Masturbation Memory Lane: Roundtable and Open Thread

all images by Georgia O’Keeffe, via Wikipaintings

As mentioned, it’s officially Masturbation Month! A whole month dedicated to talking about (and practicing!) masturbation in order to take the stigma out of it. At Autostraddle, we really like talking about masturbation, and we thought maybe you might too. So we’re going to talk about masturbation, but we’re not going to use names because many of us still like getting hired other places and not scandalizing our Grandmamas.

We asked a bunch of Autostraddle Editors, Contributing Editors, Writers and Interns to write a small thing about when they started masturbating, and also to feel free to cover any other masturbation feelings they might have, because seriously, how often to we get to talk about jilling off in a public internet forum for ideas of wonderfulness? Not very often, is the answer.

Which is why we thought you might want to talk about it with us! Read our stories, and please feel free to write your own in the comments.

Reading Above Age Level

By Georgia O'Keeffe

By Georgia O’Keeffe

My first memories of masturbating are around 11 or 12, which was a golden period of scheduling in which my school let out an hour earlier than my younger sibling’s elementary school and neither of my parents came home from work until the late afternoon. I had an entire hour of the house to myself in which I could raid the candy jar, make myself sick on microwave popcorn, and use our ancient PC to go to and masturbate in front of the computer. That site had everything, from super-specific fetish-based stories to “romantic” ones that were ostensibly aimed at women, all topped off with terrible web design. Looking back on it, those stories were a) terribly written and b) probably deeply problematic representations of sex, but reading stories instead of looking at porn (or just trying to imagine what could be happening in the movie scenes my parents fast-forwarded) went a long way towards teaching me some important things anyway: that imagination and fantasy were important (and really enjoyable!) parts of a sexual life, that sex could be a lot of different things either in or out of a relationship, and that you should always clear your browsing history before your parents got home. Exploring fantasies was how I was able to figure out that sex wasn’t as clinical as school health class made it seem or as gross as my peers seemed to think it was. And masturbation meant that I knew what an orgasm felt like and how to make myself have one in 5-10 minutes before I got to high school, where I was able to try to show boys how to do the same (with very limited success). When I reached college and talked to people who were totally in the dark about both of those things, I felt incredibly grateful.

 “It’s Perfectly Normal Behavior for an Infant”

Blue Morning Glories by Georgia O'Keeffe

Blue Morning Glories by Georgia O’Keeffe

I remember starting to masturbate when I was 3 years old. Some of my earliest memories are of masturbation (my very earliest memory is of a dream where my house filled with snapping turtles, but these two things are unrelated). I had a favorite blanket that I’d hump until I saw stars. When I asked my mother if she remembered this particular behavior of mine and asked her how she felt about it, she said, “Oh honey, you were, like, the queen of masturbation when you were little. You started doing it as an infant in your crib.” She followed this statement with an impression of infant-me masturbating, which, my friends, is a thing you cannot un-see for as long as you live.

I put my hands over my face. “Mom, stop, I don’t want you to know that about me! Please un-know that about me. Ugh, STOP.”

“What?” She asked. “It’s perfectly normal behavior for an infant. And I can’t un-know that about you: when you were maybe five or six, you told us it [your clit] was your light switch.”

And that’s the attitude I grew up with surrounding masturbating. My parents were not uncomfortable about it, and they did not make me uncomfortable about it. Or rather, they didn’t make me think that it was wrong. They still occasionally make me uncomfortable in the way that parents make kids a bit nervous when they talk about sex or drop you off at school with curlers in their hair. But that’s their god-given right as my parents to embarrass me just a little, because they created me. And it’s certainly not the worst thing that could possibly happen. Basically what I’m saying is masturbation was a-okay in my childhood culture, which was strange because I grew up in a very conservative area. So my upbringing was weirdly balanced between liberal parents with conservative islands of thought, even within my own family.

There was only one instance in my early childhood that suggested anything other than masturbation being totally normal, and I am kind of thankful for its occurrence in a weird way.

At the time of my upbringing, day care in New Jersey cost about as much as having an au pair. Unusual for the area, I came from a family where both my parents worked full-time jobs (gasp!), so we had a series of lovely British au pairs that helped raise my brother and I. For the most part, I loved these women. But I did have some complaints that included being put down for a nap when I was way too old for naps, or so I thought. (Man, what we wouldn’t give for naps now that we’re adults, amIrite?) I would hump my blanket during the times of the day where I was supposed to be napping, because I was shut in my room and essentially bored. Masturbation seemed like the perfect thing to do when you’re shut in your room and you’re bored. But my au pair heard me, and she burst into my room and yelled, “Stop that this instant! We do not sleep like that!” And then she slammed the door so hard I thought the house was going to fall down.

My first thought was, duh, I wasn’t sleeping. But then the shame washed over me. And I laid in my room, far from bored, just worried. What had I done wrong?

This incident taught me a few lessons, or rather, my mother taught me a few lessons following this incident. One, that not everyone feels like that behavior is normal, so keep it private. Don’t talk to other people about it, only talk about it with people you trust, and only when you’re older (“like when you’re 15. Or 30”). And the second was that what the au pair did wasn’t okay, because I was in my own space and I was keeping it private. It’s not like I was out on the playground touching myself, after all. And that my mother would have a long talk with the au pair about keeping my private space just for me. I think she may have also told me to watch my noise level so as not to scare the lovely British woman into switching jobs, but I could be adding that detail in as an adult looking back.


