You’re horny, bored, and/or stressed out (thanks, endless news cycle!). What’s a girl to do? Masturbate, of course!
For starters, masturbation doesn't just feel good—solo play is legit good for you. "Masturbation releases stress and anxiety," says Leah Millheiser, MD, clinical assistant professor and director of female sexual medicine at Stanford University Medical Center.
"We know that you get total-body relaxation after an orgasm, which is great for someone who's tense," she adds. "Masturbation also increases blood flow to the genitals, which is important because blood flow keeps the vagina healthy." And for those who are looking to avoid pregnancy, reduce their risk of STIs or who are healing from trauma that's made penetrative sex painful or undesirable, not only is masturbation the best option, but it's oftentimes the only one, explains Wendasha Jenkins Hall, PhD, a sex educator, researcher, and trainer. See? Touching yourself is GOOD for you. Yeah, you're welcome.
So, you should probably consider adding it to your self-care Sunday routine, stat.
Beyond that, a solid solo session is crazy-good for your sex life in all sorts of ways. For one, it may help you get more comfortable in bed. "People who don’t masturbate are more likely to have difficulty reaching orgasm with a partner," Millheiser explains.
And when you finally bring your S.O. into the action, you might feel closer to them—orgasms release oxytocin, a powerful hormone, that make you want to bond with the person next to you, she adds.
Now, all that good stuff said, the only problem is not knowing how to masturbate. (It's not like pleasuring yourself was covered in sex ed, and your parents certainly didn't include female masturbation in The Talk.)
"For women in particular, many are taught to believe that masturbation is something horny teenage boys and sexually insatiable men do," says Hall. "In turn, many women are conditioned to view partnered sex as the only avenue to sexual pleasure. Because of this messaging, many women feel stigma, shame, and guilt around masturbation." But they shouldn't! And it's never too late to learn.
Of course, there's no right or wrong way to masturbate (to each vagina her own!), but these expert-approved tips and tricks will not only teach you how to best pleasure yourself—but also take your self-made orgasm to the next level. Let's begin.
1. Bust out a mirror.
Before you can "rock your body" Justin Timberlake–style, you first have to know your body. "It's essential for women to be able to identify their anatomy," says Janet Brito, PhD, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Honolulu. I know you're probably thinking, duh!, but for so many women, this is their downfall.
Brito recommends beginning your investigation the old-fashioned way: with a hand-held mirror. That's the best way to see what your vulva **actually** looks like and, even more importantly, identify your clitoris (a.k.a. your best friend). For many women, the clit—home to some 15,000 (!) nerve endings— is where the masturbation magic happens.
That is, once you find it (easier said than done—just ask your ex). From the outside, all you'll be able to see is the clitoral hood—a flap of skin that retracts during sexual arousal—and the glans clitoris, a little button-like nub.
But that's only the tip of the orgasmic iceberg. Here's what's going on under the hood:
Those are the clitoris' "legs"—they're anywhere from 2.25 to 2.5 inches long and—similar to a penis—can get erect when aroused.
2. Say "hi" to all your ladybits.
Once you finish your mini sex-ed lesson, Brito encourages you to "touch gently and, with curiosity, label the parts that feel most sensitive, arousing, ticklish, and uncomfortable." Take your time to explore all those parts of your body to figure out what feels good and what's just meh—good info to figure out during your solo session, then relay to a partner after.
3. Set the ~mood~.
You light candles and put on your fave sex playlist when you're about to get it on with another person, so why not put in the same amount of effort when it's DIY time? You should, says Brito. "Start by creating a relaxing, comfortable space in your home, full of privacy and free of interruption," she suggests.
After all, it's kinda hard to feel sexy if your room's covered in month-old laundry and yesterday's Chinese food containers (no matter how good they might still smell). Plus, Marie Kondo–ing your space can help clear your mind, giving you more room to focus on identifying what feels pleasurable and, consequently, increasing your chances of having that big O, Brito says.
