Male masturbation is no secret—everyone knows men do it. In fact, male masturbation is downright cosmic, with early creation myths about male gods masturbating the world into being. In ancient Sumer, for example, the Mesopotamian land of some of our earliest written tablets, the god Enki created the rivers Tigris and Euphrates by jerking off.
Female masturbation has just as long and strong a history, but has undergone social, religious, and cultural periods of denial. This has not been consistent or universal, however.
Today most western institutions consider female masturbation normal at all ages. This is much different from 1968, when masturbation for anyone was still considered a mental disorder in psychiatric literature, including the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders.
Here is an assortment of terrible and fun facts about women’s masturbation.
12 Facts about Female Masturbation
1. Early Art of Masturbation
Both male and female masturbation are depicted in early cave paintings around the world. An art figurine found in Malta depicting a woman masturbating is thought to be six thousand years old.
2. She Can Hold Her Own
The most famous episode of the show Seinfeld was “The Contest,” about masturbation. The focus was on whether the characters could stop masturbating by sheer will power, but an important sub-theme gave rare ponderance to female masturbation.
Elaine wants to get in on the bet, but she is told she has to put in more stakes because it is easier for her to avoid playing with herself. “It’s easier for a woman not to do it than a man. We have to do it. It’s part of our lifestyle,” Jerry explains.
3. The Perils of Touching Oneself
Western medicine and theology went through several horrific periods of anti-humanity, punishing male and female children and adults for masturbation. Remember the whole “hairy palm” thing? Masturbation was also said to be the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, gout, liver disease, insanity, hairy palms, stunted growth, and blindness.
4. Crime and Punishment
All kinds of devices were used to prevent masturbation, including male chastity belts, pinning the penis of the child to the diaper, and special machines that would purportedly stop you in your tracks. For girls, electric shock, straitjackets, or scrubbing her genitalia with carbolic acid would do the trick.
5. Dietary Recommendations
Doctor Kellogg and Reverend Graham were especially obsessed with masturbation, and bowel movements. They were part of the movement known as the “natural hygiene” philosophy, which believed that vegetarianism relieved constipation and meat caused it. Not only did meat inflame lust and sexual vigor, and was therefore to be denied, but the resulting stopped up bowels from animal flesh caused pressure internally that could ignite sexual arousal.
Now, I’m not too sure I’ve ever met someone who felt especially turned on when they were suffering from constipation—not our most erotic moments for most of us. However, Kellogg wrote a lengthy treatise on the topic. The evils of constipation and the resulting sin of masturbation could be easily solved, however, we should all eat cereal because grain would cure us of both. And thus, Tony the Tiger and Corn Flakes were born. Yes, that Kellogg and that Graham cracker!
6. Religious Views
It wasn’t just fuddy-duddy Protestants who thought masturbation was an obstacle to health. In Buddhism, it’s an obstacle to enlightenment. Monks and also nuns are expected to abstain not just from sex with other people, but with themselves.
7. Genital Mutilation
If the straitjackets and chastity machines sound severe, consider female genital mutilation. Every day, thousands of young girls are castrated in Africa and the Middle East (and sometimes, underground, right here at home). Also known as cutting or infibulation, this ancient practice is still widespread today and affects millions of women in Somalia, Egypt, and beyond. The clitoris is severed with a razor blade, surgical knife, or chunk of broken glass. This prevents female masturbation and premarital sex. It prevents female enjoyment and orgasm, too.
8. Masturbatory Performance Art
In 1990 in Toronto, Madonna was warned by local police to skip the “Like a Virgin” performance where she simulated female masturbation on stage. Locals were concerned about an “immoral live performance.” It was hardly the first or last time the sex-positive pop star would be controversial. “I’m not changing my fucking show,” she said, and carried out her routine without incident.
9. She Bopped to the Top
In 1983, Cyndi Lauper created the first anthem to female masturbation. “She Bop” was the euphemism, cranked across the airwaves and reaching number three on Billboard. “I wanna go south and get me some more,” Cyndi sang. “They say I better stop, or I’ll go blind…” The video featured a giant sign at a gas station that declared “Self Service.”
10. It’s Universal and Individual
Women masturbate with their fingers and hands, rubbing their clitorises to orgasm or penetrating their vagina. They also use toys, including dildos, or anything handy such as garden vegetables! Women may also stimulate their breasts or play with their asses. Using the jet stream on a shower head is also common. Many women will rub up against a pillow or towel.
It’s a fantasy of many men to watch a woman masturbate. Many women keep this ritual private, but there’s no harm in asking or suggesting mutual masturbation.
11. Come Again
Vibrators came into widespread use when they were used to treat “female hysteria.” Nervous disorders, depression, or ailments with unknown causes were considered to be “hysteria.” Women with symptoms with no known causes were serviced by doctors with a magic wand. I kid you not. They were subjected to a mechanical, medically induced, “hysterical paroxysm.” In other words, an orgasm.
12. Past Pleasure
Dildos are nothing new. They have been made of stone, bone, antler, ivory, and clay, long before silicone and latex were invented. There are ancient dildos found from many cultures all over the world. The oldest one we know of so far is twenty-eight thousand years old!
What would you add to this list of female masturbation facts?