If you've yet to decide what you're going to do this Valentine's Day, then here's a suggestion: Masturbate.
Whether you're single, coupled up or somewhere in between, masturbation is the gift that keeps on giving. But too many women aren't doing it, and a lot of the others won't actually talk about it.
There are still too many senseless stigmas about female masturbation, and they prevent many people from trying it or getting comfortable with it. But women can work toward shaking off those taboos themselves by embracing masturbation and talking about it freely with each other.
Shame still holds strong: Male masturbation is everywhere in the media. Just look at the movies we grew up on, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Pie to There's Something About Mary. Finding female masturbation scenes isn't nearly as easy, and movies like Single White Female depict it as an act for desperate and lonely women. Girls are only beginning to encounter such openness and transparency in pop culture when it comes to masturbation (thank you, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna!).
Sure enough, a survey of 20,000 people by the Australian Study of Health and Relationships found that embarrassment was one of the key reasons women refrain from touching themselves. It also stated that women begin to hear the stigmas that affect their behavior in the bedroom at an early age.
Women are definitely masturbating, but they still do it less than men. Of women between the ages of 25 and 29, 84.6% say they've masturbated at least once in their lives. But 1 in 6 women in that age group have never, not even once, double-clicked their mouse, so to speak.
As Mic previously reported, there are several misconceptions about female masturbation that have the power to steer women away from it: One is the delusion that it's impossible for women to masturbate, while another common concern is that it affects a woman's sex drive and her ability to enjoy sex with a partner. Those myths, combined with a lack of awareness in pop culture, can be roadblocks to pleasure.
The "last female sexual taboo": A 2002 Penn State University study found that women talk about sex with their female friends more than men do with their male friends, and they're also more comfortable with those sex-related conversations — except with it comes to masturbation.
The Telegraph noted that for all our modern-day honesty, female masturbation remains "the last female sexual taboo." Or, as Emily Shire wrote in the Daily Beast, "For women, the love that dares not speak its name is self-love." And if it does speak, it's met with "giggling and blushing."
"I used to be extremely embarrassed about masturbating. I didn't tell any of my friends in middle school or early high school and kind of thought that I was the only one who did it," one woman told Cosmopolitan.
Another woman said that it feels like she's the only one who wants to talk: "Some of my friends still get really uncomfortable talking about it. It upsets me! If I had known that other girls were masturbating, I wouldn't have waited as long as I did to do it myself!"
There are plenty of important reasons to do it: Masturbation is not only normal, it's healthy and legitimately good for you. Plus it feels phenomenal. Regular masturbation means the regular release of happy-making endorphins like dopamine and oxytocin, which can reduce stress and minimize physical pain.
It can even be used to address depression, a fact that a woman named Christa Anne has been advocating. Christa's "OrgasmQuest" is a public campaign documenting her pursuit of a daily orgasm to minimize the affects of her antidepressants. "Being able to orgasm in minutes keeps my stress and anxiety down. Orgasm is my best migraine stopper and helps with fibromyalgia flares," she wrote in the Philadelphia City Paper. "Sex and masturbation have been my saviors for combating depression."
Beyond the practical physical effects, masturbation helps women become more comfortable with their bodies and more aware of how everything's working down there. If you can get a handle on what you do and don't like sexually, you're setting yourself up for a better sex life with a partner. And since we're living in an era with oodles of sex toys to choose from, self-love and self-satisfaction are even easier to master.
That starts when we drop the judgment and normalize the act. If women can talk freely to each other about sex, talking about masturbation should follow. We need to empower each other and spread the message that a great orgasm doesn't have to include another person — not even on Valentine's Day.