It’s true what they say. You never forget your first orgasm. When friends say they’re “pretty sure” they’ve had one, I tell them that they probably haven’t. “Trust me,” I say. “When it happens, you’ll know.”
When it happened to me, I knew. I was 17, curious and alone in my bed. Up to this point, my attempts at feeling around down there had been less than spectacular. I really wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. But this time things were different, and something good was building up inside me. All at once, I exploded. I remember how amazed I felt lying there afterwards, reeling from tiny little aftershocks and wondering whether I should call an ambulance. What was that? How did it happen? Most importantly, how can I make it happen again?
I let my best friend know I’d cracked the code, but aside from that I didn’t really talk about the experience with my girl friends. Boys at my school joked about jerking off all the time, but I wasn’t sure if girls were doing it too. At some point, I started to wonder about these gender differences. Do more guys masturbate than girls, or do girls just feel less comfortable admitting it?
Societal pressure to be a “good girl” and to not focus on sex as much as boys do probably has something to do with it. But I think a lot of these differences in masturbation practices have to do with anatomy. Guys grow up with their equipment in plain sight, and they handle it every pit stop at the urinal. Most boys are well acquainted with their pleasure zones by the time they hit puberty. But for girls, all the good stuff is tucked away inside or hidden underneath our skin, and we’re left more familiar with the neatly labeled diagrams of labia and ovaries in our health textbooks than with our own individual bodies.
This realization left me frustrated, and after three years of hearing, “Great cervix, you’re normal!” from the voice on the other end of the speculum, I finally caved and Googled “gynecological exam video.” Of course, a guy friend walked in on me watching it and I had some awkward explaining to do, but all of that is incidental. I finally knew what a cervix looked like, and that was what mattered.
I’m not saying you should go watch weird, invasive medical procedures on the Internet, unless you’re into that sort of thing, but please, girls who are reading this: get to know your bodies! Don’t be afraid to explore yourself. You’ll get a better sense of what works for you and what doesn’t, what gets you going, what pushes your buttons.
Plus, knowing what you want makes it easier to order off the menu. What I’m saying is, figuring out what gets you off and becoming more comfortable communicating these needs to others will make things a whole lot easier on your sexual partners. But the best, the most empowering part, is that these sexual partners are only part of your equation. Learning to exercise control over your body, mastering your pleasure zones, gaining confidence in the fact that you don’t need a partner to experience pleasure and orgasmin my mind, this is what’s most important.
While the male orgasm has a pretty clear role in reproduction, to this day, no one has figured out the function of the female orgasm although there are several popular theories, mostly based on how orgasms might promote conception or simply encourage females to have sex more often. But what doctors do know is that orgasms are incredibly good for you! Studies show that the frequent occurrence of orgasms has been linked to lower rates of stress, depression and cardiovascular disease.
And, speaking from personal experience, an orgasm is hands down the best physical feeling you can experience in your earthly life. There shouldn’t be any shame or embarrassment associated with masturbation (unless your roommate constantly walks in on you, in which case you should be ashamed for not locking the door or at least hanging a sock on the doorknob). After all, keeping STIs and unplanned pregnancies in mind, sex with yourself is the safest sex you can have.
The bottom line here? The more we come to understand our own bodies, the more safe and healthy physical pleasure we can experience in them. Get to know yourself, and I mean all of yourself. You deserve that.