1. That it was not a thing I personally discovered. Masturbation was never discussed in sex ed at my school, so I hardly knew it was a thing. I knew that guys did it because they were all obsessed with it, but women were taught that our vaginas were beautiful/gross mysteries and that we should just pretend they don't exist. So when I started masturbating, some part of me thought I'd discovered something that no one else knew about and I should never bring it up or else they might try to take my secrets. Which brings me to another thing it would've been cool to know...
2. That literally everyone I knew loved doing it. My mailman, my phys ed teacher, my friend who always acted like it was gross when I talked about it, they were all masturbating and it would've been hilarious and helpful to know that. Of course, no one was ever going to tell me how much they loved doing it because it wasn't "ladylike" (*cough* sexist bullshit *cough*) but man, I wish I'd known that even if they weren't talking about it, I wasn't alone and everyone else was doing it too.
3. That it was as funny and casual as I thought it was. I joked about masturbation constantly! I thought it was hilarious, mainly because no one was talking about it. But all anyone ever told me was that it was repulsive and not OK to talk about, and now I know they were sooooo wrong. All of the wrong. If anything, masturbation was infinitely funnier when I was younger because it was this taboo thing that everyone did, like pooping or farting or eating cake for breakfast (I'm assuming this was something everyone did and you can't tell me otherwise). I wish I'd known that the people who couldn't laugh at it were just taught to think it was immoral and wrong, when really, that they thought that was wrong.
4. That it wasn't going to ruin sex for me. I remember reading things in magazines about how if you masturbated too much, partner sex wouldn't feel as good and to that I say, hahaha, no. If sex with your partner feels worse than when you masturbate alone, that's not OK. Even as an adult and masturbation #pro, I can tell you that sex with someone I'm super into blows masturbation out of the water every time. Plus, all that practice just helped me figure out what I like in bed, which helps my partners figure out what I like in bed and thus, everyone wins.
5. That sometimes I would have horrible "What the hell was that?" barely-orgasms. You know those orgasms where you know you technically came, but it was like the equivalent of the sputter your lotion bottle makes when it's out of lotion? I wish I'd known that was normal. Shitty, but normal.
6. That masturbating all day long was a solid way to spend a day. I remember genuinely wondering if I was some kind of messed-up pervert because I wanted to spend a leisurely day off watching stand-up comedy specials and masturbating (not together, obviously, come on), but now I know that is what almost every adult does on their days off because it is a perfect day.
7. That sometimes people who I found super repulsive in real life would pop into my head while I was masturbating and that's totally fine. If the boy who was mean to me in school popped into my head while I was masturbating, I would go into a panicky spiral of, "Oh shit, do I like the guy who throws pencils at my head every freaking day? What is wrong with me?!" but now I know that no, I probably did not like him, but sometimes he was going to pop into my head during self-sex times and eh, whatever. It's fine.
8. That masturbating doesn't count as cheating on your partner. There was a time when I felt like if I thought about anyone who I wasn't dating while I was masturbating then clearly I was a terrible, horrible, cheating person, which was B.S. Just because you start to fantasize about people who you think are hot doesn't mean you're going to leave your partner for them and start a new life off the coast of Maine selling jam together. Calm down.
9. That I didn't have to use any vaginal penetration if I didn't want to. Male masturbation is pretty self-explanatory. If you have a penis, you grab it and blammo, you are masturbating. With women, it's basically a human LEGO set down there. You know the parts fit together, but you don't totally know how. You know that penises go into vaginas, so you assume that maybe masturbation is just putting your finger in your vag and then you wonder why it doesn't feel that great on its own. Which brings me to my next point...
10. That penetration and clit stimulation need to work together. It's not that touching your clit on its own isn't good enough or that penetration on its own is terrible, but if you're going to use penetration with your fingers, you probably need to also touch your clit. And yes, younger me, it is a tricky process that will make you think you need to become a circus performer to master it.
11. That it's extremely difficult to masturbate if you're not already turned on. We're all taught that if we touch ourselves at any time, it will feel great, but that's not accurate. If you're not appropriately aroused or wet, it'll feel not that much different from touching your arm. Good, but not great.
12. That loving masturbation didn't mean you were slutty. I won't even bother going into the problem with the word "slutty" right now, but as a teenager, I felt like if I talked about masturbation and enjoyed masturbation, people would think that I was sleeping with every single person who walked by my face. Now, even if that had been true, there wouldn't have been anything wrong with it, but I wish I'd known that, yes, it was possible to love masturbation and not be sexually active with anyone outside of myself. And to roll my eyes at people who believed otherwise because they were idiots who probably weren't having orgasms, which is why they were so cranky.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.