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Learning to Love Yourself (An Intro to Masturbation)

Nov. 28, 2016
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We can do this one of two ways: either I deliver a series of euphemisms, entendres, and cute little idioms that will make you blush, giggle, and groan, or I tell it to you straight (which will still make you blush, giggle, and groan).

First, a super quick not-boring primer on masturbation:

Everyone masturbates, and even if they say they don’t masturbate, they’ve at least done it once, or thought about doing it. With respect to asexuals, human beings are hardwired to want and experience sensual pleasure with our bodies. But why does something so natural make us uncomfortable? 

As long as sex has been in the picture, so has religion. In fact, there’s an entire backstory that I go into in another article. Let me be clear: there is no explicit ancient dogma that restricts sexuality except in terms of property and to uphold civil society (e.g., do not covet your neighbor’s wife, do not commit adultery). “Gay sex” doesn’t come into the periphery until around the 19th century when privatization of property, acceleration of the middle class, and modern anxieties on convention and normalcy set in. And up to this point, “masturbation as sin” had been more male-focused (onanism, anyone?) than female. Though once it did become a concern, medical procedures were innovated through the 19th century to curb female masturbation, like the complete or partial removal of the clitoris (John Duffy, “Masturbation and Clitoridectomy”). Such practices are unthinkable to us now, but genital mutilation still occurs in many parts of the globe (Somalia, Egypt, and Nigeria to name a few - The Guardian goes into a detail on where exactly and how many women are affected . Thanks to the Sexual Revolution of the ‘60s and ‘70s, masturbation, homosexuality, and other formerly ‘deviant sexual disorders’ have been studied and discussed without the threat of demonization.

Since then, masturbation is now more than acceptable. Studies have shown that it helps people go to sleep, ease body aches and menstrual cramps, relieve stress, increase non-sexual (and sexual) self-satisfaction, and be happier overall.

Like I said, everyone does it: from Britney Spears in a clear glass tub performing in concert to Miley Cyrus miming it on stage, it’s a punchline to a sexualized society. Moms drop TMI-tales of their own youthful (or not-so-youthful) self-exploration at Sunday brunch, while Facebook feeds have cringe-worthy posts of people who readily admit to doing it on the regular (lotion sometimes included). Like it or not, knowing your body is en vogue, and this is what this guide is all about, nice girls.

First things first:

If the topic makes you uncomfortable, or you can’t seem to get yourself started, or you don’t even know what the fuss is about in the first place, that is completely okay. There’s no rule that says you have to do this, or even try it if you don’t want to. But if you’re here and reading this far, there’s a part of you that wants to know something, and that’s okay, too. Knowledge is power, and there definitely is power in knowing your own body, how it reacts, what it likes, and what feels good. There is a saying that I like to remember whenever a girlfriend asks me if something is normal, sexually: “Your lover is as clueless as you are.” The answer is within yourself, since sexuality is so subjective and individualized.

The upside to masturbation is that the only one who knows what’s going on is you. It’s a completely solitary, isolated activity that relies on you, and you alone, to cater entirely to. But before we get into accessories and set-up, the biggest sexual organ must be primed in order to make this happen: your mind. If you’re not 100% into it, it’s not going to work.

Gateways into masturbation

  1. Creating a mood: Romance for one, anyone? Scented candles, a soothing bubble bath, and a detachable shower-head connected to a hose. This is one of the gentlest and easiest introductions into masturbation. Relaxing into the warm water and letting the shower-head pulsate against the skin as you figure out by sensation alone what works for you. Even if there is no orgasmic finish, the massaging sensation alone is simply exquisite.
  2. Association: Some people like to wait for when inspiration strikes. Scents, sounds, images are ways to trigger a sexual reaction (a ‘Pavlovian reaction’) once you associate these triggers with erotic turn-ons. There’s a lot of pornography out there that isn’t honest with the act of masturbation, making it into a performance. However, it’s subjective and up to you. Hands, however, never fail. Word of advice: trim your nails before going down under.
  3. Warm-up: By touching other parts of your body, you set a tone for masturbation. Don’t just rush into it; ease into it by massaging and caressing your body, rewarding yourself with love and affection after a hard day (or after a great one!)
  4. Routine: Others like to make masturbation into a ritual, like right before bedtime. This is a great option if climax is not a goal, or if you’re a chronic insomniac and want to avoid medication.
  5. Experimentation: This is essential. No one hits a homer on their first try. You may even feel silly for trying. Practicing and experimenting in different ways that satisfy your sexual curiosity will be more satisfying than performing what you think masturbation “should be.” There’s an infinite number of ways one can please herself.

