Masturbation myths busted

Yep – we went there. Here are the cringe-free answers to your masturbation questions…
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TRUE or FALSE: Only boys do it.
False! The idea of guys masturbating is so commonplace that it’s often joked about, but when it comes to girls, everybody’s tight-lipped on the subject, so we don’t always realise it’s natural for girls to masturbate too. Unfortunately, our society as a whole is very squeamish when it comes to female sexuality, but really, girls are just as sexual as boys. Anne-Frances Watson, a researcher into sexual health education at Queensland University of Technology, says a worrying number of girls don’t even know it’s possible for them to masturbate – perhaps because how to do it isn’t quite as obvious as it is for boys.

“Their penis is hanging out there and they can grab it any time, so it’s easy for them to figure it out,” says Anne-Frances. “It can be more difficult for girls, and it might take time to figure out what feels good, but practise makes perfect!”

TRUE or FALSE: It’s wrong.
False! Anne-Frances explains that the idea that masturbation is somehow dirty or wrong is a really common misconception. 

“Most parents and schools are embarrassed to talk about masturbation… but just because it’s a bit of an awkward topic doesn’t make it wrong. The only people who will tell you it’s wrong or bad usually have some kind of agenda, which might tie into a belief system – but it’s scientifically proven that masturbation is normal and healthy.”

In fact, it’s such a natural instinct that many children start masturbating at an early age. Often, when their parents see them doing this, they’ll feel embarrassed and chastise them – even going as far as to say it’s dirty or disgusting. As you grow older, this impression can stick, even if you don’t remember the actual incident. But no matter what anybody tells you, the truth is that masturbation is a completely natural thing to do. 

TRUE or FALSE: You must be desperate.
False! People don’t masturbate because they can’t get a relationship; they do it because it feels good. Many women with partners still masturbate – it’s all about pleasuring yourself and exploring your own body, regardless of whether you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. 

“Research has shown that girls who masturbate are much more in charge of their sex lives – it’s called having ‘sexual agency’,” says Anne-Frances. “It’s important because if you feel in charge of your sex life, this spills over into other areas of your life and makes you a more confident person.” 

TRUE or FALSE: It will ruin you for sex.
False! Some girls worry that if they enjoy masturbation, it means they won’t have as much fun when they come to have sex. Sex therapist Jacqueline Hellyer says it’s actually the opposite – masturbation can help you enjoy sex even more.

“I prefer to think of masturbation as solo sex,” she says. “It’s quite different to partner sex, and you get different things from it… It’s so important for a young woman to be comfortable with her sexuality, and this starts with self-exploration. This will actually help her have better quality sex when she chooses to.”

TRUE or FALSE: You have to orgasm.
False! Jacqueline says masturbation isn’t necessarily all about achieving orgasms (although it’s certainly a fun part of it); it’s more about learning to be comfortable and familiar with your own genitals. She explains that many women have the impression that their genitals aren’t for them – a remnant from the patriarchal past when a woman’s body literally belonged to her husband and not herself. We’ve managed to do away with the dodgy laws around this, but we haven’t completely pushed past the notion that sex is something men do and women have done to them. But masturbation is something all ladies can do. 

(FYI you can “do” sex too, when you’re good and ready, but that’s another story), and at the very least you should know your own genitals. So get out a handheld mirror, find some private time and get to know your bits. 

TRUE or FALSE: It’s completely normal.
True! Which you’ve probably figured out by now, since we’ve said it approximately a gazillion times. BUT it’s also important to note that if you don’t want to masturbate, there’s nothing wrong with that either. What’s normal is what feels right for you, and if you don’t feel ready or aren’t interested in masturbation, well, don’t do it! It’s all about what works for you. Literally. 

TRUE or FALSE: There’s a right way to do it.
False! Like many things in life, it’s completely different for everyone – and there’s no right or wrong way to masturbate. Some girls like stimulating their clitoris and/or vagina with their fingers (see the diagram on the next page), while others like rubbing their genitals against an object, like a pillow. For some, just squeezing their thighs together can feel good. Many girls like a combination of these things, or enjoy something different every time. It’s all about what feels good, so relax, take your time and find what’s right for you. There’s just a couple of things you should avoid: 
– Dirty hands: Make sure you have clean hands and preferably short, neat nails before going downtown. 
– Foreign objects: While sex toys are specially built for stimulating your genitals, things like vegetables, beauty products and other household items were most definitely not, so don’t go sticking them up there. It’s just not hygienic, and you risk getting a urinary tract infection. Ouch!

TRUE or FALSE: It means you’re ready for sex.
False! Sex is totally different to masturbation, and being ready for one doesn’t mean you’re necessarily ready for the other. For one thing, there’s another person involved in sex, and it comes with a lot of emotional and psychological connotations, as well as physical effects – including the risk of pregnancy and STIs! 

“I actually think if a young woman is capable of giving herself sexual pleasure, she might be less likely to seek another person to give it to her,” says Jacqueline. “She’s more likely to wait for the right person.”

Masturbation is also known as… 
fanning the fur, double-clicking your mouse, feeding the bearded clam, polishing your pearl, jilling off, playing with yourself, diddling, rubbing one out, fingerpainting, flicking the bean, airing the orchid, buffing the box, buttering your muffin, frapping, getting to know yourself, letting your fingers do the walking, exploring the deep south, rubbin the nubbin, strumming the banjo, caressing your kitty, dipping the digit, giving yourself the finger, pearl diving, doing the two finger tango.

Female genitals, explained:

1. Clitoris
The bud situated above your urethra. It’s one of the most intense sources of pleasure for women. It contains a bunch of nerve endings that, when stimulated, will feel really good. Most female orgasms are achieved through this small – but powerful – spot. 

2. Urethra

The tube wee passes through to exit your body. 

3. Vulva
The visible part of your genitals – on the outside.

4. Labia majora
The “big lips”, or outer folds of skin.

5. Labia minora
The “small lips” of skin on either side of the entrance to the vagina.

6. Vagina
The passage that leads to the womb from outside your body. It contains lots of blood vessels and will expand and become lubricated when you are aroused. It also feels good when stimulated, although it will be a different and less-intense feeling than the clitoris. 

Send your questions to: GF sex Advice, GPO Box 7801, Sydney NSW 2001
OR email with the subject line “Sex Advice”.

All questions are answered by Dr Sally Cockburn, GF’s resident doctor.

Words Jenna Guillaume | Photography Getty images | Illustration Sybella Thompson

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