It feels good to have a routine: That's why many people always do the same exercises at the gym, order from the same sandwich place for lunch, and commute home on the same route every day. And when it comes to masturbation, this can also be true: People stick to whichever vibrator setting or manual technique that they know will make them orgasm. But if you're not exploring different ways to masturbate, you could be limiting yourself.
"You may know a certain point in your genitals that brings you to climax, and that's helpful for you to know your own body," says Ieshai Bailey, LMHC, a board-certified sex therapist. "However, on the other side of that, [having a routine] could keep you from exploring other parts that may be your erogenous zones as well." For example, if you're someone who has a vagina, and you always masturbate by stimulating your clitoris, then you might be neglecting other pleasurable areas, like your anus or G-Spot.
Some people worry that having a routine conditions your body to only be able to orgasm in specific ways. There isn't specific research that backs this up, but according to sex therapist Vanessa Marin, it's not out of the realm of possibility. "It makes sense: If you're only doing one thing over and over again, your body is going to get accustomed to that type of stimulation," she says. And when you masturbate, you're also conditioning your brain to respond to pleasure, so it's possible that someone could get used to only orgasming from one stimulant, Bailey says.
However, it's a complete myth that masturbation "kills your sex drive" and that people in relationships aren't supposed to masturbate. On the contrary, if you know how to make yourself orgasm through masturbation, it can be a great tool to enhance your partnered sex life, Marin says. (If your partner shames you for masturbating, that's a red flag, because "you have a right to your own body, and your own genitals," Bailey says.) For those who are trying to break out of a masturbation rut, it can be helpful to include a partner and try mutual masturbation. "You can take turns watching each other masturbate, you can masturbate at the same time, or you can tag-team your body," Bailey says. If you have penetrative sex, you could even masturbate while you're having intercourse, Marin suggests.
Of course, naturally, there are many ways to expand your masturbation repertoire without a partner. You could try using a new sex toy, or consider other areas of your body that you might enjoy stimulating (like your nipples or inner thighs). Non-mainstream, queer-friendly porn can be a great resource for ideas, too. "There are an endless number of ways to masturbate, so why limit yourself to just one technique?" Marin says. And while you're exploring, remember that you don't have to orgasm when you're masturbating, Bailey says. "A lot of times, we're so focused on the future tense, bringing ourselves to climax, that we miss the whole [reason] why we're doing it anyway: because it feels good," she says.
The bottom line to remember is that it's your body, so you get to touch it however you want to. There's nothing wrong with having a go-to technique to making yourself orgasm, but you might decrease your chances for sexual growth if you just limit yourself to that one method, Bailey says. In other words: If you never try, you'll never know.