Rejecting Masturbation Shame. Again.

I’m frustrated.

I’m frustrated that I’m blogging about this again, and that I still feel like an outsider for something so personal and unique.

More specifically, I’m frustrated by the extensive online energy around women’s masturbation and how one-note that conversation seems to be. I’m frustrated by the shame and inadequacy I feel within the sex blogging community for not being an avid masturbator. I’m frustrated by how self-care and body positivity have become so tightly knit with masturbation. I’m frustrated that I will likely get comments on this post that say I should masturbate more in order to be less frustrated.

I get it – de-stigmatizing women’s masturbation makes room in the dialogue on sexuality for sexual agency and empowerment. I don’t deny that it’s an effective tactic against the systemic attempts to keep women as passive cogs in the big wheel of misogyny and I would never, ever want to limit or minimize any one’s experience, but here’s the rub: not everyone masturbates for the same reasons, in the same way, and some people don’t masturbate at all. So why is the dialogue so one sided and so dependent on themes like body positivity, self-love, self-care and understanding pleasure? My guess is that without those buzz words, companies, especially pleasure-product companies, would have a lot less to market their wares with. Capitalism wins again.

The reality is, you are not necessarily any more in touch with your body if you masturbate regularly. You’re not more divinely feminine if you wank by candle light on the full moon or use a sacred stone dildo that was mass produced and sold as a must-have accessory to your pleasure. To be clear, all of this is fine. If that’s your thing, great. But what’s not great is the lack of acknowledgement that masturbation remains private and subjective. Not everyone enjoys sensual masturbation and the narrative that masturbation is universally a magical portal to self knowledge and personal intimacy, is simply not a helpful narrative. When we imply that personal and subjective experiences should be a certain way, we invalidate the rest of the spectrum of experiences and the people involved. It used to be that the response to masturbation was a gasp and some pearl clutching, now if you say that you don’t masturbate, or that you don’t really enjoy it or find it useful, you may find yourself the object of criticism and judgement that you are stifling your sexuality and doing a disservice to yourself. Say it with me: no one should be criticising anyone else’s sexual expression. What works for one person may not work for another and that is perfectly okay.

I also find it troubling that the discussion around self-empowerment via masturbation is so intensely gendered. Are men being encouraged to masturbate in order to understand their bodies and have a deep soul connection with their pleasure? No? Hmmm. So why is that the language that’s used for women? I can’t personally speak to the pressures and expectations beyond the typical gender binary, but I’d imagine that it is just as complicated and nuanced, if not more. As a cis woman I have always found the masturbation debate incredibly frustrating and limited and many times I have been put in the position to have to defend my sporadic and “all business” approach to self pleasure both publicly and privately. As a sex blogger I’ve been accused of being “a hack” and a charlatan because I receive and review sex toys when I have been vocal about not being very into masturbation. I shouldn’t have to explain or defend that I most often use toys with my partners and that I’m not dysfunctional or broken because I’m minimally interested in coming alone.

Full disclosure: I don’t masturbate much because I find it really, really, really boring and tedious. I’ve been told this is because I must not have a healthy relationship with my body and sexuality. Apparently, I should find myself endlessly sexy and be inspired by all the wonder and  magic of my femininity. I should be able to lay back and with a few thoughts or sensual caresses, begin to feel my body switch into desire mode. Nope. It’s boring and much, much more challenging to orgasm when I’m alone. When masturbating, I can have a half-strength clitoral orgasm, if the stars are aligned and the conditions are perfect. What’s perfect for me? Quiet, completely private (i.e.: no one else is home), powerful vibes, no penetration and some very, very specific porn. With a partner, I come easily, every which way, because I’m actually engaged in the moment. I need to see and smell and taste and hear another person. Without a partner, it’s only ever a means to an end, and often it’s not even worth it. In this way it’s not helpful or healthy or empowering for me. Failing to get yourself off can be an incredibly crushing experience, so why invest in something unpleasant and demoralising in the pursuit of pleasure? There are so many things I’d rather do.

I have learned, in my frustration, that if I continue to internalise the cultural messages about the profound and inherent value in masturbation and the implied value-add to my worth as a woman, a lover, a feminist, etc. I will always come up short and that is what I reject.

