I am a woman and I masturbate. Gasp! Shock! Awe! Yes. That’s correct. And guess what — if you’re reading this in a public place, the women around you do, too. Hey, chances are some of them are doing it right now. Jokes. That’s probably not true. That’d be outrageous. But if you are, you go, girl! Actually, no, you don’t go, girl — that’s kind of gross. Get a room.

There is a paralyzing taboo surrounding women and their personal sexual choices. Whether it’s from the stigma of being branded a “slut,” the crippling pieces of legislation that force women into unwanted decisions about our bodies or stifling traditional upbringings, we’ve been taught to be afraid of our sexuality. We’ve been told that once a woman has had one too many sexual partners she is suddenly a “whore” or a “skank.” Women have been conditioned to believe that personal control of their sexuality isn’t acceptable and that a woman’s desire for an orgasm is something that should never be admitted. Even I at times pretend I don’t like sex. But I do. I like sex a lot. And when I’m having, as one says, a “dry spell,” I help myself out.

And guess what some women do, too? They watch porn. Lots of it. Some women could even be called “connoisseurs” of pornography. I’m not much of a connoisseur, but I do dabble just enough to know that Paris Hilton’s tape is overrated and lame. She’s awkward, has a baby voice and creeps me out.

These elements of sexual activity aren’t just taboo in mixed social settings but are sometimes unspoken even among women. It’s shocking how little women will discuss masturbation in the company of other women. Take my roommates and me, for example. We have all been friends for more than three years. We know each other’s bowel movements, menstrual cycles and “number” — that’s how many people a person has had sex with, in case you were wondering. It wasn’t until this year on a quiet weekday evening, sitting around our cozy living room, however, when I shyly asked, “Hey guys, do you watch porn?” that we finally broke the lock on revealing our masturbatory habits.

While I can’t claim to speak for all women, the Kinsey Institute reports that 77 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 have masturbated. I can also tell you that among the women I am usually surrounded by, masturbation is a semi- to fully regular activity. Now by “regular,” I don’t mean two to four times a day as some men have told me they do. I mean, really, TWO to FOUR times a day? Who has time for that?! By “regular,” I mean I do it one to two times a week.

It’s time that women stop being embarrassed about wanting an orgasm. The truth is that it’s really hard for a lot of women to reach climax. And you can’t possibly expect someone else to know your body until you do. I’m not saying that we need to run around telling our lab partners and study buddies how masturbating was last night, but women need to be proud of their sexual explorations.

Be smart, make thoughtful decisions and be proud of them when you do. And, if there’s a night when you go home alone, treat yo’self.

Oh, and, in the spirit of full disclosure, last night I had a sex dream about Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VIII from “The Tudors.” I’m talking end-of-Season-One wood-scene style. And yeah. I rocked his world.

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