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If you've landed on this article, chances are you've been having a little trouble in the orgasm department. The truth is, if you don't know how to make yourself cum, a partner might not know either. We’re a fan of exploring all the beautiful parts of your own body and learning what it takes to see fireworks, especially if you're hoping for partnered sex to get you there.

That's where a healthy masturbation habit comes in. If you're new to masturbation, feeling a little weird about it, or have just found that it does nothing for you, we're here to help. Learning how to make yourself cum takes practice and patience, so start by giving yourself a break, taking a deep breath, and coming at this with fresh eyes and possibly some fun sex toys. Get excited, you're about to have an orgasm.

You're not alone

Before we dive into the deep end of all things orgasm, we want to first emphasize that you’re not alone. About 10-15% of women have never had an orgasm, and orgasmic challenges are the second most frequently reported sexual issue in women. The reasons for this vary, including psychological and emotional state (especially anxiety), past traumas, a sense of unsafety, low self-esteem, and feelings of sexual openness with a partner. These are all contributors to why vulva owners can have difficulty, even more so than a lack of experience with masturbation or sexual partners.

So, while we'll focus on helping you figure out how to make yourself cum, the mechanics will only get you so far if you're experiencing some of these other roadblocks. Let's first try and get you into the mindset and then go over some masturbation techniques.

Masturbation 101: mindset, setup, and orgasm

Plenty of vulva owners grew up conditioned to feel shame around masturbation and sexual pleasure in general. While we can't instantly take away this mental block, we do want to emphasize that masturbation is healthy and normal.

Sex, sexual health, pleasure, exploration, masturbation, and orgasms are all natural, good, and important parts of living a happy, healthy life. There’s no shame in experiencing pleasure and no reason to be embarrassed.

There’s also the possibility that you’re putting too much pressure on yourself if you’ve never experienced an orgasm. Give yourself a break and take the pressure off of the experience before going into it. If you've never experienced an orgasm before, either with yourself or with a partner, try to relax as the first step. It's a journey of learning and self-love, so start with that.

Pamper yourself

Self-love is the name of the game here. Consider creating a solo sex experience, which is a little more involved than going straight into masturbating. In solo sex, you're seducing yourself to help ease you into the right mindset for self-pleasure and exploration. This first time may not yield the result you're looking for, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself and the process. And you never know, this new approach could be exactly what you need to cross over into O-land.

Try relaxing your muscles with a warm bubble bath. Rub scented oil on yourself afterward. Put on a sexy playlist and dance in the mirror, admiring your own body.

Set the scene

Create the most relaxing environment possible for your solo sex sesh. For you that might mean cleaning up your room or changing the sheets before you get started. You might light some candles or diffuse some essential oils and put on your favorite underwear.

Dim the lights, keep your playlist going, or turn on some audio erotica from Dipsea to provide some sonic sexiness while you explore.

Take a deep breath ... or 10

Breathwork can be amazingly stimulating—but also relaxing. It's interesting that you'd want both sensations during a solo sesh, but when you think about it, you really do.

Deep breathing helps put your sympathetic nervous system (the one that governs your stress, nervousness, and anxiety) on pause and allows your parasympathetic nervous system (the one that controls rest and relaxation) to take over. In fact, it's literally impossible for your body to release stress hormones when your parasympathetic nervous system is in charge. Try closing your eyes and counting to five on the inhale and then five on the exhale. Once you're comfortable with that, bump it up to a seven-count. Notice how your body feels as you breathe.

As for stimulation, deep breathing brings oxygen into your bloodstream and to all the body parts that need it. Sexologist Jessica O'Reilly suggests taking deep breaths during masturbation to help increase blood flow to the genitals and increase sensation. While you don't want to focus so hard on your breath that you take your mind completely away from the task at hand, try breathing as you move your own hands across your body.

Foreplay

So far, all the instructions we've outlined constitute light foreplay. Now it's time to get into a more body-based activity. You can keep breathing through all of this, but just let it flow if you feel like there are too many balls in the air.

If you've had some partnered sexual experiences, you know that there's nothing like foreplay to get wet and stimulate your body. With solo sex, it's no different. Gently stroke your chest with the tips of your fingers, running them down between your breasts and encircling each one. If you like nipple play (or aren't sure if you do), stop on each one and give each one some gentle attention or a light squeeze. Trace the lines of your belly down to the line of your pubic hair and stroke the outside of your vulva gently.

Again, try to release any expectations of orgasm on this journey, and just notice what feels good and how your body reacts to each sensation.

Explore how to make yourself cum

Your vulva is a multi-faceted organ with components that can enhance your sexual experience and build pleasure that leads to orgasm. Many sex blogs and podcasts focus on the clitoris and clitoral stimulation, and while that's fantastic (and definitely something to build up to), going straight to the most sensitive part of your anatomy might be a little aggressive, especially if you've been having orgasmic challenges. Your clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings in it, so it's incredibly sensitive. Depending on how you're built, you may never want to go straight at it without a barrier like the clitoral hood or a pair of underwear to help soften the sensation.

