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As I read through the fall semester program calendar for the Women’s Center, one event in particular caught my attention. For the first time since I’ve been a student here, Princeton University is sponsoring a discussion on female masturbation. I’ve heard of other schools hosting such talks for women students, but it’s a huge deal for Princeton.

I was in a friend’s room when I made the discovery, and before I had even read the complete description, I turned to my friend and excitedly asked her whether she had noticed it.

“Oh my god, yes!” she said. “I really want to go.”

We immediately proceeded to engage in a constructive conversation of our own on the topic mentioned. We asked each other questions and provided advice. Most significantly, we both benefitted from simply talking about masturbation.

Discussing women’s self-pleasure is widely considered taboo, leaving little opportunity for discussion. I knew, for example, that Wellesley College organizes talks about masturbation and sex toys, but I never thought Princeton would sponsor such a talk for its women students during my time here. Because of the silence surrounding this topic, the act of hosting these discussions is significant and cathartic.

I am not only thoroughly surprised, but thrilled that the University is offering female students the opportunity to engage in a discussion about masturbation — a topic on the peripheries of most people’s thoughts on gender equality. This pivotal break from the status quo represents a change in the way our school thinks about women on campus, and it calls for celebration.

I perceive the upcoming discussion on women’s sexual self-pleasure as one of many events, stretching back to 1969, that represents a change in the relationship between Princeton and women. In 1969, the University started to accept women undergraduates. It took twenty-one more years, and a series of lawsuits, until all of the eating clubs accepted women as members. Even in the recent past, male students have dominated positions like the USG presidency. The succession of Ella Cheng ’16 and Aleksandra Czulak ’17 as presidents is an anomaly.

Women’s masturbation is an issue of gender equality because it is directly tied to the idea that women have the right and ability to exercise sexual autonomy. To some people, this idea may seem too salacious to have its own lecture — but that’s exactly what’s happening. And it’s happening at a school that has a troubled history incorporating women students into its campus. This talk is one small step for women’s sexual pleasure, but one giant leap for Princeton’s womankind.

The talk on women’s self-pleasure will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 5at 12:30 p.m. at the Women’s Center.

Claire Thornton is a sophomore from San Antonio, Texas. She can be reached at claireat@princeton.edu.

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