Healthy lives for young people
Sex, Sexuality, My Body

Masturbation: Charlotte’s story

Charlotte, 20, shares her journey of becoming comfortable with masturbation and understanding what pleasure means to her.

I don’t specifically recall my earliest memory of pleasure, but I do remember that once I’d cracked it, masturbation became a regular activity throughout my adolescence. I had never been taught what masturbation was, but what I did know was that I felt pleasurable sensations from my ‘private parts’ and touching my vulva would make me feel good.

Once I had discovered how to make myself feel good, it was almost like I saw things in a different light. Everything became a potential object of pleasure. Discovering pillows, sofa arms and bed knobs in this way is something that I feel a lot of young people can relate to. I started to understand that putting cold shower gel on my clitoris whilst in a warm bath would feel great (also not the best for pH balance – don’t recommend). I understood that certain parts of movies would make me feel tingly. All of these things would feel nice, but I still didn’t know why.

Growing up, a lot of my pleasure became realised through overhearing adult conversations or engaging in general playground talk. I remember being in Year 4 (8 years old), when Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ hit the charts, sending my year group into an alarmed frenzy. A boy kept saying “ew, she’s a lesbian!” which I didn’t understand, having never heard the word before. Another time, the same pupil had drawn my attention towards a drain in the ground that had the word ‘ESSEX’ (our county) engraved onto it, putting his foot over the ‘E’ and the ‘S’ and shouting, “It says sex!” I felt incredibly unsure of the word sex and didn’t really understand anything he was going on about or what was so hilarious.

I watched porn for the first time at age 9, due to my childhood best friend having a very secluded loft-conversion bedroom and owning a virus-ridden computer that constantly showed pop-ups of nude models.

I specifically remember her excitement to show me what she had discovered after clicking the pop-up and also the frantic scrambling to turn the volume down when the video played out loud at full volume! We looked at porn for hours, so intrigued by nakedness and seeing grown-up genitals.

My confusion of the words ‘sex’ and ‘lesbian’ was solved after browsing the page with my friend. I remember feeling excited whilst watching these videos, a feeling of complete fascination, shadowed by an overwhelming feeling of panic and fear of getting caught. I remember feeling disappointed when my friend decided to turn it off to go back to playing Stardoll, but was I always too frightened to attempt to view porn in my own home.

I only revisited porn at the age of 13. I got my first smartphone, with access to YouTube and the Internet. I ended up on PornHub and I found myself gravitating towards lesbian videos. My parents used to come in from work around 6pm, but I was usually home from school around 3:30pm. I would masturbate and climax multiple times in those hours and felt like it was a great secret of mine.

At age 14, my dad found out I had lost my virginity, but also made a point to mention he had found out I was watching porn. I got in so much trouble and I remember feeling so ashamed and disgusted with myself.

I didn’t stop masturbating, but the shame I received turned masturbation into something I did just to make myself cum. To scratch an itch, if you like. I constantly felt wrong for doing it.

In the last 3 years (ages 18 to almost 21) I have lived away from my parents and have been able to masturbate without feeling worried about getting caught, or shame that what I was doing was wrong. At 18, I bought my first vibrator and discovered that sex toys existed for so many purposes. At 19, I was confident enough to create Don’t Say Sex and discuss masturbation and sex openly online. At 20, I am reminiscing on all of my experiences with masturbation and helping others to discover pleasure in ways that are comfortable with them.

My masturbation journey has given me insight into how I appreciate and love my body, contributing to my overall self-worth and pleasure expectations.

I have learned to dissociate shame from masturbation and understand that it is not negative, wrong or unhealthy. Masturbation has also helped me to have better partnered sex, as I can feel confident in telling my partner my likes, dislikes and my sexual boundaries, after experimenting alone. I now understand how “normal” masturbation is and hearing stories from other people makes me feel even more confident in telling my own.

The fact is, masturbation is a journey that is constantly changing and twisting and turning. Your pleasure is determined by experimentation and experience. I have been masturbating for over 10 years but find out new masturbation techniques that I love all the time.

Masturbation is a fantastic way to understand your body, your boundaries and your sexuality.

Childhood shame and embarrassment are factors that might make masturbation difficult as an adult, but hopefully they do not dominate your masturbation journey.

In the UK, it is not against the law to watch porn when you are under 18 but it is illegal to buy porn. You should also not show porn to anyone under the age of 18.

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