Written by Mahima Pradhan
Illustration by Mahima Pradhan
When I was a high school student, I read a book titled ‘Eleven Minutes’ by Paulo Coelho which presents the story of a young girl named Maria who pursues a career in prostitution in order to make money quickly to return to her home. In this journey, she gets an opportunity to experience pain, pleasure, and love. One thing that caught my attention while reading this book was seeking self-pleasure through masturbation. The line in the book goes like this… ‘She began examining her own body and noticed a small gland above her vagina, the clitoris. She began touching it and found that she couldn’t stop; the feelings provoked were so strong and so pleasurable, and her whole body – particularly the part she was touching became tense. After a while, she began to enter a kind of paradise and then she moaned with pleasure and had her first orgasm’. The main character enjoys her own company on a sofa touching her private part, in the absence of her family members. Then, the story unfolds her journey discussing self-pleasure with her friends, while also exploring and trying out new techniques, one of them being the use of a goose feather.
Reading this, I was wondering how can we take self-pleasure? Hmmm… I lacked the vocabulary to describe it back then. It’s not sex though. So what is it? It was completely new for me. After further reading through the texts, I figured it out. Okay, it’s called masturbation. This might make you giggle if you have never tried it. Generally, people don’t discuss it openly as it is a sensitive and uncomfortable topic for many. And this may stem from the old societal myth that women “don’t” or “shouldn’t” enjoy sex/ pleasure, and sadly we still experience the hangover from such a notion. Oftentimes, gender stereotypes and patriarchal practices shape and perpetuate gender inequality and strip women of having agency and autonomy over their bodies and of their sexuality.
Recently, a Nepali writer had to self-censor herself while expressing her views regarding female masturbation on a Facebook page where the comment section was crowded with men. Knowing this and having a lot of curiosity, I turned to the internet to explore female genitalia; a lot about the vulva and of course masturbation. I got to know about the clitoris; a gland / sensitive part located above the vaginal opening that allows those with a vulva experience a sense of ticklish and sensational feel while touching/rubbing it. Not only this, but I was google searching on how people masturbate? I came across a few videos but I didn’t feel that eye-pleasing at all. I felt so eww and I had to stop right there. My interest in it had gone.
Fast forward to approx. two years later, while I was pursuing my Bachelor’s degree, I heard one of my teachers say that “people seeking self-pleasure, especially masturbation are bad and mentally ill, and those engaged are involved in child abuse and other offences ” during a random discussion in the class. Hearing this, somewhere deep down, I wasn’t trusting his statement, though at that time I had little knowledge about it. However, what I strongly knew was that the correlation between the two was mutually exclusive.
Masturbation was once regarded as a perversion and associated with mental problems. But, now this is a completely normal and safe activity. Like how everything has its positive and negative sides, there are positive aspects that should not be overlooked. This is why I was very interested to try and experiment, and seeing what works and does not work for me. It was a complete process of trial and error.
It just started with touching the parts slowly and gradually. Slowly, I started to figure out what worked for me. Touching my genital to rubbing round or horizontal or vertical movements; a different sense of uncomfortable and awkward pleasure was felt – something near to adrenaline rush or chills. With the repetition, the feelings grew in intensity, until I noticed that I could no longer see or hear clearly, everything appeared to have vanished. From being in a conscious state reaching to the unconscious and again regaining consciousness.
It was like floating up to heaven and then slowly parachuting down to earth again. This was so satisfying and it became a habit; if I do it today, I will surely be doing it tomorrow. Doing once a week, became every day. I really feel complete and full of energy while I am into it. But what I think is that the feeling is not something that can be defined or described just in words.
I don’t know if I had actually reached orgasm or not (have to ask others to share their experiences). After having done it frequently, I felt some changes in my body, especially the relaxation of muscles, and even my sleep quality has been enhanced. When I do it, I began to perceive it as loving myself, stress releasing mechanism and escaping from reality; with a way to learn about my own body and being familiar with it. It feels very warm and hot.
Though I have a very close friend with whom I share every secret, but with this friend, I didn’t open up so easily. Maybe I was worried about their attitude and prejudices towards me. Or maybe it was because of “the guilt” of practising something that might go against/ in conflict with religion, culture and beliefs. Or maybe there was never a safe space and environment to really discuss my feelings.
However, my perception of the topic gradually changed when I was a little bit more confident to open up about it to one of my friends after he had shared his own experience. I was very shy at first but I somehow shared how I did it. I wasn’t able to share more because of my discomfort, which is also linked with how discourses on sex, pleasure and sexual gratification are still regarded as taboo subjects in a religious country like ours. So, rather than sharing it with others, I kept it a secret for a long time. I used to have casual conversations with my friends but rarely did we talk about it openly.
This was not until I found a female group that I felt quite relieved to discuss the topic of masturbation as it was taken so easily. Actually, I was the only one who got a cultural shock at the moment because of the way they created a space which was so new to me. Later, I also found a zine (a magazine, fanzine) related to self-pleasure, and while going through it, I learned that masturbation is the safest form of solo sex.
It is not immoral or wrong, and self-pleasure is not shameful but is a natural way of activating hormones in the brain that promotes happiness. With more internet searches, various medical and psychological benefits are attributed to a healthy attitude toward masturbation, and exploring the genital is a normal part of one’s sexual development.
Reflecting back, we were never provided with a space where we could actually discuss pleasure, sex, and sexual gratification (it was not even included in our school course books: Environment, Population and Health). If someone did talk about it, then they were assumed to be the spoiled ones. After going through several journal articles, I felt that it is okay to practice masturbation and felt open to talking about this. There were so many foreign writers and authors who were sharing their experiences regarding masturbation and found very little or no in the context of Nepal. I also searched up on Facebook if there were pages that talked/discussed masturbation, and found only one Facebook group.
But, now that I have friends with whom I can share my experiences easily and with the benefit of online connectivity (internet/ secure digital platforms), I don’t think about society and its rules. Be the “best self” by breaking the rules. Do what makes you happy and satisfied. Explore and try out new things. Saying all this, I am not telling that everyone has to masturbate, but if you feel that you want to, you should not feel guilty about it because it’s not a crime.
Before ending this, I would love to listen to your experience of masturbation and orgasm if anyone who is reading this has reached it yet. If you haven’t its still okay. So, are you comfortable sharing your experience with me?
P.S. Try not to judge 😉