It’s Masturbation May! This month we’re publishing a sticky handful of articles celebrating the art of self-pleasure. Stay tuned for more.
Masturbation wasn’t celebrated or openly discussed in my home, but I was never shamed for it, either. I never heard the religious threat that masturbation causes hairy palms and blindness, and I was never told that some all-knowing god was watching and judging me. When I was very young, all my mother ever said on the subject was: don’t do that in front of company and wash your hands. I grew up exploring my body and became that friend who was comfortable talking about pleasure and sex — the friend that everyone came to with questions, even if my answers weren’t always correct. This was a double-edged sword sometimes. My openness attracted a lot of attention from people my age and older, but it also empowered me to demand pleasure during hookups, set my own boundaries and maintain them.
I remember experimenting with the vibrating part of a pillow that was supposed to be a back massager, and that was how I started my lifetime love affair with vibrators. I learned that vibrators did what fingers could never do. They gave me a fast track to pleasure when fingers felt like a saunter. They also helped me discover the importance of the clit, and when I hooked up with someone who ignored my clit, I knew they weren’t going to be for me.
I then moved on to a pocket rocket that was a freebie from a popular sex shop and became a loyal pocket rocket user for many years. At the time, I didn’t know there might be better options available. Eventually, I got a job at a sex shop and received a huge bag of sex toys at a training. I tried them out so I could give customers the most accurate information about the toys they were interested in buying. Now if someone tells me the features they’re looking for in a toy, I can match them up with the ideal vibe for them. It feels like a having a super power.
Working in sex toy stores has given me an expanded vocabulary for understanding and talking about my own pleasure. It’s also helped me explore my queerness and kinks because I now own harnesses and kink equipment that I never had access to before. I don’t know if I would invested in those types of pieces for the life I used to live. Now those items are integral to how I have sex with myself and with others.
There’s nothing quite as powerful as being in charge of your own pleasure. Masturbation helps me avoid burnout both personally and professionally, so dedicating time to masturbation is incredibly important to me. When I don’t prioritize pleasure, multiple areas of my life suffer.
The last decade of helping people with their solo and partnered sex lives has given me the tools to prioritize my own pleasure. Does that mean that I always take the time to warm up my body and block out noise that might distract me? No. Does it mean I always mix up my positions and vibrator intensities so I don’t train my body to orgasm in one way? Of course it doesn’t. I’m guilty of always reaching for my one favorite toy — the Magic Wand — turning it to my favorite setting and rocking my pelvis until I cum. Despite teaching classes about how to prioritize pleasure, mindful masturbation and body positivity, I don’t always take my own advice during my solo pleasure sessions. Sometimes I forgo lube or forget to charge my toys or just feel too depressed to masturbate at all.
When that happens, I try to remember that masturbation releases dopamine and oxytocin — two feel-good brain chemicals connected to stress release — and that I always feel better afterwards, even if I wasn’t in the mood at first. I also have to remind myself that not every masturbation session has to involve candles and bubble baths. I’m allowed to have quickies with myself and not make a big production every single time just because I have all the tools (and then some) at my disposal. Sometimes I feel guilty not using all the bells and whistles I have available to me, but variety is the spice of life, even when you simplify things. When I’m feeling particularly unmotivated, I’ll simply read some erotica to try and get the creative juices flowing — figuratively and literally.
Ultimately, I’m thrilled to have reliable ways to get myself off. I know there are many people who are still on the hunt for that elusive orgasm, solo or partnered. I also know from a decade of working in sex toy stores that many people feel shame for wanting or needing powerful vibrators or girthy dildos. I hope I inspire folks to explore and find their pleasures. Whether it’s grinding against a textured pad or using powerful wand, there’s no shame in knowing what gets you off. Be gentle and kind with yourself, and move away from goal-oriented thinking in your masturbation. Any form of self-love and exploration that makes you feel good is a wonderful thing.