WRITING: KENDRA THOMPSON
Often, when I pick up my sleek and silky vibrator—quite frequently during these “unprecedented” times—I can’t help but think back to the humble beginnings of my masturbation origin story. All those years ago, self-love helped me get through the isolation of being an awkward teen and this past year it’s gotten me through the isolation of being a single woman during a world-wide pandemic. I, like the rest of the world, have historically been mum on the taboo topic of self pleasure. But last year, when I learned there was an entire month (May) and celebratory day (the 28th) dedicated to the universal act, I began to speak more openly about it.
The more I opened up, the more I started to consider how sterile the act had become for me. I’ve credited the last few years with a sexual awakening of sorts, thanks in part to my longest ever “relationship” (seven months in 2019) with a thoughtful man who also happened to be married and ethically non-monogamous. Since then, partnered sex, on the few occasions I’ve had a partner to partake with, has become better than ever. I finally know what I want and what to ask for from the men I sleep with. But this same expertise has proven detrimental when it comes to solo sexy time; I know just what to do to race to the finish line with little time or patience for romance. Over the years I placed so much focus on learning how to open myself up to others that I, in turn, closed off to myself. Then, the pandemic hit and I went months straight without feeling the touch of another human. I masturbated regularly, hoping to easy the loneliness, but it often felt more like an empty pity-fuck than anything close to intimacy.
I’d always seen sex between long-term couples in film and TV depicted as boring and obligatory. In the 2007 film Knocked Up, husband, Pete (Paul Rudd), is seen brushing his teeth and asking, “So what do you think, should we have sex tonight?” to his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann), who responds, “Uuugh. Sounds awful.” I have never reached anything close to this level of comfort and complacency with a partner, having never been in a long-term relationship. But I’ve been having sex with myself for almost 20 years now and so it begs the question; when did we (me and myself) lose that “spark” and how do we get it back? In attempting to answer this, I’ve become nostalgic for the playful innocence of discovering myself for the first time and searching for ways to return to it.
"While brushing my hair one day I stopped to consider the handle of my trusty Goody hairbrush."
The year was 2002 and I was a 14-year-old virgin with only minor experience in the likes of game-induced making-out. I’d had my first french kiss during a game of Truth or Dare on the back of a school bus, and subsequent slightly more private experiences in the closets of friend’s houses during Seven Minutes in Heaven. For the most part, though, Saturday nights were not yet filled with social engagements and instead consisted of watching TV with my parents until they retired to bed. Once I heard the the low click of their bedroom door, I switched the channel to the one that aired grainy reruns of the erotic Showtime series Red Shoe Diaries and turned the volume down low.
The vision of a young David Duchovny with his effortless coiffed hair and boxy suit jackets alone was enough to cause a tingling in my loins that I hadn’t yet learned how to placate. I’d watch as the soulful voice overs, soft jazz, and predictable storylines inevitably turned quickly into steamy encounters. Somehow the half-hour show would always manage to feature at least two sex scenes; even if the story line suffered for it. Soft and hazy close ups of various naked and intertwined body parts would cross fade into overhead views of women writhing on top of men, legs splayed out to the side, backs arched and perfect breasts on display to the gods. Most notable to me were the looks of divine ecstasy painted onto the women’s beautiful faces.
I knew there was no hope to replicate this with a human man, but I began to wonder if I could elicit a similar response through DIY methods. I learned about masturbation through movies like American Pie, and through schoolyard chatter. I also discovered what dildos looked like in some of those movies and once from rebelliously sneaking into the local Aren’t We Naughty store in my hometown. So, I set out to find something sturdy and cylindrical that might do the trick. While brushing my hair one day I stopped to consider the handle of my trusty Goody hairbrush. It was long, smooth, silicone, and perfectly rounded at the tip. I’d found my tool.
"The journey was my Everest, and the orgasm was my view from the top."
After giving that handle a thorough cleaning, I began the process of self exploration sitting in my blue and white cloud printed blow up chair. The chair squeaked in response to each movement I made; not so subtle. I tried different locations within the confines of my bedroom—the floor, the bed, the built-in alcove seat—and different techniques with my tool of choice—insertion, up and down rubbing, circular motions. I gathered more fodder, whenever I could, from my late night viewings, occasionally supplementing with Sex With Sue for a more educational angle. Eventually, when my efforts paid off I reacted just as I’d seen the women on screen do; whether learned or innate, I don’t know. As I laid on the floor with a hairbrush between my legs, the ecstasy quickly faded but I basked in the afterglow of my meticulous dedication. The journey was my Everest, and the orgasm was my view from the top.
Nowadays, I’m a 33-year-old woman with her own apartment, credit card, and internet connection. There are endless content options available and geared toward enhancing women’s pleasure—Ferly, OMGyes, and XConfessions, to name a few—many of which I’ve tried, and liked, but never seem to stick with. I might have the technology and personal freedom I so longed for as a teenager staring wide-eyed at ‘90s softcore erotica in low-def, but what I lack now is the patience, naivety, and curiosity. Back then it was the process I found so enticing. Now, there is barely one. I know it’s possible for me to enjoy the build up again and to continue to discover new things about my own pleasure—I plan to allow myself the time to do just that by channeling my inner teenager. Though I’ve long since retired my trusty Goody and upgraded to a USB rechargeable model from Dame, I find myself longing to return to the basics. I signed up for a week-long challenge with Ester Perel on the art of solo foreplay and have been getting back in touch with myself through meditation, journaling, and, well, touch.
If all else fails, I also discovered a website that streams four seasons of Red Shoe Diaries and now I can turn the volume up as loud as I want.
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