Sex with yourself is part of a healthy sex life if you’re into that, whether you have seven girlfriends or zero. Masturbation is the best way to learn what kinds of touch you might like, figure out new ways to have orgasms if you want orgasms, try a new toy without the pressure of a partner, and celebrate International Masturbation Month. (Plus, according to Autostraddle’s Ultimate Lesbian Sex Survey open to queer women and anyone who identifies with that experience, queer women masturbate more times a week than straight women.)
But masturbation can also feel kinda weird! For one thing, a lot of people are up for talking about or bragging about or group-text-troubleshooting things that come up in partner sex, but solo sex doesn’t get the same treatment. Maybe you never really masturbate and don’t know where to start. Maybe you’ve been masturbating the same way forever and want to see what else is out (or in) there. Where ever you are, here are a few new ways to reconnect and get down with yourself.
This post was originally written in 2018 and republished in 2021.
Approach a sex experience with yourself the same way you’d approach a sex experience with a partner.
Sometimes masturbation is mostly about having an orgasm so you can get on with your day, just like sometimes partner sex is about getting off as fast as possible so you can go back to your table before the restaurant gives it away or whatever. But largely, partner sex gets at least a little coordination time — even without planning a scene or elaborate sex toy prep, you still have to make sure you’re in the same place at the same time and on the same page about what you’re going to do. Solo sex doesn’t need that kind of coordination, and as a result can sometimes have a lot less thought behind it. But what does it look like if you plan it out in advance? What does it feel like if you anticipate it, get excited for it, do your laundry or change your underwear or adjust the thermostat or make a playlist for it?
Try different positions.
Part of trying different sensations is trying different positions. Personally, I’ve found that I tend to masturbate one of two ways: on my stomach, which is the in-bed position I’ve been using since I first learned it, or sitting at my desk in front of my laptop, so I can take notes if I’m reviewing a sex toy. In addition to being unexciting, these positions translate pretty poorly to partner sex, which means I’ve had to try new ones to teach my body to come literally any way that isn’t those two ways. Think about the positions in which you usually masturbate — Always on your back? Always on your front? Legs open or closed? Straight or bent or tucked in? What hand are you using? — and try something new. Maybe you’ve always done it lying down and today’s the day to stand against a wall instead. Maybe you’re normally lounging but today’s the day to try it on all fours. Explore different positions out of your comfort zone until you find ones that work for you.
Don’t just focus on your clit.
If you have a factory-installed clitoris, it has about 8,000 nerve endings. If you have other genitalia, it has about 4,000 nerve endings. If you have a surgeon-installed clitoris, the details vary, but it might still be fun to touch. This means that during masturbation, it’s easy to go straight for your clit and forget about other parts of your anatomy.
Instead, try to bring your whole body into masturbation. Run your hands over yourself and touch your body in whatever ways feel good, whether it’s playing with your nipples or gripping the back of your own neck or pulling your own hair.
Then, try different touches on your vulva or other genitals. Cup the whole works firmly with your hand and rock into it. Spread your fingers like scissors and massage either side of your clit while you cup your pubic bone area with your palm. Touch the skin around your clit instead of hitting it directly. If you have a vulva or like ass play or both, try some penetration. (Just remember not to go from ass to vulva without washing your hands or swapping gloves.)
Try different touches on your clit.
You probably have a way that you instinctively touch your clit when you’re trying to come. But how often do you use other types of touches? Try circling around your clit; making figure-eights around it; making criss-crosses over it; and stroking up and down, side to side, or diagonally in all different directions. Try going only in one direction, or going back and forth. Try using the pads of your fingers, the tips of your fingers, or your whole palm. Try different speeds. Try fluttering light sensations and firmer consistent ones and ones intense enough to feel almost like massage. Try arranging your labia around your clit for more indirect touches, working through your underwear for even more indirect ones, or pulling your clitoral hood back for super direct touches (if you have that anatomy). Your clit can learn to enjoy lots of different sensations, but you need to show them to it first. And don’t forget lube.
Add a sex toy or two.
If you’ve never used a vibrator before, they can be so much fun. (Here’s a guide to buying one for the first time.) Try one alone on your clit, try one for penetration, use one along with your fingers or try two or three at a time.
If you like wearing a strap-on for sex, try wearing it while you masturbate. If you’re new to strap-ons, or to this one particular strap-on, masturbating with it can be a great way to connect and feel like it’s part of you. (Check out this shopping guide for strap-ons, and this guide to harnesses for trans women.) It can also be a great way to experiment with how different angles feel — some people can come just from wearing a strap-on while fucking somebody, and masturbating while you wear one can be one way to figure out if that’s you. It also lets you fiddle around with any pockets for bullet vibes, what wearing a cock ring over a dildo feels like if you’re wearing the dildo, what penetration feels like if you’re wearing a strap-on (and if your fingers or a sex toy fit under your harness) and other sensations.
If you normally watch porn, what happens if you don’t? If you normally read erotica, what happens if you don’t? If you normally just get off to whatever’s in your head, what if you watch porn or read erotica? Check out these solo Crash Pad scenes to get started. (If you’ve never watched porn before, you’re not alone.) Or for other ideas, read about how other queer women and humans masturbate.
Take your time.
When you consciously set aside time for masturbation, you consciously set aside time for your sexuality. You can relax, not worry as much about the end result, and give yourself more room to explore.
Sometimes masturbation just doesn’t feel good or comfortable even though you want it to. (It also goes almost without saying that you don’t have to masturbate, either right now or ever, if that’s not what feels good to your body or head.) If you do want to masturbate but find yourself getting blocked and uncomfortable, set a timer for a short period — say, five minutes — and promise yourself that you can go for that length of time and then stop no matter what happens as one way to work up to engaging with your body in ways that feel better.
Sex isn’t just about orgasms, so masturbation doesn’t have to be either. What happens if you get super close to coming, but then don’t? What happens if you keep going after you come? What else can you learn about your body? What happens when you give yourself room to just do you?
Lesbian Sex 101 is Autostraddle’s series on how to have lesbian sex for queer women and anyone who finds this information applicable to their bodies or sexual activities.
Sex ed almost never includes queer women or our experiences, so we’re exploring pleasure, safety, relationships and more to make that information more accessible. A lot of the language in these posts is intended to make them easy to find on search engines.
Some of the body parts we talk about will be yours or your partners’ and some won’t. Some of the pronouns will be yours or your partners’ and some won’t. Some of the sexualities will be yours or your partners’ and some won’t. Some of the language will be yours or your partners’ and some won’t. Take what you want and what applies to you or what you can make apply to you and your partners and your experiences, and leave the rest!