Why women don’t masturbate, according to a sex therapist

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In the Philippines, the sex-positivity movement has seen some development in recent years. Though celebrities and Filipinos, in general, are more open about topics such as one-night stands and premarital sex, we still have a long way to go.

Masturbation, for instance, is often talked about and joked about online or among friends by young people nowadays. But for some reason, female masturbation is still taboo—not solely to mainstream society but to women themselves.

Masturbation has been found to relieve stress, improve sleep, boost one’s libido, and best of all, it’s the safest type of sex. So why don’t more women do it?

Tackling the taboo

To give us better insight on the topic, we asked an expert to weigh in. Dr. Rica Cruz, a sexologist and entrepreneur, specializes in Filipino sexual behaviors and sexual pleasure. She also has her own sexual wellness shop called Unprude.

According to Dr. Rica, women’s relationship to masturbation is significantly different from men’s relationship to masturbation. The masturbation gap is not uncommon around the world, especially in a country like the Philippines that still retains some sexist notions.

women masturbate, <b> Why women don’t masturbate, according to a sex therapist </b>
Dr. Rica Cruz, a sexologist, broadcaster, and entrepreneur. Photo credit: Unprude

‘My first study on heterosexual Filipino sexual behaviors showed that Filipino men masturbate significantly more than Filipino women,’ she shared. ‘Filipino men masturbate three times a week, while Filipino women masturbate once to twice a month!’

Dr. Rica said men see masturbation as normal, while women see it as weird, embarrassing, and even wrong. This is because the act of masturbating has to do with pleasure, but women were never taught anything about letting ourselves experience pleasure—we’re taught that our bodies are made for procreation.

The experience of a woman is so intertwined with pain and discomfort (childbearing, periods, breastfeeding) that we don’t often entertain giving ourselves pleasure. Beyond that, we’re ashamed of talking about any self-gratification because we’re conditioned to avoid it.

Though loving sex and exploring ourselves shouldn’t be limited by our gender, the reality is that it is. Dr. Rica explained that society has used female sexuality to control us and our bodies in order to ingrain what the “right” idea of a woman is. This is the root of why female sexual pleasure, and masturbation as an extension of this, is never truly spoken about.

Does masturbation matter?

The obvious question is whether masturbating actually matters or not in a woman’s life. The quick answer is yes.

Masturbating allows young women to explore and know their bodies so that they can understand what makes them feel good sexually. This can not only lead to a better sex life but better physical and mental health in general.

Dr. Rica shares that masturbation gives women a sense of integrity and autonomy over their bodies that can improve their self-esteem, body image, and sense of identity.

women masturbate, <b> Why women don’t masturbate, according to a sex therapist </b>
Photo credit: Unprude

In a digital age that feeds on young women’s self-esteem through impossible beauty standards, it becomes increasingly vital for women to be able to feel comfortable in their bodies. Considering sex education is still severely lacking in the Philippines, it becomes all the more important to become more familiar with what makes us tick.

The normalization of masturbation would also normalize other aspects of sex, such as intercourse outside of marriage and experimenting in the bed. Masturbation is all about pleasure, fun, and self-love (literally)—if women were to practice this more, it may dissociate sex to just marriage and pregnancy.

Female masturbation pushes women to realize they are deserving of good sex and pleasure, whether it’s by their own hand or someone else’s.

The two sides of sex positivity

Though the term “sex positivity” may sound like celebrating wild sex, one-night stands, and self-gratification all day every day, this is not the case. Contrary to popular opinion, the movement accepts any relationship that a woman may have with their body, whether they explore their sexuality or not.

This does not make you a prude or slut, it just makes you human. Dr. Rica encourages people to talk about sex so that the world can accept any and all sexual lifestyles, so long as they are healthy.

women masturbate, <b> Why women don’t masturbate, according to a sex therapist </b>
Photo credit: Unprude

‘Sex positivity is about not having feelings of shame involved when talking about our sexual selves—whether we’re conservative or progressive, beginner or experienced, a slut or a saint, or somewhere in between,’ she continued.

Dr. Rica noted sex positivity allows women to “just be”. She added, ‘It’s having that freedom to experience and indulge in our sexual explorations and boundaries, to celebrate our quirks, and also root for others in all their uniqueness.’

The future is female (pleasure)

Self-gratification may seem like a meaningless action, but it means so much more than that in many aspects of our lives, some of which are bigger than us. Dr. Rica herself believes that being open about our sexuality is powerful in its own way, stating that being our own sexual selves allows us to shed new light on personal and societal issues.

She explained that a woman is not just her sexuality, but a person with complex life and her own story, ‘A woman’s sexuality and identity can affect many facets of her life… A lot of us feel that claiming our sexuality means fighting the patriarchy, but women’s liberation is not about fighting against men.’

‘It is about being able to freely and fully embrace our own sexual selves and pleasure,’ she expounded. ‘You see a woman who isn’t just a virgin, a girlfriend, a mother, a wife, or a slut – you see a woman for her entirety.’

women masturbate, <b> Why women don’t masturbate, according to a sex therapist </b>
Photo credit: Unprude

But with every movement comes backlash. Filipinos, especially Boomers, usually have conservative views of sex and self-gratification that they pass on to their children. Teenagers naturally feel more sexual as they grow due to puberty, but because of social norms and Catholic guilt, they are forced to repress these urges.

For the Philippines to become more progressive, Dr. Rica says the answer is education, starting from home. To her, parents have to be their children’s first advocates for proper sex education.

When asked whether Filipinos’ relationship with sex is becoming slowly more progressive, she had a mixed reaction. ‘Yes and no,’ she answered, stating that even if discussions on sex are more common, the notion of “sex positivity” is limited to bubbles of people who have the access to proper education and accurate information.

women masturbate, <b> Why women don’t masturbate, according to a sex therapist </b>
Photo credit: Unprude

Though sex may seem like a private and intimate act, it is more political than we know. The stigma around female pleasure still exists and bars women from realizing they deserve to feel pleasure, confidence, and sexual freedom.

Dr. Rica says it best to all the women out there who are nervous about exploring their bodies: “Sex is good. Sex is a gift. Sex is a basic aspect of us being people. Let’s be comfortable exploring our sexual selves, pursuing our sexual desires and curiosities, and respecting each other’s sexuality—because loving sex does not make us lewd or vulgar—it just makes us human.”

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