Masturbation is thrilling, satisfying and healthy—but if you're wondering how to masturbate properly, never fear—you're not alone.
Masturbation, the act of solo, self-pleasure, is completely normal—in fact, a 2016 study by TENGA found that 81% of women have masturbated at least once. “Masturbation is as therapeutic as a good meditation session,” says Dr. Sakshi Tickoo, a Mumbai-based registered personal and sexuality counselor. "Contrary to what we believe, it is more of a psychological connection than a physical act.”
And there are a multitude of physical and psychological benefits to solo play—as well as achieving the big O, of course. Dr. Sakshi Tickoo explains: “Masturbation promotes better sleep, enhances mood, improves the ability to experience orgasms, improves pelvic strength and muscle contractions, reduces stress, and enhances body image and overall sexual confidence. Other benefits that aren’t talked about as often include increased sexual and body awareness, sensory and emotional regulation and a stronger mind-body connection."
With all of those perks, you're likely wondering how to masturbate in order to enjoy the many benefits of solo play. And while masturbation is all about finding out what you personally like, there are some things you can do to make the process a bit easier—whether you've never masturbated before, or you have one of the best sex toys at hand at all times.
How to masturbate: the ultimate guide to solo play
How to prepare for a solo masturbation session:
1. Do the work to un-do shame
For most people, the first step to establishing a meaningful solo sex practice means un-doing learned shame. A noxious culture of sex negativity, poor sex education, purity culture, slut-shaming and insecurity prevents many people from even seeing the sexual shame they carry, and it's something many people carry with them for a lifetime.
This shame can manifest as hating or judging your body, or worrying about how you look or “perform” during sex. You may also struggle to communicate about your desires, needs and expectations for sex, or even believe you are worthy of pleasure and adoration. You may even feel guilty for wanting to pleasure yourself.
Know that these thoughts are not your fault, but rather the result of a cultural conditioning you did not consent to.
If you suspect you may carry sexual shame—most of us do, to some extent—Dr. Sakshi Tickoo (opens in new tab) recommends interrogating your feelings. “Ask yourself why you feel shameful and guilty about exploring pleasure and how would you like to change that. Unlearning requires getting uncomfortable first, and challenging the sexual scripts we have been conditioned to believe for years altogether.
"Get to therapy if you think you can’t do this alone or find a trusted one to have these vulnerable conversations," she says.
2. Move away from the end of a 'goal'
One of the best things you can do as you prepare to get in touch with self-pleasure is to remove the goalpost. Shift away from orgasm-centered sex, and remind yourself that exploration, connection, and pleasure are the real purposes, not any one body function.
One of the best ways to do this is to start slow. For example, invite pleasure into your shower time or nighttime routine, by feeling your body and appreciating its curves, folds and movements. Take some extra time before you sleep to discover your erogenous zones. Solo play shouldn’t feel like a marathon to orgasm—you can enjoy pleasure in small, bite-size moments, too.
A step-by-step of masturbation techniques to try:
1. Set the scene for maximum relaxation
Choose your toys beforehand and have lube nearby. Consider beginning your solo play with a bit of a ritual by taking a shower, playing your favorite music, applying body lotion, reading or watching erotica.
2. Grab a mirror and get comfortable looking at your genitalia
“Admire them, touch them or just explore; whatever you do here will help you in learning about your body and understanding what feels nice and how you should be touched for pleasure,” says Dr. Tickoo.
3. Find the right position for you
For vulva owners, the best position to masturbate is the one you’re most comfortable in. But as a jumping-off point, “many [people] masturbate in bed or on chairs either on their back or sitting up. Some like to kneel over a toy, straddling it, and move their body up and down on it,” says certified sex coach Shannon Burton.
4. Try stimulating your vulva
Knowing how to masturbate means knowing what you like, and to do this, it's important to play around. To stimulate the external vulva, use your fingers (with body-safe lubricant!) or different textures like a glass toy or feather, and “touch or trace lightly along the lips of the vagina called the labia majora and minora. Using a finer and more gentle stimulation works like a good tease, builds desire, and increases blood flow to the pelvic floor, lubricating the vagina and somewhat exposing the clitoris. Alternatively, a broad stimulation with fingers or toys can be also helpful if you like blended stimulations and more sensation,” says Dr. Tickoo.
5. Lean into what feels good
As you become aroused, notice what feels good and what your body is craving. Touch your inner thighs, neck, tummy and nipples. Gradually, move towards your clit. Try out a few basic motions, says Dr. Tickoo, like rubbing (up and down, side to side or in circles), tapping (alternate between fingers to enhance focused sensation), pulsing (make concentric circles of varying or same pressure), dispersed (use faster-swaying movements for broader and intense stimulation), and a mix combination of all of the above.
“The beauty of these basic movements is that they can be used with toys, tongue, fingers and palm along the length of the vulva and near the opening of the vagina," she explains. At this point, you can even use guided meditation, if you're struggling with some direction.
6. Try internal stimulation, if you're ready
If you’re ready for internal stimulation, apply lube liberally to your toy of choice of hand (try one of the best hands-free vibrators or app-controlled vibrators), and pay special attention to your G-spot (located a few centimeters inside the vagina on the upper wall, closest to your tummy. Some people report a walnut or spongey-like texture to their G-spot).
Dr. Tickoo recommends three types of stimulation: a “come hither motion” with two fingers on the G-spot, circular motions inside the vagina, or side to side in a “screen wiper” motion. While focusing on internal stimulation, you may also want to touch your clit with the other hand or use a toy.
7. Use a vibrator for beginners if you're struggling
If using your hands seems intimidating, try using a beginner’s vibrator like Stronic Surf (opens in new tab) or Dame Pom (opens in new tab). But toys aren’t the only option—consider using a shower head, too. After all, who doesn't love shower sex?
“Removable shower heads are very popular with vulva-owners. Take the shower head off its cradle, point a jet of water at your clitoris, and have fun!” says Burton. “Shower heads with multiple settings are even more popular due to the various sensations they offer.” Just be careful the water isn't too hot!
Masturbation is healthy, fun and good for you. But don’t expect magic overnight— it takes time to learn about your body and what you like. So, be patient and take the steps to bring pleasure into your life on your terms!
Sara Youngblood Gregory is a lesbian writer and poet. She covers sex, kink, disability, culture, and wellness. Sara serves on the board of the lesbian literary and arts journal, Sinister Wisdom. Her work has been featured in Vice, Teen Vogue, HuffPost, Bustle, DAME, Cosmo, Jezebel, and many others. You may also know Sara as sinister.spinster from Instagram, where they talk about kink and sex ed.
Sara’s debut nonfiction work, THE POLYAMORY WORKBOOK (opens in new tab), about navigating ethical nonmonogamy, is forthcoming on November 8th, 2022.
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