Don’t act like you have plans tonight.
You’re horny, bored, and/or stressed out (thanks, endless news cycle!). What’s a woman to do? Masturbate, of course!
See, masturbating doesn’t just feel good (but it does!), it’s also legit good for you. And that’s true no matter which of the million different ways to masturbate you choose.
Okay, but what are the health benefits of masturbation?
The fact that it feels phenom is reason enough to get down with your bad self. But the health perks will have you reaching into your panties faster than you can say, “vibrator.” These perks include:
It lowers your stress levels.
“Masturbation releases stress and anxiety,” says Leah Millheiser, MD, clinical assistant professor and director of female sexual medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. “We know that you get total-body relaxation after an orgasm, which is great for someone who’s tense.”
It’s good for your vaginal health.
“Masturbation increases blood flow to the genitals, which is important because blood flow keeps the vagina healthy,” says Dr. Millheiser.
You can’t get pregnant.
I know what you’re thinking: duh! But if you’re looking to avoid pregnancy or eliminate your risk of STIs, masturbation is the way to go, says Wendasha Jenkins Hall, PhD, a sex educator and researcher. All the pleasure, none of the risk!
It quells cramps.
Motrin? Pfft. Try masturbating! Orgasming releases the body’s natural pain relievers: dopamine and serotonin.
It improves partnered play.
A solid solo session is crazy-good for your partnered (and multi-parterned, if you’re into that) sex life in all sorts of ways. For one, it may help you get more comfortable in bed. “People who don’t masturbate are more likely to have difficulty reaching orgasm with a partner,” Dr. Millheiser explains. It makes sense: How can we expect a partner to touch us if we don’t know how to touch ourselves??
During a solo session you’ll learn what feels good, explains Megan Fleming, PhD, a psychologist and sex therapist. “Relay that insight to your partner and you’re destined for better partner sex, including orgasms, which promote bonding.”
New to masturbation? Here’s what you should know about your body:
Before you can “rock your body” Justin Timberlake–style, you first have to knowyour body. “It’s essential for women to be able to identify their anatomy,” says Janet Brito, PhD, a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in Honolulu.
That’s why she recommends using a combination of diagrams and hands-on learning to suss out what is what…
1. Sit down with a diagram of the female anatomy.
Admit it: The last time you looked at a diagram of the female anatomy was during your seventh grade health class (just me?). Spend some time looking at, and even memorizing it. As you do, be sure to say the anatomical words out loud! In a world that under-values vulva-owners, doing so is an act of power!
2. Bust out a mirror to look at your own.
Unless you’re in Cirque du Soleil, getting a real good look at your vulva and vagina is going to be physically impossible. That’s why Brito recommends beginning your personal investigation the old-fashioned way: with a hand-held mirror. It’s really the best way to see what your vulva **actually** looks like, she says.
3. Find your clit.
The clitoris (a.k.a. your best friend) is where the masturbation magic usually happens. Home to a whopping 15,000 (!) nerve endings, it should come as no surprise that some 37 percent to 73 percent of vulva-owners NEED clitoral stimulation to orgasm, according to research. Depending on your anatomy, finding your clit may be easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort.
4. Locate the other parts, too.
True, odds are high that you’ll need clitoral stimulation to cross the finish line. But that doesn’t mean touching allllll the other parts of your vulva can’t feel good. Brito encourages you to take your time to explore and name all parts of your body to figure out what feels good and what’s just meh. “Touch gently and, with curiosity, label the parts that feel most sensitive, arousing, ticklish, and uncomfortable,” she says.
5. Acknowledge any shame you might be feeling.
“At best, we’re told to never discuss [masturbation] and keep it to the confines of our bedrooms. At worst, we’re taught to avoid it altogether,” Hall explains.
The result of these (lack of) teachings leave some masturbators with a challenge to overcome: Believing that masturbating is wrong, says Fleming. But nothing could be further from the case. “There is absolutely nothing shameful about self-pleasuring, and there’s nothing to feel guilty about after you do it,” she says.
If shame comes up for you, “start by owning that that’s what you’re experiencing,” she says. “Then, tell yourself that those feelings are a result of internalized sex negativity.” If a self pep-talk isn’t enough (it may not be!), she recommends seeing a certified sex therapist. They specialize in replacing what she calls “the wet blanket of shame” with pleasure.
