Updated: May 18
A few weeks ago I hit a pretty exciting milestone in my writing career. I was invited to an event for a Japanese sex toy company called #TengaTalks: Take Pride in Your Pleasure because of my blog! Thanks to God, Sex, and Rich People, my purity ring-wearing ass was on the VIP list enjoying an open bar and a sex-talk panel. I even left with some fun gadgets that taught me just how classy jerking off can be cuz #2019. I’ve really come so far (see what I did there).
I’m pretty sure I learned more about human sexuality in that 2 hour event on the Lower East Side than my 28 years on earth.
The panel was led by Brand ambassador and sexologist / relationship coach Shan Boodram and consisted of:
Dr. Justin Lehmiller, Social Sexologist and Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute
Bryony Cole, World’s leading authority on sextech and CEO of “Future of Sex Podcast“
Michelle Toglia, Deputy Lifestyle Editor at Bustle
Dirty Lola, Sex Educator at SHAG
We spent the evening discussing the importance of communication in the bedroom, de-stigmatizing sex toys with a partner, prioritizing climaxing for women, the health benefits of climaxing, and if the good Lord didn’t want us to masturbate why did he make the genitals so easy to reach? He coulda like, put them in the middle of our backs or some shit.
Masturbating meant you were having lustful thoughts about someone who wasn’t your husband/wife. I remember trying to get around this rule by just imagining getting fucked in my wedding dress.
One of the topics I was super excited to discuss so openly was masturbaton and the importance of doing it. Hailing from purity culture, the idea of sexual purity didn’t just stop at the actual act of doing “it.” It was an effort in purity of our entire being. For we act from the desires of our hearts, which stem from what we are filling our brains with (you can read more about that here) and ultimately determine our actions. Therefore, to even have a sexual thought was deemed “sinful” and the root of the problem. So we should make diligent effort to keep those sex thoughts away at all costs.
This obviously meant no masturbating. Some of my super religious friends still abide by this. Nothing says commitment like still blowing loads in your sheets at 28 (#wetdreams4Jesus). We were taught that masturbating meant you were having lustful thoughts about someone who wasn’t your husband/wife. I remember trying to get around this rule by just imagining getting fucked in my wedding dress. I’ve always been an exceptional problem solver.
In junior high I read a book entitled Every Young Woman’s Battle that had a whole chapter on masturbation. It said that masturbation, although not intercourse or sexual activity with another person, was still sinful because it’s “fueling the fire.” So, don’t do it because it will make me want to have sex more. And, if I’m remembering correctly, it also offered that if I’m masturbating, I’ll be so okay with pleasing myself, I won’t want to include my husband (this book was written for 11-18 yr olds, mind you). And isn’t that unfair to him?* I also had this conversation in college with a small group leader:
*It is entirely possible that I’m conflating this book with sermons/discussions with small group leaders over the years. But really everyone should go read that book it is RICH.
“Right but like I’ve been masturbating since before I even knew what I was doing at age 4. How can something I discovered sort of involuntarily at 4 years old be sinful?”
“Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it can’t be sinful. Sex is natural, but outside of the wrong context, it’s not healthy.”
“So is there a context in which masturbation can be healthy?”
“What about sex dreams? Like involuntary lustful thoughts? Am I supposed to ask forgiveness for those?”
“Maybe you can ask the Lord to help fight Satan’s tactics.”
Looking back on the sex advice “leaders” in my life gave makes me wonder if ANY of them were getting laid. Knowing what I know now, the answer has to be no. So anyway, I went ahead and asked my mom’s advice on the matter.
I know this may seem totally weird to most of you because who talks about sex/masturbation with parents who gave you a purity ring? I’ll tell ya who, the Cowserts. Because my parents are the horniest married couple on the planet. At least, that’s what they made us kids think. My parents were always making out and making sure we knew they were having loads of sex. I think this was a tactic to encourage us to wait til marriage. Like “Hey kids look! Married people do actually have sex drives! See what you have to look forward to!” But also, they still do this shit and are fully aware none of their kids are virgins so maybe they really are just that horny/healthy.
