Masturbation. Yep, I said it. It’s time to pull off the Band-Aid and “touch” on the subject. I know that some of you already have that twisty feeling inside of your body where you want to hide and roll up into a ball. That’s okay. You were probably told to feel that way whenever the subject comes up; I know I was. The truth is that many of us were told that masturbation is dirty, shameful, not “Christian,” or more so, “that it’s not for ladies” and I believed it. But that’s why I want to talk about it, because now I think very differently. I think masturbation can be extremely healthy, healing, sexy, and even essential in understanding ourselves.
Like I said, whenever I say the word - “masturbate” - I feel like I need to cower my head with my eyes turned to the ground and whisper the word. As if, for you Harry Potter readers, I am speaking of Voldemort - “you know who” - or in this case - “you know what”. The word “masturbate” does indeed sound worse than most swear words and looking at the etymology of the word it is clear why. Masturbate comes from several Latin words meaning, “to disturb, confuse”; “hand”; “defile”; “defilement, dishonor”; “to be stunned, stupefied”. No wonder we feel horrible saying the word; our mouths are holding onto centuries of shame.
We have stigmatized masturbation. As an adolescent I never thought that I was allowed to masturbate. I thought it was an act for just boys, and “dirty boys” at that. I think I thought that because whenever I heard masturbation being discussed there was an air of condemnation and/or a “tisk tisk” in the tonality of voices. I remember feeling sexual desires, but thinking, “Well, I can’t masturbate. That is only for boys”. I think a lot of the disdain for masturbation originates from the Bible and the verses speaking to “not spilling your seed” from the story of Onan. It’s important to note, however, that the context of this story is that it was important to “keep” that “seed” for the purposes of procreation and populating the earth, due to high mortality rates at the time. Masturbation is also often linked in our minds to pornography and sex addiction. Yes, there are times when masturbation can become a problem, but the problem is not the act of masturbation itself, but the underlying need for the act. As with anything, when a behavior like drinking, gambling, eating, or in this case masturbation takes you away from healthy relationships and causes distress, then yes, it becomes a problem. However, masturbation in its purest sense is healthy, important, and necessary.
We are fulfilling a sexual desire when we masturbate and part of that desire is to let go, with the hope of an orgasm. What does an orgasm do for us? Besides the physiological aspect of increased blood flow, release of endorphins, and the happy hormones of dopamine and serotonin; it also decreases stress and anxiety. Beyond that though, we are opening up avenues of connection to both ourselves and...wait for it…God. Yes, I brought God into masturbating. Granted, I know God is not what you are fantasizing about, but this is what I think is happening when we masturbate. I think God is very smart and God gave us these sexual organs to not only procreate, but for pleasure. For one, the only function for the clitoris is to experience pleasure. Many have called the clitoris “The happy accident”. I call it, “God’s a genius”! When we experience orgasm, not only do we feel amazing sensations throughout our bodies, we are taken outside of ourselves. We transcend if you will. Sometimes orgasms can lead to laughter, sometimes tears, and in this transcendence we can feel the deepest parts of ourselves. Is it a coincidence that we sometimes shout, “Oh God, oh God” when we orgasm? I don’t think so. Can this act of masturbation be a form of prayer? Could it be a connection to the extraordinary? What has your body felt like when you have experienced the Divine? I know that I have gotten shivers all over my body, somewhat mimicking an orgasm.
When sex is mentioned in the Bible it is talked about primarily by using the word, “know”. When we talk to one another about when we decide to enter into relationships that involve sexual exploration, we talk about our need to know the other person. This knowing comes in emotional intimacy. However, if we ever want to have a really mutually gratifying and sexually pleasing relationship with another person we need to first know ourselves. This knowing is emotional, spiritual, and sexual. As women, we need to understand what feels good so we can direct our partners. This is taking control of our bodies and our pleasure, and ladies, don’t we deserve that? This is especially important, because only 30% of women can achieve orgasm through intercourse. The clitoris has more nerve endings closely together than the glans of the penis, so it is very sensitive. Though an orgasm is not always the goal, the quickest way to experience one for women is often through the clitoris. It’s important to understand the way it likes to be touched because of its sensitivity. So consider that to “know” ourselves is to “know each other” is to then also know God.
God created sex and part of sex is masturbation. Is sex and masturbation our chance to fully learn how to let go of ourselves and of control and experience the joy that God has to offer? When sex is good, when it has the components of a healthy relationship, when you are in-tune with yourself through self-love then it is a form of communion. We are taking in, we are becoming the “Here is my body given for you”. Can sex be, “the remembrance of me”? We take in Christ’s body during communion and in sex we take in ourselves and our partner’s bodies. We become a part of something bigger. This is why it’s hard to forget those we have shared these moments with. I believe that in communion Christ and God invite us into an intimate relationship with them, with each other, and with ourselves. I believe that the same is true for sex and masturbation. God gave us bodies - bodies to know and bodies to care for. I do believe that we can look at masturbation as a way of healing ourselves; knowing, nurturing, reclaiming, and celebrating who we are. And isn’t it true that in loving ourselves we can better love others? “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Another truth and important point of discussion here is that a lot of us have experienced non-consensual touch around our genitalia and many of us have been traumatized by that. Since trauma can get trapped in our bodies, we may have adverse reactions when we are touched by or on our clitoris or vagina. In fact I know that it can be downright terrifying for some people. This is where we can think of masturbation differently and see it as a form of prayer and healing practice. So often as women we are told our voices don’t matter and so neither does our pleasure. If you have had trouble in this area, then my wish for you is to start slow. Take a shower, feel the contours of your body, understand that it’s your vessel and it is good. Sex Therapists are amazing at offering help in this area or being a guide for you in how to explore, but more so helping you figure out the emotions that could be trapped in your body that are inhibiting your exploration. Masturbation could be your way of reclaiming that part of your body with a little help from God.
If you are reading this and are a woman who has not yet experienced an orgasm, please don’t feel bad. There are tools for you to help in this area. The new website, OMGYes.com, is filled with women of all races, ages, and body types who talk about orgasm, sexuality, and how they have worked to understand their own bodies. It is a great resource. If the word masturbation is still unsettling to you, then maybe change the word for yourself. Think about words like, “jammin’”, “me time”, “devotion”, “exercise”, “meditate”. Now that we know masturbation can be a form of prayer and healing exercise these words make more sense and don’t have the stigma of shame attached to it.
Ladies, you deserve to feel pleasure, even if it takes you over one hundred times trying. Masturbation has a way of helping you feel sexy and desirable and every human that I know wants to feel those things. Try to consider masturbation to be one of the other great communions between you and God. God has always tried to find ways to be connected to God’s creation. I truly believe that orgasm between partners or oneself is one more way God has brilliantly thought of to connect to us. To know ourselves is to keep us healthy, strong, and recognize our worth. When parents ask me to teach their kids about sexuality, we talk about masturbation. I encourage girls to look at their vulvas as they would their hands, because their vulva, like their hand, is a part of their body. We have been shamed by many things. Let’s refuse to allow masturbation to continue to be one of those things, so that we can more fully understand who we are and enjoy pleasure through the clitoris - a gift of God.