Not Masturbating

Light of Iris by Georgia O'Keeffe via Wikipaintings

Light of Iris by Georgia O’Keeffe via Wikipaintings

When my two best friends informed me that orgasms were not, in fact, random moments of pleasure here and there during a sexual experience, my head exploded. I was 16 at the time and when prompted, I’d told my partner I probably had 5 or 6 orgasms per sexual encounter, and although he seemed quizzical and certainly mine were not so definitive as his, he wasn’t a female anatomy expert so he kinda went with it. But what my friends described to me wasn’t what I’d felt, not at all. “When you have one, you KNOW,” they told me. What I’d felt was getting wet and having fun. But there were no big moments, no crescendos, no rush of pleasure, nothing more intense than the general sensation of being turned on. There was nothing KNOW-able.

Although we didn’t talk about it then, we have talked about it since, and of course both of those girls had been masturbating for years before ever having sex. Me, meanwhile? Nope. Not once. Nada. Never. I was too grossed out and confused by my own body to consider pleasuring it in the absence of a partner. What turned me on was being wanted, not wanting.

I grew up in an extremely liberal, sex-positive environment. I had accurate and helpful sex ed, I was well-versed in birth control, and I was told that sexual feelings and bisexuality weren’t abnormal. My parents were comfortable with nudity and sex on television. But despite all that, nobody had ever told me about the clitoris!

At 18, a friend talked me into buying my first vibrator. I stuck it inside me and laid there for about 30 seconds before getting bored. Everybody I dated found my inability to orgasm annoying, to be sure, but I was still young, and usually so were they (which means, for teenage boys at least, it was almost a relief for them to not have to stress about how quickly they “finished”), and I compensated by attempting to be everything else a man could ever want in bed, hoping my skills and willingness would distract them (and it worked!). During dry spells of no sexual partners — nine months, I think, was the longest after becoming sexually active — I never felt an urge to masturbate or get off, I never had sexual fantasies or explicit dreams about men or women.

The summer I was 19, my roommate went home most weekends and one of those nights I went to a sex store and bought a thing called a butterfly, a thing which apparently did not go inside you, but outside you. I went home and cranked it up and about 40 minutes later, I thought I’d felt something exciting and my clit was completely numb. OH MY LORD SO THIS IS WHAT EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT. I kept on experimenting with this machine throughout the summer, whenever she was gone, and although I found it often took up to two hours and 18 batteries to feel “that thing,” I felt like I was finally getting somewhere! On New Year’s Day, when I was 20, my boyfriend was able to get me off with his hand, the first time that had ever happened with a partner. Still, he only succeeded 10 or 15 additional times before we broke up a year later, but by then I’d learned how to fake it.

Masturbation remained a head trip throughout my early 20s and my practice of employing really intense sex toys meant i’d often tense up before I could get off, or tense up mid-getting-off, and I’m not even sure that I had complete orgasms that way, ever. But I was a slut nonetheless. I liked sex. I liked being sexual. But even now, I have a hard time surrendering to pure pleasure for myself.

Then I started sleeping with women, most of whom told me stories about masturbating from a really young age. I realized that if I wanted to be a good partner to women (and compensate for my non-orgasmic inadequacies), I could probably start by learning something about my own body!  Lots of my female partners didn’t like the intense pressure I’d become accustomed to, it was easier to get them off through a lot of teasing and light pressure. So, at 24, when my vibrator was out of batteries, I actually touched myself with my own hand for the first time! It was awesome and continues to be.

But now… I feel about five years old in masturbation-years.


“Well, fuck.”

Canna Red and Orange, by Georgia O'Keeffe

Canna Red and Orange, by Georgia O’Keeffe

I started masturbating when I was thirteen. I was also in Catholic school when I was thirteen, where we learned within the same paragraph of our religion textbooks that homosexuality and masturbation were huge no-no sins. I reread that page a few times and thought to myself, “Well, fuck.” Even though thirteen was my year of wearing Converse sneakers with my uniform as a rebellious measure, it was really hard to shake the thought of what I was doing as a sin. I continued to feel guilty even though I simultaneously felt like a badass for doing something that I was explicitly told was not allowed. At the same time, I remember the distinct feeling of superiority to my male classmates when I found out most of them were sexually active. I literally thought to myself, “I know how to give an orgasm better than you can, and I probably get off better than you do.” I carried this thought as a silent point of pride in my war against boys who dated girls that I liked in an intense adolescent way. Ugh, I was so gay that it hurts.

A really fun fact about me is that my masturbation routines are very, very cerebral. I have never used porn to get off. That’s not to say I’m against it or don’t think it’s a cool thing we should get behind, but it’s never been my thing. I also don’t use sex toys. Again, not a moral thing or a weirded out thing, just a thing. I’ve never even owned a vibrator, shit you not! My masturbation practices echo my sex life in that I get off on getting other people off with nothing but my own skin, so I’m getting myself off fantasizing about that lady getting off and using my own hand to do it. I used to feel really awkward and strange because I didn’t use porn or vibrators or any other form of artificial assistance to get off. As a result, I didn’t really talk to my queer friends about masturbation because I felt like they would either think I was weird, or think I was a prude because I didn’t own a million vibrators or nipple clamps or something. I just really get off on thinking about doing stuff to other people, and not really doing stuff to me! I’m weird! JK, I’m not weird, and whatever you do for you is not weird either because it’s totally awesome.


The Book, the Back Massager and the Best Friend

By Georgia O'Keeffe

By Georgia O’Keeffe

I was 12. It was almost summer and I’d been wandering around the public library after school when I found The Book. The [sex] Book. (It wasn’t titled that, it’s just what I called it.) I flipped through it, freaked out, and then wondered if I had the guts to actually check out The Book. After vacillating in the farthest corner of the library for what felt like forever, I decided yes. Yes I did have the guts.

I defiantly hoisted the stack of eight or so books onto the counter: a couple of Babysitter’s Clubs, some American Girls, a cookbook, a thing on bikes, and oh um this book on the female reproductive system and sexuality no big deal. BAM. I stared down the librarian and silently dared her to give me a weird look or say something about The Book. I was fully prepared to let her know that she could call my mother if she wanted to, that my mother was 100% aware of my interests and would support me checking out this book and, not to mention, it was my constitutional right as a citizen of this county to check out any book in this library! Something about taxes and freedom!

