BY KATIE BASKERVILLE
The numbers are in and they’re alarming. Over 3,000 people were surveyed for a Yougov poll in 2020 of which 32% stated that people should not be speaking more openly about masturbation. A further 22% didn’t know, 1% thought that men should but women shouldn’t, while the other 1% thought that women should but men shouldn’t. The remaining 44% of people felt as though men and women should be discussing masturbation more openly. These stats beg the question; how is communicating about sex, masturbation and pleasure still such a divisive topic? Is it that us Brits are still too coy to talk about self-lovery in 2020? Well, these questions might just be one side of the coin. The other side is that, perhaps, we just don’t know how to talk about these topics. But why could this be?
Sex education in the UK (or lack of).
Sex education in the UK is rather lacking when it comes to teaching topics such as masturbation and pleasure. At an educational level, we’re rarely told that consensual sex can be fun and feel good. Instead, we’re taught about the functionality of sex – and normally in the same tone of voice as an instructional manual for flat pack furniture! As a result, many of us leave school with a distinct lack of knowledge about the purpose of sex outside of reproduction. It’s very sad but it’s no wonder that many of us don’t feel that we should be speaking more openly sex, masturbation and pleasure – the chances are, we’re just not comfortable doing it.
Communication is sexy.
We need to get better at communicating about sex, masturbation and pleasure if we want to have better sex lives. Afterall, communication is the basis for consent, and we all know that consent is sexy. Without an underlying understanding and openness with a sexual partner, should be really be expecting more than what is sometimes already being given?
This means we have to be the change that we want to see, but if 32% of people are still against those conversations taking place openly, then we really have our work cut out!
Stop faking it.
Tempting though it may be to fake an orgasm and feel pleased that at least half of the party had a good time, ultimately you are doing more harm than good. Especially if the encounter is with a regular sexual partner. Let me explain why…
Faking an orgasm is like patting a puppy on the head for taking a shit on the carpet. If you keep playing along with the performance, then how is your sexual partner to know if they’re miles away from your sweet spot? Now, this isn’t me saying that partners should need mollycoddling throughout a sexual experience because part of the fun is discovering what each other likes, having the chance to show your partner how good you can make them feel, and how well you can read their body language. The issue is that, if you're performing rather than being open about the pleasure that you feel, your partner will be reading your body language wrong and you could continue to have sex in this way. This isn’t necessarily your partner’s fault.
I know this because I spent a lifetime doing this and, as a result, no matter how much effort my partners would put into my pleasure, it felt impossible to fully relax into an orgasmic state of mind. I was terrified that I would be seen as difficult or unattractive. Maybe, if I didn’t look like I was having a good time, they wouldn’t want to sleep with me again. This fear of rejection was born from deep anxieties and insecurities surrounding my worth. I feel that, like me, many people don’t feel worthy of pleasure, trust the surrender, or believe that their partner is capable of taking them where they want to go.
It's time to take the reins...
We should all begin expecting pleasure and not feeling as though we are undeserving of it. To do this, we need to take the reins so to speak, and guide the horse to water. If the horse then still doesn’t drink, then maybe it’s time to look for a new horse.
Getting comfortable with having conversations about desires and gratifications takes practice and a partner who respects you. When you’ve not been shown positive representations of your desires, or examples of what and how to ask for what you want, suddenly you can be flung back into your 15 year old self along with the shame that often comes with it. However, there are plenty of ways to bring up conversations surrounding sex, masturbation and pleasure. Here are just a few of my suggestions:
1) Don’t be afraid to use the words vagina, vulva, clitoris, sex or even period. As suggested from the results of Yougov poll, there’s still some shame in discussing sex, masturbation and pleasure, and even shame in using the correct terminology. As of now, use this as an opportunity to pledge that you will practise calling these beautiful body parts and experiences by their actual names.
2) If you’re in need of a little help, spend time reading and listening to sexual wellness blogs and podcasts (Sexual Wellness Sessions with Kate Moyle, F**cks Given with Come Curious, Doing It with Hannah Witton to name a few…) where people speak openly about sex, masturbation and pleasure. Hearing others openly discuss these topics can help alleviate any feelings of shame in discussing your own experiences.
3) Get to know your own body before letting someone else get to know it. I didn’t know what I was missing out on until I learnt to reach orgasm on my own and, when I found masturbation, I found my voice. Try setting the mood to help you relax in a way that feels most authentic to you (sorry for the cliché, but seriously, it helps). When it comes to touching yourself, try rubbing, pinching, tickling, tapping, circular motions, up-and-down or side-to-side strokes. Try different positions, different toys, different lubes. Think of what you’re doing as learning what kind of stimulation feels good for you and what your boundaries are. Once you understand exactly what does and doesn’t work for you and your body, you’re then in a better position to communicate this with your partner.
4) Discuss each other’s boundaries outside of the bedroom so you’re both on the same page about what is – and perhaps more importantly, is not – okay to do inside the bedroom. This might not sound super sexy, but being upfront about your boundaries allows you to have sex that’s emotionally safer, and therefore has the potential to be even more satisfying. If you’re struggling to start the conversation, try making a yes/no/maybe list to spark the conversation and to figure out what sexual interests you and your partner share.
5) Start with consensual sexting if you feel comfortable to do so. Sexting can feel like a less intimidating way to explore each other’s trust, boundaries and intimacy. It can also feel less intimidating than speaking about these things in person, therefore, opening the door to conversations about sex, masturbation and pleasure in person. Not to mention it can also be fun and exciting.
So, to sum it up, give yourself permission to feel pleasure. Take the time to re-educate yourself on what sex, masturbation and pleasure means to you, both physically and mentally. And, for the love of orgasms, please stop faking it.
About the author.
Katie Baskerville - A self confessed 'proud feminist killjoy'
Katie Baskerville is a writer who focuses on normalising conversations surrounding wellbeing, self-acceptance and sex. We love nothing more than indulging in Katie's musings on identity, sexuality and empowerment, as well as her funny sexcapades. You can find Katie on Instagram here, read her latest articles here, and sign up to her monthly newsletter Wicked Bitches here.