Let’s Talk: Self Pleasure
“Valuing masturbation means valuing sexuality”
-Jenny Block, The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex
Masturbation is about self acceptance. It’s about valuing your body. It’s about connecting with your sexuality. Masturbation is about self love.
As a Certified Sex Therapist, one of my favorite homework assignments is inviting clients to go home and masturbate. It is my favorite suggestion not because of the reactions it elicits (“you want me to what?!”) but because of the positive change it brings to a client’s quality of life. I recommend it as part of their routine just like brushing their teeth or walking the dog. It might not become a daily practice, but I encourage getting into a regular cadence with self-pleasure. Historically, our culture has done a shitty job teaching us about pleasure, about the right we have to self pleasure, and about the many benefits that come from experiencing self pleasure.
We prioritize our health, our relationships, our values, and even our possessions, so why do we have such a hard time prioritizing pleasure?
Whether from society, religion, or family of origin, many people learn early on not to masturbate and not to ask questions about it. As Betty Dodson, sexologist and principle voice of women’s sexual pleasure writes “all my years of childhood and marital masturbation were about not getting caught. I trained myself to come fast while remaining silent”. Sound familiar? My middle school sex-education program did a fine job teaching us about the anatomy of our bodies (pretty good for school sex ed in the 90s), but we were not taught about pleasure. We learned about our bodies for the purpose of protecting it from unwanted teen pregnancy and STIs but nowhere did we learn about the empowerment and agency that comes from knowing what your body can do and feel with pleasure.
Just in case you didn’t learn it elsewhere: Your body belongs to nobody else but you. Your body was made for pleasure. Pleasure is not shameful; pleasure is healthy. Self pleasuring is self care.
Here are some reasons why self pleasure is important:
Health. Self pleasure is self care. Orgasms and pleasure are beneficial to our health and well-being in so many ways. Read this article about health benefits:
Some additional health benefits:
We shine! Not only do we smile more with them, but orgasms improve our skin and hair.
It’s great for the heart! Not only is masturbation good for our soul, but it improves cardiovascular functioning.
Relieves headaches and increases our body’s tolerance for pain.
Depending on how vigorous you are with self pleasure, masturbation also burns calories. It engages our butt muscles, increases blood flow to the vagina and the penis, and strengthens the pelvic floor which contributes to stronger orgasms and tighter muscles that help with aging.
Current research indicates that masturbation is good for our brains and for our immune systems; it keeps our memories sharp and helps us ward off sickness.
Self love. To know yourself and to accept yourself is to love yourself. The more aware we are of who we are and how we are, the more we tend to like ourselves. By knowing your body, how it functions, and what it likes and doesn’t like, you are bringing awareness to parts of you that want to be known. Your body was meant to be loved. When we self pleasure, we are nurturing our bodies. We are reminding these amazing vessels that they are valuable, that they are important, that they are loved.
Partnership. Self pleasure helps us become better lovers. When we feel good we tend to want others to feel good too. When our lovers feel good they tend to want to please us in return. It’s a positive feedback loop! Also, if we don’t know what we want or how we work, we cannot expect our partners to know what we want or how we work. None of my partners have been mind readers. Have yours? When we engage in self pleasure on our own, we tend to bring those skills into our relationships. And the truth is, most partners get turned on by turning us on.
Stress Relief. Masturbation is mindfulness. When you are engaged in self pleasure, there is nothing else in the world you need to think about but being in your body and experiencing your pleasure in that very moment. When we orgasm, we release oxytocin and experience an increase in dopamine which reduces our stress hormones and feels fantastic!
Confidence booster. Masturbation works wonders for confidence. How do we get to be confident? Well, knowledge and awareness definitely help! Knowledge about how things work comes from experimentation, from trying things out, from exploration. Dodson writes, “sexual skills are not magically inherited, they have to be learned.” When we practice self pleasure skills, those skills improve, and in turn we become more confident in our sexuality and sexual expression. Sexual confidence feels good to everyone involved. Oh, and the more we masturbate, the better we become at it; the more we cum the more we want to cum!
Empowerment. Remember the adage “knowledge is power”? When it comes to our bodies, this could not be more true. Knowing what turns us on, getting in tune with how pleasure feels to us, is truly empowering. Learning what is uniquely pleasurable to us offers us a wealth of information. When we learn what we don’t like, what doesn’t feel good to us, we then find the voice to say so! One of the benefits about sexual knowledge and confidence is protecting ourselves and holding our worth in moments when our sexual pleasure hangs in balance.
For folks who have had difficulty with orgasm and pleasure, masturbation can help. I encourage you to take your time and try a variety of toys and pleasure products (The Magic Wand is my all-time favorite).
In closing, please remember:
The goal is not orgasm; the goal is pleasure.
Your body is incredible.
Your body was made for pleasure.
Self pleasure is natural.
Self pleasure is healthy.
You have the right to experience self-pleasure.
Self pleasure is self love.
If you want to learn more about the anatomy of the body or about the magic that is the female-bodied Orgasm, read my last blog post here ___.
Mia Fine, Certified Sex Therapist
Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson
The Ultimate Gude to Solo Sex by Jenny Block