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In Movies And Real Life, Female Masturbation Is Considered ‘Dirty’. Shouldn’t This Stop?

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To love yourself is neither selfish nor bad, especially for women who have been subjected to objectification by patriarchy since the dawn of civilization. They never try to love themselves on their own, indoctrination of male standards have seeped into them and their self-esteem.

This self-love is to explore our bodies, know our desires, and acclaim ourselves. Sex doesn’t just connote pleasure for women, it also means that we are dependent on an outsider to fulfil our desires. Many women opt for masturbation, and it’s not obscene, contrary to popular belief. 

In the West, we may now have some liberty to discuss masturbation- songs like ‘Love Myself’ by Hailee Steinfeld, Britney Spear’s ‘Touch my hand’, ‘Fingers’ by Pink; artists like Beyonce, Emma Watson; websites like OMGYES, aim to “lift the veil on women’s sexual pleasure” through videos and instructional forums.

But, in our country, most of the women haven’t even heard of terms like masturbation, vagina, clitoris and if they have, they never acknowledge it, for it is “bad” or “dirty” to talk about, which it is not. A few months ago, Women’s web took an initiative and explored the topic on a YouTube video with Aarefa Johari.

I remember how I chanced upon the topic. I came to know about it while reading Alice Walker’s ‘Color Purple’, who poetically described vagina as a “wet rose”. I still wonder if my relatives have ever tried it, or even know about it. In our society, as much as uttering the word  ‘sex’, calls for a turn of heads, so one can only gauge the reactions if we were to throw the word ‘masturbation’ around. I have encountered horrible instances of men masturbating openly in a metro, on the streets outside, but female masturbation is considered a ghost.

The Good Girls v/s Bad Girls Debate

Many of us consider masturbation as an activity done by the ‘dirty’ girls. ‘Good’ girls never talk about it, as it may convert them otherwise. This is preposterous because if touching our own genitals, if giving ourselves pleasure is “dirty” if acclaiming our power by the journey of self-love is obscene, then we are going to deprive ourselves of our own “Self”.

If the vagina is something bad, which it is not, why it is a part of our body at all? Why does the creation of this world begin from a vagina? Even the Hindu treatise on sex ‘Kama Sutra’ (4th to 6th centuries AD) does not condemn masturbation at all and, moreover, explains in detail the best procedure to masturbate. Psychologists and sociologists claim masturbation to be a natural phenomenon of sexual development. 

Cinematic Representation

How many movies or talk shows openly talk about masturbation? The lack of open discussion leads to the assumption that it is a ‘restricted zone’. A few attempts have been made by the film industry but they were heavily criticised. Last year, Swara Bhasker’s scene in Veere Di Wedding had shaken the media and left space for trolling.

The prudish censor boards apparently ‘rescued’ the generosity of India and banned it. ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ met with the same fate. The desires of an old woman, played by Ratna Pathak Shah, faced severe backlash. Nobody wants to talk about these scenes in their movies as that would taint their ‘image’ in the fraternity and public.

Why Do We Need To Acknowledge It?

For many married women, it’s quite difficult to accept the need to masturbate. But, desires are natural, you cannot suppress them. If one has a husband or boyfriend, this doesn’t mean that she has lost any right of her own body, to give herself what she wants. 

My parents, friends, teachers, never talk about masturbation, sex, or any such “filthy” topics, but there is a pressing need to talk about them. If educated people are not willing to talk about these things, what about rural India, most of which are illiterate and unaware of the existence of these topics. It must also stem from women who do indulge in masturbation. Coming from a woman, it would be a place of strength and trust. In this patriarchal society, a woman has, more often than not, only been considered as an object from a male gaze. This needs to change, they need to see themselves from their own eyes and perspective. Masturbation is not a feminist act, it is one of fulfilment and self-assertion.

Let’s talk about it, kill the stigma and empower ourselves and our gender.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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