How Do You Masturbate?

How do you masturbate? I am not ready to have sex yet but I want to get the feeling of it.

I could easily create many pages just with this one question: we get this one a lot, and almost always only from women. Trouble is, there's no easy answer, nor one right answer for all women (or all people of any gender). I could answer you by telling you how I masturbate, but a) I think that'd really be TMI and b) that may have nothing at all to do with how you masturbate.

Here are some of the many ways people with vulvas masturbate with their genitals:

  • massaging the clitoral shaft or hood, labia or mons with hands (either whole hands or with fingers, knuckles or palms with varying kinds of speed, pressure or movement) or an object
  • rubbing or rocking the vulva up against objects (like a pillow, the edge of a chair or the edge of the bed)
  • inserting fingers or sex toys into the vagina or anus, often paired with clitoral stimulation
  • using a vibrator or other toys to stimulate the clitoris, labia, thighs, perineum, rectum or other sites
  • using a faucet or showerhead for clitoral stimulation
  • sitting on large vibrating objects, like a washing machine
  • pressing and unpressing the thighs tightly together

If you need some help knowing where those places are on your anatomy, have a look at this: Innies & Outies: The Vagina, Clitoris, Uterus and More

Some of the many places on the body people with vulvas will self-stimulate, including, but not limited to, their genitals, when we masturbate are the: breasts, clitoris, anus, neck, vaginal opening, labia (outer and/or inner), perineum, vagina, hands, mouth, thighs, buttocks, feet, back, ears and just about anywhere else you can think of.

People with vulvas will masturbate in all kinds of positions: lying down, sitting up, standing up or squatting. They will also do any variety of things while masturbating: some might watch movies, videos or television, some listen to music or read a book, some talk to a partner on the phone, some look in a mirror, some even eat while doing it. As many men do, many women will sexually fantasize during masturbation.

And just so you know, most women, statistically, do masturbate, whether they're 15 or 55, single or married or otherwise partnered. Sex researchers even have fetal imaging which has shown fetuses masturbating in utero, so it's safe to say that many of us probably started masturbating before we were even born.

You can perhaps see, given those lists and my additional comments, how tough it is to tell someone "how" to masturbate.

And since not only do we all like different things or have more or less sexual response in different places, but we also all will often not be in the mood for the exact same things every day, or find the same techniques get us there from year to year, it gets even more complicated. What works for any of us tends to be the things we discover just by experimenting with our own bodies, over a decent period of time. Often, we'll find things that work for us quite accidentally in trying something, and can even surprise ourselves sometimes. But make sure you're aware that the idea that our sexuality and our sexual pleasure is something we discover ALL of in just a few months or years stands very counter to most peoples' sexual realities. Before we hit a home run, we usually have to strike out a few times.

Are there some common themes? Sure.

Julia asks,

Is there something wrong with me? I can feel it when I play with my clit but when I poke or use a dildo I can't feel anything?

For instance, most people with vulvas tend to self-stimulate the clitoris far more often than the vagina, or only stimulate the vagina in conjunction with clitoral stimulation. Your clitoris has more sensory nerve endings than any other part of the body, but your vagina -- particularly the back two-thirds of it -- has very few.

Many women -- and people of all genders -- fantasize while masturbating, to the idea of a partner, someone else, or various sexual scenarios. Many people have one or two methods they've discovered for themselves which are ways that -- for a substantial period of time -- they know will usually get them off quickly, but will still experiment with other techniques sometimes for variety, or because their standby methods aren't doing the trick on a given day. Many women (and people of all genders) can find that those tried-and-trues sometimes will just stop working, and then need to experiment to find some new ways.

A couple tips about masturbating with household objects: If you do or are going to masturbate with household objects, just remember that some objects are shared. If it's something someone else might use, too, then it's not cool to use it as a sex toy. Also, even objects that are only yours should usually be covered with a latex barrier if you can't sanitize them before and after use. You don't want to land yourself with a bacterial infection or an abrasion from a rough edge.

Do know that masturbation and sex with a partner are different things. Sure, they can feel similar physically -- and with certain activities, like rubbing your clitoris, which a partner can also do, almost identical -- but what we feel with sex isn't just physical: it's also intellectual, emotional, interpersonal, name it.

I say that because it's sound to have realistic expectations with both masturbation and partnered sex. For instance, it's common for many people, especially when with a new sexual partner, not to feel the kind of pleasure they do alone with masturbation. After all, that person hasn't had all that time to practice with your body that you have. So, after a while of masturbating, you're probably going to get to be quite the expert on your own pleasure, and in doing that, you'll also have a place for sexual expression where you'll probably feel pretty comfortable, given you're alone. When you engage in partnered sex, you might not feel as comfortable, especially at first. You also might not experience the same kind of pleasure. You might find you're better doing some things to yourself than your partner is, or vice-versa.

