“from the mouths of babes” ~ What did you learn? Both sexes wank

 Part of my day job is running community programs  with young women at a local high school. The aims  of the program are to improve self esteem and  confidence, instil a sense of community and team  work and talk about issues of body image, the  objectification of women and hyper-sexualised  images in magazines, music videos and other media.  Note that so far, masturbation, has not come up as a  topic. That’s because it’s not a topic, somehow I think  if I went to a funder and said that I wanted to teach  high school girls about masturbation, I might struggle to get funding. And yet for one girl who participated in my program last term, this was the message which most stood out for her. How did this happen and what do I think about it?

How did it happen is an easy question to answer. Early in the program we started with some basic concepts of socially constructed gender roles and as a part of this I asked the students to talk about things that men and women “do” according to society. One of the things that came up was “boys wank” and in an off hand way I said something along the lines of “yes, but girls do that too”. That was the extent of the conversation and the extent of the content on masturbation for the entire nine week program and it happened on week 1. And yet, for this particular student, it obviously struck a chord and stayed with her for the next two months as a key element of the program. So the inevitable question arises, why?

What was going on in her life at that time that made some lady who had suddenly and unexpectedly appeared in her life making the comment that girls masturbate so pivotal for this student? I have two theories, both of which make me smile.

a)      The student has been masturbating regularly for some time and feeling horribly guilty about it or feeling like it’s something she really shouldn’t be doing because “only boys do that” but since I had said in an off hand way that both sexes do it I had inadvertently relieved her of her guilt and anguish.

b)      She’d never considered that girls could masturbate and went home to have a go at a whole new concept which she discovered was great and as such I had successfully introduced her to a new and very satisfying part of her sexuality.

Either way, I feel like I’ve made a difference in a way that I maybe never have before. Part of me thinks maybe, if I’ve given this girl the permission and confidence to masturbate, that will trickle through to other parts of her life. Maybe that moment will be pivotal in her entire sexual development and in ten years time she’ll look back and still be grateful that I mentioned it. Or maybe she just thought it was funny and that’s why it made it onto her evaluation form…

Photo of top stairs bedroom doors by BeneathOurFeet, shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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