Types of climax

There’s quite a few options for the ladies. There’s the clitoral (the outer area of the genitals); vaginal (inside the vaginal cavity) which has the basic climax of the ‘G’ spot, an area against the wall which when pressed has the potential for maximum amount of pleasure, as well as the possibility for female ejaculation (‘squirting’ a fluid from your vaginal cavity rather than the urethra) and multiple orgasms; and the elusive anal orgasm. Yes, even there you can get intense pleasure from stimulation thanks to the thousands of nerve endings centralized in that area.

Clitoral climaxes

  • Rubbing, massaging, squeezing, pulling the labia lips (minora and majora); using an object (pillow, piece of soft fabric, hard rounded corner) to rub or hump against; circling around the clitorus (located where the labia lips start, at the bottom of the vulva, usually it feels like a bump or ‘pearl’) with either an object of choice or finger. This is a great way to either get revved up for the other two types of climaxes, or to keep going until completion.

Vaginal climaxes

  • Rubbing, caressing, massaging the outer area of the vagina; inserting either a finger(s), or a smooth, cylindrical object gradually. If you’re a total novice, I would recommend a small dildo (up to 4-5” long, no more than ½” to ¾” wide); use this to slide between your labia as you build up your own lubrication (or use pre-manufactured lube). Once comfortable, dip into the crevice, inserting your weapon of choice slowly, pulling it out just to the point of exiting, then pushing back in; repeat until you’re satisfied.

Anal climaxes

  • Rubbing, caressing, massaging the outer area of the anus, perineum (the skin bridge between the anus and vagina), and rectum, made better by lubrication; insertion of smooth, cylindrical objects gradually and gently into the rectum with lots, and lots, and lots of lubrication to keep it slick and safe from tears; the gradual buildup of momentum by moving these objects in and out of the rectum the same way you would for the vagina (BUT slowly and always according to what is comfortable! Do not force this! This area is far more delicate than the vagina.)

A touchy subject

The only ones demonizing masturbation are extremists on both sides of the spectrum; but, if masturbation is a priority over real connection (work, school, family, friends, romance) then that’s when it’s an issue. Remember that this is an outlet for stress relief and no one should have power to make you feel bad about owning and loving your body. In the end, I hope that this guide helped you discover parts (ha!) about yourself, and still feel like a “nice girl.”

Want to learn more?

These are the best books on sexual self-education I’ve read and I highly, highly, highly encourage everyone to buy a copy of them.

  • The Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides, Psy.D.: My absolute classic pick for all things general in the realm of sexual education. Any question you had, this is the place to reveal the answer. Complete with nifty illustrations and light humor but with accurate medical and psychological know-how. Everywhere from anatomy to oral sex to sexual positions and kinks, you will keep this book on your shelf for as long as you’re interested in the topic.
  • The Woman’s Anatomy of Arousal by Sheri Winston, CNM, RN, BSN, LMT: A great book on discovering intimate anatomy through the eyes of a female clinician, mid-wife, and student of “ancient erotic traditions”, written in easy to read language.
  • The Elusive Orgasm: A Woman's Guide to Why She Can't and How She Can Orgasm by Vivienne Cass, PhD: Written by a well-respected expert in the field of sexual health, this book outlines the difficulties around the feminine orgasm as well as a path to a solution.

Want to find out how to pick a sex toy? Check out my other article found here.

Cover Image by Tina Lawson
Images via WikiMedia, The History Vault