The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator

Controversially, I am going to write today about female masturbation. The reason for this is that I see and hear women in recurrent miscarriage forums (RM forums) suffering and toiling with themselves about their sexual relationship with their partners, the role of the husband in understanding their pain and their difficulties to have sex after miscarriage. Their relationship with their bodies is deeply wounded by their loss of trust in them as is their identity after the perceived loss of “womanhood” that comes from miscarriage.

This concept of “womanhood” clashes with the rise of the independent woman and feminism. The increase of women in positions of power and the rise in popularity in women’s toys for masturbation. Are we as liberated as we want to think we are? Is female masturbation acceptable and encouraged? Or is it one more guilt trip in the well of recurrent miscarriage? I argue that, perhaps, masturbation is a form of fire that stifles our self-doubt and empowers us to rise above the “failure” to bring life into the world.

Through my own eyes, I can see women being coerced and manipulated into sex and women who don’t have enough of it. There is a very common misconception in society whereby there are two kinds of women who have sex: “Independent barren? women who enjoy sex and demand their sexual needs be met” vs “women who procreate with sex”. The latter is perpetuated as the figure of the ever nurturing mother, the one who sacrifices everything to nourish other people’s needs, the one who asks for little in exchange for giving it all. In that sense masturbation emerges as a form of self-expression and freedom. It challenges the status quo. It is seen by many as an act of selfish gratification and pleasure seeking. It demonises women as a form of rebellion from the role of mother, wife, daughter and sister. A woman who doesn’t seek to procreate with sex, but to gain pleasure, recreation and release. It is seen as having an opposing role to that of the woman who suffers post partum depression, gets pregnant putting her own body and mind in jeopardy and chooses to sacrifice her career in favour of having a family. (At least this is done for the greater gain? right?)

I am now confronted by a decision that shakes the very core of my feminine/feminist values. I always wanted to be an independent woman. It was this kind of woman who fought for the right to vote, to have legal protection in their careers, to own her own property, to wear whatever the hell she wanted and to utilise sex toys if she wanted to masturbate.

I have applied to do a Masters in Education at the University of Granada. After I learnt this morning I was accepted in it, I face a very difficult dilemma. Do I register for the Masters and risk having to move to Spain imminently with the menace of Covid looming in the horizon? Or do I stay home, jobless and dedicate my whole life to doing the recurrent miscarriage investigations and subsequent treatment? Trying for a baby as my almost exclusive job? Sacrificing the very values I fought so hard to abolish in my life? I really don’t have the answers for these questions but what I do know is that my instinct is very powerful, what I like to call the baby crazy fever. I am torn between this instinct and the rationality and values of “the independent woman”. I want to summon my inner rebellious self with a shout out to masturbation and recreation as the symbol of my freedom. A barren act. There might also be an element of procrastination here…

I put on a pedestal women like Virginia Woolf who fought to have a writing voice in a room of her own. She fought to have space to be “her” unmarred by the thick veil of the revolting patriarchy. Anne Sexton also did this. Deeply mentally troubled, these women are my heroes. They fought against the current despite their mental fragility caused by the very subjugation they had to endure. I read about Virginia Woolf that it was decided by her husband that she wouldn’t have children because “it would have been detrimental to her mental health” – How on point, Mr Woolf, at least you had the decency to let her have a lesbian affair instead! Of course, sex didn’t work with you, I believe she would have bought a Satisfyer if she was born today.

When are we going to bridge this gap? Both in Spain and the UK, we still find women being undervalued and prosecuted for being women even by members of their same sex. Tales of women getting promotions “after sucking cock”, criticised for having an abortion, shouted at in the street for wearing “sexy clothing”, undervalued and criticised for being single mothers, the stigma of female promiscuity and the castigation of women who suffer miscarriage in the workplace. All of this is still rife in society as we speak. I propose we undemonise women and women’s sexuality and we acknowledge it and respect it instead, with ALL the consequences that it has.

Without further hesitation I introduce one of my favourite poems by Anne Sexton called “The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator”. Ladies, grab your satisfyer and a room of your own.

The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator

by Anne Sexton

The end of the affair is always death.   
She’s my workshop. Slippery eye,   
out of the tribe of myself my breath   
finds you gone. I horrify
those who stand by. I am fed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Finger to finger, now she’s mine.   
She’s not too far. She’s my encounter.   
I beat her like a bell. I recline
in the bower where you used to mount her.   
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Take for instance this night, my love,   
that every single couple puts together   
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,   
the abundant two on sponge and feather,   
kneeling and pushing, head to head.   
At night alone, I marry the bed.

I break out of my body this way,   
an annoying miracle. Could I   
put the dream market on display?   
I am spread out. I crucify.
My little plum is what you said.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,   
a piano at her fingertips, shame   
on her lips and a flute’s speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

She took you the way a woman takes   
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.   
Today’s paper says that you are wed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.   
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.   
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.   
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

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