The Third Culture Opinion

Taboo: you and your vagina

         the-painting-palace

Words by Millenial May Thu


           Female masturbation— do these two words together make you anxious? Scandalized? Or even so appalled that you might not read the rest of this article? Then you must ask yourself the question of why. Why is female masturbation scary and why is it so taboo. In Burmese culture and society, the topic of sex is taboo. People like to joke about it, hint at it, and even insinuate it in the major media platforms. Nonetheless, many people still avoid the conversation of sex. One could say that Burmese are pretty anal about it. 

           Talking about sex in this context means delving into the concept of it for either an educational or personal matter. There is a shameful imbalance between health and taboo in our society. The importance of reproductive health and sex positivity is overruled by the mere perception that it is an unsuitable topic of discourse. Often the only lesson being thought to people is to stay celibate till marriage. But there is a misconception in Burmese society that talking about sex means conversing in sin. In reality, it means having a good understanding of your body and yourself.

           Unless one seeks it out for themselves, there is no mandatory program designed to teach sex education to the public. This creates for larger and more menacing problems such as the spread of STDs and STIs, and not having access to birth control. What is more distressing is that our heath institutions themselves do not have a strong understanding of sex and sexuality. Our government officials are so backward they think banning contraception such as condoms, birth control will stop people from having sex! Guess who got a big surprise there? But on a more serious note, this kind of banning is what spreads sexually transmitted diseases and infections as well as cause unwanted pregnancies.

           So today in honor of international women’s day and as a proclamation of self-love and sex positivity, we are going deep into the pleasures of masturbation.

           Now when you hear the word masturbation who do you see? A man or a woman? Now answer truthfully.

           If your answer was male, then you are part of the majority of society who have been taught into thinking the default that only men can masturbate. Surprise! We do it too.

           First off, masturbation–female or not is nothing to be ashamed of. It is common for media, religions, and society to make fun of masturbation and shame it. Really masturbation is a natural act of self-pleasure. Even it’s definition is quite simple, stating that masturbation is the sexual stimulation of one’s own genitals. Once we break it down that way, female masturbation is not that taboo. People make it taboo, as we do with many other topics such as sex, sexuality, and gender. Often people may call these subjects “unnatural” or even “immoral” but let us think about it logically.

Which is more unnatural?

A. You touching your genitals.

B. Someone telling you not to touch your genitals.

Now keep in mind, they are your genitals, not someone else’s! So you can really do whatever you want with your genitals in private.

           Some more religious and conservative people even claim that masturbation is the devil’s persuasion or a sign of corruption. Some may even go as far as to say sex positivity is a sign that human being’s moral corruption and this will end the world. But if this were true, we would all be dead.

           Historically, instances and methods of female masturbation can be traced 28,000 years back. Don’t believe me? In 2005 a phallic stone artifact was identified as a dildo by an archaeologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany. In some ancient cultures, female masturbation was used as religious rituals to insure a good harvest season. Female masturbation was even prescribed by doctors to cure insomnia, nervousness and relief psychological illnesses! 

           But you may say, “Wait, but all these examples are from different cultures and countries with different values from Myanmar.” Yes, you are correct. These are examples taken from different periods of time and places with different cultural values than our own. But this does not mean that they are invalid because biologically we have similar wants and desires as women and as human beings.

           Sexual pleasure is important physically and emotionally. Biologically, when you masturbate and reach orgasm (or not). Your brain releases endorphins, dopamine, and prolactin which makes you less stressed blocks pain receptors and helps you sleep better. Masturbation also strengthens your pelvic floor muscles preventing bladder disorders, prolapse of the vagina, and pain in the pelvic area.

           Emotionally you get the benefit of the release of endorphins but also the ability to love and appreciate your body. You will be surprised the number of women who have not touched or even looked at their own vaginas. Sadly most of the time they have been told it is sinful, immoral and wrong to express self-love and sex positivity. Understanding the body you live in is fundamental to your overall health. Personally, I know older women in my own social circle who have vaginal prolapse and bladder disorders that could have been prevented if they had had more opportunities to learn more about their bodies. 

           We need to start looking at sex, and self-love as a natural fact and stop making it taboo. Sex education classes can only teach you so much about the reproductive system, but you are responsible for knowing your own mind and body. And more importantly knowing that you and only you have control over your gender and sexuality— not society or your families, husband or wife.

           So this International Woman’s day make yourself feel good and don’t feel guilty about it. If this is your first time even thinking about it, don’t be shy to read more about it. Websites like Women’s Health Magazine, Cosmopolitan or even Youtube Channels such as Lacigreen talk about sexuality and sex education. Get involved with women’s empowerment groups such as Strong Flower, Myanmar Women’s Self Defense Center and Akhaya Women Myanmar.

If you like it, tell a close friend and spread the word ladies, it’s time to break this taboo.

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