Watch List

The Watch List: The Best Masturbation Scenes in TV & Film

The Watch List: The Best Masturbation Scenes in TV & Film

Erika Lust | May 26, 2021 | 6 min. read

Welcome to The Watch List: a monthly feature where I choose a television series or movie that I’ve been watching and loving recently, and tell you why you should be watching it too. This month in honour of masturbation month, I've put together all my favourite masturbation scenes in TV and movies. And once you've finished reading all about my favourite steamy masturbation scenes, watch my sex documentary Female Pleasure Circle for free here!

She’s Gotta Have It: Nola Darling

One masturbation scene that doesn’t always make the cut, most likely due to its brevity (50 seconds to be exact), but deserves recognition nonetheless is Nola Darling in her “loving bed”. It may not seem like much to make it on this list, but it’s in the context of the film’s female narrative that makes it noteworthy. ‘She’s Gotta Have It’, directed by Spike Lee, is a 1986 film that touches on so many weighty issues such as female sexuality, women’s agency, a patriarchal society, and the intersectionality of various marginalised identities (Nola being a bisexual Black woman).

Filmed in black and white, the scene is sensual and artistic. As she slowly rubs her nipples and moves down to her vagina, Nola takes her time not out of hesitation, but because she’s in full control of her sexuality. During the time of the film’s release, we’d already seen men either onscreen masturbating or alluding to it, but a woman? Surely not. ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ might be directed by a man, but Spike Lee captures the power of Nola’s female sexuality — especially in this scene. And he does so in a way that is sure to give you a newfound confidence the next time you move your own hand beneath the sheets.

You can watch the first three seasons of ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ on Netflix now!

She's Gotta Have It

Pen15: Maya Ishii-Peters

Do you remember your first time dabbling in solo sex? Messy, awkward, game-changing — however you’d describe your first experience, Maya Ishii-Peters’ (Maya Erskine) discovery of self pleasure is one that will have many reminiscent of their own early experiences.

For starters, one of the most notable aspects of the show is that Maya and Anna (Anna Konkle), two women in their thirties, play themselves as teens going through the highs and lows of puberty. It’s cringy, hilarious, and a truth-teller of what actually goes down during those awkward years. In episode three of season one, while making her dolls kiss, Maya feels a pulsing sensation in her groin (vagina owners you know what I’m talking about) and she discovers the pleasures of touching it. What ensues is a sexual awakening followed by a hilarious obsession with touching herself non-stop (literally). Although enjoying primitive sexual stimulation, Maya feels what most girls at a young age do when masturbating, shame — especially in comparison to her male classmates. But Pen15 still does it right by using this as an opportunity to normalise female masturbation for young adults while also still reaffirming the stigma that exists.

Watch the first two seasons of Pen15 on Hulu!

The Deuce: Candy

Women behind the scenes and conversations with real sex workers went into the making of this HBO series and let me tell you, it shows. Maggie Gyllenhal plays Eileen (also known as Candy), a sex worker and one of the first women porn directors 👏 While working to support herself and make it in the newly budding porn industry (dominated by men might I add), she’s also financially supporting a son and trying to date. A strong and resilient female character, Candy always opts out of falling into norms set by a patriarchal system. From being a freelance sex worker during a time where pimps and daddies were prominent to fighting her way to success in the adult film industry, she’s a badass entreprenuer doing things on her terms.

So why do I love her masturbation scene? In the whole series we see Candy focusing on the business side of sex work but now we finally see her expressing her sexuality, her desire. After having penetrative sex with Jack, a man she’s been seeing, in which she is unable to orgasm, she masturbates next to him and does it for herself — her sexual appetite, her pleasure.

Watch the entire series now on HBO!

The Deuce

Sex Education: Aimee Gibbs

A roundup of the best masturbation scenes in TV and film would not be complete without Aimee Gibbs’ (Aimee Lou Wood) solo sex scene in the Netflix Series ‘Sex Education’. This series, like its other sex-positive equivalents, covers a very important issue: female pleasure in heterosexual relationships. With such a large amount of vagina owners out there who still can’t reach climax from penetrative sex, Aimee represents those of us who’ve faked it. Not out of choice, but out of the sheer lack of knowledge on how to do it. Even though it’s two boys who encourage her to seek out what brings her pleasure, it’s Aimee who takes charge of her sexuality when it really comes down to it. Against a pillow, dry humping the bed, and even using a blowdryer to cool her down (creative 👀) — Aimee discovers what makes her feel good, and she takes what she’s learned from masturbation to her relationship. In the wise words of Aime Gibbs: “I want you to rub my clit with your left thumb. Start slow but get faster, but not too fast. When I start to shake, blow on my ear and get ready for fireworks.” Now that’s what I like to hear 😏

Watch the widely popular ‘Sex Education’ on Netflix now!

Broad City: Ilana Glazer

Last, but surely not least, ‘Broad City’. All the masturbation scenes throughout this series’ run are so good they’re hard to rank. From Ilana losing her sexual urge to masturbate following Donald Trump’s acceptance of office as the US President in 2017 to her discovery of the titillating sensations that come from the water pressure of a bidet, ‘Broad City’ consistently pushed for women to be their truest selves from the show’s beginning to its end. Produced by Amy Poehler, this comedy series is female-driven in every aspect. So when Ilana has a climax dry spell post Trump’s election, she visits a sex therapist (Betty Dodson inspired) who helps her on an emotional journey to reach the big O. But what makes this scene stand out is that there’s no focus on what Ilana’s wearing, whether her pleasure sounds are sexy or not and best of all, she’s overcoming an emotional block rather than a physical one. Something many of us can relate to, am I right?

Broad City is available to watch on Amazon and Hulu!

Broad City

Have something you want to recommend for the Watch List? Tell me about it in the comments!

Erika Lust is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, and writer who's focus on female pleasure, cinematic values, and ethics in adult cinema have helped to change how pornography is consumed. Erika Lust Films was born in 2004 and since then Erika has ... Read More
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