I also say that because even when you are ready for sex with a partner, both you and they may well still want to masturbate and choose to masturbate. Again, they're different things which tend to feel different in a variety of ways, and sharing pleasure with someone else and exploring it by ourselves are different needs for many people, not replacements or substitutions for the other. One reasons many couples who are sexually active will still masturbate is that the desires for masturbation and partnered sex have some things in common, but really are different, and sometimes we're in the mood for one and not the other. As well, when all we really want to do is just physically get off, it makes more sense to tend to those very self-centered needs by ourselves. Sex with someone else has to account for both of our needs and desires -- and the desire to really share something with someone -- not just those of one.

juiicy28 asks,

I'm 17 years old and haven't experienced anything sexual at all other then kissing. I get very curious sometimes but I never have enough guts to pursue my curiosity. I've tried touching myself to see where I can go but usually not too far. I am very afraid of losing my virginity because I am afraid it will hurt so bad. I'm not really too worried about losing my virginity but more focused on pleasing myself. My main goal is to give myself an orgasm... but being I don't want to experience penetration how is that possible?

People with vulvas can and frequently do have orgasm without vaginal entry. In fact, it's more likely for most of them to have orgasm without vaginal sexual activities than it is for them to reach orgasm through vaginal entry or or other insertive activities alone.

Even for the minority of people with vulvas who do reach orgasm through vaginal intercourse, most of them are not getting there just through intercourse, but because intercourse is paired with activities like manual clitoral stimulation. For more information on that, check this out.

Whatever you do with masturbation shouldn't be painful or hurt. It should feel good. If you're sexually excited when you get started and just let your fingers do the walking to what places or kinds of stimulation feel good, that shouldn't be painful. In the case where you do experience any pain or discomfort -- such as, let's say, pushing fingers into the vaginal opening too roughly or deeply for you, or not using a lubricant when you need to -- then you know to just pull back and go back to what did feel good, add lube or just take a break for a little bit until things stop hurting.

Sex also really shouldn't be scary. I understand why it can be, or how it can seem that way, but it just doesn't have to be. You get to keep yourself emotionally and physically safe with masturbation (including just not doing it if you don't want to or don't feel right about it): you have all the control there. And if and when it comes time for you to have a sexual partner, you get to take the time with that person before sex starts, and as you gradually start some sexual activities, to be sure they are a partner who cares for you, and who is responsive to you when you communicate what does and doesn't feel good.

While some sexual activities can hurt sometimes, that shouldn't happen often. Sure, now and then we might do something that was feeling good, but then shift something and have it not feel so good. That shouldn't be a big deal, because a brief moment of discomfort isn't a big deal. If that happens, we just shift back to find what did feel pleasurable and doesn't feel painful. Too, particularly with intercourse or other vaginal entry, some people may still have a partial hymen, or what we now call the corona. If a partial corona is present, the process of it being worn away some more (it erodes on its own over time, but vaginal sex is one of the things that is part of that process) can create pain or discomfort. But for someone going gradually with vaginal entry -- not all at one time, but over time -- using lubricant as needed (the corona is a thin, stretchy membrane, so when it's lubricated, it's less of an issue), and who has a conscientious and patient partner, if there is discomfort or pain, it should NOT be anything horrendous. For more on the corona, see: My Corona: The Anatomy Formerly Known As the Hymen and the Myths That Surround It.

The most common reasons people experience pain with sex, though, are things like a person not being sexually aroused before that sex, someone feeling rushed, stressed, fearful or pressured, or partners being overeager, too rough, or inattentive to what their partners need. You don't have all the control with that since there is another person involved, but you do still have a good deal of it, because you get to choose that person and only say yes to sex with them when you have a pretty good idea that they're someone who is going to care about seeking out your pleasure and avoiding pain.

For more on concerns with pain in terms of vaginal intercourse, take a look at: From OW! to WOW! Demystifying Painful Intercourse.

Nina asks,

Is it normal to bleed after masturbation? I usually use the "rubbing" method, instead of penetration, like many women do. However, during the beginning, I usually penetrate myself every so often, which is when I bleed. Using my finger, I don't bleed. Yet using an object, I do end up bleeding eventually after. I always stop once I begin to bleed, but it doesn't hurt. I have heard that it is normal to bleed, but I wanted to get my answer from a more reliable source, such as yourself.

Actually, as I mentioned above, most people with vulvas don't masturbate by vaginal entry. The way you masturbate -- by rubbing your clitoris or your vulva as a whole, is much more common.

If you're bleeding with vaginal entry, that may be for a couple of reasons. You may, for instance, still have a partial hymen which masturbation is playing a part in wearing away (the hymen wears away over time due to many things, but sex or masturbation are often one), and that can cause bleeding. Or, you may need to use a lubricant when masturbating, or watch what objects you're using: anything not intended for vaginal use may have rough edges which are causing abrasions.

For the most part, as with anything else, if we are bleeding, we want to find out why. If it is because you're using an object that shouldn't be in your vagina, aren't using lubricant, or are just being too rough or hasty, you want to remedy that, as bleeding from those means we are talking about injury. But if you're already using lube, not putting anything in your vagina that shouldn't be (or, with safe objects just not designed for that use, are covering them with a condom), and being gentle and gradual, it's probably safe to assume that bleeding is from hymenal erosion, which is normal and should cease in time.

