I have a confession.
It’s personal and involves years of embarrassment on my part, so I hope you’ll be patient with me as my story of self discovery unfolds.
From the time I was in my early teens, I loved pleasuring myself.
I don’t remember exactly when I made the discovery, but I distinctly remember wishing for time alone at the house in middle school and high school so that I could get naked and take care of business. It was usually a rushed, shameful little affair – never lasting more than a few minutes, waiting for that warm rush of pleasure to hit, and then I’d hurriedly put myself back together.
I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about it because my friends would proudly declare that they didn’t need to masturbate because they had boyfriends, and of course, why would you ever masturbate if you could have a real person?
Since I didn’t date much in high school, but was very sexually charged, I took care of business myself.
On the day I turned 18, I took myself to a sex toy store and bought my first vibrator. It was a long, flexible wand with a little bullet on the end so that I could get into all sorts of positions and still reach my clit.
I graduated to an internal vibrator not long after that (for some reason I thought dildos were only for perverts – I don’t know where that idea came from, but it was there). In the early 2000’s, I even owned my own sex toy business for a few years, selling all manner of vibrators and lube and stimulants to my customers.
Through it all, I never used my hands on myself. It was always a toy. Always kind of rushed. Always goal-oriented.
And when I was in relationships, I didn’t realize I could bring toys into the mix and I certainly didn’t know how to share what I liked, so as a result, sex was decent, but it wasn’t mind-blowing.
One day in my mid-to-late 20’s, I was laying around and started casually touching myself with my hand. I’m pretty sure my favorite vibe wasn’t working (dead batteries), so I started exploring myself. At first, it was simply a gentle exploration of my skin, comforting and sweet. But I found my body responding and I rolled with it.
It was a much slower process since my hands didn’t offer the same intensity that my vibrators did, but I became more and more aroused and when I finally came it was a glorious burst of colors and warmth, and went on and on and on.
A new world opened up for me.
In that moment, I realized how disconnected I’d been from my body. I would grab a toy, orgasm as quickly as possible without really thinking about what I was doing, clean up and pretend nothing happened.
This new world of my beautifully dextrous hands meant slowing down and exploring. It allowed me to start a dialog with my body that changed everything.
I found that even when I went back to toys, it was a much more intentional experience. I found I could orgasm over and over again when I gave myself permission to settle in and be in the moment. It was a masturbatory awakening.
Like so many people, I grew up thinking that sex was this very singular thing – PIV (or penis-in-vagina). And I know I wasn’t alone. At my high school in southern California, so many of the kids believed that oral sex and anal sex weren’t REALLY sex, so they engaged in it frequently and without any guilt or shame around losing their virginity.
Along with all of that mess, I (we) believed masturbation was something you did until you met someone. It was a placeholder for “real” sex. Friends echoed this belief, and no one ever told me otherwise in my sex ed classes or in the pages of Cosmo.
Thankfully, through my own exploration I learned just how powerful and freeing masturbation could be. By claiming my pleasure and understanding my body, it led to a better sex life, and a much more pleasurable one for me and my partners.
Sadly, many people see self-pleasure as a pathetic stand-in for “real sex”. This attitude, paired with the shame that most people internalize around masturbation, means way too many folks are missing out on one of the most powerful (and free) pleasurable tools we have in our sex toolbox.
You have my enthusiastic permission to get your hand (or your favorite toy) in your pants and go to town.
When you prioritize your own pleasure on a regular basis, you not only start to form an intimate and powerful relationship with your body, but you begin to understand that you deserve pleasure during other sexual activities.
It might seem like a given – the importance of getting to know your body and enjoying all of the delicious sensations it’s capable of – but too often people (women especially) sacrifice their pleasure out of fear of taking too long, of being selfish, of being seen, of doing something wrong or gross, or of asking too much of their lovers. This self-induced silence can lead to a pretty unsatisfying sex life.
That’s not to say you have to masturbate. But, if you’re curious or if you like bringing yourself pleasure, then make it a priority and have fun with your gorgeous self.
Regular self-pleasure sessions can not only release stress (even if it doesn’t end in orgasm), but they create a dialog between you and your body and they give you a way to answer honestly when a lover asks how to please you.
Try it! You’ll like it.
Self-pleasure is normal, healthy, powerful, sexy, and fun. Don’t worry about being politically correct, either. Any fantasy or desire that you use to get off is perfectly OK (even if it’s really really taboo or unacceptable in real life).
Treat masturbation like a juicy experiment. It’s not about succeeding or failing, it’s about gathering information so that each time something happens, you have more and more data to guide yourself the next time.
The more variety you embrace, the more you’ll learn about all of the things your body likes or doesn’t like.
What does it feel like to use your fingers? What about rubbing yourself while laying with a pile of pillows under your tummy? Or standing, bent over the side of the bed with a dildo? How does the shower massager feel or a new vibrator or nipple clamps? It’s all healthy and normal and fun.
As you get more and more comfortable experimenting with yourself and creating that dialog with your body, you’ll become more relaxed and confident when it comes to claiming your pleasure – both by yourself and with a partner.
Instead of feeling pressured to perform, you’ll be ready to relax into the bliss that is all of your favorite sensations, and you’ll be more prepared to instruct and ask for exactly what you want.
One tool. Many uses.
You cannot do masturbation wrong. If it feels good, you’re doing it right, even if it doesn’t end in an orgasm.
Follow your arousal down the rabbit hole of pleasure, and see where you end up. If you treat your pleasure like a curiosity, without expectation or a goal in mind, you can end up all sorts of wild places.
Beyond self-pleasure when you’re solo, it can be fun to mutually masturbate with a partner. Because let’s be real – sometimes you need to take matters into your own hands if you’re craving something specific. Plus, watching your partner touch themselves can be wonderfully erotic and teach you a thing or two about how to touch them.
No matter how you do it, self-pleasure is a beautiful way to honor yourself and your body and all those sensations you’re capable of. When you take matters into your own hands (pun intended), it not only means you have a more intimate relationship with your body, but you’ll also experience a better sex life when you find new ways to ask for what you want and what feels good.
Because in the end, the only person who is responsible for your pleasure is yourself.
I cooked up a fun list of 50 ways to experiment with self-pleasure.
Psst. Did you know that May is Masturbation Month? It is! So use that as a reason to celebrate solo.
And one other thing, if you haven’t heard, I’m creating a beautiful and very exclusive online sex boutique. It will have the best products in the world, and I hope to launch late this summer. So stay tuned. The store will have some very unique twists that you haven’t seen before like a personal shopper option and suggestion cards with each and every item.