Let’s Talk About Sex Toys, Baby

Don’t feel the need to beat around the bush; self-pleasure should be shame-free

(Kristen Frier)

Girls are expected to talk about boys—in particular, the sex they have with boys—but very rarely do our coming-of-age stories include sharing the intimate relationships we have with our own bodies.

Growing from kids into women, we’re very seldom encouraged by those around us to discuss the details of our sexuality unless they revolve around expectant male partners, what we can do for them, and how well we can do it. When we do end up having that inevitably phallocentric chat, our conversations usually focus on how well we did at pleasing him, how he acted afterwards, and how we feel when the deed is done.

A woman talking about touching herself, and how she feels about doing so, is still too taboo to bring up casually. Ask to peek inside the bedside table of a woman in your life and you’ll likely see the blood rush to her cheeks.

Writing for Bustle, Jaleesa Jones says she was 14 the first time she lied about self-pleasure, responding “of course not!” when a friend asked her over the phone if she had ever masturbated. Hannah Travis of Odyssey shares a similar story, recalling how baffled she was that boys in her high school “could talk unabashedly about masturbation and porn without receiving the judgmental looks directed [her] way when [she] spoke openly about sex.”

Personally, I was 15 the first time I bought a sex toy and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was cheap and I was working part-time, so I ordered it from China, got it gift wrapped by Amazon so that my parents wouldn’t see what was inside, and waited two months for it to show up at my door. It was a hot pink dildo made of some terrible plastic and it was completely and utterly useless. It came with all the bells and whistles—and even had colourful LED lights inside—but physically, it did nothing for me.

What it did do, however, was impress my long-distance boyfriend. So I kept it, reserved it for steamy Skype sessions, and then threw it away years later when I got a partner who told me that dildos were “gross” and “made him uncomfortable.”

Tossing it out wasn’t very feminist of me, but neither was keeping a toy that I absolutely hated just because it got my guy’s rocks off. Reflecting on the argument that led me to ditching the dildo did inspire me to examine my own relationship to self-pleasure, though. Now, I have a whole arsenal of tools that I adore and wouldn’t throw out for the world. It’s fun to have accepted that part of myself, but more than that, it’s freeing.

As women in today’s world, we’re still somewhat expected to serve and not be served. A woman’s appetite for pleasure is often seen as selfish and narcissistic. Ironically enough, that changes when this desire is incited by a man in her life—to give into sexual urges at the hands of a man is an act of servitude, more of a sacrificial notion than an indulgent one, and that makes it okay in patriarchal culture.

We should be allowed to be greedy when it comes to our own pleasure. That isn’t to say that it’s inherently progressive to get yourself off every day, or to have any sex drive at it all. What is progressive is being able to talk about anything relating to sex, love, and pleasure at all in an environment that’s consensual, safe, and free of shame.

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