I will no longer let sexual partners shame me into not masturbating

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By Katie Baskerville

When the subject of masturbation came up, he made his insecurities very clear (Picture: METRO)

‘Am I not enough for you?’

Almost every discussion I’ve had about masturbation with male sexual partners has produced a response like this.

The suggestion is that I should put their discomfort with female masturbation ahead of my own needs, and the shame this attitude made me feel led me not to masturbate alone until I was 27.

I was 15 years old when a partner first reacted like this. We were talking, as couples do, about our sexual preferences. But when the subject of masturbation came up, he made his insecurities very clear.

Even though I felt put out, I didn’t want to argue. I knew that if I didn’t do as expected, I ran the risk of being slut-shamed and made to feel dirty – it was common amongst the boys I knew to single out girls in this way.

So I dutifully shelved masturbation, even though my boyfriend at the time most certainly did not.

The shame I carried deepened after I suffered an assault in my late teens that caused me to disassociate entirely from my body and the experience of pleasure. In relationships that followed, I found it increasingly difficult to assert my autonomy.

Occasionally, in moments of curiosity, I would seek permission from my partners to masturbate. I’d do this because I felt like I needed someone to tell me that it was a normal, natural thing to do and at the time, rightly or wrongly, they were the people I trusted most.

‘I’d rather you didn’t do it if I wasn’t there,’ one boyfriend told me, making it clear that masturbation was only acceptable if I did it for his enjoyment. Another boyfriend said that I didn’t need to masturbate if he was ‘doing his job properly’.

It may sound chivalrous in a twisted kind of way, for a man to take on the role of caretaker when it comes to a woman’s pleasure, but it’s not. It’s problematic because there is almost always a double standard at play – my abstinence didn’t equal theirs.

It also meant that sex became a performance for me. If I were ever to touch myself, it would be by a man’s direction and for a man’s enjoyment, not mine, which made it feel pornographic.

This meant I wasn’t ever able to surrender completely to a sexual experience because I was so caught up in making sure it looked like I was having a good time. I couldn’t orgasm and my pleasure was often interrupted by reminders to move or groan a certain way, as I grasped at bed linen and arched my back.

It also meant that my pleasure and the warped comfort I ended up finding in intercourse was always at the mercy of someone else’s control. I was obliging if someone wanted to tie me up or do something unusual because I didn’t want to be made to feel guilty for not doing it.

I didn’t want to be prudish, but I also didn’t want to be slut-shamed, so the easiest thing to do was to always say ‘yes’.

The power my partners had over my sexual autonomy meant that I became passive in sex and in relationships. I never stood up for myself in arguments and only ever went out of my way to be accommodating of abusive behaviours and God-awful mood swings. I found myself in coercive situations time and time again, until I chose singlehood in my mid-twenties.

I’d decided that enough was enough, following the end of a five-year, on-again-off-again relationship that had left me feeling furious at the thought of ever having to prove my worth to anyone again. Something had changed.

Only 14% of Brits think female masturbation is accepted by society, compared to almost half of us who say that male masturbation is seen as normal

I decided that it was high time to put my wants and my needs first. I ordered myself a sex toy and was able to masturbate and reach climax alone, which had never happened before.

The reconnection that took place was electrifying – it was like greeting myself for the first time. I felt love, for my body and my mind. With each passing orgasm, and with plenty to make up for, healing took place.

Through this, I was able to create a base level for pleasure and could suddenly see what the fuss was about. Part of me felt grief for what I had missed out on, but this was overwhelmed with the joy of truly getting to know my body.

However, I now feared entering another relationship because I was terrified of being forced to miss out on this feeling again. It had become so precious to me and I couldn’t bear the thought of someone putting a stop to the deeply personal love affair I’d found myself in.

Love finds a way. When I met and surrendered to my feelings for my partner, I realised that this relationship came with a difference. He has never once asked me not to masturbate, expected me to perform without my consent, or taken advantage.

He fully understands and appreciates my right to pleasure on my terms. I have found a good one; the best one. He’s for keeps.

The secret? Communication. We spoke about it, at great length. And because of the deep trust and willingness to listen on both sides, conversations that would have once felt humiliating now feel normal.

Through having those conversations and, sometimes, disagreements – as all couples have – we were able to lay down our boundaries and expectations.

In my experience, sadly, this is not the norm and could be why so many couples find it difficult to access their pleasure, both on their own and in relationships.

Only 14% of Brits think female masturbation is accepted by society, compared to almost half of us who say that male masturbation is seen as normal, according to a survey by women’s sex toy brand Womanizer.

Speaking to 6,000 people globally, Womanizer also found that 35% of women say they never have solo sex, compared to 18% of men, despite there not being much difference in libido between the genders.

These figures point to how common stories like mine are. Shame is still a gatekeeper when it comes to female pleasure and society has a lot to answer for.

Like many others, my sex-education was minimal at best, stopping the moment I left the PSE teacher’s classroom at 15, after binning the rubber johnnies and bananas.

If things are ever going to change then we need to shine a light on the God-given right of women to experience the inexhaustible supply of self-pleasure, guilt-free. The bottom line is that if men are allowed to masturbate, we should be able to too.

If I could share one piece of advice, knowing all that I do now, it would be this; the longest relationship you’ll ever be in is with your body. Learn to love it first. Go forth and masturbate.

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