*UNICORN HEADS UP: This article contains x-rated content and of a sexual nature. We like to give you the heads up before you read on.
“Free vibrators” lit up my screen as I was hiding in a pink velvet duvet in my room, I scrolled past a sex positive boutique by women called Bellesa on Instagram. They were giving away free vibrators to encourage people to stay at home and quarantine during Covid-19.
My eyes widened as I punched my fingers to the screen like I was in a thumb war. A day later my phone buzzed with a message that said
“Congratulations you won a free Vibrator!”
I felt my face get hot, I was elated, beaming even. This was the first time I had heard good news since the Coronavirus had started making waves across social media.
Two of my three jobs had been cancelled and I was holding on to everything by a string. I was also just thrilled to add another toy to my arsenal. On a pitiful rainy morning in LA I typed in my tracking number to see where my vibrator was. Every time I checked I felt like I was sitting next to my crush in middle school, my body buzzed, I was doing victory dances alone in my apartment.
Living in Los Angeles has been a scary time during self isolation. It has also presented the opportunity to explore coping with my own mental wellness. I am from a small town in Pennsylvania so I had to make clear boundaries after Christmas to not go back and isolate with my family for mental health purposes.
This also meant that I had to explain this to my disappointed mother over the phone; her voice trembled as she said “you have to do what best for you” before she hung up. It was one of the most challenging aftershocks of coming out to date.
Some moments in quarantine I am mindful and centered, grateful for having the privilege to self isolate and other moments I am panicked and doubtful of what the future holds. One of the blessings and curses of being in self isolation is having a lot of time to think, maybe even too much time.
In this thinking comes exploration
and finding what I like and don’t like, what brings me panic and what brings me pleasure.
There is so much shame around sexuality, particularly when it comes to female pleasure. Which is why I was so excited about the brand Bellesa, they really are shaking up the pleasure game and flipping that stereotype on its head. But you don’t have to be a female identifying person in order to reap the benefits of masturbation.
According to Self magazine, in association with doctor Wendie Trubow, the benefits of masturbation include; stress relief, better sleep, feeling more self assured in your sexuality and self esteem.
Masturbation gives your heart a workout,
a pelvic floor workout, a butt and thigh workout, it increases blood flow to the vagina which may counteract menopauses troublesome effects. It also releases endorphins to create a happier mood and relieves menstrual cramps.
The Journals of Gerontology goes on to say that it leads to better cognition as you age and last but certainly not least it strengthens the immune system. Did you hear that? Yes, the one thing we need to combat sickness is actually pleasure, imagine that?
My journey of fully embracing pleasure as a mental health practice has been a long one. For years I felt so much shame, not only did I grow up in a small town but I also went to a christian high school that was founded by a couple who made it their mission to run seminars across the US to teach teens techniques on “modesty” and how to “stay pure until marriage”.
This abstinence only education was wrapped in non-consent and heteronormativity. They never once talked about pleasure and when it came to sexuality they had a speaker come in and tell us that he was a “recovered straight guy”. As he sobbed at the altar, tears cascading down his face he could barely make out the words “and then God saved me from the spirit of homosexuality”. He went on to say that his attraction to men only stemmed from a yearning to be the kind of man he was attracted to. It wasn’t until years later that I told this to a girl I was dating and she said “oh so like group conversion therapy?” I sat across from her stunned, she was right.
I’ve never fully recovered even after years of separation from that church. It’s still a struggle to put pleasure high up on my dating priorities. This explains a long line of relationships with fuck boys and repressed internal biphobia. It wasn’t until I was single for the first time in six years that I really started understanding my sexuality. It was a long internal dialogue where I finally gave myself permission to feel good and to question what didn’t feel right. It was in my time of being single for the first time that I was able to discover that I was Bi.
Pleasure isn’t just about mastubation its about radical self care.
It’s about checking in with yourself in sex, whether it’s partnered or not. It’s about taking the time to check in with how your body is responding to sensations, it’s about staying rooted in your body while breathing.
Pleasure is about setting boundaries with loved ones.
During this time in self quarantine it’s important to recognize and make space for all the feelings that come up, whether it is loneliness, fear, boredom, hunger. It’s a time to acknowledge our humanity, our rage, our pain, our hurt and yes– even our pleasure.
Self care is about being gentle with yourself in a time of chaos living moment-to- moment. In this time alone in all the chaos remember that you are worthy of love and touch, unapologetic radical self care and those moments are even more important when taking responsibility for your own wellness.
She / Her | LA | Actor / Activist & Artist
Triple A threat Charmee is an actor, activist and artist who champions sex and body positivity.