The first time I masturbated I didn’t know whether I had orgasmed or not. I come from a conservative family in a conservative society. I did not grow up hearing about masturbation or sex at all. What I knew about orgasms was only what I had read in romance novels. And honestly, mine was kind of underwhelming compared to what I had read. “Is that it?” I wondered. I wanted to know how an orgasm is supposed to feel, how it feels for other people. Do they also take ages to reach climax? Is it kind of disappointing for them too?
(This piece is going to be littered liberally with rhetorical questions, much like life.)
But I didn’t feel like I could ask anyone. I knew a couple of my college friends would be willing to tell me, but for some reason I was hesitant. It was a combination of a deep hesitance to bring up the topic at all and the slight shame of being so inexperienced that I didn’t know what an orgasm should feel like.
I had a vague conversation with one of my school friends (who was also my roommate in college) once, on a rooftop bar two drinks in. Let us call her Rhea*.
Rhea is a part of my school friend group. We have known each other for 10 years, some of us even longer than that. Rhea and I discussed how it took me a long time to reach orgasm while it took her only a few minutes. This was my only point of reference – I wondered if there was something wrong with me.
And somehow even in that open and trusting environment, with one of my best friends in the world, I could not ask about her orgasm.
As I write this article, I am a little surprised at myself. I know she would not have judged me. We knew everything else about each other’s lives. I also considered myself to be a liberal, well-read, and worldly person, someone who understood the restrictions placed upon me by the conservative society I lived in.
I thought I had moved past these restrictions in my head, but now I know that that was not true. Even when we were already on the topic, I hesitated.
A couple of years later, I was drinking tea with another friend from the same group. Let’s call her Luna. I don’t remember how but the topic turned to masturbation. Maybe it was because I was older, or that Luna and I had been getting closer over those few months, but I mentioned something about not knowing whether what I feel are “proper” orgasms or not.
She matter-of-factly told me what it feels like and I felt a rush of affection for her. It was literally that easy. (And yes, my orgasms were fine, I was worried for no reason)
“How come we haven’t talked about this before?” Luna asked me, amazed. She told me that masturbation has a way of stimulating her and making her feel more alert after climax.
I told her that it’s the exact opposite for me – I just feel pleasantly tired and ready for bed. If you had asked me before that conversation I would have told you that of course orgasms are different for different people! But it was more theoretical in my head rather than from any actual knowledge.
The conversation was pretty fun and we decided we should talk to our other friends too, to find out how it was for them. On our next video call with the whole group, Luna brought the topic up again. There was a moment of surprise, followed by a very fun and open conversation. Everyone expressed the same surprise that this was the first time we were talking so openly about masturbation. One of them pointed out that it was probably because we had known each other when we were children – it is difficult to change the tone of conversation when you’ve known each other for so long.
Whatever the reason was, I am glad we had that talk. It was funny and supportive and made me feel closer to these girls that I already felt incredibly close to. Talking about masturbation not only helped me learn more but also helped reduce the taboo and shame I felt about it. It was a healthy conversation to have with friends and I could not recommend it enough!
*Names are changed for anonymity.
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