If you think I’m about to talk about sex, you’re correct. So let’s just lay down a few ground rules:
- Mum, this is not for you.
- Dad, this is not for you.
- Mum and Dad, would you really expect anything less from me? But seriously, begone – both of you!
I would also like to acknowledge that I’ve met an alarming number of women who have experienced sexual abuse and assault, and who therefore have a complicated relationship with sex. If this is you, please know that you are not alone and that if this subject matter triggers you, in no way do I expect you to read further. I also strongly encourage you to seek support [1800 RESPECT], if you haven’t already, and professional help aimed at healing these wounds and loving yourself more.
If it crossed your mind to skip or skim read this too, perhaps because the word sex makes you blush or the thought of an in-depth review of the Kama Sutra isn’t really your thang, you’d be missing out. Why? Because helping you embrace and firmly grip that golden ticket simply wouldn’t be complete without addressing the very act that brought you here!
Now, let’s begin.
Self-pleasure, otherwise known as masturbation, is still quite the taboo subject for women. While all the men I know in my life are encouraged to wank whenever they please as part of a healthy lifestyle (except my dad, of course, who I hope to God isn’t still reading this), for women, the idea of openly talking about masturbation, other than referring to an episode of Sex and the City, is just plain ‘dirty’.
Self-pleasure is an expected behaviour for men to engage in. Take porn, for example. You rarely see a woman orgasm and then hop off the man and leave him with a huge erection! Men are entitled – expected – to get their rocks off, and this double standard between the sexes is so ingrained that many women aren’t even aware of how our sexual organs function.
When a young boy touches his genitals, it’s thought of as cute or normal, but when a young girl behaves with the same curiosity she’s told ‘don’t touch’. Body-image conditioning starts young, and it’s gender conditioning like this that leaves little wonder many of us have spent more of our lives punishing our bodies rather than loving and enjoying them.
How do we move past the shame, guilt and embarrassment of self-pleasure and sexual enjoyment? To begin breaking down the barriers to masturbation, we need to collectively reimagine the experience and call it something that doesn’t mortify or force mouths to drop in shock. Personally, I like the term coined a couple of years ago by a lady participating in a workshop I ran with my dear friend Dr Gemma Munro (a fabulous performance psychologist): Tinkerbelling.
Mamamia's Sealed Section podcast explores the best ways to use vibrators and toys to your advantage. (Post continues below.)
Then, we need to celebrate all that Tinkerbelling does for us. I’m no expert, but here are just a few reasons to sing the praises of self-pleasure:
- Tinkerbelling forces us to be mindful and live in the present.
- Tinkerbelling supports our self-worth, and acknowledges that we are deserving of pleasurable experiences.
- Tinkerbelling releases the hormones dopamine and oxytocin, both widely accepted as positive mood lifters.
- Oh, and did I mention that Tinkerbelling is fun and free?
Finally, we need to do exactly what us women do best. We need to talk, we need to connect and we need to share our experiences. We need to create a safe space with our girlfriends to share and tell our stories – the good, the bad, the ugly and the awkward. Sharing our stories will empower us, allow us to learn from one another and, most importantly, give one another permission to let go of any feelings of shame, guilt or embarrassment.
(Mum, you dirty dog, I know you are still reading this! Something to talk about at our next girls’ day? Dad, if you’re still reading this, I can’t even . . . )
This is an edited extract from Embrace Yourself by Taryn Brumfitt, the ultimate ‘how-to’ guide to loving your body at every shape and size, published by Penguin Random House and available today, RRP $34.99.
Taryn will be touring Embrace Yourself with events in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Albury, Bathurst, Wollongong, Port Macquarie, Armidale and Toowoomba, full details here.