Choking the chicken, wanking, cleaning your rifle, jerking off… any of these sound familiar? They are all slang terms for masturbation, and they are all suggestive of a penis. The fisted back and forth motion is mimed as a joke in movies, YouTube videos, conversations between friends, internet memes, and much more. Male masturbation as a concept in Western culture is almost as inescapable as McDonald’s.
That male sexual urges are portrayed to be so constant and uncontrollable contributes to the persistent cultural references to male masturbation. Even my college psychology textbook* states that men “report more frequent feelings of sexual arousal, are more prone to lust, have more frequent sexual fantasies, and rate the strength of their own sex drive higher than do women” (something I state to be bullshit, but that’s a whole other issue). By comparison, women have historically been considered essentially asexual, with sex being something they give to men as a token and nothing more. Obviously, times are changing, and everyone now understands that women have a sex drive too, but it is still played down compared with men.
Bonnie Rochman of TIME magazine writes about a study done in 2011 which confirmed that teenage boys masturbate earlier and more often than teenage girls. The fact that the study was done via self-report raises all sorts of other questions about what teens will admit to doing, but the raw data remains the same. Do boys really have a higher sex drive than girls? Are they simply more impatient and desperate for sexual stimulation? Is that why they masturbate more?
As a woman with a pretty high sex drive, I’m going to say probably not.
To be perfectly honest, I think girls simply do not know how to masturbate. Who can blame them, when there is absolutely no cultural discussion to teach them? Not only are there no instructions, but there is no expectation.
Sure, as infants and toddlers, boys and girls will touch themselves of their own accord, but once they are walking and talking and old enough to purposefully and consciously masturbate, what prompts them to do so? Most parents don’t sit their kids down and explain the details of masturbation. In fact, that would be extremely taboo. Older siblings, perhaps? Maybe, but even then, a little touchy. Compared with everything else sexual, masturbation is the most personal.
Culturally, boys are expected to masturbate. It’s not talked about officially, but little boys will hear whispers and snickers and stories from their friends. And let’s face it—as soon as they begin to use the internet, all bets are off.
Girls? No such thing. They would have to specifically look it up to find information on the topic, and while it is available if you’re looking, what would prompt girls to look? There is no mime for female masturbation, no prevalent slang terms, and little to no reference in mainstream media. Some girls do not even realize masturbation is a thing that both sexes are capable of, due to the severity of the masculine connotation!
Among female friends, talking about masturbation is still much more taboo than it is for male friends. This is partially because of the shame instinct in girls about their sexual urges. I’m always shocked when I hear my peers—young adults, mind you—talking about how sure, girls can masturbate, but they just don’t as much. If you listen to the talk of the town, girls aren’t supposed to need to masturbate. This is not only un-true, but very sad.
We all need to keep in mind that like everything else gender related, this too has cultural roots, and is not genetically inherent. Girls can masturbate just as easily as boys, but they need to be made aware of the opportunity in order to be able to take advantage of it, and they need to know that it is normal and okay. In my opinion, this should be made a well-known cultural fact, whether it be via mime, slang, conversation, or internet resources, but in order to succeed, it must be integrated as thoroughly as what came before (…pun intended). Do you agree?
Stay strong and stay informed!
A question for you: At what age do you think masturbating is appropriate for children?
*King, Laura A. “Gender and Sexuality.” Science of Psychology: An Appreciative View. Columbia: McGraw Hill, 2011. 360. Print.