It's Seriously Time to Confront The 'Girls Don't Masturbate' Taboo

February 14th 2016

Many have argued that masturbation is more of a "guy thing" than a female thing, and this attitude is partially responsible for the social stigma surrounding female masturbation. In fact, 92 percent of women have touched themselves, according to NY Mag.

Research, however, counters the theory that women don't masturbate.

A 2008 study conducted in the U.K. found that nearly 95 percent of surveyed women had admitted to masturbating that year, a jump from 74 percent in 1979 and 62 percent in 1953. Five years ago, condom manufacturer Trojan estimated that the vibrator market was worth $1 billion, which was significantly higher than the $450 million condom market at the time. This prompted Trojan to launch its third vibrator model in its vibrator series, which debuted the previous year.

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In 2014, FiveThirtyEight writer Mona Chalabi broke down Indiana University's National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior and found that nearly a quarter of women ages 18 to 24 masturbate several times a week. The number drops to 21.5 percent for women between the ages of 25 and 29 but reaches 22 percent for women ages 30 to 39.

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Despite the decent amount of women who admit to masturbating, it remains hush hush in society. A 2002 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that college aged women talked about sex with their friends more than their male counterparts did, with the exception of masturbation. Males reported talking about this more frequently with each other than females.

Writer Ann Friedman confronted the female masturbation taboo in a 2013 New York magazine piece centered on the educational female masturbation app, HappyPlayTime. Though she acknowledged that the app might be helpful for women who want to learn more about masturbation, Friedman said it's crazy that we "expect boys to start playing with themselves while they’re still in utero and continue until they’re old men" but can't seem to evolve on the subject of female masturbation.

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Upon reading Daniel Bergner's "What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire," Friedman suggested that people are so uncomfortable with the idea of female masturbation because the "notion that women enjoy sex has not yet achieved scientific or cultural acceptance."

"To social conservatives, it seems downright dangerous," she wrote. "What’s left to hold our society and nuclear family structure together if even women like sex more than they like babies? There’s no purer example of this than a woman enjoying the pleasure of her own company."

Female masturbation on TV

Some women have helped fight the stigma surrounding female masturbation through art. During the first season of "Girls," prim and proper character Marnie masturbates on camera after flirting with a male celebrity in the art world.

This scene gained a lot of attention online, and not too long after that, "Orange is the New Black" and Lifetime's "UnReal" included female masturbation scenes.

"Male masturbation is pretty common on TV," "UnREAL" co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro told The Huffington Post last year. "You've seen it a lot, and it's always a joke and there's a shorthand for it. But a healthy, adult woman who isn't having sex probably is jerking off -- but no one talks about it."

Female masturbation is also present in music. Britney Spears' 2003 song "Touch Of My Hand" alludes to masturbation, and singer Hailee Steinfeld made news in 2015 when her song "Love Myself" debuted, as it uses sexually charged language to describe self-love.

"I was obviously a little overwhelmed with this being my first ever music video, but when me and the director sat down to talk about concepts, it came down to, like, I just want to have fun with this," Steinfeld told Vice's Noisey during the fall. "We knew that people were going to stop and look and judge or whatever, but knowing that we were having a good time was what got us through it."

RELATED: What Happens When You Stop Masturbating

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