Hands On Unlearning: How Self-Pleasure Helps Shift Beliefs
While I remember being taught sex ed -- by my reluctant mother at age 8, in an embarrassing sixth grade slideshow, and a final time in my high school health class -- I don’t recall masturbation being included in that education.
Masturbation was something I taught myself. Although I’ve heard it’s normal for young children and even babies to play with their genitals, it wasn’t until I reached an early pubescence that I began exploring those areas for myself. My budding hips seemed possessed as they humped nonconsenting pieces of furniture, while implements like combs and toothbrushes became my first dildos.
Because no one ever explained masturbation to me, it inherently felt wrong. I would patiently wait until everyone in the house was asleep before I allowed my curious hands to cautiously venture under the covers.
It was thanks to masturbation that I had my first orgasm just before my eighteenth birthday. I still remember it clearly: I was home alone after school watching the soap opera Passions, lying in front of the TV with a blanket draped over me. I was motivated mostly by boredom and still wasn’t sure what an orgasm felt like, half convinced I’d already had one. I don’t know how much time passed, only that at a certain point I felt my focus shift away from the TV, surrendering completely to the pleasure that was expanding in my lower abdomen.
My movements became hurried and frantic as I instinctively conducted my desire to a dramatic crescendo. The next thing I knew my entire body was contracting into itself as waves of ecstacy rolled through me. Immediately I understood what all of my friends meant when they said, “When it happens, you’ll know.”
Obsessed with this new talent, I locked myself in the bathroom for a solid thirty minutes, my fist in my mouth as I let orgasm after orgasm wash over me. From that point on, I would masturbate several times before bed every night, allowing that peak of energy to lull me to sleep.
It wasn’t until my boyfriend complained about his difficulty helping me reach orgasm that I realized this habit could be a hindrance. It was a problem I only had with him, but he was my first boyfriend, my first love, and my first sex partner, so I figured I must be doing something wrong.
“Maybe don’t do it as often?” he suggested, suddenly an expert on women’s sexuality.
And with that, a belief began to take hold that I should not overindulge this behavior, that doing so would have negative ramifications on my sex life. I began limiting my masturbation to once a week or less and would often feel shame after reaching orgasm. It wasn’t until recently that I began to recognize just how deeply this belief had imprinted itself into my unconscious.
A few weeks ago I was lying on the couch when I felt a familiar stirring and impulse to self-pleasure. But I also suspected that I might be sleeping with someone later that night and began to reason with myself that I should wait so that I could have a more satisfying experience later on.
Denying myself orgasm in anticipation of sex wasn’t a new concept, yet for some reason the thought struck me differently this time. Who had enforced this ceiling on my pleasure? Isn’t pleasure limitless, only becoming more attainable the more often we access it?
I traced this belief back to my high school boyfriend, who I now know was just as inexperienced as me and whose opinion should not be treated as factual. I consider myself a pretty open-minded, sexually liberated woman, so the fact that I had been harboring this untruth was startling to say the least. Why was I letting an experience from almost 15 years ago define my relationship to self-pleasure?
So to combat that idea, I masturbated, affirming to myself that my potential for pleasure is endless. Ever since this realization I’ve been masturbating more often as a way of intentionally disproving my ex-boyfriend’s theory.
This epiphany led me to an understanding of how masturbation has been helping me unlearn toxic beliefs for years without my knowing.
Several years ago, when the loss of 60 lbs left my body feeling unfamiliar and scarred over with stretch marks, it was masturbation that helped me understand and appreciate this newly remodeled home.
The introduction of Chakrubs, a natural crystal wand with gentle healing properties, into my self-pleasure routine helped me release the shameful belief that masturbation is sinful and embrace it as a self-care practice. My nurturing and compassionate qualities feel magnified when I use my Chakrub and it becomes easy to discern that the negative associations I’ve held around masturbation are not innately mine.
My Chakrub practice has also helped me recognize that orgasm does not have to be my singular goal and that I can find just as much delight in exploring my body without purpose. Unlike many sex toys that can be switched on or off, my Chakrub requires presence. As it warms with my body temperature, it affirms that we are creating a unique experience together. It encourages me to be more mindful about practicing self-consent and really tune into what I am craving on a physical level. Sometimes that might include penetration with my Chakrub, but I’ve found that rolling it against my skin for a sensual external massage can be just as satisfying depending on my mood.
Masturbation is not just a tool for releasing stress and finding bliss in our bodies, but can be utilized for unlearning outdated beliefs that have taken hold in our psyches. Through self-pleasure we can begin to identify the harmful illusions we have been indoctrinated in and consciously work to unravel them, one orgasm at a time.
Feature Image by Maya Fuhr