Free in My Mind, My Body
By Skylar Nguyen and Liz von Klemperer
Discussed: sexual content
During our pair sessions, we have been discussing our shared experiences related to shame, pleasure and de-stigmatization of female masturbation. Here are our reflections.
Desire lures me
I try not to give in,
but, what’s the harm?
I let go and enter a world of bliss
Pleasure at the command of my fingertips
My imagination runs wild
sensations feed my mind and body
Until the rapture peak
and I sink into my bed,
melting in contentment
until accusatory thoughts penetrate my mind
I feel so dirty, impure
My mom says masturbating is what men do
Am I to hold off my pleasure for that of a man
Am I selfish, greedy, for craving satisfaction
Am I too young
Am I too “girl”
Am I tainting my purity?
Are these feelings so dirty?
it’s so natural
My body is mine.
My instrument to strum.
a sweet song to myself.
A Way Back
Liz von Klemperer
When I was a teenager, I went to the doctors a lot. My body wasn’t mine: they took blood, slid gloved fingers up my neck. MRI machines swallowed me up. After they cut me open, I tried to separate myself from my body. I joked that I’d rather be a brain in a jar, and it was true. My body was an inconvenient thing I couldn’t control. For many years I couldn’t locate pleasure in my body because I didn’t believe my body was capable of it.
I didn’t learn how to touch myself until I was in college. Skylar and I have been talking about ways to describe it: masturbating, pleasuring oneself, getting off. None of these phrases really fit. They all seem too serious, too silly. Maybe it’s something that exists outside my brain, outside words. Something that forces me out of the jar my brain has yearned to exist in. Here’s what I do know: It’s a portal back into my body, a way for me to feel good on my own terms.
Liz von Klemperer
Kick off your shoes
In the past it’s been
a frenzy of bodies
arms, legs jostling but today
it’s just you.
At first you go slow,
socks stumbling against a wobbly floor.
You bend your knees, spread your arms out
testing ways not to fall.
Eventually you start bouncing.
That’s why you came here, right?
You go higher, your heart snagging, catching air
as your body ascends
sharp inhale and
arms float up
your mouth does too and then
the castle lets out air
flattening on a sun soaked patch of grass.
When we first met, we were thinking about topics we had in common for our project. We had both dealt with experiences of shame related to sexuality, which were imposed on us by parents and societal conventions. We stumbled upon anti-masturbation propaganda, which made us realize how absurd this stigma is. The image was of a woman burning in hell, claiming that “the clitoris is the devil’s doorbell.”
We wanted to create an image that was the opposite of this terrifying picture, where women especially could feel welcome to explore their bodies and experience pleasure. Our writing explores our similar journeys experiencing shame and ultimately embracing self-pleasure as a positive outlet.
Meet the Pair
Mentee Skylar Nguyen & Mentor Liz von Klemperer
Mentee’s Anecdote: I loved my time spent with Liz. She is very open, understanding, kind, and cool. I think we are a great match; it’s wild that we have so much in common, despite being thirteen years apart. I appreciate having a mentor whom I can talk to and look up to. We like to discuss all sorts of topics together, and we both feel comfortable addressing sensitive, personal topics in our writing. I feel close to her, like she is not only my writing partner, but my friend, which I hope extends beyond our time at Girls Write Now.
Mentor’s Anecdote: We put a timer on and let ourselves free write for ten minutes. I see Skylar’s face in the corner of my screen, concentrating. At the end of ten minutes, we compare. I am always amazed at how our experiences overlap, whether it’s related to mental health, sexuality, or family dynamics. I love how writing and conversation blend together, allowing us to create and bond despite our age gap. It’s weird to know I’ve formed such a connection with Skylar despite never actually having met her in person, but I’m looking forward to it!
Liz (she/they) holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, where she worked as the Columbia Journal’s Online Fiction editor. Her book reviews and author interviews have been featured in Tin House online, LAMBDA Literary, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Full Stop, and more. She is a mentor for Girls Write Now, and has acted as a juror for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Most recently she was a participant in the ’22 Tin House YA workshop.