I’ve had good sex and bad sex, but there’s one thing I’ve never had: solo sex. That’s right: I’m a 34-year-old woman who has never masturbated. I know it sounds crazy. Many people swear that masturbation is a critical part of being a sexually satisfied woman, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to do it. This came up recently while watching Natalie Portman go to town with herself in “Black Swan.” Self-love just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. My vagina and I just aren’t that close.
As a feminist, I rationally understand that I’ve in some ways internalized the social stigmas around female sexuality, and I don’t know how I’ll ever get over them. I just don’t want to have that kind of interaction … with myself.
It’s not that I don’t believe that masturbation is a good thing—for other people. I’m just thoroughly disgusted by the idea of touching myself. To me, it seems like the deepest depravity, the darkest, most uncomfortable place to go. Literally, and metaphorically, I suppose. I have too much internalized shame about my body and my sexuality to jill-off on my own. In fact, my negative feelings about my body and my attractiveness probably can be attributed largely to not wanting to go down that path. It’s also that I suppose I conceive of my sexuality as somewhat transactional—part of my sexual joy comes in the ability to turn someone else on.
Where did this come from? If I really think about it, my masturbation hesitation might have something to do with my earliest sexual experiences. My first boyfriend, Ryan, was beautiful, but dumb—and with a cruel streak. The first time we had sexy times he got a blow job but wouldn’t go down on me. And I suppose I assumed this was just the way it would be: my partner gets off and I get … a gag reflex from deep-throating. It made me feel as though my sexuality shouldn’t and wouldn’t be a priority. It wasn’t until I was almost 21 that a boy even bothered going down on me. So my giving-to-receiving oral sex ratio is waaaaaaay off. And just like Natalie, it turned me into something of a troubled soul around sexuality—though I never had sex fantasies about Mila Kunis, I can promise.
It wasn’t until I was around 25 that I started having what could be termed “good” sex. In fact, one boyfriend and I had such horrible, painful sex that I thought there was something physically wrong with me. I went to a gynecologist who told me that it was all in my head. And it probably was. Maybe (well, definitely) having some solo sex would have helped me figure out what worked best, but in my mind, masturbation was some line I absolutely couldn’t or wouldn’t cross. Self-penetration—whether with fingers or dildos or vibrators—strikes fear in my heart.
I hope some day I’ll get over this stigma—but until then, my vagina will be hands-free.