“how you love yourself is
how you teach others
to love you”
― Rupi Kaur,
When is the last time you masturbated? I know that’s a forward question, but hear me out: Self-stimulation is really good for you and your relationship, so it’s time we stop avoiding this important conversation.
Despite being an incredibly common and healthy act, self-stimulation continues to be one of the most taboo topics in our culture. This is particularly true for women. While masturbation is considered a natural urge for men, women are often embarrassed or ashamed to admit they masturbate or that they are curious about masturbation. In my practice as a sex therapist, I have met with adult women who have never masturbated and don’t even know how to begin stimulating their hotspots.
Some of my female clients are hesitant to masturbate because they feel it is wrong or dirty to touch themselves. Others feel like it’s a form of cheating and they shouldn’t masturbate when they have a partner. These are valid and understandable fears, especially considering the fact that most women were raised to believe that sexuality was primarily something only men should enjoy, and that ‘nice’ girls don’t have strong sexual urges, let alone give into them via masturbation.
But now, a new study confirms what I have long shared with my many female clients: Masturbation is good for your relationship. New research finds that women who masturbate have an easier time reaching orgasm during partnered sex, and they are less likely to suffer from orgasmic dysfunction.
This study is really important for many reasons. One, because anytime we spend time and effort studying the female sexual experience, it’s always a win in my book. For decades, most sexual research and sexual medicine studies have focused on men and male sexuality, so I love to see the tide slowly turning and researchers acknowledging the fact that female sexual pleasure is meaningful and valuable and worth studying. There’s an implicit message here that’s being given to women by studies like this: The message that their sexual pleasure matters, that their sexual difficulty and discomfort is being seen and is considered important.
Second, this study is very useful because it can be a tool to help women understand that masturbation is not a selfish act. Rather, it can be viewed as an act of self-care and a way to help ensure that their relationship stays strong and mutually enjoyable. While I support the idea of masturbation for masturbation’s sake and simply because it feels good and makes a person feel good, for women who are people-pleasers and wholly focused on serving others, it can be really difficult for me to get my female clients to allow themselves this amount of pleasure.
But, with this research, we can clearly see the value of giving first to ourselves before giving to our partners–women who are able to maintain and uphold their own orgasmic integrity via self-stimulation may have an easier time reaching orgasm in the bedroom and have a healthier sexual response, meaning that their partner will enjoy the benefits of their masturbation. So for women who are hesitant to pleasure themselves and allow themselves the ‘right’ to make themselves feel good, this study is a gift in that it demonstrates the inherent connection between self-pleasure and our ability to pleasure others.
I also think that self-stimulation is equally important for single women. I find that when women don’t know how to achieve sexual pleasure on their own, they lose some of their ability to pick good partners. They become reliant on men for sexual satisfaction, meaning that they are choosing sexual partners out of a place of need or desperation, which is a low-vibration energy that doesn’t deeply honor what they truly deserve from a partner. Yet when a woman is able to sexually satisfy herself, she will have that confidence and completeness that not only allow her to better pick better partners, but will also attract more high-quality partners to her because they will be picking up on those vibes of sensuality and self-assurance.
If I have one goal in my career as a sex therapist, it’s really to help women understand that it is not only ‘okay’ for them to enjoy sexual pleasure, but it is necessary and it is vital. Your sexual pleasure matters. And one of the best ways to own that and enhance that is via masturbation. Let’s normalize the idea of female masturbation and stop making female pleasure shameful or something only men can give us. You can give it yourself–and you should, not only because it will make you a better lover for your partner, but because it will make you a better lover to yourself, inside and outside the bedroom. A woman who can give herself orgasms is a woman who will be more likely to give herself permission to make mistakes, permission to take chances, permission to speak up for herself and ask for what she needs.
If you’re new to masturbation, try easing into it just by touching yourself and seeing what feels good. Don’t try to force an orgasm or put your focus on reaching any predetermined end goal. Just let yourself explore your vulva and feel what makes your heart start pumping and your breathing speed up. You may try using lubrication or a sex toy (a beginner massager like my Athena massager or a Hitachi Magic Wand is a good start).
It might be a good idea to try masturbation in the tub if you’re a newbie. After all, you’re already nude and enjoying the sensations of your warm, bubbly bath water, so it can be an organic way to begin massaging your vulva or stimulating your nipples and breasts as you wash yourself up. The Athena is waterproof and of petite-size so it’s easy to bring into the tub with you or hold in your palm as you stimulate your clitoris and labia.
It may help to turn down the lights or use candles, and play some sexy tunes to help you get in the spirit. Maybe reaching an erotic novel or watching female-friendly pornography can also help you tap into your sexual side. Or try reading my book Real Sex for Real Women, which is filled with lots of beautiful images of real, relatable women and couples and ideas for how you can better enjoy your sexuality and deepen your sexual connection.
Remember, don’t make the goal orgasm: Just make it your goal to relax and enjoy the sensations. This is your gift to yourself, and there’s no right or wrong way to unwrap the gift.
Try to masturbate at least once a week, and keep note of how you feel after you masturbate. If you have feelings of shame or guilt, don’t run from the emotions: Just notice them, be curious about them, and let them be. Notice how these emotions gently dissipate when you bring open-minded curiosity to the table rather than fear or judgment. Over time, as masturbation becomes a normal and common part of your sexual activity, these feelings of shame will gradually disappear. And as you notice the many benefits masturbation can have your sexual health and even your mood and well-being, you will begin to view self-stimulation as something priceless you give to yourself rather than as something dirty or shameful.
And that’s perhaps the best part of masturbation: The realization that we can grow past discomfort and fear, and un-lean painful thoughts about ourselves, in order to develop into more whole individuals with fewer boundaries built around our hearts to keep love out.