Hey, Ladies: Pop Culture Lessons On Masturbation

From Broad City, 2.8

From Broad City, 2.8

Unpacking years of shame takes time, but I’m grateful to have had a little help from my fellow ladies along the way, both on- and off-screen.

For most of my early years, I did not know that women masturbated. I mean, I obviously understood that you could cross your legs in Just The Right Way while watching Odette and Prince Derek make out in The Swan Princess, but I had no idea there was a name for it. I knew that men masturbated, because duh they talked about it all the time, but from what I gathered at hushed sleepover conversations, “Girls don’t masturbate, right? I don’t masturbate. Do you masturbate? Can girls masturbate? I don’t think they can — I’m pretty sure my mom doesn’t.”

Turns out they totally can, and they totally do. Learning this was a process, one I have to admit I’m still in the middle of. Unpacking years of shame takes time, but I’m grateful to have had a little help from my fellow ladies along the way, both on- and off-screen. Today, I honor those women who came (LOL, GET IT? CAME?!) to share their wisdom with me through movies and TV.

Presenting, 4 Formative Faps: A Masturbatory Coming-Of-Age Chronicle

The “Electric Ear Cleaner” From Parenthood


Age: 10

Location: Living Room, with my parents

Thoughts: WHAT ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH IS THAT? Is the mom from Edward Scissorhands screaming because she’s embarrassed about that thing or scared of it? I’m thinking both. Do you, like, stick it up there? It looks like a candlestick. Is that what a penis is supposed to be like? Are penises THAT LONG? Why is she carrying a penis candle around in her purse? AND TO A DINNER?! Is Steve Martin going to go wash his hands? This is a mess.

"That One Scene" From Pleasantville

Age: 14

Location: Freshman Life Skills Class (it was literally called Success 101, wtf high school)

Thoughts: What just happened. Elle Woods just told this lady how to touch herself in the bathtub and now AN ACTUAL TREE IS ON FIRE. And the wallpaper is in Technicolor? Is this what the Wizard of Oz was actually about? Oh my god — do you think Dorothy masturbated while she was waiting for that tornado to stop and the whole part where she’s in Oz is just a really sublime orgasm? Everything I know is a lie. This would be so much less uncomfortable if all the guys were laughing about this instead of sitting in stunned silence.

“Go Home And Touch Yourself” From Black Swan

(The only links to this scene are handheld camera shots of TV screens uploaded onto porn sites by weird men, but you know what part I’m talking about.)

Age: 18

Location: Parents’ converted garage with best friend

Thoughts:  HER MOM IS IN THERE. HER. MOM. IS. IN. THERE. This is some Alfred Hitchcock creepy Psycho masturbation bullshit going on and I am not here for it at all. I’m not masturbating in this house ever again OH MY GOD THAT WAS TERRIFYING. No wonder Natalie Portman went crazy — I would too if I could never get off without my mom staying posted in my creepily infantile room like that. Jesus. Feeling #blessed I was always too fat for ballet.

“Ilana Gets In The Mood” from Broad City

Age: Also 18

Location: Also my parents’ converted garage with same best friend (Shout out to H, who once paused an episode of Cosmos after I walked into her room and told me, “Sorry — was masturbating to Neil deGrasse Tyson.” Same.)

Thoughts: YAS KWEEN, YAS. I need that ridiculous lipstick and an oyster shell to drink from like a mermaid warrior queen. Is it still cultural appropriation if I’m buying those “Latina” hoop earrings for the sole purpose of replicating this scene? Please advise.

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