How Sexual Curiosity Led To Masturbation Advocacy With Clementine Ford

Feminist sex story by Clementine Ford
Fight Like A Girl is a feminist manifesto of our age. In this chapter, Like A Virgin, Ford relays how an incident with a bath led sexual empowerment.

I must admit, when I climbed aboard my bathtub that afternoon I had no idea of the magical mystery tour it was about to take me on.

Although I had casually rubbed up against it before, it was in more of an accidentally-on-purpose kind of way. You know. Like, Whoops! It seems I have carefully slipped over while stepping out of the shower and my legs have found their way on either side of the rim of this tub and it’s obviously a bit of a shock so I’d better just hover here for a moment and use my thigh muscles to closely grip onto the ceramic so that my core can have a moment to stabilise while I very gently bob up and down!’

I was a roly-poly child not given to regular exercise, but I suppose this was at least a kind of yoga.

My affected clumsiness in the bathroom was the natural evolution of a childhood spent fascinated by sex and the feelings it was supposed to provoke.

My mother was the kind of person who insisted on referring to genitals by their medical names instead in euphemisms like hoo-hoo or winkle or the God-awful wee-wee. (Unfortunately, I was also certain that everyone saying the word vagina’ had a speech impediment, and that it was actually pronounced ‘pagina’. I still think this is a very lovely name for it, calling to mind a kind of warm, snuggly pair of thermals made available to a willing and consensual suitor to wrap themselves up in.)

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Pagina or not, I knew that there were certain things that created funny, good kind of feelings somewhere in the region of my lower tummy.

Exactly why and how it felt good was a little hard to describe, but it reminded me of things I liked—ice-cream, for example, or swimming on a hot summer’s day.

But my knowledge was patchy, limited only to knowing how babies were made. When I was five, my mother dragged out a ream of butcher paper after dinner one night and drew in minute detail the journey of the sperm from penis to egg. (It was one of many strange and serious lessons she would impart about life, including the forced annual screenings of a doe-eyed Nicole Kidman in Bangkok Hilton so we could understand the consequences of accepting gifts from handsome strangers met in Asia. Spoiler: You always end up in jail.)

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I remember my mother nudging the point of a pen just slightly onto the paper so that it made the tiniest mark. “There!’ she declared triumphantly. “The egg is even tinier than that!’ My brother and sister and I gazed at the mark, sheer wonder at life’s design momentarily wrestling our attention away from wondering whether or not there would be a post-dinner pudding option.

The microscopic size of a human egg was easily the most accurate fact I had to hand, despite my efforts to secure more information.

When I went off to boarding school at eight, my attempts were further confused by other children. One day, I heard a grade five boy talking about condoms with one of the junior housemasters.

‘What’s a condom?’ I asked.

The boy flicked a knowing glance at the housemaster. It was a look that said, ‘Ugh … children.’

“It’s a rubber ring that you put around your dick to stop girls getting pregnant,’ he explained confidently.

Of course I had no idea that my schoolmate was as ignorant as I was, and had somehow mistaken a prophylactic for a cock ring. Indeed, I would think of it as such for years to come—which probably explains the two abortions. (It’s okay, you’re allowed to laugh at that.)

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I recall another time, when I was around nine, suddenly blurting out at the dinner table, ‘What’s oral sex?’  My parents exchanged an uncomfortable look. ‘Er …’ my father hedged. ‘It’s when you talk about it.’

‘Oh!’ I replied again, once more illuminated by the wrong information but feeling older and wiser anyway. Years later, I would reflect on how lucky it was for my parents that I hadn’t gone to school the next day and answered any questions about what I’d done the night before with an enthusiastic, My family and I ate spaghetti Bolognese and then we had oral sex around the table! This may have been the eighties, when you could eat vegetables that had been chopped on the same board as raw chicken, but there was still some semblance of child protection.

Despite my questions, I still knew nothing about what sex really entailed.

But the romantic movies and badly lit thrillers that my family regularly brought home from the video store and to which I had unfettered access due to a lack of any real parental supervision taught me that it was either called ‘fucking’ or ‘making love’.

The former was done in a frenzy of breathless passion, up against a wall and either between enemies or co-worker, typically lasted around thirty seconds and, if the mutual and carefully choreographed moans were anything to go by, everyone always had a very good time.

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The latter was a more sedate affair. The women wore nightgowns (or ‘teddies’, as I’d heard them called) and lots of rouge, while the men moved slowly above them. There always lots of long, lingering looks and closed-mouth kissing.

Making love didn’t seem as appealing to me as fucking but it was still better than nothing.

I eagerly recreated everything I learned upstairs with my Barbies, my door firmly shut again what I was sure would be disgust and disappointment if anyone was to happen upon the seedy evidence of my childhood sexual desire. In secrecy, I dressed Ken and Barbie up for their date, made them flirt awkwardly for a few minutes and then stripped their clothes off and frantically humped Ken against Barbie’s crotch with wild abandon. It wasn’t that different from Tinder, when you think about it.

