Growing up, did you doubt or disregard self-pleasure simply because it wasn't normalised and spoken about? Media and Pop culture, which we often look up to for a reflection of our lives, have lacked or misrepresented the act of female sexual pleasure, thus leading to guilt and confusion and adding to the stigma associated with self-pleasure. Pop culture influences almost every aspect of our lives, our sex life is no exception. In this article, we will trace down what pop culture has to say about self pleasure.
Depiction of sexual pleasure, or suggestion of them, has been extremely common in media and pop culture. However, for a long time, it was restricted to sex or simply pleasure involving your partner– not alone! When masturbation did become a subject on the big screen, it was extremely centric to male pleasure. The reason is no surprise; female pleasure has been highly tabooed, not spoken enough of and is also associated with shame. The only explanation to this is that society views partner sex as the only legitimate form of sex—or maybe it’s because we're taught that masturbation is a word to be muttered and not shouted out loud!
Growing up in a society where self-pleasure is a BIG no no and for a generation that looks up to the media for influence in all sectors of society and life, the obvious question to ask here is, how has pop culture reflected female self-pleasure? While male pleasure is a part of most show scripts (at least in the form of a dirty joke), it's not the same case for the ladies. Hence, self-pleasure has been associated with an equal amount of guilt that comes with the big O! and that's not fair.
What we consume for entertainment does have an impact on us in more ways than we are aware of. So, if you've put yourself in Kate Winslet's shoes while watching Titanic, you're not alone. However, it's not the curiosity in question here. The question is, when touching yourself is considered as an act of sin, what has pop culture been doing about it?
However, you ought to differentiate between the intentions of "daring" filmmakers to gather an audience and the desire to embed sex positivity through self-pleasure into their films. The message relayed is not to turn a movie into a porno but to know the difference between the both. However, recent years have shown a shift, with female self-pleasure being a topic in light in pop culture, not as a stunt to attract a larger audience but to normalise the talk about women's pleasure.
From Monica's seven erogenous zones in the iconic sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S to Netflix's Sex Education (the name suggests it all), questions about female pleasure have been around in pop culture for a while.
What did the 90s say about self-pleasure?
The 90s mostly screened only the boys having all the fun. Only if using a dildo was as hyped as Jason Biggs being "creative" with an apple pie in American Pie and Alexander Portnoy jacking off with a piece of raw liver. Pantries put to alternative use? While male hormones were mostly the subject of jokes, alas, female pleasure received quite the opposite reaction!
While you may look out for the mention of Alyson Hannigan about sticking a flute up her vagina in American pie, we can indeed say that women touching herself is not just a minor scene in pop culture anymore. These dimensions were explored by Aimee Lou Wood in Netflix's Web Series Sex Education. The episode about her discovering self-pleasure makes an emphasis on the fact that different things are pleasurable to different people. Indeed, masturbation isn't as simple as two flowers coming together.
HBO's Euphoria, though circling around messed up teenagers and eye make up to die for, has contributed some of its screen time to self pleasure.
Self-love and its debut in the Music Industry
Music hasn't disappointed us lately. SNL's take on the ways of prepubescent girls discovering a little about pleasure in a music video titled First Got Horny 2 U , had its viewers and admirers giggling. One can witness members of the faux girl band humping couches, scooting across floors, and giving a proper nod to the portable shower head over The Nanny’s Maxwell Sheffield and the Menendez brothers.
We don't stop at that. Beyonce and Nicki Minaj’s Feeling Myself gave us the masturbation anthem! Now you know what happens when two fiery women of the industry come together to give you a reason to take some time to yourself to get the boat rocking.
Indian Cinema and orgasms!
Indian Cinema has run a reality check on female pleasure too. Here are 3 Indian productions that stop the shush on women's sf pleasure. With the stigma associated with female pleasure and people still obsessing over women's virginity, watching these movies with your parents in the room may lead to awkward silences. But, Bollywood and Indian media did decide to break the silence with a loud moan. Lust Stories on Netflix features four short film segments, giving the Indian audience a new perspective.
However, you don't need the title of a movie to start with lust to see more about masturbation in the media. Usha Bauji's character in Lipstick Under My Burkha emphasises on the sexual desires of older women, sticking a twin arrow on both taboos pertaining to gender based and age based constraints around self-pleasure.
The list of movies is endless but the ways in which they are perceived are different. In the movie Veere Di Wedding, the makers ended up pointing out a much larger issue, without intending to. While Sakshi's husband asks her for a divorce after he stops her using her vibrator, the movie passes a message that Women in control of their sexual lives seem to unsettle people.
With both sexual pleasure and self-pleasure being a topic open for representation, its impact on sex positivity is mightier than it seems. The way the media portrays topics that have been stigmatised for discussion, directly impacts the viewers' take on them. While Manzuri strives to build a sex positive society, aiding women to discover and understand their bodies in ways they never did before, a louder voice in the media helps us work closer towards our goal.
As viewers, it is our discretion as well as our responsibility to choose what we wish to view, thus deciding the society we wish to build. Although the representation of self-pleasure in pop culture has come a long way with proper facts backing up the scenes we watch, we still have a lot to debunk, one orgasm at a time!