I have a critical announcement to make, one that will alter the course of my life and perhaps the livelihood of Duke as we know it: I have decided to purchase my very first vibrator.
I will admit that this decision was not made lightly. It was made in the night while wearing salsa-stained sweatpants, yes, but not lightly. I am a woman in the midst of an anxiety-ridden and isolating world of academia. In the interest of my own sanity, I’m making strides towards balancing work and health in this environment—which includes sexual gratification. Yet, if my present sense of feminine pleasure were analogous to a pass/fail course, I would certainly receive a U for unsatisfied. To obtain the balance I so desire, I must forego the nights of Tinder hookups with biology majors who don’t know where the clitoris is. I must purge the nights of fingering myself in an embarrassing attempt at masturbation. I must survey the depths of the Amazon(.com) for a vibrator which—holy shit! These hunks of plastic cost $30?
The high prices of the latest BOMBEX William 9.8” Triple Action G and its kin have held me back from upholding my promise to buy a vibrator in the past. Not only have these prices mocked my wallet burdened by excessive Uber rides and Venmo requests, but they have also questioned me on my worthiness to purchase such a product. Am I deserving of such a costly investment? More importantly, will I be seen as worthy in the eyes of others should I make said investment?
Let’s say I press “buy now” and receive the email that my purchase has been processed by the Duke Mail Room four weeks after it has been delivered. What happens then? Will the diligent mail workers that inhabit BC’s basement level look at me knowingly as I flash my Duke ID? Will the students drafting their last-minute essays be able to read the fine print of the shipping details and understand that what I’m ordering isn’t another faux plant? Will those students recognize the object as its soft coating rubs against its cardboard cage? Will the walk back to East Campus be a walk of shame and chagrin, one where I feel like a Scarlet Letter is being draped across my forehead while screaming, “Look at this filthy, sex-crazed girl?” Will others be able to look at me the same knowing what I bought?
This may all seem like I’m waxing poetic or indulging in heretic thoughts. I may very well be blowing this whole thing out of proportion, but when you look at the history of the rhetoric around female masturbation, my concerns make sense. The evidence is there: female masturbation is taboo. A study entitled Sexual Diversity in the United States demonstrated that women are much less likely to masturbate than men, with 21.8% of women claiming that they’ve never done it compared to 8.2% of men. These results spill over into the university scene: a 2002 study conducted by Penn State University revealed that women discuss more about sex than men on all topics, except for masturbation. It’s not hard to understand why these results came to be when songs about female pleasure like the Divinyls “I Touch Myself” were stopped while performed at concerts, when public schools across the country neglect to properly teach females about their own genitalia, when puberty books don’t normalize masturbation for developing girls in the same way that they do for developing boys and when films like "The 40-Year-Old-Virgin" portray self-pleasure as something only bad girls do.
I’ve been personally ridiculed for being candid about masturbation in the past. I’ve been told that I’m gross for looking at pornographic imagery and pleasuring myself. I’ve come face to face with society’s critical treatment of women masturbating, a memory that reemerges each time I search up vibrators on Amazon. It’s in a way a challenge of my own strength and self-opinion. Do I respect myself enough to rise above society’s view? Am I willing to put my needs before others? Do I believe myself to be deserving of satisfaction?
I’m coming around to the idea that the answer to all of the previous questions is yes. In recent years, discourse around female pleasure has begun to shift, and thus my indoctrinated stigma has begun to wane. Watching characters like Aimee from "Sex Education" and Missy from "Big Mouth" explore their bodies and liberate themselves has allowed me to realize the importance of masturbation within my own life. It’s a rite of passage, one that marks the line between restricting myself from the pleasures of life and freeing myself into the arms of self-realization. If a man or my fingers don’t make the cut anymore, then so be it. A vibrator may be expensive, but I’m worth investing in. I can’t continue to entertain the concerns that have restrained me from finally being able to orgasm. I need to embrace the desires that define a critical part of who I am.
I have a critical announcement to make: I love myself enough as a woman to buy a vibrator. If anyone with a vagina has any recommendations, my inbox is open.
Viktoria Wulff-Andersen is a Trinity first-year. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this column misrepresented SheRecovery, an organization founded by Crystal Renaud Day. The Chronicle regrets the error.
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Viktoria Wulff-Andersen is a Trinity sophomore and an opinion managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.