Masturbation was surely one of the greatest things that came into my life. About six months after I had ended a relationship with a guy I had dated for a long time, I was feeling really underconfident, slightly depressed and sexually empty. My friend let me borrow a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves," the fabulous feminist health book that every woman should own. I was reading along, learning about breast cancer and childbirth, when I came across the chapter on sexual pleasure.
Right there in the middle of the chapter was a black and white photo of a naked woman lying on a couch. At first I was intrigued by the beauty of the picture, then I realized that the woman's hand was in her crotch. She was, of course, masturbating. It was an entire section on masturbation!
I thought, how can this possibly be? Women aren't allowed to touch themselves! I mean, I wouldn't even know what to do down there, my hands would smell funny afterward, and besides, I know that people cannot tickle themselves, so how can they make themselves feel sexual pleasure?
Nonetheless, I curiously read all the words in that section -- some twice. I was fascinated by the stories of all the women who enjoyed masturbation. They used their fingers or pillows or vibrators; they did it outside, with their partners, or late at night when they were alone in bed.
Most all of these masturbating women mentioned their "clits" somewhere in their stories. I didn't even know where such a thing was! In fact, the only thing I knew about a clitoris was that my best friend in high school told me it meant "little penis," so we looked it up in the dictionary and it did.
Well, the clitoris must be somewhere down there, I thought, and flipped to the section with the drawings of women's anatomy. It didn't take me long to locate what I was after. The clitoris was a little round bulb, mostly concealed by a "hood," about an inch above the vaginal opening.
Wow. There she was: the buzz-button; the only organ in either of the two human bodies built explicitly and entirely for pleasure. I was 19 years old, and I had just come across this information?
That night I went to bed with little clitorises running through my head. I was terrified thinking of actually touching myself, but I was so intrigued: pure pleasure, right there, at my own fingertips. The next day, I got up the guts to try it. I locked my door and explored. It did not take me long to find my clit -- it was the most sensitive part of my body I had ever encountered. I could not even bear to touch it directly. I had to touch the neighboring skin to get indirect pressure on it.
After a couple of minutes, I figured out what to do. Then after a couple of minutes of doing what I had figured out, I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I had made my whole body tingle.
I spent the next two weeks doing it every day. For over a year, I kept myself sexually satisfied and quite confident. People made comments to me about how difficult going without sex must have been after having been in a relationship for so long. I would always retort, "Just because I'm not dating anyone does not mean that I don't have a completely healthy sex life."
Then, when I did finally and unexpectedly enter into a relationship, sex was wonderful! I knew exactly how my body worked and could convey that to my partner. This was such a stark contrast to my previous relationships where I had not even known myself, had not experienced as much pleasure and had felt little control over what was going on with my body.
This is my happy sex story, but I know far too many women who cannot relate. I know some who would not dare touch themselves; some who do not have the confidence; some who want to, but think that they shouldn't because "no one else does;" some who assume it would feel good; and some who actually do, but go about it the wrong way and never feel satisfied -- that is, they do not discover their clits.
There are so many perks to masturbation: body knowledge, body confidence, pleasure, a mild cardiovascular workout, the ability to know what you want and be able to express that to a partner, pleasure, self-love, stress relief. Some even say it can cure a headache or menstrual cramps. The list could go on.
Though the Biology 11 book I used last year had two full pages detailing how the penis ejaculated and why it gave a pleasurable sensation to its owner, it had one paragraph which mentioned that the clitoris seemed to serve no biological function other than sexual stimulation. I guess the authors did not think it was biologically important if women experience sexual stimulation.
Sad to say, I can think of many others who would agree. Women, we have to resist. It's about time we take our sexual pleasure into our own hands.
Linda Chupkowski is a women's studies and psychology major whose mother in Fayetteville is going to go nuts after reading this column. Reach her with questions and comments at Linda_Chupkowski@unc.edu.
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