Society enforces double standard on self-pleasure

Alexa Addleman


I have walked by countless groups of guys at Redwood of all ages discussing, or at least joking, about masturbation. Terms like “circle-jerking” are thrown around often and seem to be part of our vocabulary, originating from this accepted and expected act.

However, I have never once heard any girl or group of girls mention masturbation in a serious or joking manner. As a senior at a public school, I’ve heard a lot of things, but this isn’t one of them – my impression is that this type of conversation simply doesn’t happen. Not just at school, either, but even in more intimate settings, like during late night discussions at sleepovers.

But why, when according to the recent Bark sex survey, 30 percent of females said they have masturbated at least once, and a third of those females do so at least once a week? That rate is even higher than the 28 percent who said intercourse was the extent of their sexual experience – and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that topic mentioned in conversation.

Illustration by Nancy Luo

I’m not just talking about girls discussing masturbation amongst themselves. I get that only so much can be said about a relatively uneventful act. But as far as I can remember, I’ve never even been told that masturbating as a female is okay. That it’s something I, as a girl, could potentially do. This stems from my very first memories of sexual education in middle school, when the boys and girls were herded off into separate groups to discuss the gender-specific components of puberty. While the boys were taught about their physiological needs and that it was normal to satisfy them if they desired, us girls were taught about periods and birth control – how to protect ourselves. No mention of satisfaction.

Or perhaps the media has had just as much of an impact as our education. I know everyone loves to blame “the media” for all of the problems belonging to this generation of young people, but honestly, who could forget the scene in American Pie with Jim and the freshly baked apple pie?

Adding up all the factors, it makes sense that our survey found 85 percent of males had masturbated at least once – nearly three times the rate of females – with 54 percent doing so at least once a week. However, 30 percent of males reported intercourse as the extent of their sexual experience, which is nearly the same as for females.

While crumpled tissues and lotion have been made motifs of the male part of this activity, nothing comes to mind when I think about the female side. There are no symbols for tween boys to snicker at or Disney producers to subtly sneak into their children’s movies to get a laugh out of the babysitter. Even the mention of “masturbation” can get a chuckle out of most high schoolers – but add “female” to that and smug grins fade.

So why are some girls still so uncomfortable with talking about it? Perhaps it begins with how comfortable they are with their own bodies. Out of the 10 females from the survey that reported masturbating on either a monthly, weekly or daily basis, seven said they had had intercourse. It seems that maybe once girls have been intimate with someone else, it makes it easier to be intimate with themselves. But why isn’t it the other way around? For males, there was no correlation between masturbation and sexual experience.

Maybe it’s time for a change in how females are educated about their bodies. The social stigmatism surrounding female masturbation only makes girls feel ashamed for participating in something that most boys consider normal and natural. I understand that there are other reasons – religious or otherwise – that would discourage masturbation, but gender should not be one of them.