Anyway, I asked my mom if she thought God cares about masturbation:
“Oh my gosh, Mattie. Just masturbate. You need to know your body, it relieves stress, and it will help you sleep better.”
Valorie Cowsert--World’s Best Preacher’s Wife.
By the time I actually got around to having sex, these lies I had been fed from church/purity culture were so busted open it was almost laughable. First of all, I was very disappointed to find out that intercourse feels NOTHING like how I’d been “practicing” it all those years. To quote the great Lady Bird “I like dry humping better.” I didn’t even know the difference between penetration and clitoral stimulation, so I didn’t understand why they felt so different. After it was over I was like "Why am I still horny and not exasperated into a blissful slumber?"
And then there’s that bullshit claiming "if you masturbate, you’ll never want to sleep with your husband." Again, penetration and clitoral stimulation are entirely different feelings. While one makes most women orgasm, it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the other. It just means we need both. AND how about the countless studies that prove masturbating enhances your sex life???
The only people who think having sexual desire will send everyone into a porno-handy-J/vibrator-addicted-spiral are people who don’t have any personal agency when it comes to their sexuality. Let’s not be those people.
In my opinion, this lie is perpetuated to continue demonizing female autonomy and anatomy. There’s a big fear in the Evangelical/Christian community that if a woman has too much knowledge or power over her body, especially sexually, she might discover she doesn’t even need a husband for her pleasure (Which, by the way, is true. Men are necessary for procreation, not pleasure. And coming from a single perspective, I know for a fact husband-having is not necessary for great sexy time).
And then there’s the whole “lustful thoughts” conundrum. This might be my favorite “chicken or the egg” question. Especially because I know the answer and I love being right. Do we feel shame about our “lustful thoughts” because they are actually bad, or are these “lustful thoughts” bad only because we have been taught to feel shame when we have them?
The answer is: lustful thoughts in and of themselves are not "bad" or "sinful". We have given them this definition and therefore, many people act out of shame when we have/engage in sexual thoughts. If we all just applied the Golden Rule to everything in our lives, including sex,
1. Women would be receiving way more oral and
2. No one would give two shits about my masturbating habits because they'd be too busy with their own
The stigmas around masturbation and female sexual expression exist because we create them. I am hurting literally no one by exploring my body, not even my experience with my "future husband" (just the opposite, actually). I’m not going to go around fucking recklessly because I masturbate every night. I’m also not gunna want to not have an actual partner in my sexual experience just because I can have a sexual experience alone (Although some people are into solo sex exclusively. You do you, boo).
The only people who think having sexual desire will send everyone into a porno-handy-J/vibrator-addicted-spiral are people who don’t have any personal agency when it comes to their sexuality. Let’s not be those people. Let’s be evolved, responsible grown ups who know better. And masturbate.
What if instead of making masturbation this incredibly shameful, taboo topic we talked about it for what it actually is: self-care. Knowing your body and having orgasms is as important as eating your vegetables, exercising, and having a solid skin care routine. Also, Jesus never talked about sex or masurbation. I'd like to think the Savior of the Universe knew there were bigger fish to fry in regards to saving humanity from ourselves. Like, idk, the mother fuckers who are detaining innocent immigrants in concentration camps and forcing them to drink toilet water? I digress…
Call me crazy, but I believe a world where women aren’t distracted by unnecessary genital shame and are having orgasms on the reg sounds like a pretty fantastic place. I bet that world doesn’t have Donald Trump as the president of the United States and the threat of A Handmaid’s Tale becoming reality. So, gone' ahead ladies (and gents!). Start feelin' yourself.
Just FYI, there are a lot of links in this blog; 10/10 would recommend exploring the articles and Instagrams of these amazing folks who inspired this blog!