The concept of masturbation didn’t become clear to me until college. I remember talking with two of my friends and the topic coming up, and they both admitted to doing it. I knew that masturbation existed, but never thought of it as something I, or anyone I knew, would ever do. It was a foreign concept that involved people I didn’t associate with. But here were two people I really liked and respected admitting that they had been masturbating for years and weren’t ashamed or particularly embarrassed. I asked them how they did it and did some private internet searches, and then I started doing it myself.
At first, it was great! And all I could think was, “Why did I not know about this before now?!” But then the guilt and embarrassment began to set in. Not all at once, but it slowly crept into my mind and began to take away some of the enjoyment. I started bargaining with myself, saying I would do it once and then not do it again for a few weeks. I tried to give it up as a New Year’s resolution and failed within the first week. It wasn’t just my Catholic upbringing banging at my consciousness and trying telling me it wasn’t what God would want, but it was also that I wasn’t having sex and wasn’t even close to being with anyone else.
Was masturbation pathetic? Was I experiencing this pleasure all by myself when I should be doing it with someone else? I loved and respected my friends, but their go-ahead wasn’t enough to combat religion, family, and all the other social forces that had been pressing against me my whole life telling me that this was not what “good girls” did. I was torn, and it was rough.
Despite all of my emotional turmoil, I never stopped. If you take one thing away from this article, it should be that masturbation is great for a multitude of reasons. I needed to come to a point where I could be comfortable with my actions and truly own them. I wanted to take away the stigma, if only for the selfish reason that guilt makes masturbation a lot less fun.
There’s unfortunately no easy answer to solving this issue, as everyone comes to it with different baggage. But my main advice (having come out on the other side) is to find someone you trust to talk to about these feelings. I continued talking to my original two friends and expanded my group. I explained my mixed feelings, and they helped me work out exactly where my guilt was stemming from. Not living up to the expectations of my parents? Check. Performing a purely self-satisfying pleasurable act seeming selfish? Check.
Learning to accept masturbation is a path towards accepting yourself, that you deserve pleasure, and that there is nothing wrong with learning about and exploring your sexuality in a safe space. It is actually helpful and allows you to learn what it is you do and don’t like, so when you do start having sex, you know how to make the most out of your relationship with your partner. And even if you are having sex, it’s a way to get to know yourself better and relieve stress.
There are many benefits to masturbating from the obvious to the less so, but being unsure and doubting yourself and being torn about what the right thing to do is normal. It’s part of living. Just because things don’t come easily or take adjustment doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pursuing and exploring. So, explore yourself and your body!
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