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Self-Pleasure Changed How I Experience Sex

It took five attempts before masturbating made me orgasm, but when it did, it changed my sex life.

Sex

I purchased my first vibrator from Amazon a few months ago but barely touched it. I was still a little leery about having one despite receiving a couple "welcome to the club, girl" texts from my close girlfriends. I felt that this purchase ushered me into a new level of adulthood: self-pleasure.


I used it a few times here and there, but never fully got into it – not until this fifth time. I decided to set a mood; I poured a glass of red wine and turned on my favorite sex playlist. I dimmed the lights and started slow. To spare you the details, not only was it magical (finally), but making myself orgasm changed the way I approached sex going forward.

So many of us are conditioned to believe that sex is only for the enjoyment of men, not women. We're told that if we actually enjoy sex, and choose to have it to please ourselves, we're either selfish or whores – or selfish whores. We're implicitly taught that we are merely to be of sexual service to our sexual partners.

I carried this ideology with me for most of my sexual life, feeling that my body — and ultimately, my good-good — was for the explicit purpose of birthing babies and pleasing men. So, I did just that: had sex for the explicit benefit of my sexual partner. I did what they most desired (within reason) to make them orgasm. Whatever position they wanted, they got, regardless of if it felt good to me or not. Most times, I encouraged them to climax before I even thought about getting mine.

Even my moans were manufactured to make them feel like they were doing something they weren't.

It's not that I didn't enjoy sex – some of my partners were top notch – but sex felt more like a chore than a source of pleasure. My boyfriend wanted some, so I would give it to him despite me not actually being in the mood. Even as I got older and set my own sexual boundaries, I still did so with the man as a priority. I had the p*ssy power, but was still participating for him not me.

Masturbating was different. It was the one moment that pleasure was a priority for me and not anyone else. I was doing this to make myself feel better independent of a man. I wanted to be pleased without feeling like I had to please someone else in return. I wanted to feel good, even if it meant doing so myself.

Masturbation allowed me to do what I wanted, how I wanted, when I wanted.

It was liberating!

But not only was this new level of self-care extremely satisfying and freeing, it also changed the way I showed up for myself sexually, which helped improve my sex life. Here's how:

I learned my body.

This is a major key. Sex videos and karma sutra books offer great tips for spicing things up in the bedroom, but the most effective way to do so is to learn your own body. Giving myself the time and opportunity to explore myself, helped me identify what truly feels good to me without being swayed by the look of pleasure on my partner's face. This helped me identify what to ask for during intercourse. While many women may despise having to "teach" their partner how to please them, masturbating gave me comfort in doing so.

Men aren't afraid to do what makes them feel good during sex, even when the position is uncomfortable for women. They know what they like and they go for it.

Having finally learned what made me feel good, I started to do the same. Before this new exploration of self, I knew what felt good to me, but I didn't know what would make me climax. I left it completely up to the guy, who didn't know himself because he was too busy trying to get his (I can't blame him for that). Learning what made me climax helped me whip out the moves my body adored. I now knew what worked for me and I would stop at nothing to get it.

I became more comfortable with my sexuality.

I was a sexual person, and was generally okay with that, but the root of my sexuality was to benefit my sexual partner – not myself. I spent countless nights reading the face of my boyfriend to see what sex move was his favorite. I committed myself to pulling out his favorite moves, but not nearly enough time trying to master mine. Part of it was because I didn't even know what mine were (see #1), but the other part was because of the common narrative that women ought to serve and please men. Exploring masturbation helped me reject those notions and settle into me, sexually.

The more I did it, the more comfortable I became with the idea of being pleased. And that idea helped me become more confident with enforcing my own sexual demands. I wasn't afraid to ask my partner to do things that I knew would please me. I grew more comfortable with trying new things to see what worked for me. I became less worried about not doing his favorite things, and more focused on creating collective pleasure.

I didn’t need a man for sex anymore.

There's nothing quite like skin-to-skin intimacy, I must admit. But learning to masturbate and please myself made it incredibly easy to cancel any man that couldn't rise to the occasion. I didn't feel the need to fake-like someone or to massage anyone's ego anymore. If all I wanted was sex, I didn't feel the need to placate to appease anyone – I could just go home and let my rabbit do its thing. I had a new sexual expectation, and if it wasn't met then it wouldn't happen again.

This gave me a level of confidence and control that allowed me to dictate when, where, and (most importantly) how sex happened.

Sex got better overall.

Knowing what I like and being able to communicate it to my partner helped improve our sexual performance drastically. It no longer felt like an item on my to-do list, rather, it was something I actually wanted to do knowing that greatness was on the other end. This not only enticed me to want to do it more frequently, but it also allowed us to be more spontaneous with what we were willing to try. I stopped settling for sex that I knew pleased him, and started encouraging my partner to rise to the occasion of pleasing me too.

Sex became so much more enjoyable and pleasurable for us both – and with us both getting ours, things got much better.

Everything I thought I knew about sex before my rabbit was disproved after I learned how to please myself. My sexual encounters post-masturbation have been heightened by self-awareness and a demand to also get what I give. I am now equally focused on being pleased as I am about doing the pleasing.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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