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Here’s why ‘klittra’ isn’t a great word for female masturbation

What’s your commute to work like? Is it one of those normal ones where you get on a bus or train or into a fancy-pants car? Or is it a female commute? Do you eat breakfast, or female breakfast? When you take a piss, is it just, like, a regular piss or do you partake in female urination?

Today someone tweeted me a link to an article ‘what do you call female masturbation?‘ As you might be able to tell I have some Thoughts On This Topic.

In answer to the question: wanking. I call it wanking. Sometimes I will try to mix it up by talking about a hand-shandy or rubbing one out. If I’m feeling particularly coy, then I may refer to it as ‘alone time’ or taking a ‘freelancer’s nap.’ But in general, I rarely refer to what I do on my own with a sleazy fantasy and a fistful of glass dildo as ‘female masturbation.’

The article was about the new word ‘klittra’ – an invented word, being promoted by the Swedish Association for Sexual Education, because “If we don’t have a word in the language, how can we even talk about it?”


We live in a world which treats men and women as if they’re radically different – members of a different species, from different planets, what have you. In this world, where masturbation has for a long time been considered a gentleman’s activity, it’s important to highlight the delights of ladywanking. It makes young girls feel less alone or weird or dirty or any of the things I was vaguely tempted to feel the first few times I explored the contents of my knickers and realised they gave me The Good Feelings. What’s more, it enables us to discuss things like the ways in which female masturbation (as opposed to male masturbation) is presented in the media, in porn, and all that jazz.

So: I 100% understand the need to discuss female masturbation in a gendered way. I do it a lot when I write here as well as for other people, because if you want to tackle gendered assumptions about something, sometimes you have to state it to slate it. BUT it would be super-kickass-awesome if we could discuss ‘female’ masturbation in a way that doesn’t simultaneously prop up the assumption that regular old ‘masturbation’ is ‘male’ by default. So, an article that asks ‘why are we more comfortable talking about male masturbation than female masturbation?’ Fine. An article which asks ‘how can we ever possibly talk about female masturbation if we don’t have a special word for it?’ gets my hackles up. In an ideal world, the word ‘masturbation’ would suffice.

In the article linked above, the intro says:

“Here’s a fun game: how many words or phrases can you come up with to describe male masturbation? (Hint: A lot of them seem to begin with the letter ‘j’. Or ‘w’. Or ‘b’.)”

I can’t help but think that the ‘w’ in this case refers to ‘wanking’ – since when was wanking a gendered thing? Are they looking for ‘female’ words here because these words are all specifically and exclusively male, or because (hint: it’s actually this one) they already have a predisposition to hear a euphemism for masturbation and assume that the wanker is a guy. Personally, I think jerking off, beating one out, jacking off, whacking off – any of these things can equally be applied to female masturbation – and what’s more each and every one of them can be used in a way that challenges the idea that masturbation is radically different depending on your gender.

Genitals and gender

If I use the phrase ‘jerking off’ to apply to ladywanking, there may well be some people who crack out their special ‘let’s edit the internet’ red pen to point out that if you have a clitoris you don’t technically ‘jerk’ it as you might a penis. I’d disagree on that, because it depends on the size of your clit and how you like it stimulated, but more importantly I’d disagree on the grounds that not all women have clits: trans, non-binary, genderqueer, and intersex people all exist. Some will have clits, some won’t, some will have cocks, some won’t: they are all still part of the pool of people who masturbate, drive, and eat breakfast with varying degrees of frequency depending on preference and whether they passed their driving test. I am not an expert on gender (and that is an understatement of truly mammoth proportions) but if you want to read more check out Meg John Barker’s blog, particularly this piece on the future of gender, and this talk on non-binary genders.

Anyway. The article I took issue with originally was about this new word for female masturbation, invented by the Swedish Association for Sexual Education. To be fair to them, they invented this word for good reasons. They, I think laudably, wanted to help challenge this idea that masturbation is a hobby predominantly enjoyed by dudes. Unfortunately, the word they picked was:

Klittra (A cross between their word for ‘clit’ and the word ‘glitter’)

Which is a Big Fucking Let-Down. Firstly: not all women have clits (see above). Secondly, not all women who do have clits rub them when they masturbate (a minor point compared to the first, but perhaps worth mentioning). And finally because we seem to have yet another instance on top of fifty-thousand others where something is marked ‘female’ by the inclusion of some sparkly glitter.

Male and female masturbation inequality

I’m not going to rock up in Sweden and march through the streets or anything – apart from anything else I hear that the booze is quite pricey. I love what the people who came up with this word were trying to do – their stated aim is to help remove some of the stigma around discussing female masturbation, and promote an ‘open, positive view of sex and relationship issues.’ They said that:

“When it comes to masturbation, people mostly think about just men doing it and we don’t think of it as common for women. If we don’t have a word in the language, how can we even talk about it?”

