Sitting on the toilet in my small bathroom, I looked down and noticed short hairs beginning to grow. Naturally, my ten-year-old self wanted to know what they felt like, and as I placed my hand by my vagina, I was immediately startled. Something about this felt good—unfamiliar but nice. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew that I needed to get that feeling back. I stayed on the toilet for another ten minutes and fingered myself. On a basic level, I was aware of what I was doing, but at the same time, none of my friends or family had talked ever about this. Even at ten years old, I understood that good sex—according to those who taught me about it—was an act of pleasure for all people involved. It wasn’t until high school, though, that I realized consistently fingering myself as a child was pleasurable in a way similar to sex. It eventually clicked: all this time, I’d been masturbating.
I don’t remember what exactly went through my head the first time I masturbated. I just knew I’d learned how to do something that made me feel at ease. At such a young age, I only masturbated because it felt nice and released some physical tension. It didn’t become a means of sexually exploring myself until I was 12 or 13.
This was the case for my friends, too; both friends I spoke to a few weeks ago told me that they didn’t even know women could masturbate until they were 13 or 14. I now masturbate nearly every day—sometimes even multiple times. Before I sleep, I’ll lay down in bed and finger myself for twenty minutes; during the day, I’ll stimulate myself with my vibrator, on a chair or in the shower. When I was younger, I pleasured myself only a few times a week. It feels strange that now, I can’t imagine a day not masturbating. This isn’t abnormal, though; according to a study from TENGA, women masturbate as frequently as two to three times a week, and men nearly every other day. I already have a complicated and damaged relationship with my body and appearance, but when I pleasure myself, I feel my most liberated and in touch with myself. Burdens, frustrations, and urges leave my body as I cry out a small but sometimes loud and mighty breath.
Pleasuring myself always makes my clit feel good, no matter the intention, time of day, or my mood. Typically, I’ll play out my fantasies or think about hooking up with a specific person. Every so often, I’ll do it as a form of release; occasionally, I’ll watch porn, too. But sometimes, one thought enters my mind, a fact that creeps up from behind and grabs me by the shoulders until it almost kills the buzz: I’m a virgin. In fact, I’m the last virgin among my friends. At times, I admit I feel a slight disconnect from my friends because they all know something I don’t. I know I’m not a “baby” in comparison. Thankfully, I haven’t been virgin-shamed by them or anyone––it’s just that we’re all young adults, yet somehow it hasn’t happened for me. Perhaps it’s the Pisces moon, trauma, or lack of interested parties throughout my life, but many years have passed and I still have split seconds of blaming myself for my lack of experience. I’ve lived under the assumption that I’m doing everything wrong, but I try not to see it as a negative. Instead, I know my still-standing virginity is just a late-blooming aspect of my identity.
When I talk to my friends about masturbating, however, I’ve noticed a clear pattern: when they’re with their partners, they pleasure themselves more. In fact, both of the friends I spoke to are in long-term partnerships and mentioned that they sparsely masturbate, partially because of having a partner. It made me wonder—am I only pleasuring myself because no one else will do it for me?
But then a different prospect arose as I continued swimming through the sea of available men in my life: the very dichotomy of my virginity and sensuality. I am connected to myself sexually despite never having had sex, and one of my greatest personal fears is losing touch with myself in that sense. As someone who constantly yearns to have the utmost control over her life, it’s daunting to imagine letting someone pleasure me. Pleasuring myself entails doing it all by myself, on my own terms. What would it mean for me to not be in complete control?
A few days ago, I reached an orgasm for the first time in nearly two months. I dwelled on it for a little while afterward. Besides being one of the greatest moments of pleasure I’ve had in a while, I became fearful again. Could I only reach this point with my own two hands? But then I realized that I’m always going to be in touch with myself sensually—because while I long to be pleasured, I won’t lose this profound connection with myself at the hands of someone else.