This post may raise a few eyebrows and ruffle a few feathers. Warning, things like BREASTS, PERIODS, and MASTURBATION are discussed, so get out now if you just don’t want to know. This post is a long rant this one simple and shocking fact. That
A lady touching herself is still taboo!
I think our moralistic fears about a woman being in touch with her own body is deeply problematic. These detrimental messages harm our bodies, minds, and the planet.
Here are some ways that you can touch yourself, to get to know your body, to protect your health, and to save several hundred pounds of plastic from entering the oceans and the bellies of sea turtles and fish.
Give your whole body a rub
I have recently hopped on the dry brushing bandwagon and it has been marvelous.
People list a whole bunch of benefits to dry brushing, from exfoliation, increased circulation, lymphatic support, to increased energy (A very detailed description is available here)
As someone who is extremely attuned to sensation (like clothing tags), there is something really magical about incorporating this into my regular routine. It’s a simple thing to do – I purchased a natural brush from Amazon and was off brushing in no time at all.
Touch your tits.
The current stance of the Canadian Cancer Society is to be Breast Aware – to get to know these pendulous orbs conspicuously attached to the chests of many adult women. I think it is well-accepted that breasts can be a delight of many heterosexual men, but less is said about how a lady should become acquainted with this part of her body. Like, did you know that the average breast volume changes 13% throughout the menstrual cycle? It is important to know how your breasts feel and look, particularly as they are dynamic organs, responsive to many internal and external factors. So maybe schedule some titty time. It will be good for you, I promise!
If you want to learn a pile about boobs, I recommend Williams’ book Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History.
Touch your bits: Part 1
The blue liquid ooze in period commercials and a variety of other not-so-subtle messages we receive while growing up as a girl tell us that periods are gross and, by extension, that their lady bits are gross and should be avoided.
Cue tampons with applicators. Marketed such that your period is now “discrete” so no one needs to know about this embarrassing/shameful bodily function with the added bonus of a plastic sheath so you don’t need to get near the offending parts with your hands! This has been such an effective message that some estimates indicate that nearly 90% of tampons sold have plastic applicators.
As you might imagine, the environmental cost of this message is enormous! In Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, Stein says that the average woman throws away 300lbs of feminine hygiene waste in her lifetime. And yes, applicators are not “supposed” to end up in the ocean, but they do. A report from the Ocean Conservancy indicated that 25,000 tampons/applicators were collected during their debris collection, which had collected 10 million pieces of trash.
Problematically, it is also possible that the plastics contained in tampon applicators may contain endocrine interrupters which I am not too keen to plant in my lady garden.
Beginner level: Use your FINGERS as the applicator.
I know this is shocking, but you can actually easily insert a tampon using the very dextrous applicator located at the end of each arm. Applicator-less tampons are much more portable and easy to slip into a purse, bike bag, or first aid kit. Or you could wear a superhero belt of applicator-free goodies:
Advanced level: Diva cups and other menstrual cups.
For the past decade, Diva Cups have been my go-to solution. These products do require you to get really familiar with your lady bits and some people find it challenging to master insertion and removal (you need to fold the cup to insert and “break the seal” in order to remove). One of the things I noticed about using a Diva cup was that I NOTICED my vagina. It was really interesting to be aware of it as I went about my day. Not in a bad way, just in a ‘hey, I have lady bits’ sort of casual observation.
Touch your bits: Part 2
‘Cause it feels good
One of my pet peeves is the surprisingly pervasive idea that ladies don’t masturbate. There jokes about what teenage boys do in their room or in “long showers” are ubiquitous in pop culture. Men can (and do) talk about ‘having a wank’ pretty much anywhere. Pop culture would have you believe that some of the “bad girls” do it, but usually in the context of trying to lure in a boy. We EXPECT guys to touch themselves, but a similar corollary does not exist for their female counterparts, much to our detriment. At the basic level, perhaps it is an issue of lacking reasonable slang for female masturbation. The term ‘masturbation’ seems deeply unsexy and quite clinical (a Swedish research group was looking for a new word for female masturbation). This issue aside, I think it goes much deeper than that – to a fear of female desire.
The aforementioned idea that guys will ‘wank’ and girls wither away from the thought of touching their genitals sets a narrative that women don’t have sexual desire independent of sex with partners. It is so interesting that we find the idea of female pleasure outside of the ‘purpose’ of male titillation or procreation so deeply uncomfortable.
I know this conversation will make some of my readers deeply uncomfortable. I grew up in the CRC church, and the official party line is that all forms of sexual pleasure should be restricted to something to be enjoyed strictly within the parameters of marriage. Masturbation was included into the list of sexually intimate behaviours that should not be embarked upon outside of these sacred bonds. In another popular CRC publication, masturbation is described as an ‘extremely distasteful theme‘ concluding that Christians should “abstain from this self-centered practice.”
Obviously, touching yourself may not be for everyone, but I draw issue with the inequitable expectations between the genders. Not knowing your body, not knowing what feels good, and not being willing to discuss female masturbation has set many women up for years of disappointing sexual experiences. Masturbation is a normal, enjoyable, and healthy experience. Unfortunately, not acknowledging that ladies touch themselves contributes to the problematic idea that women are sexual objects, not agents.
And that, my friends, is my unvarnished opinion. Perhaps in some way, you to get to know your own wonderful and marvelous self. It might be good for you.