In a society where sex, nudity and desire have become commonly talked about and displayed, masturbation, and specifically, female masturbation, still stands as a taboo.
Is it only the subject that is taboo, or does it also concern the practice itself? Let’s have a look at what surveys tell us.
Truth about female masturbation #1: yes, women masturbate
The subject of female masturbation might be a taboo in daily conversations and media, but it is not for researchers! Let’s travel around the world with this selection of statistics for different countries:
Asia: In Malaysia and Singapore, a high percentage of women admit they never masturbate (35% and 33%). Around a quarter said they masturbated less than once per month.
Europe: In the UK, a survey showed female masturbation is more common with 83% of women practice masturbation, with 31% of them doing it more than once a week. In Belgium, the number is similar with 33% of women saying they masturbate at least once a week.
United States: A survey from Indiana University documented masturbation habits for men and women in the United States. In the 30 year old bracket, the most common answer (37%) was for women who had masturbated in the past year. For women in their 20s, the most common answer (30%) was “a few times per year to monthly”. This shows that the practice change with age.
Truth about female masturbation #2: women masturbate, but not as often as men do
Research like the Indiana University survey suggests that the frequency of masturbation for men is always higher than women’s.
This difference has several causes: the weight of morality and religion in the education, the historical representation of women’s role in society and the difference in anatomy between men and women.
Reason 1: Women’s anatomy to pleasure is more hidden
First of all, one has to admin that anatomically speaking, the female mechanics of pleasure are much less obvious than men’s. There is no clear signal of arousal such as with men, nor is there a visible physiological sign of climax. Our private parts are mostly hidden to our direct sight. Many men do not know the mechanics of female pleasure, but that is also the case of many women. Not only the anatomy of sexual pleasure for women is not obvious (read: visible), but it also has not reached the classrooms and scientific studies yet.
Reason 2: Female masturbation has been traditionally shamed
Second of all, the topics of self-exploration and masturbation for women has been traditionally tabooed. Many religions consider masturbation as a sin. In societies and families where religion has a major impact on everyday life, women are taught this paradigm. Masturbation is thus associated to a negative practice and if ever done, it is very often surrounded by guilt.
Reason 3: The social representation of female sexuality is linked to procreation, not pleasure
Even in non-religious countries, women are still often firstly considered as life-givers, and their sexuality is therefore associated to procreation. A woman who masturbates was/is viewed as a woman of bad moral standards. Even psychoanalyse father Freud considered that masturbation made women hysterical and psychotic. He considered clitoral orgasm as “childish” and considered that a “real woman” should only reach climax via vaginal stimulation (which queued the need for a male partner).
This translates into a lack of scientific and general knowledge about women pleasure. The mystery and taboo surrounding female orgasm remain significant in many areas of society, including the entertainment industry where female masturbation is mainly depicted as extreme, funny, exaggerated, and rarely as a normal part of female sexuality.
And yet, masturbation is intrinsically linked to sexuality and to our well-being.
Truth about female masturbation #3: it’s good for you!
Physicians and sexologists agree that masturbation definitely has physical, mental and emotional benefits.
Masturbation leads to better sex
For women who want to discover and know their body better, female masturbation is a good way to explore their body and their personal map to pleasure. Plus, knowledge of your body and pleasure makes it easier to be more vocal about what you like and dislike when in bed with a partner.
Masturbation reinforces self-confidence
Further than discovery, masturbation is a moment with yourself. It is an intimate moment that one can take to show love and respect towards their body. It is a beautiful way to show some “self-love” to yourself.
Female masturbation boosts a woman’s libido
Self-pleasuring also rewires your brain so that your libido rises. Indeed, the more sex you have the more sex you fancy it because your brain thinks of sex more often, and sex arousal starts in the brain.
Your body releases soothing and mood-boosting hormones
Orgasms also release endorphins, which are a “happiness” chemical that boost moral and improve the mood. Some doctors even say that masturbating can help alleviate the symptoms of PMS such as cramps.
“If you have a uterine contraction while self-stimulating and a uterine contraction can help menstrual blood come out faster… theoretically it’s going to help with cramps,” says Dr Lauren Streicher, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University
Our approach to sexuality is a direct derivative of our education, personal history, experiences and values. If masturbation is a taboo subject, research seems to have taken it as a favourite area to investigate through surveys mainly focusing on the frequency of the practice and its benefits. And this is a positive development because as we learn the truth about female masturbation, we unravels learnings beneficial to end the taboo around it. And we open the door to…. more orgasms !
But really, it is about how you connect to your body, your pleasure. How often you do it, and what good it does to you is an intimate discussion with yourself. Masturbation as part of sexuality is an open invitation to play with your body, your desire and energy. It is your very own choice to accept it, now or later.
- The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) from Indiana University , 2009
- Survey conducted by Flair, Belgium, 2015