When I needed something a bit more risqué than my adventures with Barbie and Ken, I’d pull down the typewriter in the study and write notes to myself.

Dear Ms Smith, they would say. I’m coming over to your house tonight to fuck you. Love from your boss. 

In these fantasies of illegal workplace sexual harassment, I played both boss and secretary.

Just typing the word ‘fuck’ made my belly flip-flop. When I put the final full stop on pulsing from the erotic dirtiness of the whole thing, I’d rip the paper from the typewriter, gaze at it for a few seconds and then tear it up into tiny pieces, making sure to carefully slice through any incriminating words.

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The excitement this activity aroused in me was mingled with guilt and shame. As much as it turned me on to play sex games with myself, I was terrified that people (read: my parents) would find out. I was sure that my perversions were written all over me, and that one would only need to look close enough to see it. I began to turn my head away during innocent kissing scenes in movies, feigning disgust so that my family wouldn’t know that I was a closet sex fiend. When a boy at school asked me a few years later if I masturbated, I replied pompously, “Well, I have heard that masturbating is when women put their fingers inside themselves and I most certainly DO NOT do that!’ He nodded approvingly.

Women weren’t supposed to touch themselves. It was disgusting and embarrassing.

And then… the bathtub.

My yoga sessions had been growing more frequent. I had taken to acting out girl-on-top, bobbing up and down on the ceramic rim and leaning forward to kiss the wall in front of me. I assumed this was what sex was like. Something warm and relaxing, the way a cat must feel to get its tummy stroked. On this particular day though, the pussy rub was fated to turn out quite differently. As my rhythm grew more furious, a hot feeling began to spread throughout my… area… My heartbeat began to quicken until it was racing. My cheeks grew flushed. My thighs started to shake, the pressure of holding a squat both adding to my excitement while making me weaker. So taken was I by the sensations that I even had to stop kissing the wall.

Suddenly, an explosion! My stomach dropped out from beneath and back down again.

I felt like the deepest, most secret parts of me had erupted in a dazzling fireworks display. What I haven’t told you yet is that as a child I was a hypochondriac. Every twinge of pain heralded cancer. Blurry vision was the onset of blindness. Terminal illness lurked around every corner. So my enjoyment of my very first orgasm was hampered somewhat by the fact that I was convinced I was having a stroke. My thighs suddenly re-energised from the adrenaline, I leaped from the bathtub and whipped around to stare at it accusingly, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME? I screamed silently.

This was what happened to dirty girls.

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If only I had kept my perversions in check! If I survived, I promised myself and God and whoever else might be listening that I would never touch myself again.

As you’ve probably gathered, I did survive. My stroke symptoms disappeared as the after-effects of my climax subsided, and I soon realised what it was that had actually happened. Still, I kept my promise to keep my hands firmly where the good Lord could see them… for about two days. Now that I’d discovered this marvellous secret, I couldn’t stay away. This was better than ice-cream and swimming. Rhonda, it was better than ‘Dancing Queen’.

Now, I do it everywhere—in the shower, in aeroplane toilets when I’m bored, sometimes in the car for a real thrill ride. I do it on the couch when I’m procrastinating with work.

My friend Ben calls this ‘procasturbation’. I have honed it to a fine art – I’ve got so good at it that I can rub one out in fifty-nine seconds on less.

I am so passionate about the importance of self-love that some friends call me a masturbation evangelist.

I’m so good at it that sometimes I orgasm accidentally without even touching myself. Reading porny stories or watching pornier videos can be enough to get me off. Once, I came in a gym class while doing push-ups on an exercise ball. The instructor had us rolling in and out and engaging our cores, and what can I say? I just have a really good core, I guess. I realised I was about ten seconds away from ‘arriving’ when she told us to take our balls and use them to squat against a wall. Well, you’re not going to throw something like that away, so I had to feign great interest in checking that my alignment was okay and that I was ‘doing the exercise properly’.

Trust me, that is definitely the proper way to exercise.

Look, masturbating is awesome. And it makes sex awesome!

I truly believe that discovering the abilities of my body at such a young age has led to an easier experience with sex in general. Pleasure has always been within easy reach, and I’ve been able to communicate to partners exactly what floats my boat. I’ve always been bothered by the narrative that holds it’s the responsibility of someone else to ‘give’ a woman an orgasm. No! How can you expect someone else to invest that kind of time in you when you don’t even want to do it yourself?

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Want to read more? You can buy Fight Like a Girl here.

Clementine Ford is a writer, broadcaster and public speaker based in Melbourne. She writes on feminism, pop culture and social issues. You can support her on Patreon, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and give her five stars on Goodreads.

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