I was well into my fourth decade before I first heard the term 'self pleasure', and when I did, I admit that it didn't sit comfortably with me. It reeked a little too much of good-girl-squeaky-clean syndrome and somehow seemed a bit 'icky'. Personally speaking, I'd always preferred my fucks to my made loves, my cums to my climaxes and my wanks to my self pleasures. And I'd always chosen words like cunt over vagina, pussy over the euphemistic lady-garden and perhaps the worst one ever, front bottom!
So for me, coming across the phrase 'self pleasure' was a tantric exploration as much about the semantics and their message as it was the form and structure.
Many of us grew up either being told that it would make us blind, it was dirty or it was just something for dark, silent corners that we all knew about but no-one ever discussed, perish the thought. And yet we also knew from an early age, damn this feels good! So for me tantra blew the lid off all of that negative collective consciousness around sex and sexuality, intimacy and the body, and as someone never too backwards at coming forwards, I didn't even know how much further I could go!
I'm still a tiny bit twitchy when I use the phrase self-pleasure as it's just not really me, but I'm getting better at it, you could say that the 'L' plates are off and I'm on the road but not there yet, wherever there is. However I also feel that masturbation sounds so damn clinical, so somewhere in between the two I guess I sit on the proverbial fence waiting to see upon which side I 'cum' down (pardon the pun).
Some of my heroines, women like Betty Dodson and Annie Sprinkle really broke through so many taboos in their work. Betty's famous books Sex For One, Celebrating Orgasm and the like, and Annie's absolutely seminal Public Cervix Announcement really broke the mould when it came to smashing the silent barriers of shame, guilt and fear.
Using her own body, Annie offered up to her audience the chance to see and discuss the deeper, darker, mystical caverns of a woman's body, pleasure and psyche. Her openness encouraged that in others. Her work inspires me to this day and I salute her contribution to sexual progressive thought, feeling and action. Annie's book 'Post Porn Modernist', was one of the first books I ever bought, read cover to cover and have treasured ever since.
I'm more comfortable with the term self pleasure since discovering tantra, as I can now relate it to the many different ways of experiencing pleasure, and I guess the key for me has been one of taking my pleasure back for me. It's not about me giving it to anyone else, performing or feeling obligated to some reciprocal deal in the bedroom, but how I can give and take pleasure by really owning it, understanding it and revelling in it. Self pleasure could actually be about anything, eating, sleeping, running, gazing into the eyes of your beloved, running a soft bath, resting, whatever it is so long as the intention is there to pleasure the self. In receiving well, we learn to extend that and in turn, to give well, and I'm not sure its possible to give well if you can't receive well. How can we ever hope to do that whilst masturbating silently, quickly and under cover of darkness? So yes, I am beginning to love the term, and to relish my private moments of bliss, and in those moments, masturbation seems far to limited a terminology.
The french call orgasms 'la petite mort' or 'the little death' and it's true that in my personal moments of ecstatic bliss I probably come closest to that infinite zero point of nothing-ness, the primordial soup, the essence of a small death. The website Beautiful Agony is worth a browse and Clayton Cubitt's highly erotic 'Hysterical Literature' project is just another orgasm waiting to happen to be quite frank. Beautiful, erotic and intelligent, it also opens doors into how we witness pleasure and where that witnessing can take us. There's so much out there, go explore and have fun! It's all about the bliss and nothing about the shame.
Get orgasmic, its good for you!
For more teachings on tantra and sexuality, I highly recommend Shakti Tantra