Get Physical

Everybody Masturbates, Not Everyone Votes

by Jessa Chargois

Flicking the bean?

Having some “alone” time?

Jerkin’ it?

A girls’ night in?

Beating around the bush?

Taking care of business?

Regardless of the euphemism you prefer, the fact remains that plenty of men and women out there will greet you with stigma, misinformation, and shame for voicing your desire to double-click your own mouse. We are taught from an early age that teenage boys are overwhelmed with hormones and that we, innocent young ladies or non-binary femmes, must dress conservatively, as not to tempt the insatiable pubescent men from succumbing to their desires. If we are caught out late at night, it can be our fault if we tempt a stranger, because we may be dressed as if we are asking for it. We are called a slut, whore, or worse, if we publicly talk about sexual desires, acts, or fantasies. We, as a culture, some of us might remain complicit, rewarding aggressors with Supreme Court positions, presidencies, comedic legacies, and reduced criminal sentences because of their male, often white, privilege. So, let’s do something about it and take back our bodies, inside and out.

You should be spending quality time with your own bodies. Self-pleasure has an array of mental, emotional and physical benefits that will improve your daily life, along with feeling fucking amazing. I implore you to take control of your own body in other ways, from meditating to taking a hot photo just for yourself — if you don’t embrace your “imperfections” (according to societies’ warped ideals), who else will? In the case of the female “O”, the personal is political. Masturbating is about owning your sexuality, exploring your independence and desires.

Let’s say you find yourself more stressed than usual, possibly related to societal norms and pressures placed on women/non-binary femme, and you decide hey, maybe I’ll take some alone time tonight for myself. You light a few candles, peruse the internet for a favorable video, searching for a scene where the female acts upon her own agency rather than serving as a sexual tool. You settle in for an orgasm, or two, or five, and something feels a little off to you. Or let’s say, there’s a foreign itch down there. You’ve made the classic mistake of trusting WebMD’s preposterous diagnosis and are convinced that you have forty-eight hours to live. But before you start saying your goodbye’s, you make an appointment at your local clinic to have a professional medical examination. It turns out you have a slight UTI, but you caught it early and, shockingly, still have a future ahead of you. The nurse writes you a prescription for antibiotics and lots of cranberry juice. After a few days, you’re back to normal and grateful to the professional and knowledgeable staff.

Maybe having alone time is not your thing and you didn’t take the time that night to check your south pole. You notice the problem when you head to the bathroom at work. Nevertheless, because of the accessibility of the local clinic, you were able to catch the issue before it got worse. Did you know that, if untreated, your UTI could have progressed into kidney failure? What if your physician was unavailable for an appointment? What if the clinic was shut down due to governmental failure to comply with Title X, the Trump-Pence gag rule and/or TRAP laws? Do you know what Title X is? Did you have any idea that masturbation is so closely tied to politics?

You’re not alone.

I am not here to say you must masturbate to be considered a politically active person or even to vote, but to encourage the de-stigmatization of female sexuality and the education on direct links between orgasms and political activism.

Sexuality is a spectrum. Just because some enjoy their beloved vibrator, does not mean you want that experience. Just because some are apathetic and claim “they don’t do politics,” does not me you should be complacent. Just because some are outspoken about their viewpoints, does not me you have to be, but it’s still important to vote! While your ownership of sexuality may feel empowering, I promise voting in the midterm elections (ahem, today) will feel even more rewarding.

So, what is Title X you ask?

Ratified in 1970, Federal Title X funding was established in an effort to provide universal family planning healthcare for families regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, income bracket and/or their qualification for health insurance. As the nation’s first and only dedicated source of federal funding funneled towards family planning and reproductive healthcare, Congress annually funds centers such as Planned Parenthood and community health centers. These facilities provide an array of services under the Title X funding, such as wellness exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, birth control, contraception educations, STD/STI and HIV testing, and prevention services. According to Planned Parenthood, over four million Americans rely on Title X for affordable birth control and family planning services per year.

Regardless of your ideology, Planned Parenthood would be there for your UTI as long as Title X stands. However, the Trump-Pence administration has proposed a nationwide “gag-rule” which would withhold Title X funding to any facility that promotes abortion, refers patients to clinics that would provide them with this service, or handles these independently. In other words, it would be illegal for doctors, nurses, physicians, hospitals or community health services to inform patients on how they can safely and affordably obtain an abortion. This “gag-rule” would reflect the 1988 reform instituted by President Ronald Reagan, requiring services that provide abortions to patients to have a “physical separation” and “separate nurses” from other facets of their family planning facilities. Indirectly, this proposed revision would benefit clinics that practice “abstinence only.” These programs exclusively teach the benefits of abstaining from sexual activity rather than methods of contraception and, sexually-transmitted diseases. Additionally, they are not obligated to teach factual and medically correct curriculums.

While these proposed “gag-rules” are now simply threats, TRAP laws are all too real. Targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP) laws impose arduous requirements on the threatened centers, such as building provisions, location demands, hospital provisions, and reporting stipulations unique to these types of centers. These stipulations can range from specification of paint colors on hallways to the size of closets down to an inch, and/or the stipulation of distance a facility can be from a school or hospital. For certain parts of the country, these rules limits facilities operating due to sheer overcrowding. By forcing centers that do not comply with these requirements to shut their doors, TRAP laws endanger the lives of our fellow females, which inherently could mean you.

So, regardless of your ideology, religion, socioeconomic status and race, we need to stand behind one another. Over four million Americans rely on Title X funding per year. Seventy-eight percent of those four million patients have an annual income below the federal poverty line. So, yes, while the Affordable Care Act has significantly altered the lives of thousands whom previously did not qualify for healthcare, Title X supports those who remain uninsured. Title X is essential to protect the lives and daily well-being of millions of families and women.

While some may be able to afford health care if these “gag-rules” cause hundreds of shutting down facilities, plenty of people will not be able to. You may be able to get that UTI treated, but what about the thousands who would have no other option but to ignore it?

And what about the non-binary femmes? Clinics such as Planned Parenthood provide education, health care, hormone therapy, and support groups for the LGBTQ+ community. By receiving care from those who do not see this community as “other”, cuts to Planned Parenthood can aid in President Trump’s crusade to “define transgender out of existence”. While you may not identify within this community, your brother, sister, father, mother, aunt, uncle, friend, boss etc. may. Regardless of your ideology and political skew, your vote can impact the lives of millions who lack the privilege cis-gendered affluent members of the community have.

If we remain complacent and complicit within this political system, our reproductive rights will be in jeopardy. Women and women allies have worked too hard throughout history to secure the political and reproductive rights we now sometimes take for granted. We’ve made enormous strides in the female ownership of our sexual autonomy and exploration. Five years ago, women would be shamed for speaking of masturbation in a public setting. Today, I’ve walked the streets dragging my best friends into sex shops to buy them a vibrator. Today, I write about the normalization of masturbation and ownership of our sexuality as women and non-binary femme/trans. Today, I am here to share and to encourage self-exploration, self-love, and self-acceptance. I am not here to tell you how to vote, but I am here to urge you to vote. Let’s take control of our bodies physically, mentally, and by way of the law.

To find out more information on your ballots and how to get more involved before you head to the polls, check out the following sites:

*Percentages according to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior.

Feature image via Ella Xu

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