She never made eye contact.

I read The Book for weeks — in my room, in my yard, in the porch swing, in the bathroom. My favorite section was on masturbation, obviously. It was complete with a super clear diagram and helpful tips to get you started. “It may not feel good at first,” it said. “Massage the clitoris in a soft, circular motion. You can even massage the skin around it.” For whatever reason, that was the most intriguing: “the skin around it.” As if my mind hadn’t been fully blown with news of a clitoris (whatever that was) between my legs, I could also do stuff with the skin around it?? I was totally used to that skin; I’d been looking at that skin for years. This made me feel a lot calmer about the whole thing. The Book also said that masturbation was totally normal and that I shouldn’t be worried about wanting to do it. Thanks, Book!

My mom had a back massager — an actual back massager though, I’m serious — and it was around this time that I’d been instructed to use it on the low setting on my thigh, because of an annoying muscle injury that was likely all in my head. Thighs, you’ll notice, are right there beside your vagine. I thought, “the skin around it” and nonchalantly slid the massager over to my clit, then promptly pulled it away again because it was a lot like what I imagined electrocution would feel like. This went on for a few more minutes until I eventually had my first orgasm, right there in my bedroom floor in broad daylight.

Obviously I had to tell Lisa.

Lisa was my best friend and when she came over I explained that she had to try this thing I’d sorta accidentally figured out. I wasn’t exactly sure if what I’d done counted as masturbating or if I’d broken some rule because I’d used the massager. The Book hadn’t mentioned a massager.

“What is it?”
“I think it’s like sex? I don’t really know.”
“What do you do?”
“You put this here and hold it there until you feel like you’re going to pee on yourself, but you won’t.”
“I’m serious, you won’t pee on yourself.”
“Lisa, I really think this is what sex feels like. I mean, if this is what sex feels like, I can’t wait. I cannot wait.”

She did as instructed.

“Ok oh my god I’m going to pee on myself!”
“You’re not going to pee on yourself just wait!”
…….. oh… my god.”
“Oh my god.”
“Told you so. Ok my turn.”

The rest of the summer was one giant sleepover, and when we weren’t comparing boobs or asking for second opinions — “Is this a pubic hair?” — or imagining out loud what it would be like to have our periods, we were humping pillows and secretly being the reason my mom’s back massager went missing for days at a time.


I Believe In Pool Noodles

by Georgia O'Keeffe

by Georgia O’Keeffe

I started masturbating at age 4. I had no idea that there was a name for what I was doing, but I would rub up against any surface I could find and I knew it felt really, really good. Some of my favorite surfaces included chairs, tables corners, the edge of my bed, pillows, rugs, and pool noodles. Basically wherever I was at any moment of my tiny four year old existence, I could be getting myself off. The world was my oyster.

I sound cavalier about this, and I guess it’s because I am. I’ve noticed this weird trend in the world where people and the media often try to paint kids as virginal, complete unsexual, blank creatures, and that is just not my experience with childhood at all. I 1000000% do not believe that children should be the victims of unwanted sexual attention, OBVIOUSLY, but I think to pretend that children are asexual or have no sexual compulsions is to paint over the truth to create a fake world that makes adults more comfortable. I know that not all children have sexual urges — a very close friend swears she had absolutely no sexual desires until she was 15, and I believe her — but my own childhood was very tied up in masturbation and making myself feel good and I do not think that is wrong or bad or that there was or is anything wrong with me. I think I was just a horny little kid who didn’t know any better, and I’m okay with that.

So, let’s walk down memory lane! My favorite way to do what I did (which I did not know was called “masturbating” until I read Judy Blume’s Deenie and was like OMG EVERYONE DOES THIS WILD AND CRAZY THING WHY AREN’T WE ALL DOING IT RIGHT NOW I DON’T GET IT) was definitely in the pool. Oh, those noodles you thought were completely harmless and just existed to hold you up so you could float on your tummy with your head out the water? Well, if you were a certain kind of adventurous kid, you know that you could turn those noodles into “horses” — (auto)straddle them and “ride” them all around the deep end! Yeehaw! And if you went the extra mile, guess what else you could do as you rode your, ahem, horse? Yes, it’s true…during many innocent playdates, I was totally rubbing myself against a pool noodle, feeling reallyyyyy good about pool time. I don’t know what to tell you. Childhood! So innocent.

For real though, I guess the weirdest thing about masturbating as a kid is that I did it in public and I didn’t think/know it was a problem. This is interesting because we’ve spoken a bit in the past about how appropriate or inappropriate it is to force someone to be in the presence of your sexual activity, and the general consensus seems to be that one should not force someone else to be a voyeur in their sexytimes, and yet, as a kid, I wasn’t purposefully trying to do anything bad, nor did I know that what I was doing could be construed as bad at all. I just didn’t have any impulse control, and I’d found this thing that made me feel good, and I wanted to feel good all the time. So. I no longer masturbate in public, FYI, and I no longer use those pool noodles as horses when I go swimming. I believe this is called “growing up” and also “no longer wanting your mom to find you frantically rubbing yourself against the bathroom counter while your friend is playing Barbies in your bedroom and wondering why it’s taking you so long to pee.”

As for the present, old habits do die hard. I still prefer to rub up against things when masturbating, rather than insert anything inside me, though I enjoy a variety of different methods when actually having sex with a partner. I sometimes wonder if I taught my body to orgasm in a very specific way as a child, and if I’d have an easier time orgasming via penetration if I hadn’t masturbated the same way for so long (literally a couple of decades and then some at this point) but I don’t worry about it too much because sex is fun whether you orgasm or not (for me) and I like masturbating the way I do and I am very sex-positive and no-one ever made me feel ashamed for masturbating or like I was doing anything bad or dirty or wrong and I believe that is part of what made me such an open, sexual, comfortable being today, and for that I am thankful.

