Recently, I ended up in a conversation about masturbation with a bunch of other women.

Everyone was being very transparent about what sex toys they use. However, one person claimed they never masturbate. Maybe she did, but didn’t want to say. Maybe she genuinely didn’t masturbate and didn’t believe in it. Whatever the case, I was shocked when others in the group labelled her a prude. She was told she was closed off. She was made to feel as though her choice in not exploring her own body was the wrong one.

It got me thinking about modern-day attitudes to sex and relationships. Although the message of sexual freedom for women is beautifully liberating, it also has the power, when used incorrectly, to make anyone who wants their sexual life to remain private feel ashamed. 

I want to make it clear from the outset that I truly believe the change in attitude towards sex has been crucial in giving women the freedom to feel comfortable with their bodies and how they use them. We needed this, and I’m so glad that my generation is closer than ever to true sexual liberation. 

But – and perhaps because I was in a relationship for several of the most pivotal years of my development –  I just feel slightly disconnected from it all. Despite the transparency of this unfiltered narrative, I find myself still struggling with joining in all the transparent sex-talk, and also keeping my sex life private as that’s what I’m comfortable with.

In a world where everyone’s experimenting with sex and talking about sex, how do you move with the times but still stay true to yourself if you just don’t want to join in?

It seems that in recent times being sexually liberal and free is how I’m “meant” to be as a young person, even if it doesn’t come naturally. It sometimes feels like we’re all competing with other women to explore sex the most, and that means that not experimenting – and not talking about your experimentation –  is looked down upon. 

While the rise of multiple sexual partners, no strings attached sex you don’t apologise for, a very healthy relationship with your sex toys and a sexual history that you are very comfortable discussing is fantastic, there is a dark side I think we need to address. I believe there is a toxic pressure where women who don’t connect with this discourse get pressured to justify their sexual identity. 

The sexual liberation movement needs to go further. We need to remember that sexual freedom looks different for everyone.

As a newly single female, I want to enjoy exploring my freedom and new found independence whilst still being me. We need to respect people’s choices, even if we disagree with them, instead of shaming them for not going in the same direction as us. 

There is room for everyone’s sexuality and I think it’s about time we respected that.

Anna Doherty is a freelance writer.