You can read more of my thoughts and feelings on masturbation, in real-life and fiction, here.


Violet Fawkes (she/her) is a freelance writer and sex blogger focusing on pleasure education, erotic fiction, and the intersection of identity, kink and mental health.

24 thoughts on “Rejecting Masturbation Shame. Again.

  1. I can’t fully express how much I agree with this. There are times when I feel the need for an orgasm but when I do it’s a quick no nonsense get the job done event, and it’s never ever as nice or as satisfying as it is with a partner.

    1. I absolutely agree. For those who do have a really sensual and intimate relationship with masturbation, I’m glad for them but it’s definitely not the only way and I wish we talked about women’s self care as plainly as we do men’s.

  2. This is such a great post and I really appreciate you articulating your point of view. It makes me really angry that anyone thinks it’s their right to shame or other you for your individual sexual expression. I’ve been in a place where orgasms felt less easily accessible over the last few months and I wonder if part of the reason why it’s been emotionally difficult is because I’ve internalised some of the shame you talk about, feel less whole and less feminine if I’m not wanking regularly. Thankyou again for such a thought- provoking post.

    1. i’m sorry you’re having a hard time too and it may be worth investigating where you land on that spectrum of shame. It’s such an insidious thing!

  3. Ahem.. *steps up (ok several steps) to the soapbox* who the hell do these people think they are?! Do they live your life? No. Do they possess your body? No (ok maybe but let’s not go there). Do they control what and how you feel? Fuck no! You decide what feels right and good to you, and screw the arseholes who think that their opinion matters in any way shape or form. *steps off soapbox with a flip of the hair*
    Thank you for putting this out there Violet, I’m sorry that you have to deal with this so much.

    1. Super good points, V. I masturbate, but cyclically. And I usually do it for function rather than form. It’s quick and more about the end game than being sexy and intimate. I want what I want when I want it. And most of the time I don’t.

  4. I had never thought of it in these terms and i love you for speaking out. Sure I masturbate but it has never been about being sexy for myself… it’s I need an orgasm… I never turn on the candle light and “make love to myself…” Keep on being you! We’ll join with you to hate the haters!

  5. You know what Violet I feel you so hard on this. I do masturbate, more lately because for reasons unknown to me it has started to interest me more. But I know my masturbation doesn’t look the way some folks maybe think it should and for many, many years I didn’t do it very often because I just thought it was the dullest thing ever. I much prefer orgasms with a partner and they are so much more varied and intense. Masturbation is alright, but I can think of loads of other stuff that entertains me more. Fabulous post Violet and you are a wonderful and important part of this community with or without masturbation x

  6. This is a really great article. I am an avid masturbator myself, and I have been guilty of assuming that every other cis woman has the same relationship with masturbation as I do. This post has really encouraged me to think more inclusively about this. Especially your very insightful comment that male masturbation isn’t framed in the same way. I hadn’t actually considered that before. At the end of the day, to each their own, and I’m appalled that anyone would have the audacity to accuse you of being less worthy on account of how you achieve your pleasure.

  7. This is a fabulous post, Violet. There are always generalized assumptions about how one gender category prefers things to be because humans like to put things neatly in categories to make the world easier for themselves (Kant was right!), and it makes easier for companies of certain products to control the narrative around things like masturbation and sex too. when I masturbate, it is not a sensual self-touch thing. It is merely to get the horny feeling out of my body because it is bothering me. I can come quick and then I am done. I don’t think I ever masturbated more than five minutes (on my own, mutual masturbation and stuff is different). I see masturbation as self-care for myself, as in getting a tension out, or control the anxiety. But now that I think of it, it is more about the orgasm than the whole expected sensuality around it. Using the same sex toy alone, doesn’t give me as much as using it together with a partner, by the way. Sexyoys don’t need to be used alone. Again, thanks for sharing, it made me think and made me feel less alone. <3