Before you masturbate, set the scene…
You change the sheets, light candles, and cue up your fave sex playlist when you’re about to get it on with another person, so why not put in the same amount of effort when it’s DIY time?
6. Clean your room.
It’s kinda hard to feel sexy if your room’s covered in month-old laundry and yesterday’s takeout containers. So, “start by creating a relaxing, comfortable space in your home, full of privacy and free of interruption,” says Brito.
Plus, she notes, Marie Kondo–ing your space can help clear your mind, giving you more room to focus on identifying what feels pleasurable and, consequently, increasing your chances of having that big O.
7. Lock your door.
This one might seem obvious, but so many people skip it. Locking your door, even if you’re home alone, can clear your brain of any worry of someone barging in. Sometimes, that’s all your mind really needs to get centered.
It’s not that it’s so much about secrecy but about privacy, explains Holly Richmond, PhD, a certified sex therapist and somatic psychologist. “We all deserve privacy. Feeling like you have to keep things secret and hurrying up or hiding typically creates shame.” By locking your door, you can create your own private space and, in turn, feel more comfortable…and confident.
In some cases, though, you might want someone to walk in on you, says Richmond. After all, it’s totally hot. If this is your sexual fantasy, talk it out. Tell your partner: “Hey, I’m a voyeur,” or “the idea of catching you doing this really turns me on. Can we set up a scene in which we make this happen?”
8. Put your phone away.
Masturbation is “me time”—plain and simple. Do your best to pretend the outside world doesn’t exist (buh bye, phone) and tune into what’s going on inside your bod. “A woman who can practice mindfulness is much more likely to reach orgasm sooner,” says Dr. Millheiser. “While masturbating, if you find that your mind is wandering off, recognize that and gently bring it back to focus.”
Using your phone to explore erotic content (more on this below)? Put that thang on Do Not Disturb. Last thing you want is a message from your boss popping up when you’re about to finish…
9. Thank your body.
Everyone has hang-ups that make them feel lesser-than when it comes to their bodies. Let that ish go, especially when you’re masturbating!
Rather than dwelling on parts you’re not totally satisfied with (like, say, your stomach), focus on the sensuality of your curves and how capable your body is of pleasure. Research links having a positive body image with greater sexual satisfaction. So, far from being frivolous, loving your body can help you, ya know, love on your body.
10. Break out your fave lingerie and underwear.
Why save your sexiest underwear for an audience? If the black lace bra you haven’t worn since V-day makes you feel sexy, or that pair of Calvin Klein briefs brings you gender euphoria, put ‘em on! Taking them off can be part of the scene too, as Amy Levine, sex coach and founder of Ignite your Pleasure previously told Women’s Health. As each article comes off, think about what you love most about your body to get all kinds of turned on, she says.
Try alllll the different types of masturbation…
There’s no right or wrong way to touch yourself when you masturbate. But this list of all the different ways to masturbate may give you some new tricks that’ll take your self-made orgasm to the next level. Let’s begin.
11. Touch your non-genital erogenous zones.
Instead of going from zero to vagina, spend time romancing your non-genital erogenous zones. There’s no rush!
“It’s not all about the genitals,” Richmond explains. “The best sex is sensation-based, when we’re in our bodies and not in our heads.” It’s all about enjoying the senses, tastes, sounds, and smells of eroticism, versus just grabbing a toy and mindlessly going at it.
“If you are in the early stages [of masturbating], you want to get to know the areas of your body that make you tick,” adds Dr. Millheiser. And the vulva and vagina aren’t the only areas that can turn you on, she says.
12. Head south.
“Starting with your fingers is the best way to engage in masturbation,” Dr. Millheiser says. Plus, you’ll simulate the feeling of a partner’s fingers around your vagina, which can help you tap into the right mindset. From there, you can build up the sensation in other ways (more on that in a sec).
13. Insert your fingers.
If you’ve just pulled into the self-service station, you might as well try penetrative masturbation—using your fingers, a dildo, or a phallic-shaped vibrator—to see if you like it. If you don’t, NBD, you’re still one step closer to knowing what you *do* like.
14. Explore the backdoor.
“You don’t have to go inside the ass to enjoy its pleasure-potential,” Fleming says. The entrance of the anus has as many nerve endings as the tip of the penis (about 4,000).
