An ongoing series about the life of Joanne Marsh, with illustrations from Giovanna Casotto.
Hello. My name is Joanne. I’m twenty-eight. And I’m going to talk about masturbation. And men.
Men are fascinated by a self-satisfied woman, and intimated too, in almost equal measure. It draws them in, but it bothers them too.
I know this because I am a self-satisfied woman. I have been satisfying myself, most profoundly, since I was a teenager.
I think it must be the look on my face, or something to do with the set of my shoulders, or the tone of my voice. Or it might be pheromones, or some other subliminal signal I give off, that says:
Good things happen to me, boys. Very good things.
Whatever it is, it is powerful.
I started masturbating when I was pretty young (about twelve) and I got good, fast. But even up until the age of about fifteen, I remember thinking that there must have been some kind of mistake. I honestly did not think it was possible that I could find so much pleasure in something that was a normal part of me, something that was always there.
It wasn’t a self-esteem issue – I was always a confident girl. But I suppose when you grow up, you are surrounded by parents and teachers and people who are supposed to know more than you do, and you think that they are in control, and they can tell you what is going on.
So when I found out that there was something very wonderful and important that I could do whenever I wanted, I assumed that someone was supposed to talk to me about it, and make some kind of assessment.
At first I thought it would be my mother. I remember her talking to me when I was really young, maybe still only eleven, and saying something very vague, like:
‘Jo-Jo, you are at an age when you are starting to change. There are parts of you that will start to feel different in the next few years, like your nipples and your vagina. They are yours, and they are private and special. You will know what I mean soon. And if you ever want to come and talk to me about them, you can.’
About six months later, I started to work out what she was talking about, after eavesdropping on some older girls at school. And indeed, it was very special.
I kept expecting my mother would say more, or ask me how things were going. Wasn’t she going to ask about how I was getting on? I was getting on great, thanks. But she never asked.
After that, I remember thinking that a doctor, a man, was going to find out what I was doing. I even imagined some kind of examination, after which he would tell my parents that somehow my vagina was set “too high”. Then he would use some sort of knob in the back, to turn it down again to the normal level.
Then the next year we had sex education class and I worked out, officially, that all those things I’d been having for the past year were definitely orgasms, and there wasn’t some other even bigger thing waiting for me. I was not disappointed.
I still remember those classes, with all the boys saying ‘gross’ when they saw their first pussy, except for the few ones who had already seen one, and then everyone knew what type of boy was what. The girls just laughed when they saw the pictures of the penis, even the ones who had already seen one, and the boys just looked embarrassed. Like most of us, I had not seen one yet, and didn’t much want to.
After that, I started talking with some of the other girls at school, all giggled whispers in the yard or behind the sports shed. I remember one girl told me that if I got myself close, and then waited, in the end the orgasm would be much bigger.
This didn’t seem to fit with my experience at all.
Nor did I understand it when someone told me that you couldn’t put anything inside your vagina, because it would hurt and you would bleed. That’s what the girl’s mother had said.
But I already knew very well that this was far from true.
But then, I was always a bit different. I didn’t understand the appeal of boys, or jump rope, or horses.
I was into books about nature, and the history of exploration. I wanted to be an adventurer, and I was only just growing out of the habit of making up detailed fantasy islands in the Atlantic, which I would one day be the first to discover. I had whole exercise books filed with them.
I still have those books, and when I read them, I wonder how I could have been so boyish, without ever having been called a tomboy.
I’m certainly not a tomboy, now…
To Be Coninued