Zoella’s ‘Best Sex Toys’ Review: Why are we so Scared of Female Sexuality?

A 30-year-old woman has been condemned for speaking about sex toys on her social media platform, highlighting only too vividly how female sexuality continues to incite alarm in society.

Zoe Sugg, also know as Zoella, was “dropped” as a case study by the AQA Media Studies exam board and was tagged as “unsuitable” and “innappropriate” for GCSE students after her blog published a review of various sex toys. Sending a clear message to young people that their sexuality, and sexual pleasure, are subjects to feel ashamed of and hide at all costs. On her Instagram, Zoe Sugg wrote that her blog aims to “talk about taboo subjects” so her readers can feel “less alone”. The irony of this is, quite frankly, comical; in attempting to broach ‘taboo’ topics, Zoe Sugg has now been censored.

The condemnation of Zoella fits into a wider, more worrying narrative about female sexual pleasure and the obtrusively deafening silence surrounding female sexual gratification. The topic holds little, if any, space in public discussion, still silenced and labelled as ‘taboo’ and ‘unbefitting’ to public ears. The fact that GCSE aged students, most of whom will be 16 and legally sexually active, should be barricaded from mere mentions of female masturbation and self-pleasure is highly concerning.

When I was at school there was no mention of female sexual enjoyment or, god forbid, female masturbation in class or even among friends. I am ashamed to admit that as a young teenager I knew exactly how males pleasured themselves, and probably how often, but was completely ignorant to not only how females could but that we were also able. When it came to sex, I knew more about male bodies than my own. My obliviousness towards my body can only be a result of an absence of conversation on the topic of female self-pleasure and masturbation.

Male masturbation is not only spoken about but congratulated and applauded among groups of male friends. No girls at school were high fiving each other during registration about the ‘bangin’ sesh’ they had last night. The image alone seems absurd. But why? Why are girls not speaking openly, celebratory and freely about their own self-gratification and sexual experiences?

This is not only unfair but harmful for women. If women feel they cannot talk about their sexual experiences, with themselves or with sexual partners, and face judgement when they do, what type of sex are women going to have throughout their lives? The price of being silenced will lead so many women to never learn or know how to pleasure themselves or how to have the best possible sexual experience with their partner. And if they do, they must not dare share this information with anyone. Their precious knowledge on the subject must be kept under lock and key because they cannot and should not share this information with others, for fear of judgement or humiliation. I can only perceive the damage that this does, and will continue to do, to women’s sex lives.

Many pinpoint female sexual liberation at the introduction of the Pill, where women gained the long overdue ability to take control of their bodies as sexual beings. Yet, over 50 years on, the atmosphere of disapproval, suppression and judgement towards women’s sexuality is as stifling as ever. Grown women, such as Zoe Sugg and the women who work on her blog, must not admit that they have sexual needs and the least they could do is not share their advice on the subject with other girls and women. 

Thankfully, interjections of noise have begun to protrude the reverberating silence. The event has caused a hopeful conversation to blossom online and Zoella has vouched that her team will not be scare-mongered into muteness. The BBC Asian Network podcast, Brown Girls Do it Too, which started in 2019, holds unreserved conversations regarding sex, porn and masturbation from a female-centred perspective. Even the 2020 period drama, Bridgerton, included scenes of Daphne’s burgeoning sexual awareness. Now it is time to bring this topic out of the fictional sphere of nineteenth-century aristocratic London and give it the space it deserves to be talked about openly and without criticism. Girls must be permitted to learn about self-pleasure and sexual gratification, and we must stop branding women as ‘indecent’ and ‘improper’ when they initiate conversations about sex.

Ellen Hodges

Featured Image Source: Still via Zoe Sugg // YouTube.

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