How To Masturbate: A Feel-Good Primer, Including Benefits And Effects

What to Know About How To Masturbate And Get Your Hands On All The Benefits

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Taras Chernus/Unsplash

Oh, hello there! If you’re a person with a vulva who is new to the whole self-pleasure thing and not entirely sure how to masturbate: Welcome! You’re in the right place. We’re happy to have you here — in fact, give yourself a hand. (We wish we could say that was the only bad pun in here, but that would be jerking you around.) If you’ve landed here because you were looking for some kind of porn or other erotic content that involves watching someone learn how to masturbate, there are two things you should know.

The first is that women — yes, including [gasp/pearl clutch combo] moms — watch and enjoy porn, so if that’s you, hi, you’re normal. The second is that you’re not going to find that specific content here. But stick around; you could learn something anyway. So whether you’re entirely new to the masturbation game, just getting your feet (and vagina) wet, or a seasoned pro looking for new solo-sex positions to spice up your sex life, here’s what to know about how to masturbate, including the benefits and other effects.

What are the benefits and effects of masturbating?

Before we get into tips and techniques, let’s talk a little bit about allllllll the mental and physical benefits and effects of masturbating. According to Planned Parenthood, these include:

  • It won’t get you pregnant or cause you to contract a sexually transmitted infection (unless there’s a shared-toy scenario, which is a different story altogether).
  • It helps you learn what you like and dislike during sex, so the next time you’re with a partner (if desired), you’ll know exactly what you want and where to direct them.
  • It can also be empowering. Want an orgasm? You can do that yourself, thankyouverymuch.
  • For some people, masturbating helps them relax and ease stress. Bonus? That could also help you fall asleep faster.
  • If your masturbation sesh ends with an orgasm or three — although it certainly doesn’t have to — that can release endorphins (aka the “feel-good” hormone), which can also act as a natural painkiller (umm, ta-ta, Tylenol!).

What are some tips and techniques for learning how to masturbate?

Just to clarify: Today, we’re talking about masturbation techniques for people with a vulva, clitoris, vagina, labia, etc. (Although, even if that doesn’t describe you but it does describe your partner, you can probably learn a few things, too.) Like the clitoris — which is way more than that nub that’s actually visible, and covers a lot of vag and vulva territory beneath the surface — this article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to masturbation information.

Take a self-guided tour.

Before jumping right into things, give yourself some time to settle in, relax, and go exploring. Softly and slowly, touch yourself in places other than your loin-area to ease your way into things and help you find out what feels good. Instead of pressing too hard, lightly graze your fingertips or the back of your hand along your neck, abdomen, thighs, arms, breasts — whatever feels right.

Then, when you’re ready to check out the vag, make your way down in that direction. But avoid the temptation to do basically anything you’ve seen in porn or you think is what you’re “supposed” to do, like aggressively rubbing your clit or immediately inserting fingers into the vagina. You’ll get there, but first, use your fingers to get to know your vulva and labia. Remember: The idea isn’t to orgasm (for now), but to get to know what you’re working with.

You may notice that you gradually start to feel wet as your natural lubricants begin to kick in — and that’s a good thing. Use that slippery stuff to help you glide around the area with ease. Add some lube to make everything go smoother. You can put a towel down if you’re worried about your sheets and aren’t 100 percent sure what you’re doing yet.

Finally, find your clitoris. Yes, this may mean you have to get out a hand mirror as Charlotte does in Sex and the City. But whatever! It helps. You’re going to want to know exactly where to locate that little pearl in a bit (or when you’re with a partner).

Do the Humpty hump.

If your actual intro to masturbating — albeit unknowingly — was humping a pillow or stuffed animal as a much younger person (even though you weren’t sure what was going on or why it felt good), you’re not alone. And there’s nothing wrong with starting or returning to it as an adult.

In her masturbation Masterclass (100 percent a real thing), Dr. Emily Morse explains that this method gets the job done by stimulating your clitoral hood and labia. “To perform this position in your next masturbation session, straddle a pillow, blanket, or another object and grind your vulva against it,” she writes. “You can also perform the highly customizable position in reverse, horizontally, and with sex toys.”

Hello, showerhead, my old friend!

If your shower has a detachable showerhead, you are in for a treat. Again, this takes a bit of trial and error to figure out how this works best for you (both logistically and anatomically). But once you hit the right spot, you’ll know. There’s no technique involved, really: Just position the showerhead so that it’s in a place that feels good and is also not shooting water up into your vagina. Another option is using the bathtub faucet, as editors of the Advocate explain: “Laying down in a bathtub also works great as well. Let the water run between your legs, flexing and retracting your legs to control pressure.”

Give yourself the finger (or several).

Now that you’re at least slightly more familiar with your vulva region, it’s time to keep exploring to see what types of sensations, pressure, and movement you enjoy. Even if your juices are already flowing, it never hurts to add a little lube to the equation. Anytime you can reduce friction down there, it’s going to make things more pleasurable.

There are countless ways to finger yourself, including this intro to your clit, courtesy of Gigi Engle at Teen Vogue: “Start with the clitoris: Use one to two fingers to feel for it. It should feel just like a bump. Start experimenting with different pressures while you rub it in rhythmic circles. You may find that you enjoy more pressure, or less pressure. Every vagina is different.”

While the clitoris is a great place to start (and frankly, the stimulation most vulva-owners need to get off), you may also want to try inserting a finger or two inside your vagina. Just doing that alone probably isn’t going to get you anywhere. If it does, go for it!

If you’re up for more of a challenge, allow Engle to walk you through: “If you’re interested in trying to stimulate your g-spot, insert your fingers into your vagina just as you did when you were finding it. Take some time to press and rub the g-spot. See if that works for you. If it does, awesome. If not, stick with clitoral stimulation. Penetration of any kind can be quite intense for beginners. You are not weird if you prefer one kind of pleasure over another. It is your body, and you have total agency.”

Toy Story 5: Who Needs a Woody When It’s All About the Buzz

Whether it’s your first time browsing or it has been a while since you hit up your local “adult” store, your jaw will be on the floor when you get a load of all the sex toys and devices out there now. There are so many high-tech products currently on the market. So, don’t worry if you’re overwhelmed or don’t know where to start. That’s an article for another day.

If you’re still getting used to the idea of masturbating (especially if you’ve been conditioned to think that there’s something wrong with it), it might help to think of it as a form of self-care. It truly is. You’re permitting yourself to take some sort of a break — even a quickie counts — and focus your time and energy on something that not only comes with a variety of benefits but feels pretty great too.