4. Break out your fave lingerie.
Speaking of setting the mood, why save your sexiest underwear for an audience? Anything that makes you feel sexy—like that black lace bra you haven't worn since V-day—can put you in the right headspace for some next-level solo sex. Even slipping it off can get you all kinds of turned on. As each article comes off, think about what your love most about your body, Amy Levine, sex coach and founder of Ignite your Pleasure previously told Women's Health.
5. Put your phone away.
Masturbation is "me time"—plain and simple. So do your best to pretend the outside world doesn't exist (buh-bye, phone) and tune into what's going on inside your bod. "A woman who can practice mindfulness is much more likely to reach orgasm sooner," says Millheiser. "While masturbating, if you find that your mind is wandering off, recognize that and gently bring it back to focus."
6. Focus on the task at hand (pun intended).
But "you don’t have to turn off your mind to orgasm," says Nan Wise, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and certified sex therapist whose study, Brain Activity Unique to Orgasm in Women, noting that the brain is stimulated by orgasm. Instead, she suggests "paying attention to sensations"—not unlike how you pay attention to your breath when meditating.
That's because using your mind to zero in on the pleasure can seriously enhance your orgasm. (And that's, ya know, kinda the whole point.)
7. Lock your door.
This one might seem obvious, but so many people skip it. Locking your door, even if you're home alone, can help you focus on play time by clearing your brain of any worry of someone barging in. Sometimes that's all your mind really needs to get centered.
It's not that it's so much about secrecy but about privacy, explains certified sex therapist and somatic psychologist, Holly Richmond, PhD. "We all deserve privacy and healthy sexuality definitely falls into that category. Feeling like you have to keep things secret and hurrying up or hiding it in some way typically has more chances of creating shame around it." By locking your door, you can create your own private space and, in turn, up your sexual health.
In some cases, though, says Richmond, you might want someone to walk in on you. After all, it's totally hot. If this is your sexual fantasy, talk it out. Tell your partner: "Hey, I'm a voyeur," or "the idea of catching you doing this really turns me on. Can we set up a scene in which we make this happen?"
8. Tap into your inner goddess.
Everyone has hangups that make them feel lesser-than when it comes to their bodies. Let that ish go, especially when you're masturbating! Focus on the sensuality of your curves and how capable your body is of pleasure, rather than dwelling on parts you're not totally satisfied with (like, say, your stomach). Research has linked having a positive body image with sexual satisfaction, so do yourself a favor and love your body so you can, ya know, love your body.
9. Use your imagination.
"Every woman has a different fantasy," Millheiser says. "It doesn't have to be about you and your partner, either." (Maybe it's you and a young Ewan McGregor in that one scene from Moulin Rouge...just me? Okay.)
It also doesn't have to be about whips and chains or whatever you might've read in erotic novels or seen in porn, unless that's what you're into. "This is the time to discover what turns you on—and not judge it," explains Brito. So just let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you.
Some women even fantasize about being with another woman or a girl-on-girl sexual scene, Millheiser says. That's totally normal—and tbh, not that surprising, considering many straight women get off to lesbian porn.
FWIW, if you're a lesbian and you masturbate thinking of a man, that's normal, too. "No matter what your fantasy is, you don't have to question your sexuality," Millheiser says.
10. Bring in visuals.
If your imagination just isn't cutting it (no worries), there's no reason not to break out the big guns: porn, a sexy movie...heck, even an old video of you and your partner stashed somewhere safe on your phone. Sometimes the best way to beat distractions is to give yourself a direct scene to watch (or pretend you're involved in).
But, says Richmond, the visual can come from your own imagination too. Thanks to audio erotica, you can listen to a tale that'll get you all hot and bothered and let your mind do the rest of the work. "There's an app called Dipsea filled with tons of sexy audio stories to get you going, she says. "[Some women] like the story around it, they like being able to create their own visual with it."
11. Lube it up.
Lube is great for sex, so yep, it also comes in handy for masturbation (see what I did there?). That's especially true if you're on birth control pills, which can cause vaginal dryness, Millheiser says. FYI: Getting wet is a pretty important part of masturbating because "it makes stimulating your genitals much more comfortable." (Preach.)
