Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted anonymously through Formspring. This week’s question is:
I’ll be heading off to university in the fall, and I’ll have five other suitemates. All of us are
cis females, and I’m just wondering, how do I bring up the topic of masturbation? I don’t want to offend anybody by just bringing it up. I want to be able to do it comfortably without having to worry.
First and foremost, I think it’s important to remember that it can be impossible to guess someone’s opinions and comfort with masturbation without a direct conversation. I’d recommend against assuming someone else’s stance on this topic based on appearances or temperament alone, because even the shyest and quietest person might surprise you. In this sense, try to approach your potential conversation with optimism and an open mind, and remember that broaching the topic of masturbation is actually quite mature of you.
There are two possible routes you can follow in bringing up the topic of masturbation: you can either discuss it as a group, or have a series of one-on-one conversations with your suitemates. Though latter may be easier and less stressful due to the intimacy of one-on-one conversations, the former option is less time-consuming and can possibly bring you all together. Furthermore, there’s no one right way to initiate these conversations; while some may feel comfortable simply exclaiming, “Ughh, my vibrator’s batteries are dead!” others may prefer to subtly move in the direction of the topic by bringing up sex interests and hooking up to gauge their suitemates’ comfort with discussing sex and sexuality.
If you decide you want a group conversation, “suitemate meetings” would be a good time to bring up the topic of masturbation. You can try broaching the topic honestly, saying that as someone who masturbates, you’d like to know people’s feelings and opinions on the topic so that you may best respect everyone’s boundaries and comfort levels.
While a conversation about masturbating may be incredibly helpful for you and your suitemates, you should also keep in mind that you may have suitemates who are not, in fact, comfortable with the topic or it occurring in their space. If faced with this, I recommend that you respect these suitemates’ discomfort by not discussing masturbation around or with them. Nonetheless, I also want to stress that you also have the right to self-pleasure in the privacy and solitude of your bedroom.
Still, this can become especially difficult if your roommate is the one who is uncomfortable with the topic. If so, don’t fret, I happen to think that it’s important for roommates to set up an “alone time” schedule, because many people find it necessary to have such time to themselves, even aside from masturbation. Creating an “alone time” schedule of a few hours a week will allow your roommate and you to have space and solitude in a way that works for you both, and will allow you time to masturbate without making your roommate uncomfortable. Another way to circumvent your roommate’s discomfort is by talking generally about your schedules together, so that both of you know when people are typically in/out of the room.
Moreover, you and your roommate can discuss roommate etiquette, such as the protocol for when/if one of you brings home a sexual partner. You can try setting up a “code,” such as a hair-tie on the door handle or a drawing on a dry erase board, which will signify when the room is “occupied.” Additionally, you can also suggest always knocking on the door before entering, not only for sex-related purposes, but also simply as a common courtesy. Try framing these discussions as necessary for the sake of everyone, as opposed to focusing solely on your wants and needs.
Furthermore, it’s important to remember that roommate relationships require compromise and mutual respect. Therefore, I would implore you to not masturbate while your roommate is in the room. While this may seem preferable to bringing up the topic due to fear of awkwardness, masturbating while you believe your roommate is asleep can result in greater discomfort and perhaps mutual embarrassment. If there is truly no way for you to have alone time in your bedroom, try moving your self-love into the shower! The running water will mask a good amount of noise, and it’ll make any clean-up easier. Just be sure that any toy you may use is waterproof!
I also want to mention that it’s possible that your roommate’s and/or suitemates’ discomfort with masturbating could result in more than silence; it may also create a truly unhealthy living situation. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that many people do have “bad” roommate and suitemate experiences—due to incompatibility and sometimes even outright unacceptable behavior such as bullying—which in case, you may want to reconsider your living situation and possible alternatives. This may be especially necessary should your roommates or suitemates attempt to shame you for masturbating or if they tell you that you cannot masturbate in your own bedroom.
Furthermore, If you find that the girls you are living with are treating you poorly due to masturbation or any other reason, I’d suggest that you discuss the issue with a resident advisor or another authority figure in your dormitory who may be equipped to mediate such situations. Still, should you find yourself in this situation, I want to stress that masturbation is a healthy expression of one’s sexuality, and while not everyone self-pleasures, many people do engage in this behavior. Try to not let your roommate or suitemate(s) shame you into thinking or feeling otherwise.
Finally, here are some resources that you may find helpful in your upcoming suitemate and/or roommate conversations:
- A sample Roommate Contract by East Carolina University
- How to Determine Roommate Rules
- Carleton University’s Roommate Boundaries and Rights