Why Flo Perry is making masturbation a feminist issue

Writer and illustrator Flo Perry is on a mission to get women talking about masturbation - and kick this last taboo out of the bedroom

We’re all trying to be good feminists, and mostly there’s nothing we won’t discuss with friends, colleagues and partners to make the world a better place for us and women everywhere. But hands up anyone who openly chats about masturbation – the dos and the do yous? Flo Perry is in a unique position to talk about it – she discovered the wonders of masturbation at 13 and now the 27-year-old bisexual daughter of transvestite artist Grayson and psychotherapist Philippa, has written and illustrated a funny graphic guide called How To Have Feminist Sex. 

‘Female sexuality is still surrounded in shame, guilt and an overarching sense of what we should be doing, rather than what we want to be doing,’ says Perry. ‘So I’ve written a book because it’s time that women work out what they want from sex.’ Here, Perry shares her sexual experiences and the five lessons she’s learned about masturbation along the way.

‘I clearly remember the first time I told a friend I’d had a wank – I was 15. At the time, I didn’t know anyone else did it. I’d accidentally stumbled across it while washing with a showerhead. I thought it was a fantastic discovery, but I had a feeling that this wasn’t something to talk to anyone else about. I probably masturbated for two full years before admitting my secret to just one friend. I grew up in a relaxed household in liberal utopian north London, where the existence of sex was never a secret. But even I picked up that wanking wasn’t something girls did. I remember sitting in a sex ed class when I was 14 and a girl asking the teacher what an orgasm was like. I felt sorry for her – I definitely knew what it felt like. The teacher replied that it was easier for boys to find out because they can just do it themselves. Any shame I felt was eclipsed by the feeling these girls were seriously missing out on a good time.

‘Since I told that one friend (it went well, turns out she was also a right wanker and we talked about it all the time after that), I’ve become more interested in sex. At university, I did a chemistry degree, but might as well have got a secondary diploma in shagging about. Once, after I’d taken part in a public debate, a friend came up to me in the bar afterwards and said, “Those two boys were talking about you. Apparently, you’re a right slut.” This didn’t bother me – at home, my mum had always made it clear there was no such thing as slags and sluts, only women who were “generous with their bodies”.

‘In between shags, I also managed to find the time for student journalism and, after graduating, landed a job at BuzzFeed before going freelance. I’ve had several long-term relationships, a few more years of shagging around and I’ve moved on a lot since
I admitted to my friend I was a wanker, but the world hasn’t. Men are great at wanking. They tend to start early, do it all the time and talk about it without shame, while many women only discover masturbation after they start having sex, and many more never try it at all.

‘So here are my valuable lessons, and what we can learn from men about masturbation…’

Discover what you need from sex

If you can make yourself come, you’re gonna be a hell of a lot better at teaching someone else to make you come. A study by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in the US, revealed there’s still a large gender orgasm gap: in heterosexual relationships, men come around 85 per cent of the time they have sex, while women only manage 65 per cent. As someone who’s done a fair bit of field research with both genders, I think any theory that tries to explain this by stating it’s harder to make a woman come is total bullshit. In my experience, both genders have plenty of variation when it comes to how ‘easily’ they orgasm. Men tend to be more practised and less ashamed about making themselves come, and are more up for telling you how to do it.

Masturbate together

Masturbation doesn’t have to be something you do alone. If you struggle to come with a partner, or even if you don’t, making yourself come with someone else can be a seriously hot experience. Seeing someone make themselves come is a great way of learning how to make them come. Men do it all the time; it’s totally normal, even in porn, for sex to end with a man wanking over a woman. We should let go of the idea that if your partner doesn’t make you come, the sex has been a failure. If you’ve both had a good time, then it wasn’t a failure.

Explore your fantasies

We often wank about unrealistic, unachievable scenarios, but how those situations make you feel, and recreating those emotions in your sex life is often key to having the best sex ever. Getting to know what you think about when you come is as important as being aware of how to physically make yourself come. Sharing your fantasies with a partner is a great way for them to know you better sexually.

Cure hangovers and sleep better

Wanking doesn’t have to be something you only do when you’re not getting laid. I don’t think it’s helpful to think of masturbation as in competition with partnered sex. It can be a totally different experience. Masturbation doesn’t even need to be particularly sexy -– it’s a fantastic hangover cure, and pretty much the best way to fall asleep. You don’t even need to come from it; you can just take an extra-long time washing your bits very carefully with a showerhead and enjoy that sensation. It can also be a real self-care event: take a whole afternoon, use lube, porn and a couple of pieces of equipment. Get to know yourself and feel connected to your body. And then have the nap of your life afterwards.

Quit the guilt

I’m struggling to think of anything else that is so definitely free and not bad for your health in any way. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s good for your health because it will de-stress you and make you happier. It doesn’t make you less likely to come – in fact, you’re more likely to because you know what you’re doing. If you feel ashamed, guilty or shy about masturbating, try to let those feelings go, and relearn that it is an important part of a healthy sex life. But, if you’re happy living your life without masturbation, I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong. But I’m a big fan of wanking…and I want the whole world to know.

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