But there's only one way to find out!

Start by exploring the whole vulvar landscape. This includes your outer and inner labia (the lips or folds of skin around the opening of your vagina), the hood of your clitoris (which encircles the top and sides of your clit and protects it from overstimulation), and even the tender skin where your legs meet your crotch. Spend a minute or two with each part, notice if your body reacts as you gently stroke each area.

You might find it helpful to use lube or coconut oil to make gliding across these body parts easier. You might also notice that tilting your pelvis forward in a sort of tucked butt flex position increases sensation in some of these areas. You could also pulse your hips forward and back to stimulate the interior of your vagina as you play with the exterior with your fingers.

If you find that touching a particular area starts creating a warm buildup inside of you, begin moving your fingers faster on that area to see if that increases the pleasure. If it does, keep going. You're well on your way to learning just what an orgasm feels like.

Types of orgasms

So everything we just talked about was all about externally derived orgasms. That's because most vulva owners find that external (clitoral) stimulation is critical to reaching an orgasm, and vaginal penetration alone just doesn't do it. But that doesn't mean that there's no pleasure in vaginal penetration. On the contrary, vaginal penetration coupled with clitoral stimulation can actually result in mind-blowing orgasms, especially if the penetration involves hitting the g-spot.

Some vulva owners have both clitoral orgasms and g-spot orgasms at the same time, which some call full-body orgasms.

If you're curious about penetration during your solo play, don't shy away from it. Try using your fingers or a toy (like a dildo or vibrator). Slowly insert a finger into your vagina and try pulling it in and out, or stroking the vaginal wall on the front of your body to try to find the g-spot. It might even feel good to just experience the fullness of having fingers or a toy inside of you without moving them. There’s no wrong way to do this!

You can alternate between penetration and playing with the clitoris and touching your body. Chances are high that if you're learning how to make yourself cum for the first time, the outside bits are going to be the key.

How to use toys

Sex toys are most certainly welcome in solo play. When you're by yourself, the sky's the limit.

As a first-timer, you might consider getting a bullet vibrator or something designed specifically for external stimulation to help you discover which parts of your vulva provide the most pleasure. There are a number of options that offer different speeds and pulse patterns, which is a great way to start because you want to make sure you have the option to ramp up the power on your toy. (For example, magic wands are very powerful, so that would be an advanced toy for your first purchase.) Check out this article for more tips on how to purchase and use a vibrator.

One more thing you could try in the area of assisted orgasms is a little tool you don't have to purchase at all: the showerhead or bathtub faucet. If you have a hot tub in your backyard, a hot tub jet works too.

Stand in the shower and let your handheld showerhead flow against your vulva. Play with the settings to see which one you like best. Or lay with your butt against the front wall of your tub, legs straight up in a V-shape on either side of the faucet (this position might be too hard for some, and that's fine, no biggie). In the hot tub, face the jets and see how it goes.

Warm, pressurized water can have a way of working magic on your entire genital area. Even if you can't quite get all the way to the finish line using water, it's a fun way to get yourself going.

The big O

So how do you know if you’re getting close? If you’ve never had an orgasm, then you might be wondering how you know if you’re getting warmer or colder. While everyone is different, there are a few potential signs that you’re doing what your body likes.

First and foremost, as you become aroused and heading toward climax, your clitoris becomes more sensitive (usually in a good way) to what you’re doing to it or around it (sometimes it’s so sensitive you don't even need to touch it directly). A warm feeling might begin traveling upward from your vulva. You might begin breathing more heavily. Your body might want to tense up to increase the sensation.

In some cases, it might feel a little like you have to pee as you get closer. If this makes you nervous, try playing in the bathtub or shower so that you can give yourself permission to just go with it. You probably won’t pee, but you might. And some vulva owners squirt (it’s normal, and it’s also a whole other conversation if you're curious), but many don't!

It’s called a climax for a reason. If you’ve reached it, you’ll feel a peak of sensation in your genitals as your muscles contract repeatedly—many compare it to a warm throbbing feeling or a surge of pleasure. Your heart will beat faster, your breath will speed up, you might involuntarily twitch, moan, or lift your pelvis, and your fingers and toes might curl. And chances are, when you’re finished, you won’t want to touch anything down there for a few minutes at least, as it will be highly sensitive and stimulated.

It's time

The best way to learn is to do, so it's time to give all these suggestions a try. You deserve to feel good and enjoy your sex life, no matter if it's a solo sex life or a partnered one. The tips we've shared will surely help you get closer to the orgasmic feeling you're after. Just don't give up if it doesn't happen on your first try. To help you get started, take a listen to these guided self-touch sessions, in which you'll explore the various sensations in your body and even get into some gentle toy play.