A Sex Educator Answers Your Most Common Masturbation Questions

"Pleasure is not limited to partnered sex."


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?

Getty Images

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?

Getty Images

“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?

Getty Images

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?

Getty Images

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.

Featured image by Getty Images

As someone who has always considered themselves beautiful at any size, I can't say that I have always loved my body. Sure, there have been moments where I thought I was the sexiest thing walking. But for the most part, all I saw when I looked in the mirror were flaws. My thighs were always too big. Butt full of dimples from cellulite. Boobs always in the way. And my arms too jiggly.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

The NAACP Image Awards have released their nominations for 2022 and some of our favorites have been nominated. From television series like Insecure to films like The Harder They Fall and music artists like Saweetie and Jazmine Sullivan, the annual show, which is known for Black excellence is sure to blow us away this year with the amount of talent nominated in the various categories.

Keep reading... Show less

Jordin Sparks has been married to her husband Dana Isaiah Thomas for five years and they share a 3-year-old son, Dana Isaiah Thomas Jr., together. The singer is no stranger to gushing about her husband and their relationship. The two often share adorable photos of their family on social media and Jordin has spoken about their life together in interviews.

Keep reading... Show less

How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks about love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.

One thing I've been seeing return to my social media feed is the opportunity to travel. Since the top of 2020, the world has been trying to figure out what "catching a flight" will look like in the future. And when you travel with your bae, it is an extraordinary experience that should be on everyone's bucket list. On a baecation, you are able to unwind from the daily Zoom meetings and experience another culture together. It's also another way to really take your intimacy to another level and grow closer to your boo mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Keep reading... Show less

One of the cool things about writing for (and I would think, reading on) a women's lifestyle site is you feel comfortable tackling all of the topics that directly affect us. And when it comes to today’s issue, let’s not act like we all haven’t had moments when we’ve caught a whiff of our own vagina and thought to ourselves, “OK. What’s really going on?”

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Boris Kodjoe And Nicole Ari Parker Know “When To Bring Work Home” For Their New Film 'Safe Room'

The husband-and-wife dream team have found their sweet spot.

Latest Posts