  8. I (think) I understand why and how the feminine trope of how masturbation “should” be became the default. And there was probably (definitely?) a time when this trope was cutting edge and revolutionary (I distinctly remember reading that when the Hitachi was at its height of popularity in the 70s a sex educator offered classes for cis women on how to masturbate with it.) That being said, as a society, we’re more aware of the subtleties and nuances of EVERYTHING, including sexuality than before (or maybe it’s just that we’re more open to talking about them in certain spaces) and yet masturbation for female empowerment and self-education is still the trope. I admit that when I write content meant for a more generalized audience, I default to this — because the stereotypes that “women shouldn’t masturbate” do still exist. But we also have to make and allow room in the conversation for the infinite possibilities of how individual people relate to the topic, and they are all valid. Including yours.

    On a more personal note, when I first “discovered” masturbation at the ripe old age of 32, it was absolutely the self-education I needed to (literally) get in touch with myself. These days, it doesn’t mean that for me anymore. I masturbate because I’m jonesing for an orgasm in the moment, and I know I can (usually) make it happen with the right toy. It’s a means to an end, not a self-love, self-whatever process or whatever. But even as someone who runs a thing literally called “Masturbation Monday” I spend very little time thinking about masturbation for myself — outside of professional considerations like writing for other people or reviewing sex toys.

    All of our experiences (definitely including yours) are valid, and we shouldn’t be judged for them. The conversation should be broader than it is. And I hate that anyone has tried to shame you about your relationship with masturbation.

  9. So since my mid twenties, when I discovered how my orgasm worked, I have been a dedicated and regular wanker. I love making myself come. I am GOOD at it and I enjoy it. It makes me feel sexy and alive. At the moment I reckon I am getting myself off at least 5 times a week. Anything less than that and I start to get antsy. However, that is me and my body and how and what I like. I think everyone should do what they like and is right for them, masturbate or don’t, that is up to you.

    I would say that I think a positive message around female masturbation is a good thing as it has largely been vilified by society and many young women, me included, have grown up totally mystified by how to make it happen. If someone is not masturbating because religion or family or whatever told them not then yes I think that needs to be challenged so that women have the knowledge and power to, like you choose what is right for them to make them feel good and happy and healthy


    1. I agree completely – and the conversation needs to keep widening! Frankly, I wish I was more motivated to do it because it has benefits, but so often they are mitigated by some sort of shadow of shame.

  10. This is such a good post, and everything you’re talking about is so important. After reading it through twice, I don’t think I can make a coherent comment that isn’t essentially quoting your entire article back at you, but I’m really glad you wrote this – it’s a conversation we really need to have.

      1. Wow, i love this post and found the liberation and honest discussions here completely arousing! As male, I had never felt any shame towards my masturbation as part of my sexuality. But I had always felt short changed by partners who shied from it. Women are sexual and should feel free to express and feel shameless masturbation.

        1. Where do I begin in addressing this stinking shit pile of a comment, Russ? This is the most tone-deaf thing I’ve read in a long time. How about this: Perhaps women would feel more “free to express and feel shameless masturbation” if men like you didn’t feel entitled to their bodies and orgasms, thereby feeling “short changed”. Boo fucking hoo. Not your body, not your fucking business, dude. Additionally, the fact that you found it appropriate to share that and how “arousing” the comments are is mind blowing to me. You understand that you have unequivocally shot yourself in the foot here, right? None of this is okay or welcome and I won’t stand for the honest discussions by my female friends and colleagues to be reduced to smut and wank fodder. Consider your comments unwelcome in the future, Russ.

  11. Oh wow, I love this article. I used to feel exactly the same way as you do: no interest in masturbating at all and not really being able to orgasm alone. Since I’ve ironed out some health issues I’ve really embraced masturbating, but I can’t say that it’s the sensual, getting-to-know-your-body experience it’s always marketed as. I am now easier able to orgasm on my own than with my partner, but sex with my partner still has my preference. Masturbating, for me, is to get an orgasm and relax. Sex with a partner is to experience intimacy and yes, also orgasms, but partnered ones.
    All of this is to say you are perfectly valid for feeling this way. Being sex positive should be accepting of all sexual expressions, whether people love or hate masturbation, or any other form of sex. I’m glad you spoke out about this.

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