This story includes sexually explicit language.
Welcome to Don’t Yuck My Yummm, Unbothered’s sexual wellness column and digital diary aimed at destigmatizing Black womxn’s intimate experiences. Trust us, this ain’t your mama’s how-to-guide. From the policing of our bodies, the antics of respectability politics, and the rise of toxic male "dating coaches", Black womxn are in need of a safe space for storytelling, education, and advocacy when it comes to sex. Don’t Yuck My Yummm is an opportunity to amplify the voices of folx who are doing the work. We encourage you to turn the mirror on yourself and join us on our self-discovery experience.
The top of the year is a time of self reflection and alignment. It is a time we spend centring our energy and casting our intentions for the new year. If you’re a typical Virgo like me, you start early. While some turn to meditation or journaling to centre themselves in the first few months of the new year, others turn to detoxes and fasting. And if you are an avid manifester, faster, cleanser, or vision board master, then you have heard of Dry January.
Started in 2013 by Alcohol Change UK, Dry January is a public health initiative that encourages you to remove alcohol from your diet for 31 days. Since its rise, it has evolved to accommodate those who are not avid drinkers as well. Activities like smoking, sex, and even masturbation have been added to the equation, and this trend inspired me to tackle my very own month without self-pleasure. And while I have zero clue when this form of Dry January became such a big deal, according to Black Twitter, the girlies were barely holding on.
No alcohol, smoking, or sex were the easy part for me, but I had to take a pause regarding masturbation. I had always been an advocate for “me time,” and had my routine down to a science. So before I went cold turkey, I decided I needed to talk to the experts so I could fully understand what I was getting myself into. Without hesitation, I reached out to MFT intern and sexologist Danielle Simpson-Baker and sexual empowerment coach Portia Brown.
“If we're talking about Dry January in the traditional sense (i.e. abstaining from alcohol), it seems like Dry January can have some benefits when it comes to intimacy and masturbation,” says Simpson Baker. “The first two that come to mind include taking drunk sex off the table so that all partners are as present as possible, and allowing solo lovers to have full sexual functioning of their bodies during play (as alcohol has been shown to hinder erections and decrease lubrication).”
Brown adds that there are a number of ways that abstaining can support you. “If you are a person who has a vulva and you want to re-sensitise your body by abstaining, then taking a month off can be helpful,” she says. The same goes for reevaluating your relationship with sex, intimacy and masturbation. “I would say give yourself time in space to observe how you feel while abstaining what your thoughts are, how your behaviours change and use that information to inform what you do or do not do when you return to engaging in self intimacy and partnered intimacy.” Self-awareness is key, so if you're abstaining without thinking about how you will engage with this break beyond just not masturbating for a month, there won’t be much of a shift by the time January ends.
I knew if I wanted to give this a fair shot I needed to implement new ways to connect with my body without an orgasm being the end goal. “Edging is kind of a traditional exercise, usually prescribed to help with premature ejaculation, but basically edging happens when you back off of an orgasm that's trying to happen in the moment,” Simon-Baker prescribes. “When you feel it coming, switch up the position, do a different sex act or just stop sex altogether, but the idea is to stop the orgasm from happening in order to last longer. This one is relatively easy in theory, but it typically gets easier with practice. Or do pleasurable things that aren't sexual in nature - treat yourself to your favorite dessert, dance to your favorite song, visit your favorite place, go on a (solo or partnered) date to your favorite place, watch your favorite show! It sounds so cliche, but do things that put a smile on your face and make you feel happy.”
What really resonated for me was when Portia mentioned mirror work. “We are allowed to touch ourselves for the sake of touching ourselves! If self touch is not a part of your routine then I'd encourage you to begin TODAY,” she says. I loved her enthusiasm but I wasn’t sure where to begin. What I discovered during our chat was that mirror work is easy, it’s the vulnerability that can be difficult. “Try sitting in front of the mirror (as clothed or unclothed as you want) and watch yourself for 2-5 minutes without any judgment,” Brown explains. “Repeat daily. Self massage is something you can incorporate easily! When you get out of the bath, grab your favourite lotion or oil and gently and mindfully rub it into the skin while speaking affirmations and words of gratitude to yourself.”
Armed with newfound insight, I embarked on my Dry January journey and journaled my thoughts along the way. I want to be clear that these are my own personal feelings and there are no right or wrong experiences.