Edited to add: On Twitter earlier, someone pointed out to me that in Swedish masturbation words are all pretty penis-centric, apart from one term for ‘female masturbation’ which is quite clinical. I don’t speak Swedish, but I can see why the discussion around gendered words may well mean vastly different things depending on language. 
It’s important to talk about female masturbation (and there I go, using the qualifier ‘female’ again), because as I say, we don’t live in a society where all masturbation is considered equal: until it is, then we’ll need to distinguish guywanking from girlwanking in order to explain just why our double-standards are odd. If we want to shatter such exciting myths as:

… then yeah, we can’t just use the word ‘wanking’ interchangeably. Likewise if we – as I’ve done in the past – want to talk about how female masturbation is portrayed in porn, or how it’s discussed in sex education classes, and what have you – then that qualifier is valuable.

But it’s important to remember why we’re distinguishing something. In any given context, are gendered terms helpful? Or are they contributing to something that’s already unhelpful – a simplified view of the world in which all women are identical, and less likely to enjoy masturbation than men?

I’m not here to tell you what to call your own alone time – masturbation, female masturbation, klittra, jerking off – as with masturbation itself, I’d advise you to pick what feels good to you. What I am saying is that words can be frigging awesome and powerful and dangerous and exciting and everything that makes me tingle. Feel free to call me a wanker if you like (I most definitely am one), but given this great power, I reckon it’s worth thinking hard about which words we use, and why. Especially if we’re inventing a whole new one.


  • I’ve always just used wanking. It’s not gendered, and even if it is I don’t care. I love the word and the act.

    My name is Horny GeekGirl and I enjoy wanking.

    *great post.

    HGG. xox

  • RB says:

    ‘Female masturbation’, presumably which takes place on a bed of roses with whale sounds playing in the background.

  • I believe in highschool there was a term for ‘female masturbation’ they referred to it as ‘Flicking the bean’ a term that I’ve never been overly joyous about.

    I can only imagine what name would be coined for female masturbation if one were to be created – I’m sure it’ll involve flowers and petal plucking, or some kind of pink merry-go-round because heaven forbid it should sound crude.

    I think I’ll be sticking to the basics of wanking or fucking myself, I don’t feel the need to glam up my self fucking time – regardless of the name the result is the same.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Argh yes – ‘flicking the bean’ – kinda fine in a jokey context, but it’s a bit like the phrase ‘keep your eyes peeled’ – when you think about it too hard it makes you curl up with cringey argh blergh. Sorry, I was cringing so hard I forgot how to do words.

  • Victorianpornbot says:

    There already is a word for the stimulation of the clitoris by a hand or dildo- frig or frigg. It’s a bit old-fashioned, maybe, but it’s got a lot going for it. It has that lovely Anglo Saxon sound of all the best sex-words, it’s active,, it’s gender neutral, it refers as much as what one does to oneself as to a partner, and it doesn’t hide behind glitter and sparkles. A good, specific, dirty word for a very pleasant activity.

    What’s more, frig has a good pedigree – it’s been used by poets, perverts and pornographers since the 17th Century, at least. And having it in your lexicon makes the Thor films smirk-worthy, too.

    (Tried to post something similar earlier, but it seemed to vanish. Sorry if this is a double post.)

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah, sorry – it might be that my comments are playing up =(

      Re: ‘frig’ – I LOVE the word, it’s fantastic. Although I don’t think it’s clitoris-specific. It tends to be used more now in a gendered way, but I don’t think that’s always the case. Google gives a gender-neutral definition, and I seem to remember from the quite shocking time I had reading 120 Days of Sodom (the most horrible book ever, btw) that de Sade uses it liberally, for everyone.

      You’re 100% right about the Thor thing though – I haven’t seen the films but I have seen a Kiwi comedy/drama programme about a guy who is reincarnated Odin, and he keeps talking about how he has to ‘find his Frig’ and it slays me =)

      • Victorianpornbot says:

        You’re right, it is used for both (had to look that up) I hadn’t noticed that. Perhaps it tended more as a clit thing, if only because we have more words for penis-based masturbation? The sort of ‘fidget’/’wriggle’ root feels very clit-y to me, and (to my memory) the restoration filth mongers also used ‘fidget’ to mean specifically female masturbation. Anyway, yards better than klittra. Bleurgh. =)

        Ah, de Sade. Not read Sodom, but Justine left… an impression.

