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Know Touching

The one paragraph in English on Gili Pliskin’s website (onenut.co.il) closes with “the pleasure is all yours,” which might be a strange introduction were not Pliskin the author of Dvarim Sheratziti Laga’at or Know Touching (sometimes translated from the Hebrew as Things I Wanted to Touch), a revolutionary new book about female masturbation. Pliskin interviewed women across the spectrum of Israeli society — old and young, religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi (as well as one Israeli Arab), lesbian and straight. And what she found was revealing: Israeli women have, by and large, accepted the idea that masturbation is shameful and wrong, and that it can even cause physical damage:

“The victim of [anti-masturbation] literature… begins to fear the onset of some mental illness, some weakening of the nervous system. It is enough to feel some sort of symptom once, such as a headache, anger, a memory lapse, heart palpitations, and she is immediately prepared to see this as a result of masturbation.”

Pliskin describes her own fear and shame regarding masturbation — and the seismic shift in her worldview when she realized that she might break free of those. She also surveys references to masturbation in Israeli literature, shares her interviewees’ testimony and details the history of masturbation’s representation in Israeli culture. There’s even a how-to chapter.