I took off my clothes, lit a candle, and sat down on my bed. My mind focused on my crush, and my heart seemed to beat out of my chest. Overcome by emotion, I began to masturbate.
That’s how it should’ve gone. In reality, my mom knocked on the door.
I screamed and spat out the excuse that I was getting dressed. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t masturbate again for six months.
When I finally gathered the courage to try again, I naturally assumed that my experience would end differently. Surely, I thought, my new living situation — a Toronto apartment that I shared with roommates — would be more private than my parent’s house and its paper-thin walls. To my dismay, the focused stare of my roommate’s leopard gecko — which must have escaped from its cage during my self-pleasure attempt — quickly killed my horny mood.
My dear reader, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were reading this article to distract you from your urges to get off. If you’re reading from home, not being in the mood is fair — how can you begin to masturbate when your bedroom door could unexpectedly fling open at any moment? Our university campus is surrounded by a ton of student-occupied dorms, apartments, and small homes. Given these cramped accommodations, it’s a wonder anyone at U of T masturbates at all.
In your twenties, shared living spaces can produce massive shame. While in confined quarters with someone else, it often seems like any emotion is magnified because all of your feelings are always observed. I learn time and time again from my roommates that I can’t keep a secret in a 500-square-foot home — especially when that secret requires alone time. It’s no help that being horny drenches me in shame.
Let me be clear: I consider myself to be an oversharer. If you read The Varsity every week, you probably remember me as the girl who wrote about how she felt like she had a rock stuck in her vagina. So why am I, a sex-positivity advocate, fearful of a natural emotion?
It could be because of how much our society stigmatizes taking care of oneself sexually. Sexologist Carol Queen suggested that the biggest source of this stigma is the idea that people are supposed to have sex with another person. But other common misconceptions about masturbation include that it causes hairy hands, acne, baldness, will stunt your growth, and make you infertile.
Despite this stigma, masturbation comes with some impressive health benefits. It can lead to better sleep, alleviate stress and menstrual cramps, and might even boost your mood. These benefits are what I think of when I think of masturbation; it’s not dirty or selfish, but a self-care routine. After all, I need some way to calm down from long days of writing articles about sex.
That being said, masturbation is not as simple as putting on a face mask. Sometimes, getting the luxury of privacy is an obstacle in itself. My bedroom door doesn’t lock, so it’s a big challenge to get me in the mood. As a solution, I look for an excuse to be naked. I take too many showers, change my clothing more than anyone should, and I especially embrace touching myself in the bath, because with running water, sound is not an issue.
Keep in mind that all spaces don’t need to have doors. There’s nothing to fear in burrowing under your covers or defiling a stall in an empty Robarts bathroom. If all else fails, think of what makes your environment cozy. Maybe you’re cramped in a closet and your childhood snowsuits make you feel a bit safer. If you’re shifting yourself against them, at least your naked body will be warmer.
In the small and crowded spaces that we encounter in our routines, we need to prioritize time for ourselves. No one should feel guilty for exploring masturbation — besides, 60 to 80 per cent of women masturbate, as do 95 per cent of men. Knowing, loving, and caring about your body is the first step to experiencing pleasure from it.
This being said, no matter how shame-free you are, no one will ever feel completely comfortable announcing their horniness to the world. So stop waiting for the perfect moment, find a cozy space, and get yourself off!