I didn’t know until college that girls can masturbate.
The possibility had never even occurred to me. As a child, I wasn’t especially curious when it came to the situation between my legs. That’s where pee came from, and that was pretty much that, right? Why would I want to interact with it outside of wiping it clean several times a day? And, even if I did, what would that be?
High school didn’t really provide any further genital insight. My Georgia public school sex education was simply: “Don’t,” accompanied by some not-so-subtle notes of, “Your cauliflower junk will make Jesus sad.” To be fair, no adult in my life ever specifically told me not to masturbate, which I realize was pretty fortunate for me. But no adult ever even mentioned that masturbation existed, either. And, like, I don’t know. The idea of discussing masturbation with any adults in my teenage life would have made me want to die, but I also think it’s bullshit that no one even slid an informational pamphlet under my door or anything.
It’s been really surprising to me to discover how many of my female-identifying friends did masturbate back in grade school days. Who told them?! It makes total sense to me why boys figure out how to masturbate. A penis is a thing. We grow up playing with things. And a penis is quite a multi-purpose toy. It bends, it stretches, it even squirts!
My vagina never felt like a toy. As previously mentioned, it was an area near which pee happened, which wasn’t super fun or interesting. But then, on my 10th Christmas Eve, my vagina straight up betrayed me. One moment I was standing in Ms. Harper’s living room, singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with my cousins. The next minute I was “Dani the Red-Pantsed Fifth Grader.” Suddenly, my relationship with my vagina was professional at best, and antagonistic at best.
Fifth grade menstrual cycle side quest: So, I spent a week of the summer after 5th grade at 4-H Camp. On one fateful night, the entire camp was to hike through the woods. When the day of the hike cake, so too did my cursed Time o’ the Month. I didn’t really understand the logistics of periods yet, so I was super unprepared. The thought of asking a strange 4-H adult for assistance mortified me, so I kept my bloody business to myself. Thinking quickly, I shoved a wad of toilet paper into my underwear before the hike, and set off into the woods.
When we returned from the hike, that toilet paper wad was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. 4-H Camp is where I learned how to make a friendship bracelet, and that life is cruel.
BACK TO OUR MAIN PROGRAMMING.
So, I didn’t know that I could masturbate, which was becoming increasingly frustrated as I became older and a little pervier. I’ve still never watched porn, but I have spent a lot of time with rated-M fanfiction. This sneaky little practice began at high school slumber parties. Picture it. A little horde of teenage nerd girls crowded around one computer, furiously giggling over the idea of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy kissing.
Oh, but then Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy were more than kissing. Oh. Oh, my.
“Ha, ha! Super gross, right?” we’d all crow. The ladies doth protest too much, am I right?
Eventually, I started seeking out sexy fanfiction all alone, outside of the safety of sleepovers. I didn’t understand a lot of the mechanics of what was happening between my favorite characters, but I knew that it made me feel really warm. Like, really warm. Especially down there. Especially when I imagined that it was my shirt that Oliver Wood was removing.
And then I was thinking about fanfiction even when I wasn’t reading it. I was replaying favorite scenes in my head while I spaced out during AP World History. My friends and I were starting to write our own fanfiction, which we wrote in a shared notebook and passed back and forth in the hallways in between classes. These stories, of course, all starred American foreign exchange students to Hogwarts who just happened to look and behave exactly like us. And, you know, have our names.
I was super geeky and horny all the time, and I had no idea what to do about it.
When I started working at the Renaissance Festival, I was suddenly surrounded by nerd friends who were older than I was, and therefore knew about all kinds of geek culture that weren’t part of my high school consciousness. On another fateful night, the gaps in my geek education were too much for one of my new best friends to handle. There were so many important nerd films that I’d never seen, mostly by virtue of the fact that they’d been released before my existence. The next morning at Faire, he handed me a box full of VHS tapes, with very clear instructions that I was to watch all of them, and to pay attention, as a quiz would be coming.
That box was a dork’s treasure chest. Willow, Legend, The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal…
And a little 1986 flick called Labyrinth.
I didn’t really get into The Neverending Story or Legend. I liked Willow. I loved The Dark Crystal.
And I was watching Labyrinth pretty much every day.
I had no idea what to do about David Bowie in Labyrinth. As I’ve written about before, I was still pretty firmly in the “Boys Drool” camp even as late as high school, but David Bowie was no boy. David Bowie was no man. David Bowie was a creature. David Bowie was a higher being on a different plane of sexy time and space. David Bowie was tight pants and eyeliner, and I would have done anything he asked me. Like, good for you, Sarah. Way to solve the Labyrinth and save Toby, but also, WHY WOULD YOU EVER WANT TO LEAVE?!
“I ask for so little,” Jareth says. “Just fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave.”
It’s a small marvel that my capris didn’t spontaneously combust.
My lust for each and every Weasley brother was nothing compared to how I felt about Jareth. Things were becoming critical. But, even when confronted with David Bowie’s tights, I still didn’t think for a moment to let my hand wander down to the underground.
Here’s what I finally came up with.
When my house was empty, I’d go down to the basement, which was divided into two big rooms. No door separated the two rooms, but there was still, you know, an entry way. Frames where a door could have theoretically gone. Nice, thick doorframes. My sweaty, little nerd brain all a-tumble with thoughts of David Bowie singing and dancing with puppets, I pressed my crotch into that doorframe with all of my might. I couldn’t have told you why, but, for the first time in my life, I experienced just the tiniest bit of sexy relief. I hadn’t solved the Labyrinth, but I’d taken my first step forward.
It would have been embarrassing, sure, but I still wish that someone had slid that fictional masturbation pamphlet under my door. Even as an adult, I still judge wanting to masturbate, personally, as a little weird. It’s never felt totally normal to me, and I think it’s because I didn’t know for so long that I even could. Masturbation feels like such an indulgent luxury, and I feel most of the time like I should have done something to deserve it. If it had been part of my sexy vocabulary since high school, though, I can’t even imagine the possibilities.
Okay, I can. And most of those possibilites involve having found myself in the Labyrinth. I’ll pretend that I’m Sarah, and that, as a far more age-appropriate adult, I’ve returned to the Labyrinth to face Jareth for the second time. For a sexy time.
And, yes. There’s a fanfiction for that. I’ve checked.