When you begin “exploring anal masturbation, start externally and get comfortable and familiar with the sensation,” Carol Queen, PhD, a staff sexologist at Good Vibrations previously told Women’s Health. Add a squirt of lube to your finger and simply circle the entrance to start.
15. Combine multiple types of stimulation.
“The whole is greater than the sum of our sexual parts,” says Nan Wise, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and certified sex therapist. Translation: Combining stimulation from multiple erogenous zones(e.g. clitoris, vagina, cervix, nipple, inner thighs, and anus) can add up to some serious pleasure.
Some pleasure-seekers can actually orgasm from touching their nipples alone. Try putting one hand on your breast and the other inside you. “Give yourself permission to lay down and let your hands wander,” advises Brito.
16. Focus on the task at hand (pun intended).
But “you don’t have to turn off your mind to orgasm,” says Wise. Instead, she suggests “paying attention to sensations”—not unlike how you pay attention to your breath when meditating.
17. Take your time.
Don’t rush it! Take as much time as you need, says Richmond. If you can make it an all-day affair, why not pull a Samantha Jones and make it one?! “Once a week or once every couple of weeks, maybe go into a self-pleasure session without orgasm having to be on the menu,” Richmond suggests. Doing so can help you really explore your body instead of just rubbing one out real quick.
18. Play around with positions.
You switch positions in sex, so why not when you masturbate too? “There is no one position that works for everyone. You have to experiment and find what’s right for you,” Dr. Millheiser says.
Some people like to rub their clit against the bed, while others like to lay on their backs. Some like to keep their knees bent; others like to splay their legs out straight, and others still like to lift their legs into a V-shape. It doesn’t matter what your personal taste is—but you won’t know until you move around.
19. Focus on pleasure, not orgasm.
Wise says the most important part of masturbation is simply to “savor the sensation” and not set out with the intention of orgasm. “Being in the experience is key,” she says.
Sorta like with actual sex and relationships, it’s best not to go into masturbating with any expectations—even achieving orgasm—because that can make you feel anxious, says Brito.
Still, if you find yourself freaking out because nothing’s “happening,” especially during your first me-sesh, that’s totally normal and completely okay. Remember that you’re experimenting in the name of being sexually healthy and don’t need to impress anyone.
Your only job is to “focus on discovering what feels the most pleasurable to you,” she says. Take your time, and just feel it out. Literally.
Add in some erotic aids…
“We have sooo many different types of erotica available,” says Fleming. “Why not explore what works for you?”
20. Use your imagination.
Your brain = the best erotic aid! “Everyone has different fantasies,” Dr. Millheiser says. And no fantasy is too bland or too wild! Maybe your fantasy is to make love to your sweetie the way you did on your honeymoon. Maybe your fantasy features you and a young Ewan McGregor from Moulin Rouge…(Just me? Okay). Maybe you’re taking a page from Rihanna’s playbook and envisioning whips and chains.
“Fantasizing is a time to discover what turns you on—and not judge it,” explains Brito. Just let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you.
For the record: It’s totally normal to fantasize about genders you’re not attracted to IRL. Some straight women fantasize about being with another woman or a girl-on-girl sexual scene, Dr. Millheiser says. (That’s shouldn’t be too surprising considering many straight women get off to lesbian porn.) And some lesbians masturbate while thinking about a man—that’s normal too. “No matter what your fantasy is, you don’t have to question your sexuality,” Dr. Millheiser says.
21. Watch some ethical porn.
If your imagination just isn’t cutting it (no worries), there’s no reason not to break out the big guns: porn. Rather than going for the free (and TBH, usually misogynistic) stuff, invest in some ethical porn. Another option is to re-watch the scene in a sexy movie over and over again. Heck, if you have an old video of you and your partner stashed somewhere safe on your phone, go ahead and enjoy that!
22. Listen to audio erotica.
Not a visual learner? Thanks to audio erotica, you can listen to a tale that’ll get you all hot and bothered and let your mind do the rest of the work. “There’s an app called Dipsea filled with tons of sexy audio stories to get you going,” Richmond says. “[Some people] like the story around it, they like being able to create their own visuals.”
23. Curl up with page porn.
Erotica, page porn, R-rated books. Whatever you name them, naughty texts are a great way to explore what turns you on. And by the way, the genre doesn’t start and stop with Fifty Shades, #bless. Here are 25 other erotica novels to get your hands on right now.
