Since time immemorial we’ve been told that wanking is bad. However, the last 50 years have seen the gradual emancipation of the pussy for many women lucky enough to live in more liberal societies. Unfortunately, as we’ve started to talk more about female masturbation and orgasm in more open, positive ways, the backlash from puritans, misogynists and religious fanatics (or combinations of all three) has also become more apparent – particularly in the United States.
One of this week’s most extreme and bizarre attacks on female sexuality comes from Mack Major of Eden Decoded in Florida. The Christian author is adamant that female masturbation is basically leading civilisation straight down the path to hell, and has published an open letter condemning the act. Major believes that getting yourself off could, quite literally, summon a demon from hell’s fiery pits. “Masturbation is a direct path to Satan. There is nothing normal about it” he says emphatically. “Whether you want to accept it as fact or not: those sex toys are an open portal between the demonic realm and your own life.”
While it’s easy to laugh at this sort of chat and to pigeonhole this loser as a religious crazy, the underlying message isn’t humorous. We have to talk about the far more serious issues raised through his vitriol – which is focused primarily on women. Sure, most people don’t actually think that a woman masturbating will see Satan rise up and spirit you off to an eternity of fire and brimstone, but this attack is just part of a larger, far more serious problem. While we might like to think that Medieval patristic discourse – where female sexuality is defined in terms of “greed, insatiability, and animalism” – has disappeared, people like Major show us that clearly it has not been entirely eradicated.
It’s worth noting that, in the United States, hardline conservative Christian groups have long been a bulwark of oppression for women’s sexual rights. Groups like the Pro-Life America movement advocate a zero tolerance policy towards abortion, and aim to see women’s right to choice stripped from the US constitution. The most shocking example of this was last year’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, by a perpetrator who believed himself to be doing “God’s work”.
So yes, let’s laugh at Major – because it’s ridiculous. But let’s also remember the school of thought he hails from, and recognise that this is not just one woman-hating loon posting on a blog about women using dildos. Instead, this sort of religious fervour directed towards women stems from a far more powerful movement trying to control women’s bodies – as well as their sexuality – in the name of religion.
Follow Alice Nicolov on Twitter here @alicenicolov