Masturbation, ménage à moi, self-pleasure, flicking the bean—whatever euphemism you want to use—is an integral part of understanding yourself sexually. Many well-meaning sex-positive advocates will fall into the accidental trap of suggesting that it's important for women to know themselves sexually so that they can have better sex with a partner.
And that's definitely true.
But what's also true is that masturbation and solo sex are worthy endeavors all on their own. These activities have more value than just being practice or a warm-up for partnered sex. Let's dive into the benefits of masturbation as well as some creative ways to bring solo sex into your life—or kick it up a notch if you've grown tired of your regular routine.
Defining solo sex
Solo sex, specifically, can be a little bit more intimate and involved than masturbation—any form of self-love or self-touch can count as solo sex, even if you don’t end in an orgasm.
Penis-owning folks often don't need to be encouraged to self-explore. Most have been touching themselves one way or another since they discovered they had feeling down there. But unfortunately, our culture hasn't extended the same kinds of social permission for women and vulva owners to do the same.
We're here to tell you that masturbating and solo sex are legitimate and normal parts of self-care and sexual wellness for everyone. And we mean everyone. Self-pleasure in these forms not only gives you a chance to explore your body and figure out what sorts of things turn you on, but it also offers some surprising health benefits!
Overcoming shame in masturbation
Masturbation is a healthy, normal part of sexual development in kids and teenagers and is a healthy part of adult sexuality. It's also a well-documented stress reliever, with an interesting caveat that if you associate shame with the act, it can do the opposite and create stress and guilt.
One case study found links between the effects of shame around masturbation and a potential link to psychopathology in individuals living in a number of communities, especially religious communities. That's an extreme example, but if you know anything about religion of virtually any kind, you know that most religions frown upon masturbation and pre-marital sex. When people grow up within a sexually repressive faith, it's only natural for masturbation and shame to become entangled.
If this is you, you're not alone, and you're also not stuck with this shame forever. Recognizing that sexual pleasure (and self-pleasure) are normal human needs independent of religious belief is a big first step in freeing yourself up from the grips of shame. You might also consider talking to a counselor or sex therapist to help you find freedom in exploring your own sexuality. It might also be helpful to learn that masturbating is good for your health!
Sexual health, mental health, and masturbating
As we mentioned, it's well-documented that masturbation is a great way to relieve stress. Medical News Today also notes that masturbation, and the orgasms that come with it, trigger a release of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, prolactin, endocannabinoids (the same neurotransmitters that react to cannabis), norepinephrine, and adrenaline. So what does that mean practically? It means that masturbation makes you feel happy and relaxed, can help relieve pain (especially menstrual pain), and can give you a little energy boost. Pretty cool, right?
Some other health benefits you might not know about?
Masturbating may reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men and UTIs (urinary tract infections) in women. The idea is that the act of masturbating to orgasm creates a physical release of ejaculate in men (cleansing the prostate) and a physical flushing of the cervix in women (clearing out bacteria that could cause UTIs).
Now that you know that solo sex is objectively good for your health, let's move on to some fun ways to get going with it.
Tools and toys for solo play
Whether you're a seasoned masturbator or dipping your toe into the waters of self-love for the first time, it never hurts to have a few toys around to help keep things interesting. Of course, you have 10 fingers to work with, so if toys aren’t your thing, that’s fine too!
The main rules to follow when choosing a sex toy are, first, to make sure it's made with safe materials, and second, to make sure it's going to do what you want it to. Safe sex toys are non-porous so that they can't harbor bacteria, and they're free of toxic chemicals found in plastics that could get into your bloodstream through your highly innervated private parts (like phthalates).
Look for sex toys made of silicone, stainless steel, borosilicate glass, or lucite, and avoid the cheap ones made from anything porous like rubber, or cheap plastics. Your best bet is to buy from online shops like Maude or Dame or talk with a salesperson if you go somewhere in person to help point you in the right direction.
The shops above have options for a good lube too. Even if you don't always need lube, it's a nice thing to have in your nightstand in the event that you want to try something new like a butt plug, or just want an extra-slippery experience every once in a while. Get a water-based one for easy clean up and minimal potential for irritation.
Finding something you know you like is a little less straightforward, especially since—as you might guess—there are basically no return policies on sex toys. Things to consider:
- Do you want clitoral stimulation only or do you want a toy for penetration?
- How sensitive are the erogenous zones you'd like to stimulate? This can help you determine how powerful your toy needs to be.
- Do you want something that vibrates or something that's more like a dildo?
- Do you prefer to masturbate in the shower or tub? If so, your toy should probably be waterproof. You might also consider something that suctions to the shower wall.
- Do you want something discrete and small that can be charged up and used anywhere, or do you want a bigger toy, like Hitachi Magic Wand, that has to stay plugged in when in use?
Beginners might be interested in small vibrators like the Lelo Lily 2, which is waterproof and contoured to nestle nicely for solo and partnered play. It also has a wide range of speeds, from very light and gentle to powerful and fast.
More experienced folks might opt for an advanced tool that hits both the clitoris and the g-spot at the same time. The rabbit-style vibrator, made famous by an old "Sex and the City" episode, will hit both spots at the same time for a mind-blowing orgasm.
One newer type of technology is a vibrator that uses suction for clitoral stimulation. You can check out the Womanizer or the Lelo Sona 2 to see what we mean. Warning, these toys are sometimes marketed as a way to simulate oral sex, but we've found that they're incredibly intense and not for the faint of heart.
Creating a solo sex experience
You might be thinking: I just masturbate right before I fall asleep, what's all this talk of an experience? Well, we'll be the first to say, good for you! But some folks require a little bit of self-indulgence and care in their solo sexual experiences, and it’s worth trying out!
Depending on a person's circumstances, there might not be a lot of opportunities—kids, partners, roommates, a busy work schedule, a broken lock on the door. There are plenty of reasons you might not be able to masturbate right when you want to all the time. So setting up a little date with yourself and making it special is a good idea!
Setting your own mood for a solo sex date is totally individual to you. In fact, we interviewed nine women who shared nine individual ways they enjoy solo sex. You might like to draw a bath, use scented oils, light some candles, and rock a slow jam compilation playlist to unwind for your solo experience.
Someone else might like to put on some sexy lingerie and watch themselves in the mirror. Others might like to sit outside in their backyard—a touch of taboo never hurt anyone. You might also consider listening to some audio erotica that will help guide you right into the big O.
Whatever floats your boat in the way of setting up the scene for maximum turn-on is perfectly perfect. And don't be afraid to mix things up or try something new. Try a new position with yourself. You might discover something different about what you like in solo play. That's part of the fun.
If you have a partner to share what you've learned, great! And if you want to keep your solo sex life to yourself, also great! There's really no wrong way to do this, as long as you're enjoying yourself.
Rev your engines, it's time for takeoff
Now that you've got all sorts of good reasons to enjoy solo sex, some recommendations for tools to try, guidelines to help you choose, and a few ideas for spicing things up during solo play, it's time to give it a try.
If you're still a little nervous about a below-the-belt self-touch, consider starting with this Quick Face Massage, guided by Kate, a certified massage therapist. You might find that this type of self-care will bring you right into the types of touch we outlined in this post.
Once you’re all warmed up and ready to learn a few new techniques, try this guided self-touch audio that will help you relax and feel the flow as you discover new ways to turn yourself on.