I believe strongly in masturbation. I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe. I believe in pool noodles.


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Deputy Editor for The Inquisitive Eater: New School Food and Fiction Editor for Magazine. Also an MFA candidate and Teaching Fellow at The New School. Keep up with her at her website.

Ali has written 340 articles for us.


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      Been there. It’s the lady version of the “death grip” Dan Savage talks about, I think. If you train yourself to only get off in one very specific way, though, you can retrain yourself to get off in a variety of different ways. Takes some hard work and discipline, though, which can be fun if you approach it in a positive way. :)

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    Geeze, masturbation.

    What a thing.

    I’ve been doing so much thinking about it recently because, duh, it’s the month for it.

    I have such a rough relationship with my genitals. Sometimes I’m fine with them and might even take pride in them, such as secretly thinking of my penis as just a really big clitoris, a Giganclit if you will. Other times, I can’t stand looking at it or even thinking about it, and in those times, I generally think of myself as a weird, broken human being. Obviously, all these complicated feelings means masturbation is a giant mess to think about.

    There are times when I totally can touch and rub myself to an orgasm, before the metaphorical buzzer goes off and I feel too dysphoric to continue. It never feels all that wonderful in the end though, and the dysphoria usually gets to me in the end anyway, orgasm or no, and I’m left crying and with an endless pool of hatred and frustration at my body for being so wrong.

    I still have sexual feelings, but the dilemma was that the only way I knew how to get off was to touch my genitals in some way, and obviously that wasn’t working out so well. So I’ve had to redefine what counts as masturbation.

    In my last relationship, I found out that I’m a big masochist. I just love the feeling of controlled pain, the accomplishment that comes with being able to push farther and farther over time, and obviously the endorphin rush that follows. So recently, I’ve decided to maybe focus on pain for getting me off instead of problematic genital manipulation.

    I went to the thrift store and tested out different belts, gently giving my arms a test hit with each one until I found one that gave me the best sensation. I sawed it in half so I could have more control and since then, I’ve been biting my arms and slapping my legs with the half belt and it has been so, so much better than the crap masturbation I was doing before.

    Over time, I’ve gotten really good at having control and aim with my little half belt and I’ve found that I kind of like the hitting almost as much as being hit. It’s just really satisfying to be able to aim for that one perfect spot, with just the right amount of force, and then to have the reward of direct feedback.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t any downsides to this type of redefinition of masturbation. When people talk about about masturbation, they generally mean something very different from what I have come to think of it. And there’s some shame in that, like I’m doing masturbation wrong or something. I also have to field a lot of questions about the bruises on my arms and the lines on my legs and people get weirded out when I tell them that I really just get a lot of pleasure out of pain. I could just wear long-sleeve shirts and always wear pants, but its really rewarding for me to shamelessly display my marks. Like they’re little badges proclaiming that yes, I felt a lot of really great pleasure recently, and not even my genitals could get in the way of that.

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    I would have to say I started (unknowingly) masturbating when I was 4 or 5. A favorite tool of mine would be the jets in the pool/hot tub/whirlpool bath tub. I had no idea what it was other than holy shit it felt good as fuck. My sister and I also had a game we would play called ‘the naked game’ (don’t ask) where she was the queen and I was the slave, I guess it was a bit kiddie BDSM I don’t even KNOW! But during those games I would be ‘punished’ by the queen and would hang from one of my bedposts with my legs wrapped around it rubbing my vag on the side of the pole and getting off unbeknownst to my sister.

    Later we moved and I got a whirlpool tub in my very own bathroom and my sis and I would sometimes take bathes together (you know the stuff you do when you are younger, I was probably 10 by this time) and we would use the jets and masturbatue which I had no idea is what we were doing at the time.

    Now, At 20, I don’t masturbate at all and that is my personal preference.

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    I still ride pool noodles, albeit it has always been in a non sexual way.

    Also my mom called back massagers vibrators. So when I woke up one time (I think this was high school) with a horrendous crick in my neck or SOMETHING she was like ‘I’ll get the vibrator’ and I was just like ‘um.’

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    When I was 12 I used to steal my mum’s Jilly Cooper novels and make my older brother really uncomfortable by insisting on looking at porn with him on the family computer (it was always about the women too, should have known) but I don’t remember actually masturbating til I was 13, and we’d just moved house.

    Actually when I was like ten I used to have some really kinky thoughts about Zack and Slater from Saved By The Bell, and it wasn’t til years later I realised they were sexual.

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    OK so do you know how sometimes you do things as a kid and you think it’s totally unique to you because you were a special snowflake and then you grow up and realize that almost everyone played some form of “hot lava” with the furniture? (You know, that game where you weren’t allowed to touch the floor. You totally think you and your brother invented it, but it seems to be a collective childhood thing.)

    That’s how I feel about the pool noodle. Like, I didn’t even realize that’s what was happening and I kind of forgot all about it until I started seeing that other girls did it too, and it’s like, “WAIT SERIOUSLY?”

    I don’t really know where this comment is going. I just find that whole shared experience a little mind blowing still.

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    I never masturbated “successfully” until I was 18 and in college. This was before I was out or even knew I was gay. It took me about six months to teach myself how to orgasm, and it was only then that I realized I was attracted to women. For me, learning to masturbate is very tied up with understanding my sexuality and coming out.

