celebrity

"Miley Cyrus has been called 'disgusting' for broaching this topic. And that's not ok."

I’m not a particular Miley Cyrus fan. But today, I’ve found myself in her corner, and this is why:

Cyrus is being slammed as “disgusting” and “filthy” and a whole range of other awful adjectives today, because she posted an image to social media broaching a topic that doesn’t get talked about very much: Female masturbation.

The 22-year-old singer posted the caption “a masturbate a day keeps the haters away” on Instagram, alongside an image of a woman’s hand reaching into her shorts.

“A masturbate a day keeps the haters away,” Cyrus posted.

Predictably, the world — which generally prefers women to remain pigeonholed as sexless virgins or as porn stars performing sexual acts exclusively for men — could Not. Even. Deal.

The Daily Mail, for example ran this headline, declaring that the post signalled Cyrus was “Out of control!”

“If we needed any more evidence of how far Miley Cyrus has gone off the rails, her latest Instagram post surely supplies it,” the article declared.

Celebuzz branded the move “ridiculous”, while Pink is the New Blog wrote: ” it’s just a bit sad to see an obviously talented young person resorting to this kind of behavior in order to get people to see her or pay attention to her… it just seems so … sad.”

But here’s the thing: what is more shocking and appalling than Miley Cyrus’ reference to female masturbation, is the fact that society still assumes that women don’t masturbate.

Or, more broadly, that women simply don’t have many sexual feelings at all, or only have sexual feelings in very tightly prescribed contexts.

Which, as every woman in the world knows, is BS.

Miley Cyrus, as she appears in a series of Polaroid photos she shared this week.

Now, I’m not saying Miley Cyrus doesn’t build much of her image on Shock Factor because, let’s be honest, she goes around licking dumbells and wearing onesies made of dollar bills and humping a person with dwarfism in her stage shows. Indeed, by all accounts she can be a bit of a loud, obnoxious brat.

But that doesn’t make her wrong. And talking about masturbation certainly doesn’t make her “disgusting” and “filthy”.

I’m also not necessarily supporting Cyrus’ prescribed regularity of “a masturbate a day”, because women are already too bombarded with messages about sex and masturbation — you’re not doing it enough; you’re doing it wrong; you shouldn’t do it, it’s dirty; it’s only for men — that the whole topic is already a scary minefield of confusion and shame.

Can we pretty please move past the days of a woman being deemed outrageous and hysterical for being anything other than quiet, compliant and focused primarily on male sexuality, please?

But one thing we can all agree on, is that expressing sexuality in a way that’s not harming anybody else, and that makes you feel good is not “disgusting”. (In fact, the use of that word right there is what we call “slut-shaming”.)

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Nor must a woman be “out of control” simply for expressing her sexuality; can we please move past the days of a woman being deemed tarty or hysterical for being anything other than compliant, conformist and focused primarily on male sexuality?

“Shaming Cyrus for that only reinforces the confusion and embarrassment many young women feel around the issue.”

Whether we like it or not, Miley is a role model for a lot of young girls. We rarely see females “role models” talking about masturbation, or even joking about it like a lot of men in popular culture do — so for her to even utter the word in the public arena is actually quite cool.

In fact, shaming Cyrus for that only reinforces the confusion and embarrassment many young women feel around the issue — especially those who look up to her — and that’s the last thing we need, because girls of a certain age are confused enough about their bodies and sexualities.

As Caitlin Stasey revealed in an excellent, honest earlier this week: “I used to pray every time I touched myself and I would cry myself to sleep, fearful of the wrath of God, guilty for my sins etc. etc. It breaks my heart to think of children all over the globe experiencing the same shame…”

A 2008 study found that 92 per cent of women masturbate regularly.

So — here’s what we know about female masturbation.

Most women do it; 92 per cent, according to one 2008 study. Masturbation has been proven to improve women’s sex lives, and familiarise women with their bodies, and orgasms release endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin, which can improve your mood.

And, as  Dr. Lauren Streicher, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, told the Huffington Post, masturbation has “absolutely zero negative effects… Nothing bad can happen from doing it — you can’t catch anything, you can’t get pregnant, you’re not going to get sick.

“It’s the best thing out there as far as a feel-good vice that isn’t going to have any negative repercussions.”

The only negative, in fact, is that anonymous reporters might brand you “outrageous” for using your vagina outside the context of reproduction or male pleasure.

So if Miley-style “a masturbate a day” floats your boat, go for it. Or if you want to try it out occasionally, then fine. Or if it’s not your thing, don’t bother.

Whatever.

But rest assured, there is nothing “disgusting” or “out of control” about you taking this particular piece of Miley Cyrus’ advice.

What do you think of Miley’s Instagram post?