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Why I masturbate and what it’s taught me about myself

Goodbye shame. Hello clitoris.

I am a self-identifying woman and I wank – welcome to The Tab's new sex column. Now, even typing the word 'wank' makes me feel a bit weird. But this is my liberation; a panegyric of self-pleasure; a glorification of the vagina.

It wasn't until the end of last year that I really committed to this lifestyle choice, and admitted to myself that it was totally fine to masturbate. And by god have the last eight months been a journey of self-discovery – let me explain why. Story time…

Stress release & good vibez

Orgasms. Feel. Nice. This is nothing groundbreaking, yet it needs to be stated. Masturbation is pleasurable and in this godforsaken uni, we can use all the pleasure we can get. According to Naomi Wolf's iconic 'Vagina' book, orgasms release dopamine – "the ultimate feminist chemical in the female brain". When a woman is aroused, particularly when she is a conscious actor in this arousal, "it strengthens her sense of focus and motivation levels, and energises her in setting goals". When we are sexually frustrated, our dopamine system actively diminishes and the world genuinely appears more colourless and sad. Literally why wouldn't I do something to make me feel good, energetic and focused?

Cumming also releases stress. The 'glow' of a sexually satisfied person is not a mirage. I bought my first vibrator during exam term – I knew I was not going to be sleeping with anyone all term and the stress was real. Honestly, I think this is the only thing that got me through my exams. It provided a nice break from work and released all those happy, empowering chemicals so that I could boss revision.

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The biography the world desperately needed

It's a feminist act

Women are socialised into thinking that masturbation is something sinful, perverted, or disgusting. Why? Surely it's natural to try to understand one's own body rather than remain worryingly unaware about how we function. We learn how our limbs, heart, and brain work. We are drily taught about sexual functioning and the menstrual cycle. But the vagina and it's wonderful abilities is left a mystery.

Men (though not all men, of course) can be so blasé about wanking. Frankly, I'm not sure why the boys at school used to be so proud of it – it's a frankly messy affair if you have a penis. Nobody begrudges them this though. It's the classic 'boys will be boys'. Fine, but let's expand that to 'people will be people'.

I made a point of buying my first vibrator in the shop instead of ordering online (although many sex shops have very discrete packaging for the more faint-hearted FYI). I didn't keep it a secret from my friends – of all genders – even though I felt a bit uncomfortable discussing it. This was because I knew it was a feminist act, and I refused to show any shame. I wanted to directly challenge the culture of silence around female arousal. Hence the article.

Helped me understand my body

I now know that there are multiple types of female orgasm – a revolutionary piece of information if you ask me. I've learned the necessity of lubrication, be it natural or artificial, to reduce any pain – this is vitally important if you are being penetrated!! Most excitingly, it turns out women can 'squirt' or ejaculate too. Who knew?

Furthermore, the clitoris is fun.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Made me question my sexuality

In my personal sexual odyssey, this has been by far the most important lesson for masturbation.

I have had two heterosexual relationships. I didn't find either especially attractive physically, but we got along so well that I thought it was enough. The sex was mostly good, but rarely earth-shattering. I preferred being on top, and rarely enjoyed being on the bottom. But that isn't unusual, so I thought nothing of it.

I just assumed that I wasn't into women because I was so disgusted by the idea of porn that I refused to watch it. So, I never had a chance to explore my preferences. If everyone, including yourself, assumes you're straight and you have no evidence to the contrary, of course you would just accept that.

When I finally decided to watch porn, male-female videos just didn't do it for me. Multi-gender orgys did. And it was always the woman-woman bit that was the most arousing. Finally, I tried lesbian porn and boom. Fun fact: lesbian porn is the most popular with women of all sexualities, so liking this does not necessarily mean that you're gay. While I still don't like porn in my head, and I can't help but be concerned about the protection/freedom of the people in the videos, I keep reminding myself that there is nothing wrong with consensual and liberal pornography.

Masturbation helped me to understand that I am bi. It is something I intend to explore further through the LGBT+ community. Nonetheless, it is open-minded masturbation that led me here.

You don't have to buy a vibrator. You don't have to touch yourself. You don't have to tell everyone in a very public article about your sex life. All I ask is that you remain open to the idea, and don't judge anyone else for exploring themselves. I can promise it's something I do not regret.