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      Yup. Masturbation and my understanding of my sexuality are also very much related for me as well. I would try it when I was younger by thinking about guys, and got nothing from it. And when I (finally) realized I was gay…well…it was a whole ‘nother story! 😉

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    Masturbation is kind of an interesting topic for me. I’m trans and started HRT fairly recently. MORE recently, what that means is that my orgasms and how my body processes stimulation and pleasure (oh, hello nipples…) are changing too, and so as a consequence I have to relearn how to masturbate and pleasure my own body. And since those changes are very, very recent I guess technically I’ve only masturbated once haha. Before this recent change, I wanted to masturbate much more frequently (pre-HRT, about once to twice a DAY! Sheesh) and now it’s about once a week. Time to keep figuring things and masturbating for, uh, science.

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    Ok, I haven’t read this yet but I would like to say that pieces like this make me hella grateful for Autostraddle and inspire me to refer to all pies I make as auto-struddel, and yep after having “quite the day” thank you for just being.

    Also, Roundtables are my totes fav!



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    When I was 10 my mom found porn on my computer but I told her my brother was looking at it. She ended up getting him a copy of Hustler to deal with his “feelings”. To this day he still probably has no clue why our mom gave him a porno mag.

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    I was among the early ones too. I called it pumping for some unknown reason (swings?). I definitely remember masturbating while my Mom was watching tv and her telling me that was something we do in private.

    I always thought what was happening were orgasms but after reading about orgasms I am less sure. But whatever, as long as I’m enjoying it I guess it doesn’t really matter.

    I always wanted to ask my friends about their masturbation habits but its never seemed to be something the girls I know discuss. I am curious!

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      Wow. I started as a toddler/young child and called it pumping too! This blows my mind!
      I also thought that if I put a blanket over myself, nobody would know that I was pumping under the blanket in the people-filled rooms of the house.

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    I started feeling pretty sexual around age 9 or 10 probably, right around the time churchy-ness and a conservative homeschool curriculum made me understand it was WRONG. I couldn’t get over enough feelings of shame until my then girlfriend convinced me to try it about 2 years ago. I still struggle sometimes.

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    at eleven i came across my mum’s mills and boon novels and read them in public, in school having no clue what the hell was going on in my down there regions.

    at twelve my best friend and i started playing “truth or dare”

    at thirteen my best friend and i played “truth or dare” under the covers, in the sitting room, in tent, the woods, on the my dad’s sofa, every and all weekend.

    at fourteen she found a boyfriend and i found my mum’s face massager, we still did it under the covers, in the sitting room, in tents, in the woods and on my dad’s couch.

    and i still didn’t figure out i was a lesbian until i was seventeen, life.

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    A friend of mine helped me discover masturbation when I was in 1st grade. I remember being in her bedroom and it was all dark and mysterious. She pulled a teddy bear out of her closet and said to me, “sit on it and scoot back and forth” hahaha. Poor teddy (or.. maybe not?).

    I’ve been at it ever since (minus the teddy bear). When I was a child I loved bath time… especially when my mom would leave the bathroom because I’d sit under the faucet. One time she walked in on me and I just looked at her and said, “it feels good,” and she said, “I bet it does” and walked away.

    Also, I like the bit one of the authors wrote about their masturbation being cerebral because that’s exactly how it is for me. I’ve never used porn or toys and I’ve encountered strange reactions to that as well. And honestly, I think masturbation is a really amazing exercise for the imagination. To be able to conjure a whole scenario in a matter of seconds in your mind, to last you a few (or more) minutes. As a writer, it kind of fascinates me.

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    Probably my proudest life achievement is that I once masturbated in the UN Headquarters in New York. Not in public, technically – discreetly in a bathroom stall. I had a friend who was very excited that you’re allowed to smoke in the UN, and I didn’t want her to be the only one on our tour who had something to brag about.

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    At around 12 or 13 I was reading the Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, (which my mother gave me) and the teenage character starts to masturbate in the woods before getting caught. It wasn’t explicit at all, but I thought this was a completely novel idea. I decided to try my hand, ha, at it and the rest is history.

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    OMG HELLO SOMEONE JUST LIKE ME. I have also been a masturbating machine since I was about three or four (without knowing the word or what an orgasm was until I was 13 or 14). When my friends would talk about orgasms, I had no idea that I had already been having them for my entire life, so I was a little disappointed when I finally realized what it was they were talking about. I wanted something new, dammit.

    I also liked to rub against things (bathroom counters, wooot!)and boy did I ever do it in public. I never rode pool noodles, but let’s just say I really REALLY liked pools or hot tubs with jet streams. I remember having like full conversations with my family and friends while I was hanging out on the edge of a pool or hot tub just ridin’ that jet stream.

    I used to “climb” street sign poles when my mom took me on walks. Or swing set poles. Or any poles.

    I used to rub against the bottom of my desk or hump the desk leg in elementary school. I think it started around first grade. Actually, the last time I remember doing this was, embarrassingly, in fifth grade (10 years old, for fuck’s sake).

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      Yeah, I remember my first orgasm very distinctly – I was 6 years old, straddling a piece of playground equipment and pulling myself forward. It was so amazing that I spent the whole of that recess trying to recreate it, but it only happened once. I did it periodically after that, but it was kind of hit or miss – sometimes it felt great, sometimes nothing happened. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t associate it with sex at all until puberty hit. It wasn’t until 12 or 13 that I starting incorporating fantasies – which I realized made it much easier! I was relieved to find out that it’s normal for kids to do that sort of thing – for a long time I thought it was very strange to have started so young.

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      Thank you for telling your story. I too started around 4, thought no one else did it and chose my own word for it. I knew instinctively that it was wrong and shameful but of course couldn’t stop and never have yet. WHen I was 14 I read a dictionary definition of it and realized what I was doing. The first time I felt aroused with another person (slow dance with a boy), I thought “what is wrong with me, here I am with this boy and all I want to do is masturbate”. I’m now in my 50’s (horrifying!) and still feel shame about masturbating. I also feel a similar shame about my experiences in college with a woman and my recent increase in attraction to women. So far haven’t acted on it because of that shame. In between I was married to a man and felt shame about sex but much less, because it had social approval. My new goal is to date a woman and conquer this shame (it’s never too late, right?)

