Do It Better

A Beginner’s Guide to Masturbation

| 08/13/2020

masturbation guide

If you’re interested in engaging in masturbation, but have no idea how to do it, then what? You’re stuck, you know? It’s simple enough for me to pop online and say, “Go forth and masturbate! You liberated babe!” or, “Learn about your body by figuring out what you like!”

But what if you’re totally on board with that line of thinking, but are still missing the basics? Since I first wrote a guide to masturbation years ago, the status of shitty sex education system hasn’t shifted by much. Sex education in the U.S. is a dumpsterfire. Only 17 states mandate that students be taught sex ed in a medically accurate way, meaning that it’s based in scientific fact and not religious doctrine. On top of that, we’re also seldom taught about pleasure—about how good sex feels, whether it’s with a partner or yourself. Everything is based on reproductive safety. You know, the old “here’s how not to get pregnant” condom-on-a-banana demonstration that made us all cringe to the nines. While proper condom usage is undeniably important information, there is more to sex than preventing pregnancy via a barrier method.

Enter masturbation. We at Swell have decided to lay out some of the most useful tips and tricks to assist you along your masturbatory journey. The sexual relationship you have with yourself is as important as any other sexual relationship. 

Sparking Your Desire

There is a lot we misunderstand about the desire of women, those raised female, and vulva-owners. When we think of libido, we often assume that you’re supposed to just randomly get horny. The truth is that many vulva-owners don’t have a wild amount of this spontaneous desire. It’s more common to have responsive desire – desire that is kindled when we’re exposed to sexual stimuli. Sexual stimuli can come in the form of pornography, from reading erotica, seeing sexy shirtless humans running along beaches, a sex scene in a movie etc. Basically, we need a little oomph to push us into the “I’m feeling sexy” mood. This responsive desire is also present when we’re exploring sex with ourselves. If you’re interested in learning more about desire, I strongly recommend reading Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski and Mind The Gap by Karen Gurney. They are amazing, life-changing books!

“Try stroking your arms and legs and move on to your torso before exploring what you might like genitally.”

When it comes to turning yourself on, there is no limit to the ways you can do so. Get creative with it. “Try writing your own erotic stories using your imagination,” says Kristine D’Angelo, a certified sex coach and clinical sexologist.  “Or, explore ethical porn and pay for quality—sexy—visually stunning porn. Asking your partner to tell you a sexy story is always a fun time, as well. Start up a conversation with a close friend about pleasure, [and] use them as a resource. What turns them on? Take notes and try it out for yourself.”

Some resources to check out:

How to Begin Touching Yourself (When You’re Ready)

There are all kinds of ways to masturbate, and no one is better than the other. Do whatever feels good for you. For people with vulvas, clitoral stimulation often feels really good, and might be the easiest way to achieve orgasm. In fact, studies show that nearly every clit-owner requires some sort of external stimulation (whether it be with a toy or hand) in order to have an orgasm.

Vaginal penetration can also feel good, if it’s something you’re interested in. If you do decide to try out penetration, you can locate your G-spot (which is more of an area, actually), another potential pleasure center to explore. To find it, insert one or two fingers into the vaginal opening and hook upwards towards your belly button. It’s located behind the pubic bone. Explore the entire area internally. Try different pressures and motions and see what feels good for you. Keep in mind, as with all forms of sexual touch, that not everyone will like this. Pleasure is like a vast buffet to choose from at a restaurant. Some things will be delicious and others, not so much.

To start, you don’t have to go straight for the genitals. “You can start by simply massaging parts of your body to get an idea of the way you like your skin to be touched,” says Pam Shaffer, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Do you like firm touches? Gentle ones? Try stroking your arms and legs and move on to your torso before exploring what you might like genitally.” Sometimes erotically seducing yourself in non-direct ways can help stimulate your whole body. Don’t be afraid to explore. All bodies are perfect and beautiful no matter what.

Some Beginner’s Notes on Sex Toys and Lube

I always recommend starting with something small to begin your journey. Big phallic toys can be a bit intimidating. If you love the idea of a massive vibrator, go for it. This is a customizable experience for one and all. My favorite toys for beginners are Dame’s Fin and Kip. Both are easy to use and come in gender neutral colors that work for every clit-owner. If you’re looking for a toy that can stimulate you internally, check out Arc. It is perfectly designed to hit that G-spot area, without being too overwhelming for first-time users.

“When you’re riding the spectrum of orgasmic pleasure, there can be little ripples of pleasure or there can be a very strong response, and anywhere in between.”

When shopping for toys, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re confused. Go to places like Babeland, LoveHoney, or The Pleasure Chest (which are all available online, too). Shop assistants are there to help—like, literally, all they want is for you to have orgasms and joy. Additionally, all toys come with pretty straightforward directions. If you’re shopping online, google “how to use [enter toy’s name]” and you’re more likely than not to find a resource from a qualified educator where they explain the toy’s best function.

And don’t forget lube! When you’re touching yourself with your fingers/hand or toys, you’re creating friction. “Friction doesn’t feel very good on the sensitive parts of your genitals, so lube can be your best friend while masturbating,” D’Angelo says. “Go to a friendly neighborhood sex shop and try out some lubes before buying a bottle, you’ll be happy you did.” 

If you’re shopping online, be sure to choose a water-based lube like Alu that is free from sugar, parabens, or other harmful chemicals. 

Orgasms: What to Expect (and Not Expect)

Much like desire, we tend to only get a partial picture of what orgasms are and what they feel like. The definition of an orgasm is: the involuntary release of tension at the height of the sexual response cycle. This often feels very pleasurable for some people, but there is massive variation. “During orgasm we can have 3 to 10 contractions in intervals of 0.8 seconds. When you’re riding the spectrum of orgasmic pleasure, there can be little ripples of pleasure or there can be a very strong response, and anywhere in between,” D’Angelo explains.

The way one feels post-orgasm also varies quite a lot. “Orgasms can feel very different from person to person, though most [people] express that they feel a release of energy and a rhythmic spasming of their muscles. Most people also feel relaxed right after, but some people feel more energized,” Shaffer says.

TL; DR: Orgasms are different for everyone and aren’t always some out-of-this-world, explosive experience. Be gentle with yourself and don’t throw yourself under the bus if it isn’t worth writing home about. 

Pleasure is pleasure. If something feels good, that’s awesome. The point of all of this self-love (and of this entire article, in fact) is to explore your body, enjoy sexual touch, and learn more about who you are as a sexual human.

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