Pleasure was once elusive to me. It was a grand idea that was described by some cheesy, misrepresented, overtly romanticized scene in a television show or a paragraph in a book. Growing up as a Malay Muslim in Singapore, I was taught to believe that sex is something that happened to you only if you could earn great love. In order to earn this love, I was to behave a certain way – an obedient daughter who was religiously pious; and who could roll spring rolls like a machine and make fragrant tea for our visitors at home. I should be a “good” and devout woman; waiting patiently for a “good” man who would think I am worthy of his affections and sex. Even after I ran away from home in my late teens to attend college in the United States, I internally upheld this belief in my ideas of sex – pleasure was given to me, something that was earned. I remember the first time I used a vibrator in my mid 20’s – I cried, I sobbed. I had turn to this vibrator in my desperate need to fulfill my now latent sex life with a long term partner. Because I had never masturbated and did not know how, I followed an advice from a sex column that encouraged the use of a vibrator, which I had hoped so hard to help me expand my vacuum knowledge of sex and could quickly propel me out of my emotional abyss. As I orgasmed, I felt as though I had betrayed the natural order of things. There was nothing proud or satisfying about that moment. I had stolen a pleasurable feeling that was supposed to be gifted to me by love. I had cheated the norm and bought a knock off version of pleasure. I did not realize it then, that those thoughts and feelings of shame, disempowered me even further. Pleasure, was further away for me than ever.
Yet, my hands found themselves repeatedly reaching out for that shameful vibrator that was tucked so deep in my dresser. (Only now do I find it exhilarating as I recall those moments when I had to go on fours, naked, to reach for the liberating device, how incredibly sexy I visually was to anyone standing by!) With each orgasm I had brought on by myself, my guilt surrendered to the curiosity of the possibilities of all the various sensations I have yet to experience. Over time, the orgasms that followed mirrored nothing I had seen, heard of, read about in my life; only stronger, more reaffirming and alluring than the last. Eventually, my legs spread wider, my body shook harder and my heart become fuller. I grew more internally confident of my body and of my own ability to please myself. I became an incredible sexual human being. That was the beginning of my taking ownership of my pleasure.
The discovery of masturbation or what I would like to refer to as sexual self-care may not have been as dramatic for most people as it was for me. Children engage in it as part of a self-soothing mechanism. My own little one had described it “as a cozy feeling”, as he casually “played with” his bits nonchalantly at the playground. His action was childlike and completely non-perverted. His body and psyche was working collectively to naturally calm his nerves. By some point in our adulthood, we would have discovered that it felt good to touch our bodies and genitals; and like me, with enough curiosity and over time, succumbed to the incredible pleasant feeling it offered. Behind closed doors, many of us reveled in the joys of sexual self-care; giving in to this organic way of how our bodies can bring our state of mind to bliss. We look forward to this time alone, when we can secretly play with ourselves and indulge our minds and bodies whichever way it pleases us most. Some of us create rituals – whether it is a bath to romanticize the mood, or searching for the best porn video that would titillate our erotic minds the most – we make a small to do about spending this time alone. It is guilty pleasure, in the truest sense of the phrase. But sadly, regardless of how I would like to sugar coat it – masturbation, sexual self-care – the act of taking pleasure in our own hands, literally, makes us feel guilty, and ashamed.
In my work at Please, I have encountered countless individuals who seek to expand their sexual experience with their partners but have no idea how. We lack understanding on what our partners enjoy mainly because we ourselves have yet to discover our own preferences. The lack of knowledge comes from both ends. In order to experience a fulfilling sexual dynamic with another human being – which is what society has conditioned us to think how sex should take place – in partnership with another person, it is important to know how we, ourselves can be pleased. Therefore, it is unproductive to shame masturbation for it gives an insight to pleasure that transcends predictable missionary style fucking! I give reasons in my conversations with these individuals to why masturbation works. Watch how I unfold this! I masturbate because it feels good. I masturbate because it is my mode of relaxation. I masturbate because it makes me feel sexually alive. More importantly, I masturbate so I can learn to be an incredible lover. Has anyone said that out loud yet? I masturbate so I can understand what my body likes and dislikes. I masturbate so that I can set boundaries for how I want my body to be touched and for me to know when my body is ready to allow something more vulnerable. More importantly, I masturbate so I can create a pleasure roadmap so vast, it would be impossible for a lover to never be able to please me. Since I have learned to masturbate indulgently and without shame, I have never had bad sex with anyone. Great sex is attainable to all; and all you need to start is you.
So how about it – let us quit shaming masturbation, or pleasure, or sex (solo, with a partner or many others at the same time)? What if, as a new beginning to an evolving sex life, we project outwardly an unabashed and unapologetic pride to owning pleasure – as though it is another component of life that we as a society measure our success with? What if we began making these statements out loud: I am proud to openly say that I love masturbating and how I am able to please myself; that it feels as satisfying as being able to afford my first car! I am proud of the fact that I can have multiple orgasms on my own or with a partner; just as I am as proud of having achieved many professional accolades I worked so hard for. In proudly owning pleasure for ourselves, we are free, liberated, validated, as ease, happy. Come visit me at Please, and I will gladly trudge through this with you – with a vibrator buzzing over our pants, out in front of our uncovered glass windows, for ourselves looking out to a world where sex and pleasure is never shameful.
Please visit: http://www.pleasenewyork.com