Jessica asks,

I am a 15 year old girl and I feel stupid asking this question but I recently tried masturbating and I don't know how to make myself orgasm but I really want to experience it. I have tried touching different places and none of them bring me pleasure. What do I do?

What sex therapists usually advise for preorgasmic people (those who have not yet ever experienced orgasm) is masturbation...but over a considerable period of time.

In other words, if you've tried it a few times and nothing has worked for you, that's likely because you've only tried it a few times. What's generally recommended is a daily masturbation session, over at least several weeks. It's also usually suggested -- and I'd concur -- to leave plenty of time for that: around an hour or so each time. I know that it can often be tough to find that much time for privacy in your house when you're younger, but if and when you can, you really do want to take your time.

It tends to take a bit of time to increase our desire and arousal, and to get the chance to really explore our bodies and go with the flow with the things we are feeling. For some people, being able to really "set the stage" -- to be in an environment that feels comfortable and arousing, to slowly get undressed, to be able to work up to genital stimulation by first paying attention to other parts of the body -- makes a big difference, and if you're one of those folks, a few hurried minutes probably won't result in much. As well, just because one area of your genitals doesn't respond to a given touch doesn't mean that it's not a pleasurable place. Often, it's how you touch that's the real issue: we will generally have to experiment with various speeds, rhythms, levels of pressure and other ways we touch to find what feels best.

Any time you're coming TO masturbation, you want to be sure you're doing so when you're earnestly feeling sexual and aroused. Those feelings of desire and arousal almost always have to come before orgasm can come close to happening. So, if you're coming to your masturbation just curious, but not feeling particularly aroused, or with a level of frustration, then again, you can't really expect that to be a great session. And if and when we're not aroused, touching places which are or can be very pleasurable when we ARE aroused, certainly can feel ho-hum. Arousal makes our sensitive areas a lot more sensitive.

Lastly, it just takes some people longer than others to become orgasmic, or to really feel sexual. Not everyone has the same pace with those things in life, and that's okay. So, if you're just not feeling any sexual desire yet -- but rather, just intellectual curiosity -- then just know that when you will, things will feel different. And if you are feeling that desire, but orgasm isn't looming on the horizon, try and be patient with yourself there, too. It may just take you a while longer to get there in your sex life.

If any of you want more in-depth information on women and masturbation, I'd strongly encourage you to take a look at Betty Dodson's revolutionary book, Sex for One. You might also want to check out For Yourself, by Lonnie Barbach or Getting Off, by Jamye Waxman.

Meg asks,

Hey. I started masturbating when I was 14 (I'm 16 now) and recently, we thought that I had a bladder infection because I'd been having bladder control problems and constantly feeling like I had to urinate even when I just got off the toilet. My doctor told me that I should stop using tampons and having sex (I'm a virgin but she was just using an example) because she says it irritates the urethra by rubbing against it so much. Is this true? If so, does this mean I have to stop masturbating?

It's not exactly that the urethra gets irritated by rubbing -- though it can, particularly if you're really rubbing right on it -- so much as, from the vantage point of a UTI, that that rubbing with another person's body or something that isn't clean can rub bacteria into the urethra, and as well, if we have irritated tissue, it's more prone to infection.

With the tampons, that advice is more often given for women dealing with bacterial infections, because the string of a tampon can hold some bacteria. However, not only is a tampon not in your urethra, the string doesn't go there, so I'd personally discount that directive, particularly if you find tampons to be your best menstrual option (and because a girl's gotta manage her flow somehow). Anything that irritates the vulva can factor into UTIs, and you certainly want to avoid deoderant tampons, but a pad can irritate the vulva just as much as a tampon can when it comes to UTIs, and a girl's gotta use something. You could try using a menstrual cup and see if that helps, or try switching to pads and see if you see a difference, but tampon use should not be a big factor with UTIs, and it certainly is going to have nothing to do with bladder control.

I'd also consider that your doctor may have a bias or isn't comfortable talking about sex and masturbation. I have a hard time imagining your doctor choosing to just not have sex solely to avoid UTIs, or giving that same advice to older women in partnerships or marriages. Even if he or she does, that strikes me as very lazy advice.

There are things one can do WITH sex or masturbation to make UTIs less likely. Since you're only masturbating right now, in your case that'd just mean being sure your hands and any toys or objects you are using are freshly cleaned or covered with a latex barrier. Being sure you're using sufficient lubrication with masturbation, and not something like a body oil or Vaseline which can trap bacteria. Urinating both before and just after masturbation is also a help, as is trying not to focus a lot on your urinary opening or right around it -- if you do -- when masturbating.

But sex or masturbation also isn't going to be a likely factor when it comes to what is causing a bladder control problem. Chronic UTIs are one common cause, and so are issues like weakness of the bladder muscles, the side effects of certain medications, a blocked urethra, obesity, stress or having an overactive bladder (which can usually be treated with medication and some other therapies). Sounds to me like it might be time to switch your doctor if you can, especially since it may be more likely to really get the problem treated by someone more willing to look at it thoroughly.

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