The day when there are as many masturbation anthems on the radio as there are breakup ballads and love songs is probably far away.
But thanks to Charli XCX, there's one more chart-topper getting honest about one of the most important elements of sexuality. In an interview with the Times in the U.K., highlighted by Cosmopolitan, the 22-year-old singer frankly explained the message behind her masturbation-themed song, "Body of My Own":
"It's a feminist statement more than a song telling you to put your hand in your pants, because girls should own their own bodies. ... If they're going to be sexualized, they should sexualize themselves and not let someone else do it for them."
The important point, Charli says, is not just that women masturbate; it's that in doing so, women are taking ownership of their bodies and pleasure in a positive, self-motivated way. Owning your choices as an empowered feminist includes owning your self-pleasure.
And in a world that's still hesitant or even resistant to celebrate female sexuality openly, honestly and without shame, that's the kind of message young women need to hear.
Singing it loud and proud: The fact that women masturbate isn't exactly news, but talking (and singing) about it openly is. The lyrics to "Body of My Own" are pretty much as straightforward as you can get without using the word "masturbate":
Lights out / On my own / Got my darkness / I'm into myself / Don't need you
I'm in control / My hands are shakin' / My skin's getting wetter / I'm coming close / It's overloading
These are the kind of lyrics echoed by Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé on the recent "Feeling Myself," another clear ode to solo sex. Sure, Cyndi Lauper and Divinyls got into the action in the 1980s, as did Britney Spears in her heyday. But rarely has it felt so obvious, not to mention shame-free, as it does with songs like "Body of My Own."
It's been 14 (!) years since O-Town had us swaying at middle school dances to the song "Liquid Dreams," introducing the concept for young guys. It's time female artists, and young women in general, were just as open. After all, we learn from the TV we watch, the commercials we see and the pop songs we hear — and women still have a long way to go when it comes to masturbation in real life.
Shaking off the stigma: Self-pleasure is still more commonplace for men than it is for women, as nearly every survey shows. A 2014 study of 20,094 Australians found that 72% of men had masturbated in the past year, versus just 42% of women. According to 2009 data studied by FiveThirtyEight, 36.5% of girls ages 18-24 hadn't masturbated in the past year, whereas only 7.3% did it two-three times a week.
Even when women are doing it, lingering stigmas lead us to keep quiet about it. And the less open we are about female pleasure, the less comfortable we are speaking up in bed and the less the world around us will recognize and validate our turn-ons (the best example of this: the lack of options in mainstream porn).
But the stigmas will hopefully fade as the volume of the conversation rises, particularly as women realize that taking hold of their own pleasure and bodies is a feminist act. That may come from better sex ed, but more likely it will come from pop culture: viral videos, outspoken celebrities and, yes, bold song lyrics.
We're more empowered than ever to belt out lyrics of female empowerment. We need more stars like Charli XCX to remind listeners that female empowerment includes sexual empowerment in the form of self-pleasure, too.