Bring in some of the best sex toys for masturbating…
Whether you have arthritis (damn you, computer keys) or wanna switch things up, a sex toy can really take your self-pleasure game to another level.
24. Lube it up.
Lubrication is a pretty important part of masturbating because “it makes stimulating your genitals much more comfortable,” says Dr. Millheiser. (Preach.) And that stands whether it’s store-bought or body-made!
Bottle lube especially comes in handy for masturbators on birth control pills, which can cause vaginal dryness, Dr. Millheiser says. It’s also a great addition to anyone who’s dehydrated— because being dehydrated affects natural lubrication levels.
If dryness is a legit issue for you, and you’re not using a silicone sex toy, try silicone-based lubes, which last longer and reduce friction, Dr. Millheiser says. But if you’re just looking for a little extra wetness for more fun—or have a silicone vibe—stick to a water-based formula. (It won’t break down your buzzing friend.)
25. Play with a vibrator.
The modern vibe is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread (better, even). These days, most vibrators are specifically made to give you that clitoral stimulation you crave. From bullet vibrators to magic wands (that, yes, live up to the name), there are a ton of options out there for you to try. Treat yourself!
26. Try an oral-sex simulator.
Toys are fun—especially ones that bring a different kind of pleasure to the party. There’s such a thing as oral-sex simulators, and they’re, well, AH-mazing.
First, consider the Womanizer, which Dr. Millheiser recommends to clients and friends all. the. time. “It’s a suction cup that uses an oscillating pressure,” she explains. “It’s almost as if it doesn’t allow you to hold yourself back. It gently pulls an orgasm out of you.” (Sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it?)
Then, there’s the Lelo Sona Cruise 2, which also mimics cunnilingus but has an extra-cool feature where the suction gets more intense when you press the vibe harder into your skin. 10/10 recommend.
27. Try another kind of sex toy.
From nipple clamps to nipple pumps, non-vibrating wands to electricity sticks, C-rings to genital sleeves, there are more types of sex toys than there are masturbation tips.
Hall specifically recommends a stainless steel or glass toy. You can place it “in the fridge or warm water before a session, then use it on sensitive areas like the breasts or thighs to provoke sensually intense reactions,” she says. Hot! (Or should I say, cold??)
28. Move your body *while* playing with these toys.
As tempting as it may be to make your toy do all the heavy lifting, try to get your body into it. Rock your hips to the rhythm of the vibration, or move your pelvis in a circular, figure 8-style motion. Doing so will help you stay present and maximize all the sensations you’re feeling. You might even happen upon some erogenous you didn’t know would get you going, says Richmond.
Other ways to change up your solo sex…
Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean masturbation should be boring. To avoid falling into that trap, try something new.
29. Change where you get down.
Always getting busy while watching Netflix in the living room? Head to your office chair. Usually in bed? Move it to a chair, or the car if you’re feeling especially adventurous, Hall suggests.
30. Take your solo-sex session into the shower.
This location deserves its very own tip because you can treat it like you would a sex toy. A hand-held showerhead might just become your new BFF. According to Dr. Millheiser, many women reach orgasm by pointing the stream of water onto their clitoris. “It’s like a quick and easy vibrator—that pulsating sensation on the most sensitive area on the human body,” she says. (Not to mention, it’s nice and warm.)
31. Try edging
Getting yourself to orgasm during solo play doesn’t mean you always have to go full throttle. ICYDK, there’s a technique known as “edging,” which basically involves masturbating to build up sexual tension in your erogenous zones, then backing off just before you’re about to climax.
“Edging can make orgasm feel much more powerful, intense, and enjoyable,” as Vanessa Marin, a licensed psychotherapist and sex specialist, previously told Women’s Health. And Wise says it’s a solid way to draw out the pleasure before the grand finale, especially if this isn’t your first bedroom rodeo.
32. Make it a show.
“Masturbation doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Masturbating in front of your partner or engaging in mutual masturbation can heighten desire and serve as an opportunity to explore each other’s bodies,” Hall says. This way, you can show your partner exactly what gets you going. Keep an eye on where their hands roam on their own bodies to do a little learning yourself.
This is also a biggie for couples in long-distance relationships. “They can hop on a video call and put on a sexy show for each other,” says Hall. You can bet it’ll make the reunion so. much. hotter.