Masturbation Talk: Roommate Edition

Hook-up culture is not the same as it was pre-pandemic, and it won’t be for a while as Gate 1 is quite clear in its restrictions for guests. We all know that the safest way to get around this is not to try to get around it at all. In fact, the only real solution is to accept ourselves as our only true, viable partners during this time. Granted, self-pleasure is not exactly a celebrated form of sex, especially since sexual pleasure is usually pictured as an exchange between two people. Self-pleasure is often regarded as less satisfying or “not the same” as a two-party hookup, and this is where we begin to see breaches in community health guidelines. The only way to overcome this issue is conversation; the more we open up about masturbation, the more we will begin to see its normalization as a completely healthy way to have sex. 

Most students who live both on and off campus share a living space with two or more people and understand that starting this conversation is easier said than done. Even when we finally have the room to ourselves, we are unsure of when our roommates will come barging back in. Either that, or we find ourselves in a situation where it seems like we’ll never find the room without another person in it. In both cases it seems imperative that this conversation be had, but how do we do it in a way that isn’t offensive or uncomfortable? 

First, we have to begin with the general understanding that each and every one of us should embrace and prioritize our own sexual pleasure. This is less about accepting masturbation as a completely normal human activity, which it is, but more about accepting that many of us have needs that ought to be met. I extend this message especially to women who, more often than not, feel the need to stifle expressions of sexuality due to the stigma that exists around women who are overtly sexual. This stigma has been internalized since as early as middle school, where many of us witnessed boys speaking openly about masturbation, but when asked if we did it ourselves we would retreat almost instantly to exclamations of disgust and offense. While the stigma has definitely been lifted to a degree, there is still a sliver of shame associated with expressing our sexuality. The bottom line is there should be absolutely no shame, as we are all sexual beings and wanting sex and pleasure is completely human. 

That being said, nothing should stop you from starting this conversation with your living partner(s). For those of you with multiple roommates, one-on-one conversations with each person might alleviate the stress of addressing a group and be more constructive. Nevertheless, the topic should be broached honestly, while also keeping in mind your living mates’ boundaries and comfort levels. Maybe begin by gauging your living partners’ comfort with discussing sexual topics by bringing up a hookup story or sexual interest. If faced with a roommate who will not engage in this conversation, you should know that you still have a right to solitude in your own space and this might be the time to schedule periods of time throughout the week when each of you can have “alone time,” without explicitly addressing what you intend to use the time for. Alternatively, always practice roommate etiquette such as knocking on doors before entering a room.

Or, maybe try sharing this column with them, as that would definitely start a conversation.