For a long time taboo, the practice of feminine masturbation tends to be trivialised under the effect of a change in cultural representations and public discourse on the subject – for example, in films, music or TV series – but also the effect of much wider access for women to arousal media (e.g. on-line pornography, erotic books) or self-stimulation objects more suitable for the expectations of a feminine audience (sex toys). Symptomatic of changing cultural norms, which hang over female sexuality, this ability of women to take on the purely individual and autoerotic share of their sexuality highlights their greater ease to admit to practices, which are not within the socially-acceptable framework of the couple. Despite the fact that the behaviour of both sexes have come much closer in the matter, masturbation is still far from becoming a component of women's sexual repertoire which is as normal as it is for men, nor is it a practice that is easily admitted to a partner.
The survey was carried out by self-administered questionnaire on-line with a sample of 913 women from 18 to 69 years of age, extracted from a sample of 2011 people representative of the French population aged 18 and older, in June 2017. Quotas were used to ensure that the samples used were, overall, properly representative (sex, age, occupation, region, urban unit size, marital status).
The comparison of these data with those measured in 2012 using identical procedures shows that the masturbation behaviour of women is much closer to that of men than it was before. Similarly, the comparison of the autoerotic activities of women in a couple with those of single women reveals that masturbation continues in a couple for a number of women, as a substitute for or in parallel with conjugal sexual relations. But this form of solitary pleasure is far from being accepted within couples, in particular by women who are dissatisfied with the quality and quantity of their conjugal relations.
For many women living in a couple (45%), masturbation remains a taboo subject, no doubt because they fear that this practice would be interpreted as a sign of the inability of their partner to meet their needs. The taboo around female masturbation therefore still has great resonance, not only among women who struggle to disassociate sexuality and conjugality but also among those whose partner shows signs of failing sexuality.
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