The Evolution of Female Masturbation in Pop Music

If you still remember Hailee Steinfeld as a 14-year-old girl who rocked twinned braids and got an Oscar nomination for True Grit, prepare yourself for her transformation. The now-legal adult recently released a music video for her first single, “Love Myself,” and it’s packed with some serious sass. While the song ostensibly centers around building self-esteem and dancing like no one is watching, both the lyrics and Steinfeld’s “SELF SERVICE” leotard hint at its real subject matter: female masturbation—and how awesome it is.

Whether you’re thrilled or appalled by pop stars singing about self-pleasure, pop music has tiptoed around—and sometimes outright debated—the practice and politics of female masturbation since Cyndi Lauper sported a Technicolor hairdo. Yet the context, language and intent of the debate has changed dramatically over time. Check out the slideshow below to find out how.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Lucas Jorklicensed under Creative Commons 2.0.






Carter Sherman is a former Ms. editorial intern. She recently graduated from Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and international studies, and has previously interned at Elle and Los Angeles Magazine. Follow her on Instagram at @heyyymizcarter.