Don't believe me? One study found that 50 percent of people said lube made it easier for them to orgasm.
If dryness is a legit issue for you and you're not using a silicone sex toy, try silicone-based lubes, which last longer and reduce friction, Millheiser says. But if you're just looking for a little extra wetness for more fun—or have a silicone vibe—stick to a water-based formula. (It won't break down your buzzing friend.)
12. Start with your hands.
"Starting with your fingers is the best way to engage in masturbation," Millheiser says. "Especially if you are in the early stages, you want to get to know the areas of your body that makes you tick." Plus, you'll also simulate the feeling of a partner's fingers around your vagina, which can help you tap into the right mindset. From there, you can build up the sensation in other ways (more on that in a sec).
13. Play around with positions.
You switch positions in sex, so why not when you masturbate, too? "There is no one position that works for everyone. You have to experiment and find what’s right for you," Millheiser says. Some people like to rub their clit against the bed, while others like to lay on their backs. Some like to keep their knees bent; others like to splay their legs out straight, and others still like to lift their legs into a V-shape. It doesn't matter what your personal taste is—but you won't know until you move around.
14. Change your masturbation technique up.
Just because you're alone doesn't mean masturbation should be boring. To avoid falling into that trap, be cool with trying something new.
Always on your back? Turn over. Always use your hands? Try a toy. Always in bed? Hop into a chair. The options are endless. You might even consider changing up locations. If you're always getting touchy-feely with yourself in bed, move it to a chair, or the car if you're feeling especially adventurous, Hall suggests.
15. Take your solo-sex session into the shower.
Now, this location deserves its very own tip because you can treat it like you would a sex toy.
A hand-held shower head might just become your new BFF. According to Millheiser, many women reach orgasm by pointing the stream of water onto their clitoris. "Think about what's it's doing," she explains. "It's like a quick and easy vibrator—that pulsating sensation on the most sensitive area on the human body." (Not to mention, it's nice and warm.)
16. Insert your fingers...
"While some women prefer soft clitoral stimulation, others prefer penetration, or a combo of the two," says Brito.
If you've just pulled into the self-service station, you might as well try penetrative masturbation—using your fingers, a dildo, or a phallic-shaped vibrator—to see if you like it. If you don't, nbd, you're still one step closer to knowing what you do like and being your own sex educator.
17. Play with toys.
The modern vibe is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread (better, even). These days, most vibrators are specifically made to give you that clitoral stimulation you crave. From bullet vibrators to magic wands (that, yes, live up to the name), there are a ton of options out there for you to try. Treat yourself!
If you're not sure where to start, consider what makes you feel best, Holly Richmond previously told Women's Health. If bigger isn't necessarily better in your opinion, go for a compact, concealed vibe. And if you're looking to stimulate a larger area and play around with penetration, a penis-looking vibe might be the way to go, she adds.
Once you find what you like, mess around with new sensations, suggests Hall. "Placing a stainless steel or glass toy in the fridge or warm water before a session (or simply using ice and warm liquids) and using them on sensitive areas like the breasts or thighs can provoke sensually intense reactions."
Check out the history of one of the most popular vibrators out there:
18. Try an oral-sex simulator.
Toys are fun—especially ones that bring a different kind of pleasure to the party. There's such a thing as oral-sex simulators, and they're, well, AH-mazing.
There's the Womanizer, which Millheiser suggests for women who are on the shier side. "I recommend it all the time to clients and friends. It’s a suction cup that uses an oscillating pressure," she explains. "It's almost as if it doesn't allow you to hold yourself back. It gently pulls an orgasm out of you." (Sounds kinda nice, doesn't it?)
There's also the Lelo Sona Cruise 2, which also mimics cunnilingus but has an extra-cool feature where the suction gets more intense when you press the vibe harder into your skin. 10/10 recommend.
19. Move your body.
As tempting as it may be to make your toy do all the heavy lifting, especially when you're tired and masturbating to conk out before bed, try to get your body into it.
