A New “Spin” on Gender Equity

Here is a brief read about an important topic: Gender Equity.

Let me begin with a question: Out of every ten American women, how many do you think have masturbated either as children or after they have grown up?

(While you are thinking about your answer, I will hum the Jeopardy theme song for background music…)

If your answer is 6, 7, or 8, then you are correct. Give yourself a pat on the back. You are unlike most Americans: Most Americans underestimate the number of American women masturbating. A recent survey revealed only 43% of Americans able to correctly answer this question.

Stereotypes about who is “supposed to be” masturbating (MEN! MEN! MEN! MEN! MEN!) are likely driving America’s underestimation of women masturbating.

Men do masturbate more than women (see Tables 1 and 2). However, this should not be the case.

Table 1: Percentage of Women and Men who have masturbated over their lifetimes. (Data taken from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) from Indiana University, the “largest nationally representative study of sexual and sexual-health behaviors ever fielded.” Between March and May 2009, the NSSHB collected data from 5,865 Americans between 14 and 94 years old.)
Table 2: Frequency of Women and Men masturbating over their lifetimes. (Data taken from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) from Indiana University, the “largest nationally representative study of sexual and sexual-health behaviors ever fielded.” Between March and May 2009, the NSSHB collected data from 5,865 Americans between 14 and 94 years old.)

“Should” is a dangerous judgmental word, but I am going to use it again — and again: Women should not be masturbating less than men are masturbating. In fact, on the contrary, from biological and psychological perspectives, women SHOULD be masturbating more than men are masturbating.

Biologically, women have the human body’s most erogenous organ, the clitoris. The clitoris has twice the number of sensory-nerve endings as the penis. And more than 90% of women can achieve orgasm by clitoral stimulation alone.

Psychologically, women are as likely as men to be having sex not for love, babies, or intimacy, but for pleasure (see Table 3).

So, why are women NOT masturbating as often, if not MORE often than men are masturbating?

Sociology answers this question for us. Although some women are masturbating, and most who are, are doing so only infrequently, society-in-general expects women not to be masturbating — at all. Oppressive societal actions, like shaming, labeling, and judging, that occur specifically for women who are explicit, open, and HONEST about enjoying sex and sexuality for their own sake, have unnaturally decreased the percentage and frequency of women masturbating.

This is especially disconcerting since masturbation is not only associated with women’s pleasure, but also with higher levels of self-esteem, self-identity, and longer-and-more satisfying relationships.

Despite all the long and hard-fought battles in the war for gender equity in America, this war has yet to be won. Maybe, this war will only be won when it includes the battle for masturbation equity.

References

Armstrong, E. A., Hamilton, L. T., Armstrong, E. M., Lotus Seely, J. (2014). “Good girls”: Gender, social class, and slut discourse on campus. Social Psychology Quarterly, 77, 100–122.

Horne, S., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2005). Female sexual subjectivity and well-being: Comparing late adolescents with different sexual experiences. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 2, 25–40.

Kaestle, C. E., & Allen, K. R. (2010). The role of masturbation in healthy sexual development: Perceptions of young adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 983–994.

Lucas, D. R., Roberts, C., Nylander, G., & Higdon, M. (2016). Do Americans know more about sex today than they did 25 years ago? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, Dallas, Texas.

Meston, C. M., & Buss, D. M. (2007). Why humans have sex. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 477–507.

O’Connell, H.E., Sanjeevan, K.V., & Hutson, J. M. (2005). Anatomy of the clitoris. Journal of Urology, 174, 1189–1195.

Pickel, K. L., & Gentry, R. H. (2017). Slut shaming in a school bullying case: Evaluators ignore level of harm when the victim self-presents as sexually available. Sex Roles, 76, 89–98.

Shulman, J. L., & Horne, S. G. (2003). The use of self-pleasure: Masturbation and body image among African American and European American women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 27, 262–269.

Wallen, K., & Lloyd, E. A. (2011). Female sexual arousal: genital anatomy and orgasm in intercourse. Hormones and Behavior, 59, 780–792.

Dr. Don Lucas, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology and head of the Psychology Department at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio Texas. He loves psychology, teaching, and research.

If you like this story, then check out Don’s videos on his YouTube channel, 5MIweekly: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQFQ0vPPNPS-LYhlbKOzpFw/featured, follow him on Instagram @5MIweekly, like him on Facebook: http://fb.me/5MIWeekly, and check out his website: http://5Miweekly.com

I am a Professor of Psychology at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio Texas. My research focus is human sexuality. I also host a YouTube channel, 5MIweekly.

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