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Masturbation Is Not a Dirty Word

Why we need comprehensive sexual education and open discussions about female sexuality.

Photo: via Freepik

I don’t understand my vagina.

Because my wife and I want to have a baby, I’ve been paying attention to my private parts lately, and up until recently I did not realize that women only get pregnant during a very small window of time every month. Having been brought up in the very religious Deep South, I long thought that even dry humping could get you pregnant, as though sperm had the superpower to wiggle through panties.

No one taught me about masturbation. Sure, my mom gave me the rundown on where babies come from, but she certainly didn’t mention anything about orgasms. I discovered that special sensation between my legs purely by accident. As I was dressing for ballet class at 7 years old, my tights gently grazed the area between my thighs, and I remember feeling an electric shock that made me sit up straight. It took about three more years before I finally discovered masturbation in earnest.

At first I attributed magical powers to the objects that made me orgasm. I was positive that the seatbelt in my dad’s Lincoln Town Car was doing something to me while I waited for my parents in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly. The seatbelt was soon replaced by the TV remote control, which was much more convenient, because I no longer had to invent reasons to go into the garage.

I thought my strange obsession was shameful. I thought something was wrong with me. I really had no idea what was happening to me. One day I pulled out the encyclopedia to read about sex, and I found a cross reference for masturbation. My research uncovered two important facts: 1) masturbation is sex that you have by yourself, and 2) you can masturbate using your hands. My hands! How handy! I no longer had to steal the remote. I practiced the new hands-only technique often, but it came at a high price: I realized that if masturbation is part of sex, and if sex should not happen before marriage, then I was sinning every time I masturbated. Horrified, I made a solemn promise to quit masturbating when I turned 12, and when I turned 13, and when I turned 14…

I spent hours in the mirror, staring at my vagina. The changes, the feelings, the mixed messages — it was all so confusing. Everyone’s parents droned on and on about not “doing the deed,” and yet everyone was sneaking around doing it anyway. All the brainwashing couldn’t keep me from sexing around, but it sure did make me feel like a piece of shit for acting like a bad, bad girl.

So here I am, some 20-plus years later, googling videos about ovulation just to try to understand how my body works. If I’m going to be really honest, I’ll admit that I don’t even know where my cervix is. And guess what: Most of my friends don’t, either. The other day I was telling friends about how I’m tracking my menstrual cycle so that I’ll know when to try to get pregnant, and they seemed confused. We’d all been under the impression that pregnancy could happen at any time except the week of one’s period.

We are a generation of women who are divorced from our bodies, just like our mothers and grandmothers before us, and there is a new crop of girls growing up on Teen Mom that believes that “penis plus vagina equals baby” every time. It’s the nightmare of all teenage girls to have to announce to Mom and Dad that a grandbaby pie is baking in the oven. But is this really the way we want to handle human sexuality? Does it make sense to try to pretend that a little preaching will wash away all our biological urges? Why is sex so taboo, so awkward and so dangerous when it’s the very thing that is most natural?

I’m calling bullshit, America. Enough with the sexual shame. Enough with the lies. Enough with pretending that we don’t like sex. Let’s stand up, each and every one of us, and shout out that the time for secrecy is finished. We can live in a world where we are open and respectful. It is possible for women to express themselves sexually and not be slandered for it. We have the power to teach our children the truth about the family jewels.

I wish someone had taught me about my vagina. Now, go educate your daughter about hers.

Originally published by the Huffington Post on Feb 11, 2013

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