The Inland Empire is home to a surprisingly high number of sex shops. I was planning on buying my first vibrator from the safety of my computer screen, like a normal person in the twenty-first century, but when my friends caught wind of my purchase plans, they decided to organize a field trip on Sunday morning. First, we got Starbucks; then, we went to Romance Upland.
Buying my first vibrator was a sterile experience. We had to put our coffees behind the counter and show our IDs before going into the “back room” (not a euphemism). The sales associate gave us her advice when we asked and watched us like a hawk while we perused. Unfortunately, we had to keep our jokes and gasps muffled. There I was selecting my new friend surrounded by wall-to-wall cock rings and being stared down by massive dildos and I was expected not to nervously laugh and gawk?
No wonder masturbation is such a taboo topic, especially for women. Just getting your hands on a toy is scarring enough. Masturbating is a male rite of passage, whereas it’s still largely hush-hush for women. I don’t want my experience to overshadow some of the stores that cater to comfort—truly, some shops are like the Scripps tea time of the sex toy industry—but I was so blinded by the fluorescent lighting and spooked by my personal shopping assistant that I can’t chalk it up as an ultimately positive experience. However, the end result has been going great for what my shallow collegiate checkbook could buy me.
Even at the oh-so-liberal Claremont Colleges, women are still tentative to talk about getting up close and personal with themselves, a topic that Sammi Eng PZ ’16 explored in her senior thesis last semester.
In her video, Eng surveyed men and women in the college student demographic regarding how comfortable they are talking about masturbation. The men who felt comfortable answering her questions greatly outnumbered the women. She found that this is likely because masturbating is more socially acceptable for men, especially as it has been portrayed in media.
Women are hypersexualized by the media and oftentimes when female masturbation is depicted in film, women are made objects of desire. However, shows like Broad City (dubbed the Workaholics for girls) have recently shown women pleasuring themselves without voyeuristic undertones.
For beginners, the world of masturbation can be intimidating. Thankfully, the Internet is a gateway for all things sexual. Tumblr and Cosmopolitan both offer advice and resources regarding female-friendly/feminist porn, sex toy rankings and reviews, and instructions for reaching an orgasm.
Despite these resources, I was shocked to discover how many of my friends at this institution have yet to orgasm. I was angered because not only do I believe that every woman deserves the right to a mind-blowing orgasm, but also because now already-audacious men are jaunting to and fro believing that they hold the keys to the elusive female orgasm.
Hollywood is making steps, although slowly, to include women in the literal circle jerk, but I think us viewers at home can help bridge the gap. The Claremont Colleges need to institute a Sex Week as schools across the country have done. We compete with Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern on national rankings lists, but what about when it comes to sexual health?
Last year at Harvard’s Sex Week, the schedule included sexual health, BDSM, feminist porn, and masturbation conversation panels. These sex-positive weeks create a sense of camaraderie surrounding safe sex on campus and give students a refresher course on middle school sex-ed. Plus, going to a forum with friends seems a lot more “bachelorette party” than delving deep into the Internet for first-time fingering directions.
Taking agency over your sexuality is key for healthy relationships later down the line. When female masturbation and orgasms are addressed without a sex-sells motive, women everywhere will be able to rejoice with their Magic Wands and bullets and instruct their partners on how to use them too.
Meg Zukin PZ '17 is originally from the Silicon Valley, majors in Media Studies and minors in nothing.