The first step to understanding love is learning how to love yourself.

By Devin Spady

This piece includes mention of SA and later describes self-pleasure. Reader discretion advised.

2023 Reflection

I first wrote this piece in 2019 while reflecting on a sexual assault roughly six months prior. I’ve always known I wanted to share this story more broadly, but I had many doubts. Who is the audience? Can anyone relate? Why am I sharing this if it’s just for my healing? Does it feel like I’m playing off the momentum of the #MeToo movement? I thought of all of the reasons not to share this piece, but now, almost five years later, I’m ready. I’m turning 27 this year, and I am proud of 22-year-old me for asking myself the questions presented in this piece.

To whoever reads this, thank you for engaging in this dialogue with my past and present. To anyone who’s experienced something similar…I hope you find pleasure again.

March 27, 2019

Today, I bought a vibrator. I’m 22 years old, single, and I realized many of my friends have more experience with sex toys than I’ve had. I felt like a virgin walking into the shop, all nervous and giggly at the slightest mention of a clitoris. I didn’t understand why I felt so uncomfortable when considering pleasuring myself, since I’d allowed boys to pleasure me with no hesitation.


I asked myself, “How am I to call myself a feminist who is comfortable with her sexuality, when I’ve allowed the patriarchy to dictate my sexuality for me?”

I’m becoming more comfortable with my sexuality. I tried to convince my therapist that I already was, because I knew I liked having sex and that I was comfortable with that part of me. But I wasn’t.

As I sat there waiting for my new pink, curvy friend to charge, I texted my friends about what was about to go down. It was weird because we never really talked about masturbation, and when we did, it was awkward. Four Black girls with varying sexual experiences found it awkward to talk about pleasure and sex. We talked about boys all the time. But this conversation didn’t have the group chat as responsive as usual. “Have fun!” one friend responded.

As I texted another friend about how awkward yet excited I was to try something new, I had one of the biggest epiphanies I will likely have as a young woman. It’s the epiphany I’m sharing in this piece, because I want all women to have this realization sooner.

I masturbated last night for the first time since my assault.

The last time I had healthy sex was at the end of August. In early September, I was sexually assaulted. This resulted in a sexual hiatus that has now lasted for seven months. For the first four months of my sexual hiatus, I didn’t want my body wrongfully touched again. I wanted to feel protected, so I let my pubic garden grow knowing that I wouldn’t dare let a man see her without a fresh wax. I felt safer without a clear palette.

In December, I began to feel horny again. I was surprised, as if my body had reawakened. I looked at a man and felt the tingle I used to feel. I was shocked and excited. I knew the inner goddess in me was making her return after doing some healing. She wasn’t fully awake yet, but there were slight movements in her crevices.
Throughout February, my mind could only think of sex. I talked about sex in every conversation. You would’ve thought I was having sex every day, twice a day, by the way I lit up when sex came up in conversation. If it didn’t come up, I was the one to bring it up.

Last night, on Feb. 25, I had some drinks with a couple of friends and came home a bit tipsy. I knew going to sleep immediately would result in a headache, so I called friends, watched YouTube videos and scrolled on Instagram for at least an hour. Eventually, I got up to go shower and felt too tired to put on pajamas. I got under my covers naked to lay in the dark.

I couldn’t help that my mind was racing about my previous sexual escapades. My hand took control as the rest of me felt too sleepy to even move. The next thing I knew, my back was arched, my legs were spread and my goddess was awakened.

So today, I bought a vibrator.

I’m 22 years old, and last night was the first time I pleasured myself without the witness or influence of a man. There was no one else to see, hear or engage in this pleasure. Nor was there me explaining to someone how wet I was for their pleasure rather than mine. It was just me and my body. At that moment, I realized I only ever pleasured myself with the help of someone else or for someone else.

As a young woman, I unfortunately believed that only a man could pleasure me. Instead of being taught the value of self-love and then in turn how to love others, I feared not being loved and being left “alone.”
I was only exposed to media that presented women who use vibrators as either “too old to get a man,” “too career-focused to get a man” or “not attractive enough to get a man” without any consideration of that woman’s identity and her sexual preferences. Masturbation was reserved for men. How dare we even think we can pleasure ourselves? How dare we even think we can love ourselves?

The first step to understanding love is learning how to love yourself.

Once you know how to love yourself, you can then fearlessly express to someone else how to love you. Likewise, you can recognize when someone isn’t loving you the way you deserve. In return, you better understand how to give that love to others.

I’m laying now in my bed, freshly showered, teeth brushed, cocoa buttered down to my toes, and my goddess is awaiting me. For once, I didn’t get sexy to go to bed for someone else to enjoy. I’ve done it for myself.

March 27, 2019 | Updated reflection on August 17, 2023



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