I’d like to begin this blog with a brief trigger warning: There is a brief mention of sexual assault (based on statistics, there are no detailed stories or explicit experiences shared), and I will be talking about genitalia in more detail further along in the post. I will be sticking to inclusive language, but if you are uncomfortable with anatomical terms for genitalia, please keep that in mind. There are also some rather graphic descriptions of how people can masturbate, with details on how to touch one’s self.
For some people, Masturbation is an icky subject that is not to be discussed with others. Those same people might even be completely comfortable talking about their sexual experiences with partners, but the moment that the conversation is flipped to what they do for themselves and their own bodies, they get embarrassed and uncomfortable. Even more embarrassed are the people who believe that in some way they aren’t good at masturbating, that they might be doing it wrong, or that because they cannot bring themselves to orgasm, they must be in some way defective.
I want to start by saying that there is nothing wrong with you, and there is nothing wrong with how, when, or why you masturbate (that is, unless your masturbation is getting in the way of you living your life, in which case seeking out sex therapy would be a good option). There is no ‘correct’ way to masturbate, no ‘correct’ amount of masturbation, and no ‘correct’ reason to masturbate; whether you do it for happiness, to relieve frustration, or to get a better night of sleep. If you’re doing it at all, then you’re doing it right.
How Masturbation Starts
Masturbation is often peoples’ first experience with their sexuality, and more often than not, this experience happens in our late childhood or early teen years, normally before puberty. This experience might have happened so long ago that you won’t even remember it. Often, children or teens will either accidently stimulate themselves either by brushing or rubbing their genitals against something, clenching their thighs together, or experimenting with their hands. Some children or teens might even stumble upon porn or something that arouses them, leading them to this exploration.
While I, and many others, believe that children shouldn’t be exposed to pornography or sex until a legal age (18+ in most places in the United States), there isn’t a right age for someone to begin masturbating, begin experiencing arousal, or beginning their explorations, and this time of experimentation can be incredibly formative for how people experience their sexuality as grown-ups. If children are shunned from masturbation or sex they can grow to be more embarrassed of their sexuality and it can stop them from seeking more knowledge, leading to unexpected pregnancy, increased likelihood of STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infection), and even lead to an increased risk of sexual assault and abuse.
This is why I truly believe that sexual education is not only good for teens and children, sexual education is a necessity for them. Children and teens need to be taught that they shouldn’t be ashamed for what their bodies do or don’t do naturally, that they shouldn’t be ashamed of masturbation or for curiosity, and they should be taught how to protect themselves and others in all the ways I mentioned above. Abstinence-only sex ed is just another part of the problem, leading people to feel bad about sex, about masturbation, and giving them false information on how to have sex safely.
Now that my rant about Sex Ed is done (surely there will be more to come), let’s really talk about masturbation: How to do it, How to do it safely, Why you should do it, and more. This one will probably be a long one, so get comfy.
How To ‘Jerk It’
Let me preface this ‘how to’ of masturbation by saying that I am speaking from the experience of someone with a vulva, as well as from the experience of a transgender man. You can rest assured that I have done tons of research, and I have talked to many people about their experience with masturbation, but I cannot tell you exactly what things should feel like.
Part One: The Vulva
If you have a vulva, you’re probably aware of two things: One, penetration, and two, the clitoris. This is a great place to start exploring. On the left of this text you’ll see an image of the outside of a vulva, so if you’re not exactly sure where everything is and what it’s called, have a look there. In this image, you’ll see that the clitoris is in purple, above it is a blue section labeled Prepuce (pronounced similarly to the ‘pre’ in precious, preh-pus), also called the clitoral hood. You might also notice that there are two purple wings that come out on either side of the vulva. That’s not just a fancy diagram! Did you know that the glands that make up your clitoris actually extend out into the muscle of the inner crease of your thigh? That’s why it can feel good to rub the insides of your thighs, even though that pressure alone might not bring you to orgasm.
I think it’s also important to keep in mind that the clitoris acts very similarly to a penis, it can have a protective layer of skin that can be pulled back, similar to the foreskin of a penis, and it also has a more sensitive head as well as a small vein on the underside that you can stimulate. There are also a TON of nerve endings in that small area, which can make things feels awesome if you stimulate it. However, there are some people who can actually experience pain from too much sensation in their clitoris. If you are one of those people, experiment with using the clitoral hood as a barrier between your hands/toys/etc. and the sensitive head of your clitoris. For others, they might need to pull the skin back in order to feel any sensation.
