I have long been frustrated by the lack of specifics in the vast majority of articles about masturbation. Even once we've moved past asinine cultural notions that masturbation is for "bad girls" rather than all women who want to do it, and we're in agreement that making yourself feel good is healthy and fun, supporters of self-love tend to dole out vague, "sex-positive" exhortations to touch yourself — and then leave you to it.
This frustration led me to team up with rock star sex therapist Vanessa Marin to bring you a first-of-its-kind 30-Day Masturbation Challenge. We're about to show you in gorgeous, anatomically correct GIF format what to do when it's time to love yourself up — and to see if you can do it every day for 30 days. (This is going to be the best New Year's resolution you ever make.)
"There are lots of reasons to masturbate — getting to know your body, learning how to orgasm, developing better confidence, decreasing stress, supporting healthier societal attitudes about female pleasure," Marin tells me, "but the best reason is simply because it feels good! Your body is capable of experiencing so much pleasure; why wouldn't you want to make that pleasure a part of daily life?"
Marin knows her stuff: The licensed psychotherapist guides clients to better sex lives in person as well as via video chat, phone, and email coaching sessions. She also offers a nine-week online program, Finishing School, that guides women to their first orgasms alone and then with partners. Better yet, she's offering Refinery29 readers a $100 discount on the course with the code Refinery29, so if you're craving more when you finish the challenge, you know where to go.
Before we dive in, here's what to know:
1. Use the challenge calendar as inspiration for which strokes to use when: Feel free to mix and match strokes in any given session, and set a timer so that you can immerse yourself in what you're feeling without looking at the clock. If you don't hit the recommended number of minutes per day, don't beat yourself up about it, but do try to have longer sessions each day. You deserve this time and space.
2. Don't feel bad if you don't bring yourself to orgasm. This is about getting to know your body and your turn-ons in a pressure-free, process-oriented environment. And, if you do orgasm before the end of your session, it's up to you whether to continue...but why not go for another O, or simply spend some more time on yourself?
3. If you love toys, as I do, this challenge can be an excuse to get back to basics with some good old-fashioned manual moves. Yes, there's a lot to be said for a great vibrator. Marin especially recommends Minna Life's Limon, a responsive toy that vibrates more intensely the harder you squeeze it, meaning no fumbling with buttons. Go ahead and incorporate this or another of your favorite toys into your playtime, but strive to spend part of each session trying out the manual moves tech-free, as well, to attune your body to less intense (but still intensely pleasurable) sensations.
4. Lube: Use it! Many women don't know how much better solo sex can be with a little lube, even if they regularly use it during partnered sex. Remember that silicone lubes can wear down silicone sex toys, so if you're using the latter, stick with water-based lubes, which are compatible with all materials.
5. Porn is a wonderful thing — and that can mean anything from literotica to still images to video. If you're not into porn, you may just have not yet found porn you like. There is so much more out there than oily dudes jackhammering away at spray-tanned women (though there's also nothing wrong with getting off on more stereotypical fare). Try the elegant stills and cinema from afourchamberedheart, the sexy, queer-friendly porn from Pink & White Productions, and the narrative-driven films of Erika Lust. Of course, your imagination can always work its own magic.
Now, with no further ado, let Day 1 begin.