Q. I’m fourteen and masturbate very frequently — especially when it’s close to my period. And sometimes during (I read that it can relieve cramps… it works). However I’m not sure if this is normal. Can you tell me if this unusual or unhealthy?
A. My love, I dare you to tell me the definition of normal.
Actually, before you give me that exact answer which can then be the blanket response to everything thus going forward, I want to tell you a story about Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor was born in my hometown of Savannah, self-described from birth as a “pigeon-toed child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex.” At six, she claims she had peaked with her greatest accomplishment: teaching a chicken to walk backwards. She began writing what she is now so commonly known for as a reaction towards being diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, a disease that eventually took away her ability to walk. She also became wildly fascinated by birds — the more exotic, the better. Birds to her were the symbols of everything she could not particularly do at that given time. She couldn’t even walk, much less fly. She never married, was a devout Catholic, and was a bit of a shut-in, obsessed with the strange nuances of human behavior.
For all intents and purposes, Ms. O’Connnor was not normal. Not even in the ballpark.
And thank god, because that “not normal” ended up contributing to Western literature in one of the greatest ways possible, igniting interest in Southern literature beyond the pale grotesque. She radically shifted the focus of a region in a way that may seem relatively retrograde now, but was an act of literary revolution.
Now, how this relates to you masturbating frequently, you may be blanking on. That’s okay. Keep with me.
O’Connor in her day was considered “not normal.” “Unhealthy” might have even been used. She wasn’t masturbating frequently (as far as we know) but she was an unmarried woman who was not only educated, but found pleasure in writing — not in bearing children or bearing a husband. She lived alone with a bunch of birds, filling pages with stories that touched on only most bizarre aspects of the human condition — one may even stretch so far as to say that she took a sort of pleasure in it. A self-defined pleasure that was only touchable by her, even if it meant for a few minutes.
Frankly my dear, don’t ask what is normal. Don’t give a fuck about normal.
Especially when it comes to your own pleasure. That bears repeating: Especially when it comes to your own pleasure. If I had a nickel for every time something in this world made a woman or girl feel self-conscious about some aspect of her sexuality, I’d have a bag full of nickels that I’d use to beat them over the head. But I don’t got nickels — just the same sort of internal baggage that gets carried from sexual experience to sexual experience, each slowly informing you in the back of your head, asking you, “is this normal?” as opposed to telling you, “fuck normal.”
Yes, even grown women still have to deal with “normal.” Grown women especially. Sometimes we think we have played the game on “normal” and then all the sudden, there we are, falling back into the “normal” trap over something that would otherwise be a pleasurable, safe, great experience. We get caught up in that sticky, black thought process that plays like a twisted slideshow of all the “normal” we think we are supposed to be, all the “normal” in which we have failed spectacularly, all the “normal” that even as grown adults who have read bell hooks and bought vibrators and learned to love yourself radically, babe, we still get caught up in.
I’m not even sure if anyone seems to actually know what that word means anymore. Especially in the realm of sexual behavior. Masturbation used to be considered a sickness, something that was pathologized and treated on the same scale as psychosis, and yet, pederasty was considered the only way to lose your virginity in ancient Greece. Normal is vaginal rejuvenation surgery and rape culture, and abnormal is women’s sexual pleasure and expression. Normal is men living within a tight box of masculinity and “manhood” with no sort of emotional leeway or impetus to grow beyond “manning up” and women living in an even tighter box of expectation, moral, and value, a place where society in general comfortably lays all its neurosis and fictions about what women should be. Normal is purity balls and no sex education. Normal is sitting back and thinking of England.
Normal doesn’t even know what the fucks it wants anymore.
And while you’re at it, fuck yourself, but not in the way I would hope you fuck “normal.” I want you, in the most boundary-appropriate way a grown adult can tell a fourteen-year-old can, to enjoy your body, enjoy your pleasure. Not for anyone’s consumption, not for anyone’s viewing. For you. Don’t worry about “normal.” You’ve never been normal and you’ll never be normal.
Besides — why be normal when you can be happy?
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