Get Real! How Do You Masturbate?

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Get Real! How Do You Masturbate?

Heather Corinna

In honor of Masturbation Month, Heather answers young women's questions about sex for one.

For more sex education resources during the COVID-19 outbreak, check out our Better Sex Ed guide.  

Anonymous asks,

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

Heather answers,

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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We get
this question a lot, and almost always only from women. Trouble is, there’s
no easy answer, nor one right answer for all women (or all men). 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 women 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 clitorial 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: Pink Parts – Female Sexual Anatomy

Some of the many places on the body women will self-stimulate,
including, but not limited to, their genitals, when we masturbate are
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.

Women will masturbate in all kinds of positions: lying down, sitting
up, standing up or squatting. Women 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.

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 women 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 2/3rds of it — has very few.

Many women — like many men — fantasize while masturbating, to the
idea of a partner, someone else, or various sexual scenarios. Many
women 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 men) can find
that those tried-and-trues sometimes will just stop working, and then
need to experiment to find some new ways.

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, spiritual…you 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 when
we 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?

Women can and frequently do have orgasm without vaginal entry or
penetration. In fact, it’s more likely for most women to have orgasm without penetrative or vaginal sexual activities than it is for them to reach orgasm through vaginal entry or penetration alone.

Even for the minority of women 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 to 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 that night.

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, sometimes women may still have a
partial hymen, in which case that being worn away some more (it erodes
on its own over time, but sex is one 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 hymen 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.

The most common reasons women 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, see here: 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 women don’t masturbate by
vaginally penetrating. 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 mind 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

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 other 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 Jayme 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). Given, 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 UITs
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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