Moving away from the clitoris, here are some other great spots for sensation! First is penetration. For some people, penetration doesn’t really feel like much of anything, and might not be a great way to reach orgasm or have a good masturbation session, for others penetration may be required for orgasm, and for even more people, penetration may just be another added bonus of masturbation. It’s generally good practice to experiment with your hands first before you try any other toys, but some people like to use dildos, vibrators, and other sorts of toys for penetration while masturbating. Some people also report feeling sensation in the ‘G-spot’, which can trigger stronger orgasms for some people. This is a part of the inside of the vaginal canal and can be stimulated with toys or fingers doing a ‘come here’ motion, with the fingers brushing up towards the naval.
Another great spot for sensation is your labia majora and minora. These are the ‘lips’ of your vagina. For some people the labia are small and you might not really notice them unless you’re searching. For others, labia can be thick and hang low. You might have one side of your labia be longer/thicker than the other, and some people might not appear to have any labia at all. Each and every presentation of labia is super normal, so don’t fret! Some labia are super great for sexual stimulation, but others might not be. Try touching yours and seeing if it feels good! Again, while this may not bring you to orgasm, it might be just another fun thing to do to spice it up!
Two other really common ways of masturbating with a vulva is 1) Grind against something like a pillow, towel, table, and other things. Make sure you clean these items and make sure the item your using isn’t too rough on the skin. 2) Clenching the thighs. Some people report being able to orgasm just by clenching and unclenching the muscles in the thighs and the pelvis, stimulating the areas between your legs. This is because the clench of muscle mocks the same motion as grinding or humping, as well as tensing and releasing the muscles in the pelvis and vagina itself, leading to orgasm.
Part Two: The Penis/Testicles
A lot of people think that people with penises have it easy when it comes to masturbation. You stroke yourself and you’re done, but there’s a ton more that can go into masturbation when you have a penis and testicles. Next to this paragraph you’ll see a handy diagram of a penis, we’ll be using this to discuss different techniques. The first is the one most people know, stroking from the base of the penis to the head over and over at varying speeds before eventually reaching orgasm, but there’s tons of sensitive areas of the penis that can make things feel great!
The first area is the head of the penis as well as the opening to the urethra (usually just called the slit of the penis). For most people this is the most sensitive and pleasurable area of the penis as well as the spot just below the head of the penis on the underside where there are a ton of sensitive glands and nerve-endings. Some people have a lot of sensation along the vein that runs on the underside of the penis as well, and some people find it more pleasurable to focus their attention there. The exact way to reach these places is dependent on whether the person with penis has been circumcised or not. If you aren’t circumcised, you may need to pull back your foreskin to reach those areas, and you can also use the skin as a way to put a barrier between sensitive skin. If you are circumcised, these areas are easier to reach, but you might also be less sensitive in these areas. (Note: being circumcised is no better than being uncircumcised and vice versa. We are not starting that particular war today).
The next place to experiment with is your testicles, which can change the sensation. Some people pull on their testicles as they masturbate, while others might just hold or gently fondle theirs. The scrotum is the skin that holds the testicles, and it, just like the rest of your skin, carries a lot of nerve-endings which can aide in sensation. The testicles also hold maturing and matured sperm, and some believe that by stimulating them it can increase the viability of sperm, though this has proven inconsistent in studies.
Part Three: The Anus
A lot of people are a bit squeamish when it comes to their rears, but your anus can actually be stimulated and make for stronger/more pleasurable orgasms. In people with penises, there is a gland that you can reach through the rectum called the prostate. This gland is connected to both the bladder and the seminal gland, and some people report being able to orgasm with prostate simulation alone. Some people actually believe that stimulating the prostate this way can prevent prostate cancer, though different clinical studies have come back inconclusive on that point. Another way to stimulate the prostate would be to gently push on the skin between the back of the testicles and the anus called the perineum (pair-in-nee-um), sometimes referred to as the ‘taint’.
For people with a vulva, the anus provides no extra glands to stimulate, but there are still tons of nerves to stimulate. And some people simply like the feeling of fullness that comes with penetrating the rectum, even if the actual act of penetration doesn’t arouse them.
