Okay, ladies, raise your hand if you’ve never been able to get yourself off with your hand. It’s okay, no judging. Also? I can’t actually see you, so your secret is safe. But I’m guessing a fair amount of you are in the same boat when it comes to utilizing the little man in the boat.

It’s no real surprise that during the 80s and 90s, there was a gaping black hole in sex-ed when it came to teaching girls to help themselves orgasm. Much like being gay and going to therapy, masturbation for Gen X women was a subject lost in the great vast blank of in-between. There was our parents’ view which could easily be summed up as: “This is a Thing Some People Do and We Shall Never Speak of” and then there is our children’s view of it, which rings more like: “This is a Thing We All Do and Should Proudly Shout about from the Rooftops.”  

As with a lot of things in our generation, masturbation was something relegated to the “boys will be boys” world. Our parents, as a whole, prided themselves on rejecting the cautionary fairy tales about hairy palms and going blind. Male masturbation even crossed over into pop-culture references. DJ masturbates for the first time on a very special episode of Roseanne! Keanu Reeves shows he is a decent guy when talking to his girlfriend’s brother about it in Parenthood! 

But where was Darlene’s stirring story? When do the girls get to have that conversation with their older sisters-to-be? Only Judy Blume acknowledged that girls exploring themselves was even a thing, let alone, an acceptable, appropriate thing. And she was frequently banned for writing about … well… touchy subjects.

And a lot of it comes down to generations of women being told they were not supposed to enjoy sex, but rather endure it. So, why would we ever acknowledge we could or should manage sexual enjoyment on our own? Why would the mothers teach the daughters how to do it—assuming they’d been able to figure it out. I imagine there were just a lot of housewives sitting on washing machines.

So, thanks to THAT, here I am, 40-some-years and I still haven’t figured out how to get myself off by myself. And while I love that women these days are talking about it, podcasting about it, writing about it; that TV shows and movies have evolved to show women casually sticking their hands down their pants; and that in general our new generation is TOTALLY OKAY with all this… I am also a little jealous that it wasn’t like this when I was growing up, and that I never learned to take care of myself.

Selfie Sticks

Enter the era of vibrators.   

Anyone else remember when vibrators were called “muscle relaxers?”

Anyone remember the shame that came with buying one? If a woman was forward-thinking enough to pick one up at Sharper Image, she had to deal with the winks and snickers of the (almost always) male store clerk – even if she really did have a stiff neck?

And remember when movies and TV shows would show vibrators as tools that only widows, or divorcees owned? Because obviously widows and divorcees were no longer healthy, sexually active beings and vibrators were obviously only what desperate, lonely women turned to.

In fact, can anyone remember a depiction of vibrators during our childhood where the media wasn’t making fun of both the device and the person using it?

I have a clear recollection of movies and tv using vibrators as a ploy for a cheap joke. Usually a very young child or a very old person wandered out of mom’s room after digging through her drawers for something (typically batteries) and saying something blissfully ignorant like “How does this flashlight work?” while mom dies of embarrassment and the canned laughter is cued.

We’ve Come a Long Way, Ladies. 

Nowadays, you can find an assortment of colors, sizes, and, likely, flavors, of vibrators in all sorts of places, including your own home since there are a few brands that are sold Tupperware-party style. Catalogs proudly display pages of varieties from ones that discreetly fit on your finger and can be carried in your purse, to ones that you can sync up to your smartphone, so it pulses to the same beat as whatever song you’re playing. There are long distance versions that your partner can control remotely (even from around the world), and, having had a child, there’s my favorite which helps you practice your ever-more-important-as-you-age Kegel exercises and then “rewards” you when you’ve hit certain levels. It’s AHHHchievment-oriented.

Having never been taught myself, I feel bad I can’t give my own teenage daughter advice on how to get herself off by herself, but when she is ready, I will proudly and un-ashamedly offer a treasure trove of toys so she can proudly and un-ashamedly figure it out on her own.

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About Lily Winters

A full-time copywriter, Lilly Winters lives outside Washington, D.C. in a house full of animals—which include her husband and teenager. Under a different name, she’s written a book of short stories, a Young Adult novel, and was most recently published in Gravity Dancers. Lilly Winters isn’t posting her real picture because it’s possible she is currently wanted by the Mexican drug cartel. It’s also possible she watches too much Ozark.

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