So, I think the idea of Dry January sounded real cute until I realised just how much I masturbate throughout the week. You’re talking to the girl who keeps her Air Vibe ready to go in her night stand and sleeps with three or more back up toys underneath her pillow, which sounds like a bit much now that I am reading this back. I realise that I am often using masturbation as a remedy for other things outside the realm of pleasure. Whenever I am having a hard time sleeping, I’ll masturbate. If I am having a lull of seasonal depression and decide to stay holed up in my apartment, I masturbate when I am bored. Needless to say, this is going to be a loooonnnggg 30 days.
Honestly, I think I may in fact have insomnia. These last few nights I have been going to bed later and later. My mind is in full go mode thinking about my to-do list over the next few days, folks I need to follow up with, and ideas I need to put to paper before I forget. Any other night, I’d reach for old faithful and be knocked after a round or two. I think I am going to give my white noise playlist a go and see if it provides any relief. It’s funny because the no sex part of Dry January is relatively easy for me, as I generally don’t have sex if I am not in a committed relationship or exclusive with a partner. But I am starting to realise that perhaps masturbation was less about self discovery and more about coping.
Week one attempting to quit masturbation cold turkey was not the move! I guess in these sorts of situations it is best to count the small wins? My sleep cycle was trash, but mama we made it. One thing was abundantly clear, I need to tap into some of the tips and tricks these experts shared on how to find alternatives for reconnecting with my body over these remaining 23 days. I’m going to attempt some of these recommendations and see if this helps. Perhaps I’ll start with edging and work my way through the rest.
The temptation is getting worsay! I literally just had to hang up on this guy that I’ve been talking to for a while because there was way too much sexual tension happening on the phone. If I’m being honest, I am a little annoyed that he didn’t respect my boundaries and kept trying to push my buttons. The first few times were all in good fun, but when I expressed that I was serious about making it through these 30 days with no slip ups, he sort of blew it off and conversation ran dry. This is something I notice he does often in regards to things that are important to me. And now without all the sexual tension and innuendos, it leaves me wondering, what do we actually have?
Pleasure does not always have to result in an orgasm.
I just want to go on the record and say that edging is A LOT harder than Danielle let on. How are you expected to just stop? When I tell you I almost didn’t make it. I had to stop before I even reached the midway point, and low key I feel like I am cheating. Does that even make sense? Something about the experience makes me feel like my Dry January doesn’t count unless I go these 31 days experiencing zero days of pleasure. But perhaps that is the point in general: pleasure does not always have to result in an orgasm. So much of it gets wrapped up in the Big O and then we feel some type of way when it doesn’t happen. Besides, do I really want to continue on the path reinforcing the idea that everytime I explore my body the end result should be an orgasm? Is that true self discovery?
In full transparency, that last journal entry really got to me. It forced me to take pause and recognise that I couldn’t remember the last time I truly connected with my body. Taking a page from Portia’s book, I decided to dedicate a few nights to mirror work. If I am being 1000% honest, the first night was awkward as hell! I treated myself to a long shower and then sat in front of my mirror while I gave myself a sensual massage. I realised I instantly started evaluating my body and areas I could improve. What can I say? We are our own toughest critic. The next few nights, I sat in front of the mirror and decided to affirm my body with each caress. I’ll be honest, I felt dumb as hell at first. I mean who wouldn’t feel silly screaming, “Yaaaassss titties!” in the mirror? But the work has to start with me.
My dry experience is coming to a close and I can honestly say it has been eye opening. I don’t think I realised how much of my pleasure experience was tethered to an orgasm being the end goal or how long it had been since I sat with my body. I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who needs to reconnect with their body and themselves. It also brought up for me how much of my “me time” was tied to poor sleeping habits rather than enjoying my touch, my time, and my sex. I think women in general need to have a larger conversation about the way we approach sex, whether with ourselves or partnered, and other ways to explore pleasure without the pressures to perform, squirt, or have the big O. I also think this experience can tell you a lot about who you are partnered with. Will this person hear you, understand you, and respect your boundaries? Or will this experience cause you to reexamine the way you and your partner align regarding intimacy? Overall, I think it is extremely important to reset your body and reconnect. It is awkward as hell at first, but I wholeheartedly believe there is something to be said about allowing yourself the space to be uncomfortable and go within. I’m definitely looking forward to revisiting this experiment in a few months and reflecting on this post.