A word of warning, if you are planning on putting something in your rectum, you have to (I’m serious, you HAVE TO) use lube, and there are lubes made specifically for anal play (simply called anal lube). You MUST use lube because the anus does not lubricate itself. It is also good practice to put a condom on any toy your using, but especially for anal play. You should also always use something with a flared base to avoid things potentially getting stuck or going too deep into the anus.
Part Four: TOYS!!!
I cannot recommend using toys enough! Toys are great, and there’s types for every body type and every preference. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, material, and type of sensation. Vibrators are great for stimulating the clitoris, the head of the penis, and other erogenous zones, like the thighs, nipples, and other places. Dildos can be used for penetration of the vagina, anus, and you can even simulate a blow job with one. There are toys called ‘flesh jacks’ or ‘cock sleeves’ which can simulate Penis in Vagina sex, anal sex, or blow jobs. There are A TON more with tons of variation on sensation and stimulation.
Part Five: Safety
While some of this may seem like common knowledge, it still needs to be stated: In order to masturbate safely you need to wash your genitals, wash your hands, and wash your toys. For your body you should use water only, soaps (and especially fragrant soaps) can change your natural Ph level and cause infection. For your hands you should use non-fragrant soap and make sure to dry your hands thoroughly before touching your genitals. Toys can be cleaned many different ways depending on the type of material, so be sure to look it up before you use them.
DO NOT DOUCHE! Especially don’t douche the vaginal canal. The vagina is adept at self-cleaning, and any extra liquid or soap can really mess with your body’s natural bacterium and Ph. There are towelettes that are non-fragrant and made specifically to clean the vulva if you find them necessary, but using water is just as good. Douching the anus is more common, especially among people with penises who might engage in anal sex, but even this has it’s downsides, such as drying out the anus and possibly causing infection. It’s better practice to clear out your digestive tract with natural ingredients, then gently cleaning the outside of your anus with your hands or a towel, and using a finger to clean around the inside, again, very gently.
Part Six: How often is too often?
The truth is that there is no ‘normal’ amount to masturbate. Some people masturbate once a month, others once a day. The only time to be concerned is when the act of masturbation begins to negatively impact your life. If you’re masturbating or constantly thinking about masturbating to the point that you neglect other tasks, then you should consult your therapist or seek out a sex therapist. But if you’re still living a full life, and not (literally) rubbing your skin raw, then the amount you’re masturbating is probably safe.
A lot of people masturbate to quench sexual frustration or ‘horniness’, but some people might masturbate just for the fun of it, because it helps them sleep, even just to pass the time. If you find that masturbating upsets you in some way (some people call this ‘post-nut clarity’, which I actually find a fun term), then you might be suffering either from a hormonal imbalance or an underlying mental health condition. It could also just be a genuine moment of clarity, where after you relieve either the physical or emotional tension, that you are able to see other things more clearly.
This could also be a part of something called a ‘drop’, more commonly found in people who do BDSM. This basically means that after your body releases all of the feel good hormones from sex or masturbation (or a BDSM scene), your body quickly stops releasing them, creating a ‘drop’ in those feel good hormones. The way to handle a drop is person-to-person, but most people find that physical touch works well, either touching another person, having a soft blanket, or even hugging yourself. Chocolate also releases some of those feel good hormones and can raise you back to normal levels, as can music that makes you happy, having a good conversation, anything that brings you joy.
Orgasms are not the end-all-be-all of masturbation. You may have heard the phrase “it’s about the journey, not the destination”, and while it may seem cheesy, this is true of all sexual activity. Masturbating should be about making you feel good, and orgasms are not required to have a good time. Masturbation is great for orgasms, true, but it is also great for appreciating your body, doing self-care, and learning about yourself and what you like. If you don’t orgasm every time, that’s okay. If you don’t orgasm at all, this is also okay! If you can’t orgasm, but want to, then you might benefit from reaching out to a sex therapist or by using different toys. Some people find that they can only orgasm with a partner, others can only orgasm on their own. This is all totally normal, but if you’re still worried about it, you can always reach out to a doctor or therapist.
This is all very (surprisingly) surface level on the topic of masturbation. We could talk about porn, where to do it, how to set the mood, other erogenous zones, and so much more, but these are the basics of how. If you’d like to hear more, please let me know!