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    I started masturbating at 15, and even at the time I couldn’t figure if this was early or late (probably both, since all my guy friends were doing it and all my girl friends weren’t).

    Masturbating is now my favorite thing. It is also my favorite thing to talk about, perhaps only second to Lesbians.

    I plan on triple-majoring in college, in masturbation, masturbation, and masturbation.

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    I for some reason remember all the details of my masturbation history, and yet I still can’t remember to pay my bills on time. At any rate, there are too many narratives and I can’t choose just one. But I will say I spent a lot of time with this white, curved, vibrating neck massager my mother had that I would steal out of her bedside table (and I’m almost certain it was an actual neck massager, but who the fuck knows? Though, if it wasn’t, I feel like she would’ve hidden it a little better), and it was perfect for sitting on. I miss the hell out of that thing. Also, I holed myself up in the basement with “Aladdin” a hell of a lot (when Jafar makes Jasmine into his slave with the red outfit and the chains… that was some kinky shit for my 12 year old ass). And my ritual was to say, “Okay, just one last time,” before I did it, then afterwards, I’d pray for forgiveness. I spent a lot of time in religious guilt land because of my self-love habits.

    And finally, I remember not really knowing what the act was called (some family colloquialisms include ‘fishing’ and ‘wiggling’), but then around age 13 or 14, I heard the word “masturbation” without any real context and for some reason just automatically knew, oh, that’s what I do in bed at night… and in the basement… and in the bathroom. Okay.

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    i would totally tell anyone who asked me this in real life, but you know: the internet, getting hired for a job at some point in the future, etc.

    so when i was little, i used to ask my mom for two tissues before naptime so that i could “be a bumble bee.” then i would put them inside my underwear and hump the living daylight out of my crib. i still don’t understand the bumble bee thing.

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    I too was a child mastubator. I don’t know how old I was when I started but it was definitely before I started kindergarten. My mom used to call it “the bumps” bahahaha because I would just lay down and hump up and down. My rents were not very supportive of it and I would get in trouble for doing it but that didn’t stop me. Instead I would just hide behind the couch, in my bedroom or the bathroom. I did it everywhere school, church, my friends house. Whenever I was alone that was my go to! And frankly it’s still my go to, as soon as my roommate leaves for the weekend my pants are off and I make up for all the time I lost during the week. I still like humping things but I also enjoy toys; I recently got a hitachi and it’s pure magic!!!! Although it wasn’t accepted by my parents I never felt guilty about it, mainly because I knew something that felt that good couldn’t be bad! Happy masturbating ladies!

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    i learned about masturbation from inga muscio’s book “cunt.” i think i was 18 or 19?
    that book was amazing, and i think also problematic, but it helped me start to be ok with my body and with desire. but also, masturbation was something that had never occurred to me before.

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    I started masturbating as a child, and I remember being caught by my mother who promptly told me that if I continued to do it then my legs would fall off. I completely believed her but being the trooper that I was I decided to risk it anyway.

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    I used to hump the poles to our bunk bed or the poles on the swing set as a kid.
    The first time I had an orgasm I was 16. I was in the shower, and I just thought ‘what would happen if I just kept rubbing?’ And then WOW. I’m really glad I kept rubbing.

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      My story’s the same! Probably around 4/5 I would not only masturbate but I was able to flex the muscles ‘down there’ in a way that felt really good. When I was alone, my toys would also do some pretty kinky stuff to eachother (blame Animal Planet). until I was around 16 and I learned what the word ‘orgasm’ meant off Wikipedia I always stopped before going all the way, though. From the beginning of high school I would look up erotic stories online, and read books that had borderline explicit scenes (that my mom had picked, but I’m not sure she knew those were in there).

      I remember one time P.O. (pre-orgasm) while I was reading, I came across one such scene unexpectedly, and as I was reading it I got this really warm, melty feeling in my lower stomach.

      O youth.

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    You have NO idea how happy this makes me!!
    I think the shame imposed on women in regards to masturbation, especially when compared to how men masturbating is treated, is absolutely ridiculous. It’s completely expected with guys, starting in their preteens. With girls, though, it’s considered shameful and gross. Touch your penis, yeah that’s totally fine and normal and why wouldn’t you? You can’t help yourself. But touch your vagina? DISGUSTING.
    I’ve masturbated for as long as I can remember. I really don’t think my parents had ANY idea how to handle it, so they freaked out and there was a lot of shame involved. I didn’t understand their complete freaking out until I nannied and had to deal with it with my charges, but I like to think that I wasn’t quite as bad at dealing with it as my parents were.
    I didn’t discover what an orgasm was, though, or even what a clitoris was/was for until I was sixteen and my eighteen year old foster sister drew me a picture. Ha.
    I don’t know. It’s nice to see people talking about, openly, as if it’s no big thing. That’s COMPLETELY different than my experience.

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    For me, masturbation has always been a very touchy subject (pun intended). The only reason I knew about masturbation as an eight year old was because a family member had sexually abused me. So masturbation and self-pleasure was something that was very, very strongly tied to my abuse. I definitely masturbated a lot as a teenager, but it was always under a cloud of self-loathing and shame. When I hit my early 20’s I couldn’t stand to touch myself any longer because it had become so triggering for me. I basically went without any form of touch, especially sexual, for about five years.

    Really it was a combination of factors that finally got me to try masturbating again. 1.) I started to go to therapy 2.) I came to terms with the fact that I was queer and it was okay to fantasize about women while getting off. 3.) I started reading Autostraddle and was introduced to such things as sex positivity, etc. So yeah, I have only recently started to “practice” self-pleasure again in the sense that I really do have to practice and experiment and figure out ways to masturbate that are healthy and pleasurable and not triggering or self-shaming. I still struggle, but I am hopeful there will be a day when it is all pleasure and not triggering.

