Most of us start our sexual awakening with a little self-love but the art of masturbation has, for too long, been an education we get from hearing people talk about it, watching male-gaze porn or maybe even American Pie. Let’s change that shall we?
In addition to being a fucking good time, masturbation - that ends in, or includes, orgasm - has myriad health benefits. It calms us down, it helps us sleep, it makes our skin glow, and helps balance our sex hormones. From a purely scientific perspective, we’re big fans.
Speaking broadly, to have good partnered sex, it helps to know what works for you. To figure that out, it helps to have some alone time but masturbation doesn’t need to lead to partnered sex: it is an event all its own but one of its benefits is that it can lead to more confidence when you do decide to invite someone else into the room, which is why we bring it up.
One of the greatest heists society has pulled off is making us think that cumming, sex, or self-pleasure is something to be ashamed of. Especially if you own a vagina.
"If you’re reading this, zoom in and turn that screen brightness up because we’re ending that taboo today."
Before we really get into it, we want to note that this article - for the sake of brevity - speaks in broad terms. Everyone is different, every vagina is different, and what gets you off will vary from person to person. The focus of this article is on people with vaginas.
An estimated 75% of women can’t cum from vaginal sex alone. Given that the clitoris is the only organ in the human species designed purely for pleasure, it’s a good idea to make good use of it because, for a lot of us, it’s a shortcut to pleasure.
Did you know that there are more nerve endings in the head of the clitoris than anywhere else in the human body (of any gender)
It sits at the ‘top’ of the vulva and comes with a chic little hood. Below that is the hole where you pee, then the hole where you would be penetrated (with a penis, fingers, a toy etc), and then the anus which can also be penetrated.
Stimulation of the clitoris is the express route to orgasm. Once you work out the combination of pressure, speed, movement, and time - that’s knowledge you’ll use for life.
In addition to the head (the part you can see), the clitoris continues inside you. The shaft – which is about the thickness of a pencil – can be up to 4cm long, and after that the ‘legs’. If the clitoris was viewed on its own, out of the body, it would look a little like a wishbone. Goop gets into it in more detail here.
This could feel a little intimidating if you own a vagina and live in a society. Old-fashioned, and frankly sex-shaming, attitudes, have given generations of people the ick about their own bodies. If that rings true for you even a tiny bit, a, er, handy tip is to start by working over your underwear (or scroll down to learn about toys).
The good thing about hands is that each one has five fingers. So, with enough dexterity, you could stimulate and penetrate all at once.
"Your vagina’s the piano and you’re the maestro."
Focusing on stimulation, start with a little bit of lube and using your index and/ or middle finger, make small circles on and around the head of the clitoris. The reason we include lube in this is that it reduces friction. Use this time to play with yourself and explore what feels nice - when you find what that is, do more of it, if something feels weird or boring, do less.
Try up and down, side to side, circles, or a combination of all three. Some people enjoy a light pinch. If you are finding that that’s not working, you may need to slide the hood of the clitoris (you should be able to assess this visually) up a bit or widen your legs a little bit to stimulate the shaft and legs of the clitoris and take the tension out of your muscles.
For a lot of us, we need to mentally be in the right place to cum so if you don’t feel relaxed, it can be harder. That’s OK! If it’s not working right away, just come back to it when you’re feeling less thinky and pick up where you left off. Other places to try include the bath or shower when you’re guaranteed some alone time.
While we’re big fans of getting to know yourself and your preferences hands-on, there are options to take the handy work out of the equation.
Dildos, vibrators, or citoral stimulating toys can simulate partnered sex but without the hassle (and bacterias) of another person!
Dildos are phallic-shaped objects that are used for vaginal or anal penetration. We also recommend keeping lube to hand for this one. They tend to be manual, meaning no batteries, so you can either mount it or hold it if you’re working alone.
If, like we discussed above, you need more than penetration to get off, then they mightn’t be the best choice or you may need clitoral stimulation at the same time.
Enter vibrators. Vibrators can be inserted into any orifice and also, duh, vibrate. Some - like the famous Rabbit - can be inserted with one shaft while the other stimulates the clitoris. They also come in smaller bullet shapes that fit in the smallest of handbags which can be turned on when you are and held against the clitoris or inserted (just be sure to keep a tight hold on it if it goes up anywhere).
Finally, absolute fan favourites, the clitoral stimulators. This is like Girls Get Off’s Missy Mini or the Satisfyer Pro 2. They look a little bit like the Pixar lamp or Kenny from South Park but they pack a punch. Designed to be held over the head of the clitoris, they use air pulses to mimic oral sex from someone who knows what they’re doing. They vibrate at the same time so while they’re not designed to go inside of you, they do stimulate the shaft and legs when held against the hood.
You don’t need lube for these but you’re welcome to use it and if you keep an eye out for a waterproof one, they can also be used underwater.
Before you head off and join the mastur-nation, there’s a few housekeeping items to tick off.
If we look after our vaginas, they’ll look after us. But when our standards – and our pH balance – slip, bad bacteria can run rampant, increasing our risk of infections like candida, thrush and bacterial vaginosis; as well as sexually transmitted infections, some cancers, pregnancy complications, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Washing your hands before you get handsy to clear away unwelcome bacteria, and keeping your toys clean are must-dos. Like any self-respecting queen, your vagina has standards and may not get on with some types of lube. Broadly speaking, a water-based lube is normally a great way to go. We love this natural option from Come Clean.
Finally, using a probiotic to look after your vaginal health is one of the best things you can do. Fan favourite Queen V contains scientifically studied strains for both gut and vaginal health to maintain that precious pH and keep you private party ready. If you suffer from regular yeast infections or thrush, BV, itches and niggles or UTIs this is an absolute must take!
So, there you have it! A no-holds barred guide to vaginal masturbation. If some of this is obvious to you, that’s great - we want everyone to know the basics - but think if someone in your life might benefit from some not-from-your-mum education and share it with them.