Rock your hips to the rhythm of the vibration, or move your pelvis in a circular, figure 8-style motion. Doing so will help you stay present and maximize all the sensations you're feeling. You might even happen upon some erogenous you didn't know would get you going, says Richmond. "It's not all about the genitals," she explains. "The best sex is sensation-based, when we're in our bodies and not in our heads." It's all about enjoying the senses, tastes, sounds, and smells of eroticism, versus just grabbing a toy and mindlessly going at it. By going at it with your entire body, you'll have an easier time leaning into the pleasure session.
20. Make it a show.
"Masturbation doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Masturbating in front of your partner or engaging in mutual masturbation can heighten desire and serve as an opportunity to explore each other’s bodies," Hall says. This way you can show your partner exactly what gets you going and you can do a little learnin' yourself when you keep an eye on where their hands are roaming on their own bodies.
This is also a biggie for couples in long-distance relationships. "They can hop on Skype, Zoom, or Hangouts and put on a sexy show for each other," says Hall. You can bet it'll make the reunion so. much. hotter.
21. Tease yourself.
Getting yourself to orgasm during solo play doesn’t mean you always have to go full throttle. ICYDK, there’s a technique known as "edging," which basically involves masturbating to build up sexual tension in your erogenous zones, then backing off just before you're about to climax. “Edging can make orgasm feel much more powerful” in women, “much, much more intense and enjoyable," licensed psychotherapist and sex specialist Vanessa Marin, previously told Women's Health.
And Wise says it’s a solid way to draw out the pleasure before the grand finale, especially if this isn't your first bedroom rodeo.
22. Add masturbation to the menu more often.
One study found that women get handsy with a solo session at least once a week—but you deserve a second helping (or more). Because as one Women's Health writer learned: The more you masturbate, the more you want to masturbate.
Bonus: She found it puts you in a good mood and helps you sleep better, too. And unlike a relaxing body massage, it does all that...for free.
23. Combine multiple types of stimulation.
"The whole is greater than the sum of our sexual parts," Wise says. Translation: Combining stimulation from multiple erogenous zones (e.g. clitoris, vagina, cervix, nipple, inner thighs, and anus) can add up to some serious pleasure. "Give yourself permission to lay down and let your hands wander," advises Brito.
You don't even have to head downtown. You can actually orgasm from touching your nipples and stimulating your anus, or maybe via one hand on your breast and one inside you. If you like getting spanked or having your breasts squeezed, Hall says go for it. All of these things can and should be part of your solo sesh. No need to rely on a partner.
24. Take your time.
Unlike P-in-the-V sex, which can start to get uncomfortable after a while, touching yourself could easily be an all-day affair, if you want to make it one (à la Samantha Jones). Let yourself take as much time as you need, if you have the time, says Richmond. Move your fingers, switch positions, edge—all that good stuff above—because this is all about you. Don't rush it. Then, to keep things interesting, "once a week or once every couple of weeks, maybe go into a self-pleasure session without orgasm having to be on the menu," Richmond suggests. Dedicate that time to exploring your body.
25. Break away from guilt.
"At best, we’re told to never discuss [masturbation] and keep it to the confines of our bedrooms. At worst, we’re taught to avoid it all together," Hall explains. As a result some women think there's such thing as too much masturbation. But there isn't really, unless it's interfering with priorities and day-to-day life. If it isn't, you're probably in the clear. There's legit nothing wrong with masturbating every single day, so please, stop the shame game.
26. Enjoy the ride.
Wise says the most important part of masturbation is simply to "savor the sensation" and not set out with the intention of orgasm. "Being in the experience is key," she says. (Remember the tip about focusing with your mind? ...Yep.)
Sorta like with actual sex and relationships, it's best not to go into masturbating with any expectations—even achieving orgasm—because that can make you feel anxious, says Brito.
Still, if you find yourself freaking out because nothing's "happening," especially during your first me-sesh, that's totally normal and completely okay. Remember that you're experimenting in the name of being sexually healthy and don't need to impress anyone.
Your only job is to "focus on discovering what feels the most pleasurable to you," she says. Take your time, and just feel it out. Literally.
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