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    When I was in Junior High, I went to an extremely serious bible camp. I mean, that shit was serious. At this bible camp I pledged that I would go on a mission trip to Mexico that year. Also while there, I learned that masturbation was the fuel to the fire of impure thoughts and eventual impure sexy times. And this was a problem because I masturbated A LOT. Every night. Multiple times. With bananas and various other household objects with toothpaste as a warming agent. YEAH IT GOT SCIENTIFIC. I was a pro.


    That night, instead of finger-blasting my heart out, I prayed to god. I said, “God, if I stop masturbating every day after school and before I go to sleep, and sometimes while watching girls gone wild commercials, please, PLEASE let me go on the mission trip to Mexico.

    Long story short, I did not go to Mexico.

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    This article is great!

    I also masturbated from a young age–not 3 or 4 necessarily, but by 8 or 9 definitely. I mostly masturbated until age 17 to terrible slash fiction since that is what I found in abundance. I think doing so for so long trained my brain in the same way that a lot of commenters say they trained their bodies to only respond to one type of stimulation. I still feel guilty about that sometimes–I’m gay, so why is most of the stuff I masturbate filled with men?–but I have more or less accepted that sexuality is weird and that my preference for totally implausible sex acts between fictional males does not in any way change or diminish my attraction to real life women.

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      I am so there with you on slash fic. I still like reading it and I have no idea why because I am definitely 100% attracted to vaginas. I’ve met plenty of lesbians who are very active readers/writers in gay slash fandoms so I don’t think it’s too uncommon. Maybe it has more to do with how/why it’s written rather than the specific parts in play? I have no clue.

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    As a kid I always assumed masturbation was linked to shower nozzles, thanks to the line from Heathers about “shower nozzle masturbation material.” We didn’t have the right kind of nozzle at my house, but whenever I went anywhere that there was one I tried to pleasure myself with it, with unfortunately little success. I never did apologize to Aunt Geraldine or my friend Juanita’s mother for abusing their detachable shower heads. Sorry guys.

    I didn’t end up learning to properly masturbate until I was already sexually active with other people. I have often wondered if learning to properly get myself off would have made me a happier and less angst ridden teenager.

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    God I love autostraddle. Where else do women talk candidly about childhood masturbation as a totally normal, healthy thing with no shame?

    I masturbated from a really young age. I REALLY liked climbing poles. I used to hide inside the clothing racks at stores and rub myself against the poles. I wonder if anyone ever caught me, because I thought I was sneaky, but now I really wonder how sneaky I could have been. When I actually was old enough to understand what I was doing, I thought I was some sort of weird hypersexual freak.

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    I’m always kind of fascinated by people who started masturbating as very young children. I’ve got friends who did, and I remember just being *staggered* the first time a friend told me, yeah, she masturbated when she was, like, four, five years old. Because wat, children don’t masturbate, that’s *so weird* I since have found out, obviously, that this seems to be a fairly common experience. It still kinda blows my mind, though.

    For myself, even though I started reading (and writing, very badly) porn at about the age of thirteen (hurrah for fanfiction), it never occurred to me to try masturbating until I was fifteen. I remember being thirteen, and getting that downwards-rush of clenchy, aroused wetness if I entertained certain images, or when I read an especially good bit of fic, but I was also quite squicked out by the female body at that age, so it never really occurred to me that I could *do* something with that feeling. I don’t actually remember what prompted me to try when I finally did get around to it, but I do recall very distinctly that it was during Christmas break, so I had fairy lights up all around my room, and was listening to the Wicked soundtrack. Talk about setting the mood.

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    This roundtable is awesome, I have so many masturbation feelings

    I started masturbating at around 13, when I had an orgasm completely by accident. I was watching a pretty sexy channel 4 drama about a load of gay men and during one scene in particular I started to feel kind of… warm… and then I had the sudden urge to cross my legs really hard for a long time. next thing i know, I’m having an orgasm! wow!

    The next few years were a mix of learning to have them intentionally/perfecting my technique/finding the best ‘inspiration’ and trying to never ever touch myself or watch any porn, because it was for evil dirty people.

    Now I am proud to be a wanker, and I’ve recommended it to several of my more ashamed friends. They’re not converts yet, but I’m sure they will come (haha) around.

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    This is such a great article! I loved hearing stories about other girls who started so young. I had my first orgasm when I was nine and had no idea what it was. After that, I masturbated daily without thinking of it in a sexual way for years.

    I have a question for everybody. When I first heard about masturbation, I thought that only boys were supposed to do it. Did you all hear the same? If so, then I think that says a lot about the female sexuality in our society.

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    I did not start masturbating until literally the day I was hit with the suspicion that I might like women; I lay in bed, panicking, and decided that I might as well perform a physical test of which I preferred. Touch myself in that sort of area while thinking about girls, vs. touch myself in that sort of area while thinking about guys… And of course I discovered how nice that felt so I made something of a habit of it. I don’t think I realized that what I was doing was masturbation for quite some time because I was naive as shit. Um, also I was 19 at the time. I am a late bloomer in all respects…

    …Except possibly in fantasizing. I know that in middle school I used to lie in bed thinking over a certain kink of mine for hours, convinced that I was *afraid* of it and that was why it made me feel all shivery and heart-pound-y. A+ good job self!

