Just six minutes into the first episode of season 2 of Dear White People, we get a shot of something we rarely see on TV: a woman masturbating. Sam (Logan Browning) is getting down with herself in her dorm room and seemingly having a great time. But the moment quickly turns awkward when Sam's roommate, Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson) walks in and catches her in the act. Sam yelps, drops her shiny, silver vibrator, and demands to know why Joelle wasn't still at study group (study group was an hour ago and Sam had apparently been at it for a while).
Joelle kindly offers to never speak of this moment again, until she realises why Sam was masturbating. Sam was just about to head to a film class where her ex Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) is the teacher's assistant. "Wait, were you pre-bating?" Joelle asks.
If you're perplexed by the term "pre-bating," that's okay, so was Sam. Joelle explains it as, "When you take care of yourself so you don't lose your mind in the company of problematic dick." Urban Dictionary has a slightly different definition: "Pre-bating is masturbating before an event or function. Think: There's Something About Mary." No matter the definition, if it's pre-date or before you plan to be around someone you shouldn't sleep with, the gist is that masturbating before a sexually-charged event can lower your libido so that you're more relaxed, clear-headed, and less likely to make unfortunate choices.
The logic is easy to follow, but is pre-bating actually helpful?
It absolutely can be, says Megan Stubbs, PhD, a board-certified sexologist. Getting off, whether through sex or masturbation, has many benefits, and that can include helping you avoid sleeping with someone you shouldn't, or thinking about nothing but sex on a big date. "Masturbating does help stop you from craving that 'problematic dick' because then you're already satiated and you're more relaxed," Dr. Stubbs says. Having an orgasm can also give you a "warm, healthy glow" that could give you a nice boost before your date, too. (Hey, it can't hurt to be glowing.)
Pre-bating can also help with your confidence. "If pre-bating makes a person feel more in control and confident, that leads to overall sexiness," says Laura Deitsch, PhD, resident sexologist with Vibrant. That's a great thing — if you're actually able to focus on something other than sex afterwards. Pre-bating to take your mind off sex does have the potential to backfire and turn you on even more, especially if you (like Sam) are thinking of the person you want to avoid having sex with while you're masturbating. So, Dr. Deitsch warns to "practice judiciously." You know your body better than anyone else, so use your best judgment.
Whether or not pre-bating is an effective strategy for you, Dr. Stubbs is happy to see female masturbation take centre stage on television. "There's still the societal taboo that says, Well, men jerk off, but if women masturbate then we say, What's wrong? Why are you single? Are you lonely? Wouldn't you prefer a boyfriend?" she says. So, if you learn anything from Sam's experience, let it be that women do masturbate — and we pre-bate, too.
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