Polishing the Pearl: Why Can’t We Talk About Female Masturbation?


“When I’m good, I’m very good, and when I’m bad, I’m better.” -Mae West

Jerking off. Whacking off. Whippin the bishop. Spanking the monkey, walking the dog, shucking the corn. Beating it, badgering the witness, jerkin the gherkin, bashing the candle, beating the meat, choking the chicken. And those are just the ones I could think of offhand—the lists I found on the internet are endless (and often disturbing, in case you’re wondering). One site boasted a list of 1,000 different ways to refer to a man playing 5 on 1.

But when I tried to come up with euphemisms for female masturbation—nothing but crickets. I literally could not come up with a single one on my own, and the longest list I could find was about 80 entries, 95% of which I’d never heard of. (My favorite one was “impeaching bush,” while the most offensive was “polishing a bald man in a canoe.” Why would I be polishing a bald man when I’m buffing by myself?)

So why the discrepancy? Why are we at such a loss for words when it comes to women touching themselves, but for men there are literally thousands of terms at their fingertips? (See what I did there?) Why is it that we’ve made it so easy for men to articulate themselves when it comes to sex, and so difficult for women?

It’s no secret that as a culture we allow men to be agents of their own sexuality, while women we prefer as objects to be consumed by those agents. It’s sexual politics 101: men are the aggressors, are the sexually empowered, are the horny ones, while women are generally relegated to playing defense. If a woman asks a man out, she’s “aggressive,” or worse, needy. Women are approached, men do the approaching.

And for those of you with teenagers—how do your conversations with daughters compare to those with sons? My guess is that while you warn your boys not to knock anyone up, you teach your girls to vigilantly protect their virginity that all those dirty boys are coming to take from them. It’s culturally assumed that a girl is giving something away when she has sex for the first time, rather than owning anything. We teach our girls that their sexuality is to be feared rather than possessed. 9672692663_1f7025c734

I consider myself to be fairly comfortable with my sexuality. I’m not afraid of it, and I have no problems telling my partner what I want and where I want it. And yet, I don’t talk about sex that much with my girlfriends. And in recent years, I can only remember one conversation (with someone other than a sexual partner) that was specifically about masturbation. I’d never really thought about it until I began to write this piece, but for someone in her 30s who likes to have sex and has mostly liberal, feminist-minded friends, I actually find it a bit shocking that in the last 15 years, I’ve discussed female masturbation once.

Now I ask you, male reader, how many times in your lifetime have you talked with your male friends about jerking off?

You’re probably thinking at this point, “But Dani, what about all the women in pop culture today who talk so openly about sex? Surely, the popularity of women like Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer reflect our growing comfort with women owning their sexuality, right?” (I’m sure that’s exactly what your thoughts sound like.) Well, while I will admit that women like Dunham and Schumer are opening up a much-needed dialogue, I submit that part of what makes them so popular is that they’re outliers—they talk about sex in a way that most women don’t. Part of people’s fascination (and disgust) with them is precisely their uninhibited sexual natures, which then get them labeled as deviants in some way. Amy Schumer has been called a “sex comedienne” while Dunham has been accused of being a sexual predator.8804893995_9bbb10902a

I don’t think anyone can deny that there is an ease with which we allow men to own their sexuality that is denied to women. Women who like sex are noteworthy at best, perverted at worst, while men…well, they’re just men. Boys will be boys, right? And it’s dangerous to let a tenet like that go unchallenged—it justifies a boatload of behaviors, from sexual dialogue to masturbation to full-on rape.

So in the name of ending sexism forever and saving civilization entirely—here are some creative ways to refer to a woman getting herself off. They are not Dani-originals. I wish I was that creative.

  1. Jilling off.
  2. Menage a moi.
  3. Paddling the pink canoe.
  4. Getting lost in the deep end.
  5. Fanning the fur.
  6. Polishing the pearl.
  7. Curtain twitching. (Don’t really get it.)
  8. Rubbing one in.
  9. Driving Miss Daisy.
  10. Diddling the skittle.

Do your part people. Learn them. Love them. Use them.

photo credit: {24/365} via photopin (license)

photo credit: “Give Me Serious…” via photopin (license)

photo credit: via photopin (license)


10 thoughts on “Polishing the Pearl: Why Can’t We Talk About Female Masturbation?

  1. smilecalm January 20, 2016 / 10:56 pm

    perhaps trying them out
    like the guys do, instead of
    on men’s room walls
    or barbershop conversations,
    in the women’s room
    or beauty salon.
    how about compassionately
    making self love 🙂


  2. Carolyn January 20, 2016 / 11:24 pm

    Petting the kitty 😸

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elly Lonon January 21, 2016 / 8:52 am

    I can only assume “twitching the curtains” is in reference to “meat curtains.” Or “wizard sleeves” if you prefer. Or labia.

    I feel like I’m singing the Beverly Hillbillies song here….Texas T, black gold….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cel January 21, 2016 / 11:46 am

    I’d heard ‘flicking the bean’ before, but those are all new to me. Seems to me it all ties in with the fact that, not only is women’s sexuality seen as more passive, but since many women require more time and effort to achieve orgasm compared to men, that it’s a selfish thing, so we’re quiet about it. It’s almost shameful that a pure, perfect woman could debase herself in such a way, yet completely alright for men. Which is sad, frankly, especially when you consider that many women don’t figure out how to properly pleasure themselves until far into adulthood, and so their sex life suffers because they can’t communicate to their partners how to pleasure them when they have no real idea – or simply feel too ashamed to say anything about it – themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. KMac January 21, 2016 / 5:08 pm

    From a dude’s perspective, the idea of female masturbation is both exciting and comforting…exciting because it is still not really out there, and comforting because if women are not open to pleasuring themselves and are waiting for men to get them to the promised land, we are all in a lot of trouble!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Amanda Magee (@AmandaMagee) January 22, 2016 / 8:29 am

    I requested an Adam & Eve catalog be mailed to me in college. My roommate was apoplectic when it came. Sex toys? masturbation? Never, ever, ever, get it out. I was baffled. I grew up without much conversation about any of this, but it existed. It happened. We all need to work on chucking the cloak of shame. Loved every last stroke of this one.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Kitten Holiday January 23, 2016 / 11:29 pm

    Great post! We should definitely talk more openly with each other about our sexuality, our drives, our urges. I think things are moving in the right direction. While men joke about masturbation a lot, they still do not really have open, insightful conversations about sex. Sex is still a taboo subject. Joking about it seems to be fine but taking it seriously is off limits! Great to start the dialogue. I look forward to more of your posts!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Jessica April 13, 2016 / 5:13 pm

    I haven’t heard of any of those, but I have heard it called “tending the garden”.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. iwillnotliveinvain September 4, 2016 / 10:26 pm

    “Jilling off” seems so obvious! Why hadn’t I thought of that before?? Also Menage a Moi might have to make it into my vocabulary LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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