Can't get the hang of it, or hitting a masturbation rut? These masturbation tips will blow open your world of self-pleasure.

By By Marie Gartee and Rachael Schultz
Updated: November 14, 2018
Photo: Ashley Armitage / Refinery29 for Getty Images

Okay, it's pretty likely that you've touched yourself before, even if just tentatively in the shower during that period of teenage exploration. That being said, plenty of women have never actually reached a full O on their own.

And well, part of the reason is kind of depressing. "Society teaches women that her pleasure is only important in the context of giving a male partner pleasure-and this just isn't true. Self-pleasure is one of the most empowering and radical things a woman can do in this world," says Rena McDaniel, M.Ed., a clinical sexologist in Chicago.

Masturbating not only boosts your confidence and personal pleasure, but learning what you do and don't like on your own makes it easier for you to enjoy-and actually get off-with a partner. (Not to mention the epic health benefits of masturbation!)

And if you haven't touched yourself since getting married or having kids, then we highly suggest you read ahead. "Our bodies grow, change, and shift over time, and masturbating can be a way of keeping in touch and staying acquainted with our bodies and our pleasure," says Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D., sociologist and relationship and intimacy counselor in San Diego.

If you've never had any luck with a solo session, remember: No one gets buff after one trip to the gym. The more you do it, the more you'll learn about yourself and the better it will feel, says Emily Morse, sex therapist and host of the podcast Sex with Emily. "Think of it like homework, except the final exam is a lot more fun."

On the other hand, you may already know the specific set of moves to guarantee climax every time. But even if your tried-and-true method works like a charm, over time that routine may start to feel a little, well, routine.

Here, concrete steps to making your first (or first in a while) solo session a success-or if you simply want to get out of a solo sex rut.

1. Pencil it in.

"The more you do it, the easier it will be to break through those roadblocks and enjoy the benefits of masturbation," says Morse. Feel like you never have the time? Put it on your calendar, she suggests. McDaniel agrees, adding, "We make time for the things that are important to us. Give yourself permission to spend time on your own pleasure."

2. De-stress beforehand.

"Stress can be one of the biggest killers of a woman's sex drive, so learning to calm down and soothe yourself is one of the best exercises you can master," says Morse.

It's true: Female sex drives are more sensitive to stress than those of males, meaning we have a harder time feeling aroused when we're in a bad mood, according to research from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. "The trick is to do things to help yourself relax and decompress before you even hit the bedroom. Exercise, take a walk, draw yourself a nice bubble bath, or set aside 15 minutes to meditate," Morse suggests.

3. Take a peek.

"Getting comfortable starts with getting curious," McDaniel says. "When you put aside self-judgment and approach masturbation with an open and curious mind, it helps you get comfortable in your own skin." One good approach: Start exploring. Gunsaullus suggests setting a timer for 15 to 20 minutes, grabbing a hand mirror, and getting acquainted with not just the feel, but also the look of your sexual parts. "Slowly move your fingers around your torso, breasts, belly, thighs, and vulva. Play with your labia lips, move them around, slide your fingers up and down-just get a feel for your body like you're an alien visiting a new planet," she says.

4. Craft a date for yourself.

Gunsaullus recommends something she calls "meditative masturbation"-using mindfulness and all five senses to create a romantic, nurturing, and cozy environment for yourself. Draw yourself a bath complete with bubbles and a glass of wine, turn the lights down in the bedroom and light a few candles-create the kind of environment for yourself that you would for a romantic partner. (Want more guidance on it? Check out Gunsaullus' guided visualization.)

Need a little erotic enhancement to put you in the mood? Try Good Vibrations After Dark, a site with a vast collection of female-friendly porn, Morse suggests. (Or this: The New Porn That Will Transform Your Sex Life)

5. Lube up.

"Lubricant is like the salt of the sexual world-it has the power to make everything feel (or taste) a lot better," says Morse. Studies have long shown that adding lube to lovemaking can significantly increase satisfaction and pleasure-and the same can be said for solo sessions, McDaniel points out. "Lube can be a girl's best friend for experiencing more pleasure with masturbation." Just use a drop to start and reapply as needed.

She suggests System JO Agape, a water-based lube she likes because it's designed to mimic your natural lubrication, or Astroglide, another water-based formula that's safe for your sex toys. McDaniel prefers silicone-based lubes, particularly SKYN Maximum Performance, which are equally safe and need to be reapplied less frequently than water-based. Morse's silicone lube faves: Pjur or Überlube, which are slippery and perfect for finger play. Either way, avoid oil-based lubes, which are harder to clean up and can break down both condoms and sex toys. (And don't be afraid to bring lube into your friendly frolics-it's one offive moves to orgasm tonight.)