    Buuuuut as my excuse, I definitely picked up on some religious guilt around everything to do with sex and tried to stay deliberately naive. I’m over that now. |D Mostly…

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    when i was like 11 or 12 i used to watch porn and it would make me tingle “down-there” and for an 11/12 year old thats super unnatural so i would get off the computer and do something else thinking i was some weirdo lol
    anyways when i was 12 during a snowstorm i was on the computer i was reading this comic directed to teenage girls on why to masterbate… being the curious kid i was i had to try it
    i remeber not liking it, but things change bc i was literally ADDICTEDto it until i was almost 14 ADDICTED

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    I’ve masturbated since forever. My mom’s told me stories of me taking the ears of my favorite stuffed animal ‘Bunny’ and rubbing them between my legs. I was at least 3. She never stopped me from doing this. We were very comfortable with nakedness in my family, which is good because I’m strong willed and was always naked anyways. She called me her ‘little nudist.’

    Some things never change.

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    When I was 14-15, I was really depressed and spent a lot of time playing various interactive games on the internet. Back then, I thought I was totally straight and enjoyed the attention I got from boys online (since I got no such attention offline). At one point, I had an online boyfriend for a little while. We started getting into the whole cybering thing, and fairly early on, he asked me if I’d ever masturbated or had an orgasm before (I suppose it’s helpful to understand how those things work if you’re gonna cyber with someone), and I hadn’t. He encouraged me to read about it and try, and I remember reporting back to him a couple times about how it wasn’t working out very well. I kept reading stuff online about female masturbation–I owe so much to Scarleteen and various other truly informative and sex-positive sites!–and kept experimenting after my mom and brother went to bed.

    Right around when I turned 15, I had a breakthrough. After many unsuccessful attempts at using just my hands, I discovered an old electric toothbrush that had belonged to my little brother (it had dinosaurs on it), and decided to give that a shot. I turned it on and placed the spinning head directly on my clit… MMM, now that felt good! The electric feeling that shot through my body was amazing, and I built up a huge orgasm in no time. Now I got what everyone was so excited about! I think those first few times using the toothbrush were some of the most powerful orgasms I had for several years. I actually ejaculated a bunch of those early times, and though I feel close to doing it sometimes nowadays, it’s harder to let go when I know it might happen and exactly which muscles I’d have to relax to let go (and get things wet/messy) rather then being taken by surprise.

    The online boyfriend didn’t last more than another couple months, but masturbation and its accompanying sense of independence and appreciation for the awesome things my body can do… those have stuck with me ever since.

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    This potentially requires a trigger warning for self harm.

    Does anyone have childhood (or adult) experiences of using masturbation as a form of self-harm? Around 3rd grade I discovered the wonders of our shower massager. But masturbation with the high-pressure water quickly became a compulsion. Every night before I would take a shower, I would procrastinate getting in and try to resolve to not do it but I seemingly couldn’t help it. And then I would masturbate with the showerhead for an hour or more until the water was cold and my clit was numb and sore. Way way beyond pleasure. (Sometimes I would fantasize about boys I knew forcing me to do this, but that’s a whole different thing to untangle.) The compulsion lessened in high school and now, in my mid-twenties, I am in complete control over whether I masturbate or not…but masturbating is still an emotionally complicated act for me. It’s only recently that I’ve been framing this past behavior as “self-harm”. I have been trying to understand myself and the “why” of it all since it began. Thankfully I was never abused in any way…so that’s not an explanation. Anyway…anyone else ever experience using masturbation to self-harm in this way?

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      potential trigger warning here too.

      I hadn’t thought about it in this way until reading your post, but at about age 6/7/8 I did sometimes do things that were painful- on purpose. I don’t know what caused me to want to do it or what caused me to stop doing it at around age 8/maybe 9, but now the idea of doing anything like that again is terrifying. I did self harm as a teenager, but never genitally.

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      I remember doing a very similar thing to myself around the age of 10-12. I would just lay in the tub my legs propped around the faucet and let the water slowly trickle on my nethers and imagine that someone had tied me down and was forcing me to do this. I would slowly turn up the water pressure a bit further when it started to hurt, let myself get numb from the feeling then turn the pressure up a bit further until it was on full blast and I could no longer tolerate the pain. I didn’t realize what I was doing was sexual or a form of self harm, I just did it daily for hours on end.

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    I was raised as a catholic and for a while, also very religious during my early teens. So, I can definitely identify with the guilt asociated with masturbation. It got to the point where I would cry during mass and refuse communition because I felt dirty and sinful.
    And it’s not like my parents were open and all. When my mom found out that I was reading fanfics rated M (and that my brother was looking for gay porn but that is another story), she said it was something only sick people did. I’m kinda impressed that I can talk about it now.

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    This is very helpful.. used to think I was a weird Asian kid, parents here usually don’t allow “that type of behavior”. My 3 yrs old niece was caught and my mom’s advice is “She’ll stop doing that when she grows up and find out that it is wrong”

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    Do you know my favorite thing about Autostraddle? It’s when I’m reading things like this, and I get these insane revelations that go something like: My GOD, maybe I wasn’t as much of a freak as I felt like I was! Truly, this is amazing. Maybe I’m just accepting my new sexual identity, and most of you have known about yourselves for a very long time, but think back to when you realized you were different than everyone else,and then realized why that was. Amazing things are happening in my head right now….

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    I was about nine or ten and I was in my bathtub and i apparently decided to run my genitalia beneath the faucet, clever girl I was- i “bathed” three times that day. After I realized that my libido was too constant to just do it for a short time every other night, I started using my hands…and then the eraser ends of pencils, and then the handle of my hairbrush…i took zoloft when i was 13 and totally lost all sense of sexuality- but then i started thinking about girls while doing it, and… here i am

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    I would like to hear more about the art of self love those evenings or afternoons for sheer self appreciation and self romance loving the body, exploring slowly listening to music a chapter of Anais Nin a beautiful glass of wine, sexy lingerie. These make life worth living once I had got beyond the guilty quickie stage ……… This art form as I call it really makes for some beautiful slow slow sex with her later…..

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