The pleasure is all mine : a qualitative study on women’s personal experiences and perspectives of masturbation : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Over the last few decades, female sexuality has gained increasing attention. Within the scope of female sexuality, masturbation is still largely invisible within the academic and public space. This thesis breaks through that silence and shines a light on all that is taboo with female masturbation. I argue why we should be putting women’s masturbation at the forefront of sexual education and throughout society. By examining the discourses of female masturbation among seven women, I investigate what, how, and why women do and do not masturbate. Through semi-structured interviews, I capture the experiences of seven women’s masturbation journeys from young to older, in and out of a relationship and through the many curve balls that life throws at them. An analysis of these women’s interviews presented five themes: 1) the lack of education about female masturbation; 2) stigma and stereotypes associated with female masturbation; 3) aspects and phenomena that give way to increases and decreases in women’s masturbation practices; 4) environments on a multiple layer scale which show the effect to female masturbation and finally; 5) women’s thoughts and feelings about masturbation for themselves and society at large. Each of the five themes has an overarching issue that impacts them, including ideologies, social influences, and mental and physical health. All these broader factors are dynamic, constantly changing and evolving. I argue that the broader structures of society, such as neoliberalism, the patriarchy and government agencies, prohibit women from reaching the full extent of their sexual freedom by repressing and withholding vital information necessary to evolve women’s sexual power. I also highlight the multiple health benefits (lower rates of unwanted sexual encounters and relationships, thereby reducing domestic violence, pregnancies, and STIs) of including a sex-positive dialogue within schools, at home and among friends.