It’s 9pm. Fifty black, young, college educated, women are sitting in a circle. Legs crossed, smiles wide, hair twisted, bonnets on. Aside from the aforementioned things, we all have one thing in common: a desire to mold the world that future generations of black women will live in. We are discussing black women’s reproductive health rights and munching on greasy pizza that looks one step too close to plastic for my liking.
The room is buzzing with ideas about that mysterious thing called the future. What will this elusive “future” look like for our daughters? Will they have the resources they need to learn about their bodies? What about their pleasure?
After around ten minutes of vanilla conversation, a seemingly quiet girl in the back decided it was time to stir the pot. Can you guess who it was? (Hint: me). The conversation veered away from the politics of sex and towards sex itself.
One stir of the pot led to another. Sex led to sexuality led to orgasms led to…and that’s when it happened. With the introduction of one simple word, a room turned from the most radical unofficial think tank ever to what I imagine the room of purgatory to be like. My first mistake was to assume that most other women my age must masturbate too.
“What do you all think about masturbation?” It was met with two polar responses: 80% groans of disgust as if hearing someone utter the word masturbation without using their indoor voice means you’re going to hell, 6% released a squeal of excitement (my three friends accounted for this 6% so it’s even more underwhelming than you initially thought). The other 14% released some strange noise of confusion that there is no name for other than ‘please let me buy you a vibrator.’
The viscerally negative reactions spun into a slew of questions. “How do you do it?” “How do you start?” “But isn’t masturbation for people who aren’t sexually active?” “Can I use my hands?” Their questions made it immediately obvious to me that they were curious. While there were some women who were completely turned off at the thought of their own hands on their own labia, there was also a substantial amount who were not masturbating because they did not know basic information about how to do it.
This got me thinking: what conversations can we hold to supply young women with the information they need to take charge of their pleasure? Surely, one between mother and daughter is a good first step.
If I could rewrite one part of my sexual awakening story, I would include a part where my mother sat down with me and had an honest conversation about my pleasure with me, part of which would have included masturbation. I eventually figured it out, but an open conversation with someone who I trust and admire as much as my mom would have mitigated more Google searches and failed orgasm attempts than I can count. My mother’s opinions and thoughts consistently inspire me. Hearing my mother speak, seriously, about topics that people find taboo such as masturbation automatically makes me more comfortable discussing them too by virtue of the close relationship we share and my admiration for her.
It is time to uplift a generation of women who are not afraid to take charge of their pleasure. Part of this is teaching young girls that they, and they alone, own their bodies. As awkward as it may feel in the moment, sit down and talk to your daughter about her pleasure. The conversation does not have to end in you supplying her with a lifetime supply of dildos. Rather, it can look more organic. I envision a conversation in which masturbation is spoken about as a normal act, in order to help your daughter destigmatize her own pleasure.
While searching for some tips from the experts, I found an article by an organization named Healthy Children. The article runs through pointers for the conversation itself. They are sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics and you can find their tips here. Some of my favorites include don’t discredit love, be real and find the right time and place. Take a look for yourself to see if you find it as helpful as I did. It’s also okay if this resource doesn’t answer all your questions. The Center for Young Women’s Health is an educational organization dedicated to providing young women with the carefully researched information they need to take charge of their health. Following your inspiring conversation, you can also direct your daughter to their advice here or browse the site together!
While I can only guess, I believe that if the room I described at the beginning of this blog had been filled with women who had spoken about their pleasure with a mother figure, the polar negative response to masturbation would have tipped the opposite way.
Helping your daughter take charge of her pleasure by opening a conversation about masturbation may be the best gift you ever give her. I know it would have worked for me. If you are a mother figure in any young woman’s life I urge you to present yourself as an information source regarding pleasure and specifically masturbation. If you don’t, who will?
Edited by Leilani Douglas