Sid on Sex: Masturbation Is Self-Care

Sid on Sex: Masturbation Is Self-Care
Photo of Sid Azmi by Tatum Mangus

Sid Azmi is the owner of Please New York, an educated pleasure shop in Brooklyn. Her column “Sid on Sex” explores her ongoing entrepreneurial and personal journey, as well as the daily revelations gained helping all kinds of women lead satisfying, joyful sex lives.

Pleasure was once elusive to me. It was a grand idea that was described by some cheesy, overtly romanticized scene in a television show or a paragraph in a book. Growing up as a Malay Muslim in Singapore, I was taught to believe that sex was something that happened to you only if you could earn great love. To do so, I had to behave a certain way—an obedient daughter who was religiously pious and who could roll spring rolls like a machine and make fragrant tea for visitors. I should be a “good” and devout woman, waiting patiently for a “good” man who would think me worthy of his affections—and sex.

Even after I ran away from home in my late teens to attend college in the United States, I maintained these deeply ingrained beliefs. I was in my mid-20s when I used a vibrator for the first time, hoping, after reading a sex column that encouraged it, that this would help expand my knowledge of sex and propel me out of my emotional abyss. Not knowing how to go about it, I followed the column’s advice for how to achieve this mysterious pleasure.

There was nothing proud or satisfying about my moment of orgasm. In fact, I cried. I sobbed. I had turned to this vibrator in my desperate need to fulfill my latent sex life with a long-term partner. I had stolen a feeling that was supposed to be gifted to me by love. I had cheated and bought a knock-off version of pleasure.

 
“My legs spread wider, my body shook harder, and my heart became fuller.”
 

Yet my hands found themselves repeatedly reaching out for that shameful vibrator that was tucked so deep in my dresser. (Only now do I find it exhilarating to recall those moments when I had to go on fours, naked, to reach for the liberating device; how incredibly sexy I would have been to anyone standing by!) With each orgasm I brought myself, my guilt surrendered to curiosity about all of the sensations I had yet to experience.

Over time, my orgasms grew stronger, mirroring nothing I had seen, heard of, read about in my life, each more alluring and affirming than the last. Relieved that the heavens were not striking me down for my act of betrayal, my legs spread wider, my body shook harder, and my heart became fuller. I grew more confident in my body and of my ability to please myself. I began to understand myself as an incredible sexual human being. That was the beginning of my taking ownership of pleasure.

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