This really bothered me. So then I went to Carrie Mesrobian and Christa Desir's The Oral History Podcast (which I've already posted about - their podcast are awesome, do go listen!) and listened to the one on masturbation to see if they had any recommendations. Although they mention a few that have scenes or at least a mention, they couldn't think of too many either - not of female masturbation, at least. What they say in that podcast on female masturbation and discussion around it is really interesting, and worth a listen, but what I found really surprising is what they say about writing female masturbation scenes: there has to be a reason.
For guys, they say, it can be because they're bored, thinking about the girl they want to have sex with, or because they wake up with an erection, but for a girls, there has to be a reason for it when it comes to the plot. They talk about scenes in some adult books where it's about taking the characters taking ownership of their body, which is important plot wise. But they couldn't understand why they would write a female masturbation scene if it wasn't bringing anything to the plot. (They also discuss how it would be quite difficult to write an actual female masturbation scene due to description and terminology, and making that not seem weird and awkward. I get that. I do, but I still think they should be tried.)
Which I found really odd. I could be completely misunderstanding what they're saying, so please, again, listen to the podcast yourself, but it's something I'd like to talk about seeing as there are so few YA novels that cover this. Would a female character not masturbate if it was true to her, I.E. she was quite a sexual character, enjoyed sex and owned her sexuality, and was turned on by thinking about the guy/s she likes? Surely for that plot, it shows another aspect of her being comfortable in her skin and with her sexuality, right? And with there being so little conversation in and out of books, it seems, on female masturbation, showing those scenes has got to be important towards normalising it, as male masturbation is. I can't count the number of books I've read that mention/joke about/include scenes of guys "jerking off/wanking". It's so normal, I doubt any teen reader even raises an eyebrow at it anymore. But female masturbation is something completely different.
I didn't know about female masturbation until I read Deenie by Judy Blume when I was about 11. To be perfectly honest, I didn't really know what Deenie was going on about when she talked about touching her "special place" - I had no clue where abouts on her body she was referring to, it could have been on her arm for all I knew. It wasn't until the scene where there's a sex ed discussion with a class of girls and the gym teacher, and her question gets asked that I realised where exactly she was touching herself. And the teacher's discussion of it - it's perfectly normal and healthy - were good enough for me. I knew people didn't talk about it, and maybe it wasn't something we weren't supposed to talk about, but it was fine thing to do, so I never really considered it to be dirty or shameful.
And once I was an older teenager, female masturbation was something my friends and I talked about quite a lot, at least with one friend in particular. We were quite open, so I don't know if that's just us and our friendship, but we did talk about it. I'm not saying we got graphic and descriptive, but we would talk about it almost like you hear about guys talking about it; like it was no big deal, and even in a kind of jokey manner. With other friends, even if it wasn't a particular conversation we had often, we kind of knew that it was something most - if not all - of us did. I guess some were embarrassed or whatever, which is fine, but it's not like it was a subject that didn't come up at all.
So for there to be this complete lack of a conversation about, or actual scenes showing/mentioning female masturbation, I just don't understand it. There aren't enough, and I don't get why they're not there. It seems to me in books with male protagonists, when they're masturbating, it's because that's what they - the characters - do, so why can't it be the same for female protagonists?
As I said, there are a few YA novels that mention female masturbation in some way covered in the The Oral History Podcast linked to above, with the titles including masturbation of all genders in the show notes, and Keris Stainton wrote a post for Beth Kemp's blog with her "Female Fiction Fiddling" List (thanks again to Sophie for telling me about this post), but there aren't really enough. And this bothers me.
What do you guys think? Should there be more female masturbation in YA? Do you think that would that help normalise it in society? Or would you rather not read that?