Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
During my early teen years, I was a Christian who tried to follow the Bible closely. At church, I was told that masturbation was a sin, and a few people even joked that Jesus would watch anyone who masturbated while they masturbated. I realize now this was just another way of dictating our bodies through the intimidation of some grand male gaze. Growing up in an ethnic household that repressed my sexuality only heightened my stigmas about masturbation. I had been instilled with the idea that I couldn’t pleasure myself; in fact, I couldn’t be pleasured at all until I got married to a “good Christian man” and had that amazingly boring sex for the rest of my life. For a people who claimed to be so connected to the divine, these men often didn’t consider the various ways a woman could be pleasured. I was never even attracted to men, and yet getting married seemed to be the only foreseeable way I was allowed access into this sexual world.
It wasn’t until I was surfing through Planned Parenthood’s website a few years later that I came across an article written on masturbation and its health benefits. I felt conflicted. I definitely adored Planned Parenthood, but I was confused as to why I had been taught that masturbation was evil if this article was so nonchalantly explaining why it was good for me. I felt empowered and began to question why pleasure for women was so “sinful.”
Texas senator Ted Cruz, an avid follower of Christ, has used his actual life minutes to condemn masturbation. In 2007, he supported a ban on sex toys in the state of Texas, saying, “There is no substantive due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for nonmedical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” To absolutely no one’s surprise, however, Cruz’s Princeton roommate said in a 2016 tweet that Cruz’s condemning of masturbation “would be a new belief of his.” In 2017, senator Cruz liked a pornographic video on Twitter that he later claimed was an “honest mistake” by one of his staff members.
Male legislators don’t want us to have sex, and they also don’t want us to masturbate. They know we’re going to have sex anyway, but they don’t want us to have access to sexual education. They try to strip us of our right to an abortion while restricting preventative or alternative measures. Misogynists have even tried to maintain this masturbation taboo by creating lies about its effects. They have incorrectly claimed that it can cause a woman to become infertile or make them a terrible sex partner.
Once we realize that the patriarchy thrives off of our repressed sexuality, we’ll see that the opposite is true. Masturbation has many health benefits for women. First, it can help us figure out what we like in a sexual experience. It allows us to explore where we prefer to be touched and in what manner. It has also been proven to release endorphins, which can therefore help us relieve stress and sleep better. It overall makes us more in tune with our bodies and more appreciative of our needs. Masturbation can even relieve pain from menstrual cramps and cut our periods shorter.
Our vaginas are ours, and it’s time we stopped talking about female masturbation with hushed voices or blushing cheeks. They can threaten to take away our toys, but they can never take away our hands.