I still remember the first time it happened.
The glorious, unexpected thrill of discovering that I could climax.
A simple repetitive touch beneath the covers of my bed at night delivered a spectacular burst of pleasure that radiated through my pelvis.
It became a practice as ingrained in my existence as brushing my teeth and breathing; albeit, done in shameful secrecy until realising all the other girls at school had been doing it too.
That's the thing about female masturbation; it happens in silence. The stigma surrounding women's pleasure isn't accidental, either. Sexually empowered women pose a very real threat to a system that profits off our subjugation.
Our culture instills shame from an early age, telling girls their vulvas are not to be named; they're "private parts".
We distrust women with sexual agency; they're "sl*ts" and "attention-seekers". We scrutinise their morality in a way not applied to men, and in doing so, fortify a code that simultaneously demonises us and infantilises men: she's the dangerous one. She dresses revealingly and sleeps around – what did she expect? He couldn't help himself.
When we're detached from our bodies, we're easier to view as objects and sell products to that reinforce our role as decorations in the worlds of men. And while we're busy expending our energy and money in pursuit of appealing to the male gaze (spoiler alert: no matter what you do, you will never be enough; the goalposts will just keep moving), we lose sight of ourselves.
This amounts to huge gaps in satisfaction not only in the bedroom (studies show heterosexual men orgasm 95 per cent of the time during sex, while it's just 65 per cent for heterosexual women), but waves of silent discontentment that bleed into every aspect of women's lives.
It's one of the main reasons I started writing about sex. The more research I consumed, the harder it became to ignore the links between women's sexual disenfranchisement and gender inequality.
When women feel ashamed of our desires and distrust our own physical instincts in the bedroom, we also learn to ignore pleasure in the rest of our lives – at work, and in our relationships – we take efforts to minimise ourselves and be more palatable at the cost of our comfort.
Self-hating, sexually subdued women ensure patriarchal culture, which centres itself around male pleasure, continues full steam ahead. (It's no coincidence I write articles helping women feel more confident and receive hate mail exclusively from men.)
And while it might seem too simplistic a solution to such a vast and complex issue, I wholeheartedly believe dismantling this system begins with normalising female masturbation.
We already know women who masturbate frequently enjoy benefits that go far beyond orgasms. Science shows we're less stressed, more productive and assertive at work, and report higher levels of body confidence.
But it's estimated up to 20 per cent of us don't do it. Ironically, it's often the women who write to me to confess they fake their orgasms with their husbands. They don't see the point, they tell me.
Of course they don't. They're following the same script so many of us have, one that tells us our bodies exist performatively for our partners, not for ourselves.
Ironically though, if there's one foolproof way to improve your chances of climaxing with a partner and increase your sex drive, it's regular masturbation. In the same way dedication to the gym leads to muscle development, practising solo sex promotes a stronger libido, heightened sexual confidence and, most importantly, better knowledge of and connection to your body.
And that's the real win here, because when women take ownership of our bodies and the pleasure they can deliver without shame, we step out of the silence and into our power.
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