By Yasmin Rapley
Lily Allen has always been an artist and celebrity that has gone against the grain. She has released several controversial songs, such as ‘Hard out Here’ which sarcastically criticises societal expectations of women, as well as releasing her 2018 memoir ‘My Thought’s Exactly’, containing multiple anecdotes on her drug use, infidelity and many faked orgasm’s. Funnily enough, her latest collaboration with ‘Womanizer’, a German sex tech brand, confidently suggests that the latter is no longer an issue. The company is launching the ‘Liberty’ in her name; a vibrant pink and orange vibrator, with the advertising for the product championed by the hashtag ‘IMasturbate’.
(Photo from @womanzierglobal)
Many might criticise such a move as a cynical marketing ploy - yet another endorsement a celebrity is cashing in on. Indeed, Allen will be making a profit from the collaboration, but her particular choice of endorsement with a sex toy company, rather than say, a fast fashion clothing brand, is an undeniably bold and important statement. Upon the release of the product, Allen posted an Instagram of her holding the toy, the caption reading: ‘women shouldn’t be ashamed of their sexuality, and we all deserve to own our pleasure’. Thus, Lily Allen is taking the taboo topic of female sexual pleasure and thrusting it into the mainstream.
Her line here establishes what many women know to be true; female masturbation and pleasure remains a topic that seems embarrassing to talk about and is still widely repressed. This idea can be traced back to the societal expectations defined of men and women - women aren’t all that sexual, but men are overtly so. The notion that men masturbate all the time, but women probably shouldn’t. Also the unfortunate idea that, when with a partner, it is paramount for the man to reach climax, but it’s just a bonus point if a woman does the same. Of course, these views are continually being disrupted in the public sphere, as women are more and more demanding that their sexual needs are listened too. For example, prolific influencer and recent author Florence Given is a woman in the public eye known for placing an emphasis on female sexual pleasure and resisting societal norms. (If you don’t follow her yet, you need too!)
Yet, from a personal perspective, I still have too many friends who have never had an orgasm, accept the bare minimum in the bedroom and shy away from the topic. This is perhaps down to the lack of representation in the mainstream media. Although series like ‘Fleabag’ and more recently ‘Emily In Paris’ (her vibrator is so powerful it cuts the electricity in her whole apartment block) do show women appreciating self-pleasure, these are exceptions rather than the rule. On the most part, female pleasure is a foot note in mainstream media representations of sex. Hollywood sex scenes and the like rarely focus on what the woman wants or needs, and depictions of solo masturbation are hard to come by.
To this end, Lily Allen’s collaboration goes beyond being a simple endorsement. Allen is simultaneously opening up the discussion about female pleasure and female sexuality. By quite literally putting her face on a sex product (her picture is on the packaging) masturbation and pleasure goes from being a taboo topic to potentially being a popular trend. Allen added in her press release that she hopes that women seeing somebody like her talking openly will encourage women to ‘feel inclined to try it out themselves - a whole new world awaits’. Indeed, I hope it does, as this is a conversation that is incredibly important and one that must continue. Women should be placed on an equal footing with men in both everyday life and in the bedroom, be that alone or with a partner. So, when Lily Allen asks the question ‘I masturbate, do you?’, hopefully more and more women will confidently be answering yes.
(Photo from @womanzierglobal)