I was 13 when I saw someone else other than me naked. It was an unsolicited photo of a long haired, pale-skin white women masturbating. It was sent to me by an unknown adult man on Facebook with whom I had talked for merely few minutes. I looked at it, paused and felt immediately disgusted – at the woman on my screen, but more so at the man and his audacity to send that to a 13-year-old who didn’t even know what her own vulva looked like. I don’t remember his name but I do remember hastily blocking him. This unfortunate and bitter incident started off my own journey – of internet and sexuality.

I was 16 when I had my first mobile phone. My parents only agreed to buy me one after SLC (remember when those were a thing?). One of my favorite junctions was Wattpad – the pandora box of written erotic fantasies from women around my age. With abundance of bad boys who had a soft spot for the good girl; to werewolves mating; to homoerotic fan-fictions of Harry and Draco – the online erotic and romantic fictional world was enough for my hormonal teenage imaginations to run wild. But all my fingers could do was tap on the screen to move onto the next page.

I was 19 when I first sent a nude to a stranger on the internet through an anonymous app. It felt awkward, I didn’t know where my hands were supposed to be. Should I stand still? Make a sexy face? I didn’t even know if I can make a sexy face. I settled for a typical hands-on-my-breast-selfie. He sent me back his picture. It wasn’t the first time I had seen a dick before – but the ones that I saw on porn were too plastic-y, too big, too unreal, too mechanical, too un-emotional. This dick could hold a conversation and had Daddy kinks. He asked for more. I said I wasn’t comfortable showing more. He agreed. We never talked again.

I was 22 and sexting my boyfriend, when he asked for something more daring… something adventurous… something that I’ve never done before. A picture of my vulva! (This sounds very not sexy right now, but it was thrilling when our eyes and screens were clouded with lust and pleasure.) As I fumbled with different poses to show off what’s between my legs, a realization dawned upon me – I didn’t have a relationship with my vagina.

Through countless erotic visits with pleasure and sexuality through internet, I was never brave enough to do anything about it.

Touching myself was always a scary thought. And whenever I did feel curious enough to touch myself, I was quickly met with forbidden feelings of arousal and fear. The fear did not come alone, it came with their best friends – shame and guilt. Together, they would scold me for having sexual desires. Even in the privacy of my bed, alone at the night with no light, they were unwelcomed guests who lived in my head. On top of that, I was very insecure about my body. I was scared that something like my own vulva would be a prisoner to my insecurities. So, I left it untouched.

Fast forward to a YouTube video I stumbled upon during the lockdown of March 2020. It was an hour-long video of this young woman who went on a well-being trip to an island. This trip was guided by sex-positive feminists and the objective of the trip was for women like her to explore their bodies and find pleasure. The young woman on my screen was like me – who was very insecure about her body and had a nonexistent self-sexual life. As the story unfolds, the young woman finally experiences pleasure. I as a woman who lives in Nepal, carrying a broke wallet and having strict parents could not dream of a “well-being trip to pleasure island.” But after the video and the genuine curiosity of what an orgasm would feel like, I made a promise to myself – that I was going to give myself an orgasm before the end of the lockdown.

I thought that giving myself an orgasm was just limited to knowing my body. But surprise, it was so much more! It was also a lot of unlearning and learning of what I know about my sexuality. As young women, we are taught to not have a relationship with our bodies and sexuality. That our sexuality and our “virginity” is a synonym to our purity and respectability. Our reputation, our parents’ reputation, our family’s reputation, our societies’ reputation and our country’s reputation were hanging between our labia. As Richa Kaul Padte puts on her book Cyber Sexy: Rethinking Pornography, “Throughout history, and across the world, women’s chastity and virtue have been used as markers of national cultural worth.”

Furthermore, stories of sexuality and young women were overshadowed with stories of violence and pain. And even though, those stories are important – it just made me scared that I too would experience pain if I dared to be curious.

We are conditioned and taught that women don’t have the right to pleasure. Pleasure and sex are something we give to men, and is to be served for men. It isn’t something that women can own, have fun and celebrate.

So, the journey of owning my vulva began. It consisted of nights where I sat in a front of a mirror, and label the parts of my vulva after searching “vagina parts” on Google; nights where I watched porn and questioned “Does this really turn people on?” and a lot of incognito searches on “How to masturbate?”. Finally, after fighting the social demons inside my bedroom, and exploring what felt good, I got my orgasm!

And to be frank, I don’t remember the details. But afterwards, I felt a sense of relief and ecstasy – that I finally knew what pleasure feels like for me and that I didn’t need to depend upon other people to experience pleasure. It felt emotional because I discovered a language to communicate with my body other than words of self-hatred. It was an act of self-care for me. And this was just the beginning!

After that first one, I have had many, many orgasms. I have had honest chats with my friends about masturbation. Through a stranger on the internet, I discovered audio porn which feels like birthday presents. I am learning about kinks that I have. Recently, I have re-discovered the love for erotic writings and fanfictions on twitter has been a helping hand (pun intended). I know that I love erotic content from women which centers around women’s pleasure. I am reading books and think-pieces from feminists around sexuality and eroticism to stand against guilt that sometimes visits me. I am loosening the patriarchal chains by through every orgasm I experience.

And although, well-being trip to pleasure island still seems impossible, I am really happy that I can visit pleasure corners of the internet.