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.
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.
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.
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.