Masturbation and Mental Health: A review of OMGYes in conjunction with the ANU Women’s Department

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OMGYes Reflective Statement 1, Anonymous

I’ve always had an odd relationship with masturbation. It was definitely something I’ve experimented with since about age 14, however, this was always in the cover of darkness in my bedroom at home, making sure to be quick and quiet, as opposed to actually experimenting with and exploring my body and pleasure. Moving out to come to uni, and moving into my own room on campus, lead to the opportunity to properly explore myself on my own time (although still remaining relatively quiet for the sake of my neighbours!).

However, this was still a limited and tentative exploration, bolstered by a reliance of my two favourite vibrators.

My relationship with masturbation prior to OMGYes was one of procrastination and a manner in which to destress (via distraction). I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression for over 10 years, and, particularly when I can’t sleep, masturbation has always been a tool I return to. Thus, this relationship has never been one which truly focuses on pleasure and myself, rather abstract distraction, and therefore, has always been one-dimensional.

Having finished Season 1 of OMGYes, I’d say my relationship with masturbation and my pleasure has certainly been given a new perspective. Firstly, the 12 “episodes” all require you to dedicate time to yourself and your pleasure, so setting aside time to in order to properly explore the website and its lessons was a new experience, and ultimately quite rewarding. It was almost like a meditation session, a dedicated time for myself, and I emerged from these “sessions” calm and blissfully happy. Associating masturbation with this journey of discovery, outside of merely being something to do when bored or mentally heightened, I think will prove fruitful in the long term; certainly, the relationship between my mental health and masturbation is more positive and much more meditative than prior to encountering OMGYes.

The only hang up I had regarding the series was that it was all focused around orgasms driven by your own touch. I personally prefer to use vibrators and toys, as they offer sensations my own hands can’t. Although the series did suggest some manners in which to mimic these sensations, I still found myself reaching for my vibe as my hands purely weren’t enough, even which the techniques the series taught. I can’t comment on Season 2, but it would certainly be interesting to see if future episodes of OMGYes did include techniques to enhance your pleasure whilst using toys. Regardless, this focus was helpful in the sense that it did aid in uncovering and developing techniques that can be employed when one doesn’t want to use, or doesn’t have access to, their preferred toys. If you do primarily prefer your own touch in order to orgasm, or for partners wishing to enhance their partner’s pleasure, I would definitely recommend trying OMGYes out. However, if you do prefer toys over your own hands, the subscription may not be worth it.

Despite this, I really enjoyed my encounter with OMGYes. Outside of getting better orgasms, it was incredibly refreshing and rewarding to watch real women discussing masturbation and pleasure openly and candidly. The interviews with the women were honest, and felt like I was talking to a friend or a mentor almost. In this regard, OMGYes added a crucial element to the societal discourse surrounding female masturbation and pleasure, with the discussion and reflection it prompted something I feel needs to be much more publicised and discussed. Candid conversation about masturbation and orgasms, with the added benefit of improving one’s mental health? Yes please!

OMGYES.com

OMGYes Reflective Statement 2, Anonymous

I thought I knew what was what when it came to masturbation. I’d gone through that ‘rite of passage’ summer of self-lovin’ as a teenager and believed that I had already found my groove. Boy, was I wrong.

OMGYes, a paid subscription platform providing ‘masturbation education’, was unexpectedly enlightening. With content on more than just ‘the mechanics’, as well as ways the insights could be transferred to a partnered scenario, it was certainly a game-changer. The advice was collated from women of various ages and ethnocultural backgrounds. The site features written, video and interactive content, grouped into 12 ‘episodes’, or themes. Backed by university research and a survey of over 10,000 women, the content definitely came across as being well thought out and resulting from thorough investigation.

Sounds bizarre, but one thing I realised through the experience of engaging with the website, was just how little many of us see vaginas in such a nondescript context. This is especially in the context of having them connected to living and speaking people, rather than disconnected in artwork or feminist iconography, dehumanised in typical sex education or perfected in the mainstream pornosphere. Sure, these particular encounters were situated within a ‘sexual’ scenario, but to have examples of women just casually talking about pleasure was refreshing. Nudity was treated as ‘matter of fact’ and coincidental to the purpose of demonstration rather than shrouded in bashfulness. There was also a variety of vaginas with and without pubic hair, but most were trimmed back, which makes sense for practical reasons in the context of what was being shown

In terms of the content, episodes ranged from manual techniques to advice regarding getting in the right headspace and partnered communication. It was easy enough to dip in and out of content, with videos scattered throughout the written sections. There was also the option to expand sections of interest and engage in touch-focussed ‘practice activities’. This wasn’t solely a resource for the ‘person-with-a-vagina-self’, it was also a resource for anyone who engages in sexual interactive play with vaginas. It is important to acknowledge, however, that this was framed as being “for women”, which can be somewhat exclusionary.

In the words of the website promo, this was about “making a great thing even better”. It is a resource that would be great to revisit ‘just because’, or to share excerpts of with a partner where appropriate. At the end of the day, any resource that aims to demystify the cone of silence around self-pleasure for people with vaginas is a good thing, and OMGYes has contributed an important voice in the discussion.

NOWSA 2018

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This July, the ANU Women’s Department attended the 2018 NOWSA conference, with help from funding from SEEF.

We travelled all the way to Newcastle on the Sunday to arrive in time for an exciting week of panels, workshops and keynote speeches.

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Some highlights were a key note speech from Tilly Lawless, a panel about women in unions, a panel about decolonising tourism and rethinking refugees, a panel of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women, a speech from Lee Rhiannon, as well a dinner with all of our new friends from other universities.

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ANU Women’s Department member Eleanor said, “It was an important opportunity to reflect on the intersectionality of my own feminism: to examine where and how I can be a better ally (but not to speak for minority groups).”

ANUSA Women’s Officer Laura Perkov, “It was an amazing opportunity to get to travel to Newcastle and spend time with Women’s Collective members who I hadn’t gotten to know previously. It was exciting to share my passions with women students from across the country in the workshops I ran.”

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ANU Deputy Women’s Officer Juliette Baxter, “I really enjoyed getting to know students from other universities and learn about the advocacy taking place in other universities across the country. Participating in different workshops empowered me to want to get more involved at ANU.”

ANU Women’s Department member Issy, “For me, NOWSA was not just about formally learning and engaging with all the various intersections of feminism through the workshops and seminars, though they were brilliantly run and often really enlightening and empowering. Another incredibly important part of the conference was meeting passionate students from all around the country, as well as getting closer to other ANU Women’s Department members!”