conscious.
I love this. “I recommend an orgasm for your problem having orgasms.” Also, I counted, we are five-hundred and eighty-three words into this 895-word article and this is the first mention of orgasm.
“We know that women compared to men have a harder time learning to orgasm,” Herbenick says.
No. What you know is that women compared to men have a harder time learning to orgasm through heterosexual penetration. Period. Girls have orgasms in their sleep.
Masturbating can help, and masturbating with a vibrator may help even more, she says. “Using a vibrator, for reasons we don’t understand, helps women orgasm.” The survey is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
This is right about where my jaw dropped. FOR REASONS WE DON’T UNDERSTAND?! I am shocked. I am shocked that anything resembling a component of the health-care and medical community would accept that we don’t understand this. We do. And we’ve known this for decades. Jesus, [PDF WARNING] here. That book was published in 1982.
Those who used a vibrator, she found, even if it had been a year since the use, “had better sexual functioning in terms of vaginal lubrication, desire, arousal and ease of orgasm, and they tended to have less pain or discomfort during intercourse.”
But “it may be that those who don’t find sex painful tend to use a vibrator,” she says.
Hahahaha. It may be that sex isn’t supposed to be painful. (OK, well, not unless you want a little pain, winkwinknudgenudge, eh?)
4. Masturbation can help you relax.
Women are more apt than men to over-analyze a bad day and think: “How could I have done this better?” They are more likely than men, some researchers have found, to replay an argument or bad interaction with people in their head.
I’d like to see the source for this. Seriously? I think that’s a bit of an affront to men. As if they’re happy-go-lucky dogs without cognition or self-awareness. Not that over-analyzing is good, per se, anything “over” anything is obviously “bad” (though curiously, these psychiatrists and psychologists tend to make a living from it). I think it’s rather conservative to say that men and women, on the whole, you know, think at a level that’s about equal.
It all adds up to excess stress.
Researchers call this rumination, and it has been linked in numerous studies to depression.
“If you can start pleasuring yourself, that will often interfere with ruminations,” Segraves says. “Not all the time,” she says. But it may help.
5. Masturbation can provide pain relief.
Women who masturbate often report that it helps relieve menstrual cramps and to improve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as irritability and crankiness.
One last advertisement for masturbation! Extra, extra! Get yer masturbation here! Because the absolute worst thing in the world is irritability and crankiness. On that note, it’s a good thing we don’t have a woman as President with her finger on that atomic-bomb button. She could be cranky before she gets “her friend”.
Masturbating to orgasm may help migraine, too. Although orgasm has sometimes been found to trigger a migraine headache, it may also relieve it, according to some research. Scientists speculate that some factor associated with orgasm (by yourself or with a partner) may suppress pain or actually suppress the migraine process.
And there you have it. Astounding. And here I was, feeling pleasure for roughly twenty years of my life, thinking we were beyond all that antiquated Freudian junk. How silly.
If and or when I have a daughter (or son for that matter), I will make sure she knows that masturbation is a-okay and have fun. Because a society that cultivates enough self-hating crap to merit an article like this, purportedly written for adult women, is quite simply unacceptable to me. I firmly believe it’s a heckuva lot easier to teach young women to love themselves and their bodies with wild abandon, passion even, than it is to teach them to unlearn any conceivable misconception that they are not normal for one of the most healthy acts of self-care I can think of.
This should not have to be the mainstream. This should not be standard. This article does not feel normal to me.