This article originally appeared on VICE US.
In response to the question "Girls what's the strangest thing you've masturbated with?" the women of Reddit offered up a treasure trove of sex toys constructed from household objects, telling story after story about items they had repurposed back in the day (before they had access to vibrators). From electric toothbrushes to Teddy Ruxpins to tubes of M&M's Minis, the sum of their household lust makes the old adage true: If you build it, they will fuck it.
Perhaps surprisingly, pillows and stuffed animals were prominent features in many the Macgyvered-toy tales told.
Urbandictionary.com defines "pillow humping" as "The act of having consentual [sic] sex with a pillow (well, a pillow never says no)." The wordsmith who came up with this beautiful definition says that pillow humping (or as I like to call it, "cushion pushin'") knows no gender. But make no mistake: Bedroom pillows (and plushy stuffed animals) were the preferred sex toy of female adolescence.
It might seem counterintuitive that girls would prefer to use soft objects, often outside their clothes, for optimum masturbatory pleasure. Why does rubbing up on a pillow and/or a Gumby doll feel so damn good?
For one thing, the clit is huge; it's not just a little nubbin under the hood. The majority of the clitoris is actually within the pelvis, and that little button you might think it is? Just the beginning. When the clitoris is erect, it can extend into the labia majora and even surround the vaginal opening. Therefore, humping a pillow can stimulate more erogenous zones at once. Also important to keep in mind is that the clitoris is one the most nerve rich areas of a woman's body. To help you understand the magnitude of potential clit pleasure, follow the instructions of the Columbia University's sex advice site: "Imagine all of the nerve endings in the penis poured into an area as small as a pea."
Go ahead, imagine it.
Makes sense that the soft touch of a pillow (or giant Scooby Doo plushie) might be more pleasurable than the jackhammering of a vibrator. Women also report preferring more full-bodied stimulation than men. Whereas a man will focus on the penis alone, a woman is more likely to get nipples, thighs, and other "secondary" erogenous zones into the mix. A giant Scooby Doo is more likely to hit those other hotspots than a vibrator, M&M's Minis tube, or curling iron.
"But wait a minute," you might say, "are you telling me I wasted $120 on my rubbery vibrator with rabbit ears when I could have just been grinding on my memory foam pillow?"
Possibly, but only you know what makes you feel you the best. The real issue is that so much of our understanding of female sexual response has been shaped by men and their phallocentric conceptions of pleasure.
Sigmund Freud was one of the first to try and science his way around a vagina. His psychoanalytic practice was primarily focused on rich women whose problems, he believed, stemmed from sexual hang-ups—specifically, having the wrong kind of orgasm. He believed that young girls experienced clitoral orgasms, but that these were "immature sexual responses" they'd grow out of once their husbands or lovers introduced them to penetrative sex. Then the fully "mature" vaginal orgasms could occur, and babies would be produced, and the world could continue on in the fashion to which we've all grown accustomed.
For years, this was how female sexual dysfunction was treated: Get her to like vaginal sex because the clit is immature. As it turns out, this hypothesis is disprovable on all counts. First of all, only 25 percent of women experience orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. Secondly, even a vaginal orgasm is really a clitoral one.
Another reason why so many women humped pillows in their youth? A good pillow hump is much less intimidating than using a vibrator, or really anything that can penetrate you. (Even a tampon can seem daunting when it's the first thing you've had up there.)
Possibly the biggest advantage a stuffed animal or pillow has over a vibrator for young girls, though, is accessibility: The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior gathered data on the sexual habits of men and women ages 14-90, and it found that younger women were more likely to have solo masturbation as their main or only sexual activity. Since you can't legally enter a sex shop until you're 18, it makes sense that many of the Redditors' stories of improvised sex toys—taken from their early teens—were about pillows instead of pocket rockets.
Let's salute young girls around the world for their thriftiness and ingenuity!
Ask-Hole is a regular column in which Broadly investigates questions you probably already knew the answers to, but we didn't, so here it is. Do you have a question about honestly anything at all? Ask us about it.