6. Invest in a vibrator.

"One of my best friends had never used a vibrator before I suggested she buy one. She texted me late one night saying 'OMG. I didn't even know,'" says McDaniel.

"It's a hard fact that women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, and vibrators are put on this planet for that reason," says Morse. If you've only been using your fingers, it's time to treat yourself: When you're ready to try a sex toy, Morse suggests starting small. Bullet vibes like the We-Vibe Tango or Pocket Rocket are amazing for clitoral stimulation, affordable, and easy to use, she offers. She also loves Satisfyer's products, which use air pressure stimulation to surround and pull on your clitoris instead of touching it directly, providing less direct and intense stimulation.

If this isn't your first rodeo and you'd like something a little more invigorating, try the Form 2 by Jimmyjane. While the cost is a little steep, the five different intensity levels, four different pulsing patterns, and rechargeable battery make it worthwhile, says Morse. (More on that-and other vibes for all your solo and partner needs-this way.)

7. Focus on small forms of pleasure.

"All pleasure is pleasure," says McDaniel. "This may seem obvious, but often women put pressure on themselves to experience sexy-specific pleasure before and during masturbation, which can sometimes feel corny and forced." Instead of focusing on bow-chica-wah-wah type of pleasure, try simply giving in to indulgence. Take the longest hot bath with oils, perfume, and candles; listen to music that makes you smile; put on your softest clothes; eat the best food; engage your senses. "Often, this will activate the pleasure centers of your brain and prime you for more pleasure," she adds.

8. Make your daydreams dirty.

"Arousal starts in your head and works its way down," Morse points out. "If your mind is good and turned on, it won't be long until the rest of your body follows suit." To get that big sexy brain on board, start fantasizing. "Think of your hottest sexual experience and replay it in your head, or let your mind wander to an encounter with a sexy stranger-whatever helps get you in the mood." And remember, it's your fantasy. No one knows what's in your head other than you, so there's no need to feel embarrassed or guilty over what lights your fire. (Interestingly enough, some women are using BDSM as a form of therapy.)

9. Explore the erotic arts.

Whereas men prefer watching porn with actual intercourse, women are more turned on by erotic clips with a concrete story, one that sets a mood, says a study in the International Journal of Impotence Research. And remember, while pornos steal the show when it comes to masturbation material, there is a whole world of erotic art out there. "Some people get really turned on by visual cues, others by verbal or written cues, others getting lost in a good fantasy. Experiment with what medium, as well as what type of content, gets your motor running," McDaniel says.

10. Pay attention to your whole body.

Your whole body is capable of pleasure, Gunsaullus says, so go for a little out-of-bounds exploration. "Take your hand or toy and move it around your inner thighs, entire external vulva, and even your belly and nipples if you want," she says. Science can give you a hint of where to start: Try light touch on the neck, forearm, and vaginal margin (the edge of the vagina closest to the anus) and pressure and vibration on the nipples and clitoris, according to the highest ranked female pleasure spots in a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. But touch everything and learn for yourself, paying attention to what kind of sensation and pressure feels pleasurable to you, Gunsaullus adds. (FYI, a toy like Je Joue's Mimi Soft is great for this since all surfaces are soft and vibrate.)

11. Slow down.

Lots of women wish their partner would spend more time on foreplay-so don't speed things along for yourself either. Go three times slower than you think you should, Morse suggests. "Masturbation is as much about the journey as it is the destination." Take the time to explore all parts of your body-from your neck all the way down to your inner thighs-before moving in for the bull's-eye. Pay attention to what feels good, better, and best, and allow those sensations to build. The results will be well worth the wait.

12. Switch up your technique.

Variety is what spices up sex-even the kind we have with ourselves, says Morse. If you typically stroke yourself in a diagonal pattern-moving your fingers over your clitoris from side to side-try varying your stroke technique by caressing it using an up-and-down motion instead. Another option: Use one finger to trace circles around your clitoris without touching it directly, says Morse. The nerve endings will still be indirectly stimulated, which helps build up a lot of tension and excitement before you even zero in on your pleasure point.

13. Breathe.

"You'd be surprised how many women get so caught up in what their hands are doing that they forget to breathe. Focusing on your breathing builds a deeper connection to your body, and also helps you escape any distracting thoughts like 'Am I doing this right?' or 'Are we there yet?'" Morse says. It's easy: Just focus your attention on your inhale and exhale-your body will do the rest. (Consider tuning into your breath with these three breathwork techniques.)

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Comments (12)

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