  • Dumb Domme says:

    Klittra (A cross between their word for ‘clit’ and the word ‘glitter’)

    I fucking HATE glitter with the heat of a thousand red hot suns. HATE. Glitter on, around, near, or in reference to my clit is grounds for flamethrowers.

    Yes. I have very strong feelings about glitter. I own that.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ugh yes. Glitter anywhere near my clit is likely to make me incredibly angry. I will not sparkle: I will burn with the fiery rage of a thousand suns.

  • My dildos and butt plugs have no glitter anywhere near them, and I use them to masturbate. Ugh. I couldn’t imagine trying to get glitter out of my…lady parts (cough cough).

    Agree with you. Dumb.

  • Klittra sounds like something from Star Trek for fucks sake. “We need to save Klittra from destruction!”

    In my neck of the woods we always refer to masturbation as “playing with yourself”, for either gender. I prefer the term “wank”. It’s short and to the point.

    Wank. Yes, let’s go with that. Speaking of which…

  • North Country Shy Boy says:

    We were recently asked into our kid’s Primary School to see the Sex-ed video ahead of it being shown to the class. There are two videos about impending puberty; one about boys and one about girls.
    The video about boys discusses masturbation frankly and openly and reassures that it’s perfectly normal for boys.
    The video about girls discusses periods frankly and openly and reassures that they’re perfectly normal for girls.
    According to our primary education system, girls do not wank.
    It’s not the easiest topic to raise with the Head Teacher, but it was blatant sexism and is the starting point for all of the attitudes you discuss in this blog…

    • Girl on the net says:

      Wow. That has genuinely shocked me. In the 21st century. Thanks so much for commenting- I seriously hope the head listens to your comments and makes changes.

      • North Country Shy Boy says:

        It shocked me too!
        These are standard classroom videos – presumably used all over the country.
        How to create a stigma…

        Love the blog btw – always thought provoking and hugely horny. Thank you!

  • Ladywanking says:

    ‘Ladywanking’ is a great term. Really made me chuckle. ;)

  • Kayla Lords says:

    Okay, so I hate glitter (maybe not as much as DD up there, LOL) and I’m not loving the term “klittra” or whatever it is. But I do like the fact that female masturbation made headlines today. No, it’s not breaking news but talking more about it than usual (which is Not At All unless it’s those of us who talk and write about it all the time) isn’t bad either.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I see your point – I do think it’s good to bring the conversation to the mainstream, and talk about how masturbation isn’t just something that guys do (see Northern Country Shy Boy’s comment above – there are still so many misconceptions!). But most of the write-ups of this I’ve seen (the linked Marie Claire piece, and a couple of others) still place female masturbation at odds with ‘regular/normal’ masturbation, as if masturbation is typically male. But I agree, we should talk about female masturbation more, and I think the organisation that came up with this word had good intentions, I just think it’s a bit of a misfire.

  • David says:

    I hate anything that genderises anything. Why do we need two words to say the same thing (thinking gay/lesbian as an example but yours here are the same)? I can understand the point re Sweden having a lot of male concepts for wanking but adding a female one to the list is surely not helping? Good thought provoking post and love the blog.

  • Mr Archer says:

    It’s weird, I get exactly why is wrong, I even agree with the context of why it’s wrong, and why you don’t like it….


    I like the word “Klittra”. I really like the way it rolls off my tongue when I say it out loud. I’m even seriously considering using klittraring when either masturbating or stimulating another woman. In my head, naturally, as it is a new word, and needs to go mainstream before I say it aloud and publicly.

    I just think it sounds like a really sexy word when I say it. Weird, but hey.

  • Very good article. You didn’t mention ‘Jilling off’ as an alternative to the boys’ ‘Jacking off’.

    Ladywanking is a great term and very feminine, but I don’t like frig as it is a somewhat ugly word. There’s nothing ugly about a self-induced orgasm – well female anyway LOL.

    I did some experimenting with a Durex Dream comparing effects on me and on my partner. I wrote about it here for anyone interested, although Peter said I distorted the length of his orgasm by unfair persistence of use of the vibrator!

    Do love reading your blog.

  • sarapallas says:

    My ex and best friend calls it, in my case, “mini earthquakes”. Or, if I’m on the water (live on a boat), mini tsunamis.

    Suits me fine.

    (Although before, it was just wanking.)

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    When I was a teenage boy, I didn’t even realise that masturbation was a thing that girls did too, until I heard it referred to in a Buffy episode. (My first thought was probably ‘but… how?’) My sex education was like the one referred to by North Country Shy Boy above – boys wanked and girls had periods, which seemed to me rather unfair on the girls.

    With porn (even) more easily available these days, I imagine today’s teens are probably less ignorant…

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