I Used To Feel Ashamed About Masturbating, Now I Talk About It All The Time

Illustrated by Sophie Brampton
When I was 15, I was very confused about my body. I had braces and an uncomfortable smile but a huge pair of JJ boobs had appeared suddenly on my chest. At that point I became jealous of my dog, Molly.
I remember one hot summer's day, my grandma and I were sitting in my garden when Molly came out and, right in front of us, started to hump her favourite teddy bear. Absolutely no care in the world. Molly knew what she wanted, and she got it.
I was so jealous of Molly. Not because I wanted to hump a teddy bear in front of my grandma and all our neighbours – obviously not, the grass stains would never come out. I was jealous of Molly because she had zero shame about wanting to give herself pleasure. Molly felt so comfortable with masturbation, she’d do it for the whole world to see. I felt Molly was rubbing it in my face because, by this time, I’d been wanking secretly for five years.
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My first wank happened when I was in primary school. It was inspired by a very important moment in history: Kim Kardashian and Ray J’s sex tape. Yes, the moment that put Kim and her family on track for world domination was also the moment that introduced me to my own…clit domination.
This was my first experience of sex with myself. It made my vagina feel light and airy, like a hot air balloon. Sadly this moment of bliss didn’t last very long; it was followed immediately by shame. Unlike Molly, I was convinced I was doing something wrong. But I kept doing it. I know now that’s because my urges were, and are, normal. But no one had ever told me that.
In sex education at school, we learned about wanking as though it were just for boys. "Boys will be boys," my science teacher told my class of girls in year 8. "They’ll have urges to touch themselves, it’s totally normal." For boys, the first wank was a graduation to manhood. A cumming of age.
I was desperate to know where that left me. If wanking was like Yorkie bars and casual sexism – just for boys – then what was this thing that I was doing to myself, all the time? What was the word for that?
Female pleasure has always had a tough time getting the recognition it deserves. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was something known as an 'anti-masturbation movement' among doctors. These doctors (all male, of course) believed that masturbation was a heinous act and should be banned. They believed that if women wanked, they would end up with all kinds of illnesses. These included uterine cancer, epilepsy, depression and – my personal favourite – bad posture.
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Illustrated by Sophie Brampton
Dr John Harvey Kellogg, the founder of the cereal empire, was one of the leading voices in the anti-masturbation movement. Believing that flavourful foods encouraged masturbation, Dr Kellogg came up with a cereal so bland that it would put people off wanking altogether. And so cornflakes were born.
Let me tell you this: I ate cornflakes all through my teens and it didn't stop me wanking. How do you like that, Dr Kellogg?
When eventually I came to have sex with another person, I was disappointed. It was so bad, I wanted to know who I could sue. I felt like someone who had bought a ticket for Fyre Festival. Real sex seemed like a pound shop version of what I’d been giving myself for years.
Boys my age didn’t know what the clit was or the different ways that women can reach orgasm. The porn from which they’d been learning about sex made them think all they needed to do was stick it in and my vagina would melt – like chucking a garlic baguette in the oven.
I didn’t say any of this at the time because, of course, I still thought this thing I’d been doing with myself was a horrible crime.
My revelation didn’t happen until a decade after my first wank. I was 20 years old when a friend of mine told me she, too, started humping things as a child and went on to wank throughout her teens. I couldn't believe it; in seconds, I was relieved of my dirty secret. It transformed into a normal fact of life.
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Once I started talking about wanking, I couldn’t stop. I’d talk to anyone who would listen.

Once I started talking about wanking, I couldn’t stop. I’d talk to anyone who would listen. I soon realised I was one of many women who had been secretly wanking for years. My friends Scarlett Curtis, Alice Skinner and Honey Ross, with whom I cofounded the Pink Protest, all had similar experiences to me. We realised that many young girls don’t have the space to talk about wanking so we decided to start #girlswanktoo. It was simple – all we wanted to do was get girls talking. We hosted an incredible event which was full of young girls opening up and asking questions about their pleasure. Honey said afterwards: "It felt like everything my 14-year-old self needed."
I am glad to be rid of the shame that surrounded my wanking habits when I was younger, but I feel sad for my teenage self who had to go through it. No one should feel ashamed of wanting to explore their sexuality, alone.
What’s brilliant is that we’re now witnessing a boom in solo sex. Tech retailers are clocking on to how much demand there is for nice, specific vibrators. As Grace Gould, founder of tech retailer SODA, says: "We now have sex tech for every personality."
Whoever you are, wherever you are, the more you explore yourself, the better your sex will be. So tell everyone you know: #girlswanktoo.
Grace Campbell is a comedian, writer, and cofounder of the Pink Protest. Grace is currently writing her debut Edinburgh show, 'Why I’m Never Going Into Politics'. Follow her @disgracecampbell for information on upcoming shows.
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