Masturbation is commonly understood as the act of touching your genitals for sexual pleasure. However, masturbation isn’t actually limited to just genitals — there are multiple erogenous zones on the body that can be stimulated, including the nipples, neck, thighs, bum, and more. Sometimes masturbation includes sex toys, other times people use their hands alone.
VUSH’s sexpert, Steph, has written a beginner’s guide to masturbation to break down why people masturbate, what holds them back, and how to actually get started.
Why do people masturbate?
1. Alone time feels good
Generally, people masturbate because it feels good. Many people find that masturbation is the easiest way for them to orgasm (a wandering mind or concerns about whether your partner is enjoying themselves can sometimes get in the way of your own pleasure when you’re having sex with someone else). You don’t need a partner to have sex — it’s available to you at any appropriate time via masturbation!
2. Benefits of masturbation
There are many, many, many, health benefits of masturbation. These include physiological benefits like better quality sleep and improved physical health. Masturbation also releases feel good chemicals in the brain, making you happier, less stressed and more productive. There are social benefits of masturbation too, such as connecting to self and learning about your body so you can pass on knowledge to partners to improve your shared sex life.
3. Exploring your body
Masturbation is a great way to explore your body. How are you going to know what you want to do with a sexual partner if you haven’t worked out what you like yourself? If you’re feeling sexual energy in your body but not yet ready to share that with someone else, masturbation is a great place to start. It is completely natural for humans (and animals) to touch themselves and explore sexual pleasure.
Why don’t people masturbate?
1. Lack of time
Some people feel guilty taking time to prioritise their own pleasure and may consider masturbation selfish. They might not have time and feel stressed out about their never ending to-do list. The truth is, masturbation is actually a productive use of time due to the many benefits it can provide!
2. Considered unnecessary
Since we’re not taught about masturbation in school (and only some of us have parents that talk about sex in a consistent, helpful way), a lot of people don’t actually know about the benefits of masturbation. They might not feel the need to masturbate because they haven’t tried it yet to work out how great it is!
3. Cultural messaging
While some just weren’t taught about masturbation, others were told that masturbation is an unhealthy or bad thing to do. Exposure to social, cultural or religious messages that tell people not to masturbate often results in negative feelings about masturbation and an unwillingness to try it.
4. Unsure how to masturbate
Some people are reluctant to start masturbating because they don’t actually know how to do it! This is more common for people with vulvas since there is a harmful narrative that vulva owners are hard to please and orgasms are nearly impossible to achieve. Don’t worry, that’s not true — all the best things take time and patience.
What are common myths about masturbation?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of harmful stories out there about masturbation. Luckily, many parts of the world are becoming increasingly sex positive. VUSH is here to debunk a few common myths about masturbation:
1. Negative effect on kidneys
There is an ancient Chinese belief that men with kidney deficiencies also have poor sexual functioning. While it is true that poor kidney functioning and other anatomical health conditions can impact sexuality, this has nothing to do with masturbation and certainly is not caused by it.
2. Decreased sperm count
Regular masturbation and ejaculation will not negatively impact fertility or sperm count. The body constantly produces sperm cells and will never run out (no matter how many times a day you get off). Age and other health factors can affect sperm count, but masturbation does not.
3. Lower libido
Masturbation does not lower your libido — in fact, if you’re masturbating regularly, that probably means you have a healthy libido and plenty of sexual desire! Libido actually isn’t based on how much you masturbate or have sex, it relates to how much you want sex and your motivation for sex.
4. Vision loss
A famous 1760 pamphlet about masturbation called ‘Onania’ highlighted a range of so-called consequences of masturbation. The possibility of going blind was one of them. It’s now 2022 and we know that there is absolutely zero chance you will go blind after masturbating.
5. Hairy palms
Masturbation was historically considered lazy, and there is a French expression about laziness, “avoir du poil dans la main”, which translates to “having hairy palms”. Somewhere along the lines, these three concepts got tangled and perpetuated the myth that masturbation will make your palms hairy. This is simply not true (or possible)!
How to masturbate
There are many different ways to masturbate — no two people will do it in exactly the same way. The key is to listen to what your body is craving and where you want to be touched.
But it’s not just about the technique you use to touch yourself, it’s also about what you do before and after masturbation. VUSH has developed a 5 step guide for people who are just starting out with self pleasure and wanting to find the best way to masturbate:
1. Set the mood & turn yourself on
Create a sensual space that makes you feel safe and helps you get in the mood. Put on some sexy tunes, light a candle and maybe remove the dirty clothes from your bedroom floor. If you can, lock the door so you’re not worried about being interrupted. Turn yourself on and wake up your body by using your hands to feel your way around your entire body. You might want to try some audio, visual or written erotica to get this process going.
2. Add lube
Even if you’re not using a sex toy, lube will make masturbation easier and more comfortable for you. Feelin’ Myself Intimate Gel is our best lube recommendation — water-based lube is perfect because it’s gentle and won’t stain your clothes or sheets. Plus, applying the lube to your body in a sensual way can be great foreplay.
3. Play & explore
This is where the fun really starts. Experiment with touching yourself in different areas with various pressures, intensities, and motions. Hot tip: Vulvas tend to enjoy rubbing, circling or tapping motions on the clitoris, gyrating or grinding against the vulva, and gentle pressure around the vaginal opening and internally against the vaginal walls. Penises generally prefer stroking or circling of the penis around the tip, shaft and frenulum, and sometimes gentle cradling or squeezing of the testes.
4. Add a vibrator
Sex toys offer sensations that aren’t necessarily available through hands alone. There’s no shame in using a vibrator or other sex toy to your self pleasure practice — this is completely normal and even encouraged by many people in the health field. Ease into sex toy use by testing your toy on your hand first, starting on the lowest setting, and using lube to make things easier. A wand vibrator, bullet vibrator, or clitoral suction vibrator is a good place to start.
5. Orgasm (optional)
Eventually, you may feel like you’re going to orgasm. If you’re not sure what orgasm is like, it can feel like a genital sneeze or a build of wonderful tingly sensations with a pleasurable release. Focusing on your breath, using audible sounds, and exploring natural movement can help orgasm happen or feel stronger. Don’t worry if you don’t get to the point of orgasm — as long as you feel good in your body, connect to yourself and reap some benefits, you are masturbating correctly.
After masturbation, you may be experiencing a range of feelings — relaxation and relief, happiness and bliss, or sometimes even guilt or shame. It’s important to take care of yourself, your emotions, and your body after masturbating. Wipe or rinse yourself clean of any lubes or bodily fluids. Wash, charge and store away any sex toys you used.
Read more on stimulation:
If you’re ready to try incorporating a sex toy into your self love practice, read our guide for choosing and using your first sex toy. On the VUSH Stimulation blog, we have guides for using a bullet vibrator and a rabbit vibrator. We even have a guide to using toys with a partner.