The ins and outs of female masturbation
Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was fired by former President Bill Clinton for daring to broach a topic near and dear to all college students: masturbation. She publicly gave thought to integrating masturbation into health class, but wasn’t let go for submitting an outline on how to do so. She did something far worse. She dared to intone that masturbation might be an acceptable and healthy part of a person’s life. During an AIDS conference, in reference to masturbation’s possible efficacy in stemming the spread of AIDS, she stated that masturbation “…is something that is a part of human sexuality and it’s a part of something that perhaps should be taught.” Mentioning masturbation has since been political suicide. This wouldn’t be such an issue if the sentiments about masturbation were equally as positive between the sexes, but any level head can see that this is not the world we find ourselves in. Female masturbation is both trivialized and discouraged, in contrast to the accepted wink-wink-nudge-nudge joke that male masturbation has always been.
Women in America are already sexualized at such an early age, one may rightly retort, so why should the compounding problem of female masturbation even be addressed? The problem with this argument is that it neglects how women are sexualized. Women are expected to be sexual from the first hint of puberty, if not before, and only in the context of men. This robs them of what is termed “sexual agency,” that is, the ability and right to have mastery over their individual sexuality. The ramifications of this can be seen everywhere, including Student Life. Not to unfairly single anyone out, as his is a common argument, but Roman Goldstein wrote an article entitled “Why do we need more orgasms?” [Feb. 4, 2005].
A response to a speech about female sexuality, the point is given a decidedly masculine slant that eventually reduces any talk of masturbation to efficiency and pleasurable utility. A quick reduction of his point would be to say that no one needs any more orgasms because men already have plenty. I urge you to read his article and decide for yourself.
In his opening remarks, Goldstein belittles the speaker and women in general by questioning if it is “…somehow bad that most women don’t have orgasms on a regular basis,” as if a healthy sexual appetite were demeaning for a woman to have. Female orgasms seem to dishearten Goldstein, who views them as merely “…capitulation to the male understanding of sex, which treats orgasm as sex’s ultimate goal.” This is in direct contrast to, say, women enjoying their sexuality and their sex lives, again reducing women’s claims to sexual agency: honestly, the system is already reduced to the orgasm, but solely for men. This is not to ignore the emotional aspect of sexual acts, but rather to point out the major advantage that men have within the current system. At least they get to come! Goldstein goes on to say, “We sure as heck don’t need any more self-love on this campus and in this country,” but fails to see how his arguments only apply to men, as male masturbation is the only form that is socially accepted.
By equating masturbation to simply stroking one’s ego, Goldstein devalues a beautiful part of the human experience. Yet masturbation is a necessary learning experience. The best sexual and emotional partners aren’t those that wait long enough for sex to become worth having, as Goldstein stops just short of saying, they are those that know how to get themselves off and are more than happy to share that with you, those that use their sexuality not as an ego-booster but as a valid part of their humanity. The most satisfying relationships are not those that include the best sex, but rather those that best integrate a positive sex life into an emotionally grounded, connected and mutual friendship.
In case my point is not clear, masturbation is another way that women allow themselves to be held separate and below men. Until female sexuality is seen to be as important as male sexuality, until women everywhere tell their lovers how to get them off instead of being so ashamed as to reduce them to guessing, lectures on the necessity of the female orgasm are to be seen not as furthering selfish, egotistical lives, but as providing a venue for the sexual and moral growth of every one of us.
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