Illustrations By Bhavya Kumar
I had never really read much on women’s masturbation till very recently. When I did start reading I was disappointed to find that while there is a lot of advice out there, hardly anyone was saying what I am about to say; which is, I love masturbation and recommend it to everyone!
I discovered an orgasm quite by accident when I was about 14. I didn’t know what it was for many years after, but I knew I loved it and I wanted to experience it often. We had just moved into a ew house and my room had a bath-tub and a hand shower. It was that day, abetted by the force of the water gushing between my legs that I discovered my clitoris; and we have been best friends since.
From there it has been a journey from self-discovery, to self-love (or should I say self-lust) to a sizzling sex life. As a teenager, I shared a room with my younger sister, so on nights that I would feel like ‘making myself happy’, I would either go for a long soak in the bathtub or wait for my sister to fall asleep, so I could explore in bed. These explorations were not just about reaching orgasm but also about learning to touch myself, recognising that I liked how my breasts felt in my hands, and that my waist and neck were pleasure hotspots. Sometimes it was not even about the body, I would lay in bed, close my eyes and imagine I was a queen, or a warrior, a doctor or a musician, really anything I wanted to be that day; and an incredibly hot guy (who has no face by the way) would do lovely things to me in exotic locations. I remember characters from books I was reading or shows I was watching would invariably find their way into my fantasies doing marvellously sexy things their creators would have never imagined for them. As I set my mind free, it showed me what my fantasies were.
My favourite discovery though was that I could climax without touching myself, just gently rubbing my thighs together did the trick. I didn’t discuss it with anyone though, almost because I felt like I had discovered a secret to the human body that no one else knew. At that age, I had come across disgusting references to men masturbating; in jokes or bad teenage ‘comedy’ films but since no one mentioned that a woman could do it too, I assumed what I had found was rare, precious and exclusive to me!
It was a few years later that I learned about the official existence of a female orgasm. I will admit I was a bit let down that I didn’t belong some secret superwoman club, but it seems that women who reach orgasm during sex are still the privileged minority as compared to men for whom it is the norm.
I have been in a happy, fulfilling relationship for almost 12 years and I orgasm every time we have sex; more than once! I do credit my partner for being an attentive, sensitive lover, but the fact that I genuinely look forward to our sexual encounters and relish the mutual enjoyment of our bodies is key to every (ok, almost every) experience being special. I still masturbate regularly; just like I have interests I pursue without my partner, I also feel the need to stimulate myself physically, without him. I travel extensively for work, and the allure of the white hotel room bed is too much for me to resist. I have done it when I have not been able to sleep in a train, and the need to be super quiet is so exciting. I also enjoy masturbating now in our bedroom, the memories of previous orgasms between those walls and the anticipation of the ones to come are both incredible turn-ons. Just last Saturday, the partner went for an early morning bike ride and I stayed in bed for some toe curling action of my own. I take such pleasure in it that I would expect most women feel this way.
I realised this isn’t necessarily the case when I was at a friend’s bachelorette in Bangkok last year. We were a drunk bunch of girls who have known each other for years and were playing a game of ‘Never have I ever’. As the night went on, the declarations became more and more brazen. From sex in public places, to weird positions, it was a tell-all like never before. What amazed me though was that even in our inebriated state, most of the women were shy to talk about masturbation. Some had never touched themselves and others said they had tried it but it was not something they ‘needed’ since being in relationships. There were very few of us who sang drunken praises for masturbation.
Zohra Sehgal, veteran actress and choreographer said at age 97, ‘Sex is very important for life to get going. I still want it.’ and I hope that at that age I still want it too. I think we underestimate the impact a satisfying sex life can have on our relationships with our partners and ourselves. The pleasure of being able to discuss freely how we like being touched and what we don’t like, I feel, also creates an environment where consent is actively sought and nothing is taken for granted. No way am I saying that masturbation is the magic pill for a happy relationship, but it levels the playing field to a certain extent, leading to more open, honest relationship outside the bedroom!! The lover and I are often called ‘love birds’ and accused of ‘coochie-cooing’ everywhere, because of the physical and emotional intimacy that is apparent in the way we are with each other.
I love Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. I think it’s in the movie that she says to her partner Smith, ‘I love you… but I love me more. I’ve been in a relationship with myself for 49 years and that’s the one I need to work on.’ I love my partner unconditionally but loving myself that way is a whole different ball game. Growing up in an environment where I had to stage a protest to wear a sleeveless top, short skirts were completely out of the question, and I had to shave my legs secretly, I was taught that virtuous women do not pay so much attention to their bodies. For the longest time, I only appreciated and loved my body in private. I guess the fantasies allowed me to enjoy the physical sensations almost like it was happening to someone else till the time that I began to feel like it was normal.
Masturbation was strangely freeing for me; it helped me reinforce that my body is beautiful and deserves pleasure. It does so much more for me now as an adult, especially when I am being critical of my appearance or trying to adhere to an impossible standard of beauty. It is a time when I don’t judge my body or dissect it into pieces I like and pieces I want to change.
It also calms me down mentally on stressful days and can help me get to sleep. Just like a massage, or a day at the salon, is a way of showing love to our bodies, touching ourselves in a way that makes us delirious with joy is an important self-care strategy. My partner sometimes makes jokes saying if I get too good at pleasing myself sexually, I will not need him anymore. But it’s quite the contrary; feeling good about my body and knowing what feels good to my body makes me a more sexual creature, which only increases my desire for sex with my partner. Acclaimed artist and all-round goddess Frida Kahlo said, ‘I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better’ and how could I not be inspired!
Vasundhara is a passionate development professional, a reluctant chartered accountant and believes in the power of education to change the world. When not occupied with work, she can be found exploring new lands, languages and food.
Bhavya Kumar is a design student/freelance illustrator based in New Delhi. She is a body-positive, sex-positive feminist with keen interest in history, social theory, and ginger ale.