Female masturbation is perhaps the “last sexual taboo,” according to Globe writer Zosia Bielski. Whereas male masturbation is often the butt of jokes, is part of a coming-of-age process in movies and literature, and even has its own physical hand signal, many consider self-stimulation of the female genitals to be shocking and sickening. Society has created excuses for the male's need to ejaculate, as demonstrated in Bielski's research, whether for biological reasons or due to the claimed "superior male sex drive."
Oppositely, many works of literature and film such as Goobie's Hello Groin and Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin that actually do include a female protagonist masturbating give these characters a marginalized identity so their sexual behavior is considered abnormal and freakish. Studies such as those in Michael Gordon's Women and Language even show that the language we use is systematically more inclusive of male autoeroticism, with both sexes more familiar with its informal language than with that of the female counterpart.
So why is this biologically normal, sexually safe, and immensely self-pleasurable act so stigmatized for women? Due to its liberating qualities that imply that women can be sexually satisfied without any part of the male, let alone his penis, female masturbation is a powerful and self-determining act, addressing the woman's needs and only the woman's needs. Women who masturbate rebel against the patriarchal system, rejecting the phallic penis in exchange for their own sexual self-exploration on a healthy quest to connect body and mind by establishing and fulfilling their own sexual needs. Although masturbation in general is very stigmatized, feminists are aware of and challenge the fact that sexual self-exploration for men is more socially accepted. This social acceptance is proven in studies that show that males masturbate more than females, and there are several different hypotheses as to why.