At the intersection of where self-connection on a physical, mental, and emotional level meet, there’s the act of sexually stimulating yourself. Also known as masturbation, the self-pleasure practice is an opportunity to heal, remind yourself you are worthy of pleasure, and self-prioritization among other things.
If you want to learn your body and the key that makes you orgasm, masturbate. If you want to sleep better, masturbate. If you want to stress less, masturbate. If you want better physical and mental health - you know the deal - masturbate. As someone who became privy to the magic of erotic self-touch early on in life, I can definitely vouch for these benefits. Still, there are some who are put off by masturbation, finding it desperate, impure, genuinely not being interested in it, or looking at it as a habit employed if and when partnered sex isn’t available.
But, as sex educator Portia Brown heralds, masturbation comes from a place of abundance, not of lack. “In a world that says 'your value is based on how productive you are,’ ‘work, work, work, work,’ I get to create a space where I can remind myself that pleasure is important.”
In our conversation, the mindful sex coach answered some common questions about masturbation and reminded us all why we need to partake in self-pleasure a little bit more.
Is it normal to masturbate in a relationship?
Although a common practice, masturbation is still not widely accepted in society as something women partake in for themselves. Some women do it and feel guilt or shame around openly talking about pleasing themselves. Others (I’ve seen some problematic comments) don’t do it because they find self-pleasure obsolete, citing, “That’s what a man is for.” Portia warns of how masturbation should not be treated as the “lesser form of sex.” “Pleasure is not limited to partner sex,” she says.
“We have to stop thinking of self-pleasure as a replacement for sex. We have to stop buying into the idea that there is a hierarchy to sex [with] partnered sex being at the top. We have to stop believing that men have all the keys to our pleasure. Masturbation is its own sex act,” Portia argues. “You can be in a very happy, healthy, committed relationship and I’d still encourage you to create space for a regular solo sex practice.”
“You can be in a very happy, healthy, committed relationship and I’d still encourage you to create space for a regular solo sex practice.”
Why? Because all of these elements of pleasure work together. The sexual discoveries you make and uncover when alone can feed into you on an individual level while also helping you to elevate how you arrive in partnered sex sessions. And more importantly, “You deserve time and space when you get to focus on your pleasure, and your pleasure alone.”
How much masturbation is too much?
“Everyone is different. As life ebbs and flows, as will your masturbation practices,” Portia answers. Although there is not an “ideal” amount of time to masturbate, she noted that external factors like stress, the frequency you’re having partnered sex, time management, privacy, etc. can influence the way you approach your self-pleasure practices.
“I remember toward the beginning of quarantine last year I was self-pleasuring quite often (almost daily) because I was 1) highly stressed out by the state of the world and 2) at home and had time,” she describes her relationship with self-pleasure. “Now life has shifted again and my solo sessions are fewer. I monitor how I feel when I am self-pleasuring one time per week and if I feel like my life could use a bit more pleasure, I carve out more time to be with myself.”
So, is there such a thing as masturbating too much or masturbating too little? “There is no such thing as too little, it's about what makes you feel supported. For some of us, that may mean, not at all, and that's just fine. The only time I’d say it is ‘too much’ is if your masturbation practice is keeping you from fulfilling your responsibilities like work, having a social life, etc.”
Can you get too dependent on your vibrator?
As a self-described advocate for vibrators, Portia proudly and unapologetically uses them in partnered sex as well as her solo sessions. With theories out there about potentially “desensitizing the vagina” and having dead vagina syndrome by using a vibrator, some people might be afraid to gravitate towards their go-to out of fear of potential cons. “There are far more pros to using them than cons. There is a myth out there that vibrators can damage your nerves and that simply is not true,” Portia shares, demystifying the theory. “You can become conditioned to orgasm with only a vibrator, but like with anything you can recondition your body to orgasm without one by taking a break.”
“You can become conditioned to orgasm with only a vibrator, but like with anything you can recondition your body to orgasm without one by taking a break.”
She does however share that there is a hygienic element to stay on top of when using sex toys. “Wash with gentle soap and warm water before AND after using,” she advises. “If your toys aren’t clean, you can spread bacteria and that can create real issues for you.”
What are ways I can masturbate and explore my body without a vibrator?
For some people who want to begin or continue their masturbation practices, investing in a vibrator might feel like a big step or something they prefer not to do. And that is perfectly OK. In a lot of conversation surrounding masturbation, vibrators or other sex toys are the go-to to name as a part of the practice. However, there are ways to masturbate without a vibrator:
- Use a showerhead
- Hump a pillow
- Use lube
- Finger yourself or rub your clitoris
- Touch yourself with your non-dominant hand
In order to prevent yourself from becoming too accustomed to orgasming one way from your solo practices, switching up how you bring yourself pleasure is recommended. “Most commonly, people self-pleasure on their backs. You can also try: laying on your stomach, kneeling, getting down on all fours, laying on your side, and standing.”
To Portia, movement is key in an effective masturbation practice. “Stretching, dancing, self-massage are all amazing ways to get ‘out of your head’ and explore your body. Incorporating new sensations into your practice like a cooling or warming lube, exploring in the bathtub,” she adds. “I’d also recommend researching erogenous zones. There are so many nerve endings across our bodies that can increase pleasure in surprising ways!”
For more relationships, sex, and dating tips and tricks, check out xoNecole's Sex & Love section here.
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