Anyone who has ever had a roommate has probably encountered that awkward moment when you want a little “private time” but your roommate is either in the room or in close proximity to it. When the mood hits and I want to settle down with one of my vibrators, I often find myself focused on where my roommate is and whether or not she can hear the buzzing, rather than the pleasantries going on between my legs.

I’m not a prude at all, but since childhood, I, and most other women, have been inundated with the paradox that women are simultaneously supposed to be sexual beings and lack sexual knowledge. These ideas have somehow manifested themselves in the way that women masturbate. I’m speaking directly about women because a) it’s harder for women who use toys to be quiet compared to men who prefer manual stimulation and b) men have fewer sexual expectations thrust upon them (no pun intended). We have all had that childhood conversation about masturbating where one or more of your friends denied ever doing it, claiming that it was gross, while those same conversations in groups of male friends resulted in high fives and trading secrets.

Why? I personally love orgasms and masturbating. Being a lesbian, getting in touch with my body allows me to be better in bed. It also allows me to feel more confident about myself. The more comfortable I am with all parts of my body, the less shame I feel about it. I own six vibrators, and one of my favourite places to go shopping is an adult store. For me, buying a new sex toy is like Christmas morning, but the fear of my roommate overhearing me masturbate really puts a damper on the whole hot and bothered mood.

It’s time to put the shame to bed, turn up the vibrator to the highest speed, and moan away. If you’re a vocal person, it can be hard to feel comfortable when you don’t live alone, but not accepting this taboo that has been forced on us is the first step towards satisfaction. It’s hard to completely let loose and enjoy yourself when you have one ear on the other side of the door. If you do find it hard to get off when your roommate or parents are home, try the shower, non-battery-operated toys, or go old-school and get reintroduced to your hand.

Solo time should be between you, your body, and whatever medium you decide. Clit stimulator, rabbit, suction dildo, g-spot vibrator, external, internal, bullet, whatever your vibrator preferences are, I hope that you’ll let it buzz loud and proud and have the orgasm of your life.

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It was lunch break in my high school cafeteria. I was talking with my female friends when we were joined by a mutual male acquaintance. Don’t ask me how this train of conversation went, but we went from chatting about weekend plans to addressing the very thing that must not be named: masturbation.

I remember listening to this friend talk about it in such a carefree manner, but I couldn’t help but feel tense and uncomfortable – why was that? How could he converse so freely about a topic that my girlfriends and I never touched? I began to realize that for women the openness and comfort simply isn’t there. We’re supposed to remain “hush hush” about the one thing the majority of the population enjoys. Whether or not we are consciously aware of the fact that female masturbation isn’t something women frequently chat about doesn’t matter, because the reality is that there is a stark difference between how men and women approach the subject.

The Huffington Post summarized data from Indiana University’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour and found that men go at it far more frequently than women do. In fact, only 7.9% of women between the ages of 25 and 29 masturbate two to three times a week, as compared to 23.4% of men. Even if participants are not always truthful about their survey answers, the difference in data is still significant enough to warrant a discussion. What makes women less likely to experiment with their own bodies, or simply refrain from admitting that they do? Perhaps it’s just that women are more private about these sorts of things. While teenage boys freely share how often they masturbate, girls and women just don’t do it. Is it because we are conditioned to remain pure and “ladylike” – whatever that means – in the eyes of others? Or is it this shame and hesitation we feel as women to speak about self-pleasure simply a manifestation of the deep-rooted patriarchy that continues to exist today? God forbid women be able to pleasure themselves without the company of men!

What makes women less likely to experiment with their own bodies, or simply refrain from admitting that they do?

According to a piece in The Atlantic, traditional Catholic and Protestant views deemed male masturbation “deeply sinful.” Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, enough, women were not even considered in this religion-fuelled prohibition of self-pleasure because they weren’t seen as capable or desiring of such behaviour. Today, it is well known that most people do it and whether they choose to talk about it is up to them. The amount of openness regarding female masturbation is increasing today. Shows like Orange is the New Black and Girls normalize female masturbation, which sends a positive message to women all over that you’re allowed to feel good without being shamed for it. Songs about self-love are topping the charts, with Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Yourself” being one of the most recent and obvious depictions of female masturbation. The Ontario sex-ed curriculum has finally been adjusted after 20 years and includes a brief line or two about masturbation being common and one way of learning about your body. This brief dialogue could be enough for girls to feel safe and comfortable exploring their bodies without feeling ashamed.

There really isn’t any sense in feeling ashamed about female masturbation, no matter a person’s age, because it has been deemed healthy and a way of relieving stress. Plus, there’s no chance of contracting an STI or getting pregnant! If sex is the only thing taught to young girls and masturbation is a big no-no or just not a topic of discussion, then these girls could grow up thinking that the only way for them to get any sort of sexual pleasure is with a partner. Isn’t that more dangerous than letting girls know from the get-go that there is an alternative and that there is nothing wrong with it? Not every girl will figure it out for herself and not feel guilty about it. Many will experiment and then punish themselves because they’ve either been taught that it is wrong and dirty or because they are scared and cannot understand what they’ve done. Taboos only persist when we remain silent. So ladies, talk about it with your friends if all of you are comfortable with it. Post on anonymous forums if you’re curious about something and don’t want to talk in person. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t feel any more ashamed than the guys. You just do you, literally!

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