A Hands-On Guide To Masturbation

We love the idea of seduction. We also love the idea of hold-it-right-there, mind-blowing sex. But, most of all, we love the idea that you can give it to yourself — no partner required.
Self-pleasure is an important part of every sex life, whether it’s just-for-you or to share with a partner exactly how you like to be touched. Either way, consider this an invitation. Here’s your guide to solo sex, complete with everything you need to be your own best lover.
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“First off, understand your own anatomy,” says Sadie Allison, author of Tickle Your Fancy: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Self-Pleasure. “It’s so important to understand how your body works — the clitoris specifically — to have an orgasm.”

Even if you’re used to feeling yourself, use a handheld mirror to really look at yourself and visually locate your clitoris (which might be tucked beneath its hood). Since this area is packed with nerve endings, it should be the focus of your sexual attention — not the internal vaginal, which has relatively fewer nerves. While you’re looking at yourself, begin feeling your vulva with your fingers.

“Sometimes having really cold hands helps you to really feel where things are,” suggests Susana Mayer, a clinical sexologist. “When your hands are really cold and your body is really warm, you can really feel that difference, and sometimes it can feel really nice.”

And, don’t just touch down there. Any part of your body can be erotic, so use your fingertips to caress your thighs, your stomach, your breasts, or anything that feels sensual.
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Call it the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, but more women than ever are reading erotic literature. And, it’s not a shock, since erotica can help you get into the mood. “I often start out reading and then let my mind take over when I start inserting myself into the fantasies, and then pick up what I was using later on,” says Rachel Kramer Bussel, who has edited over 50 anthologies of erotic writing.

Bussel emphasizes that fantasies aren’t always things we would do in real life, so it’s okay to fantasize about something wild — but if what you’re reading doesn’t quite do the trick, move onto something else. “I’d hate to see someone write off the whole genre simply because the first thing they picked up didn’t float their boat,” says Bussel.

Looking for inspiration? Try the Best Women’s Erotica, an annual series that focuses on women’s pleasure. Or Bussel’s latest book, The Big Book of Orgasms, which has short stories of all stripes. If you’d rather try something visual, look out for production companies like Trouble Films, which focus on feminist porn.
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Your ticket to pleasure begins with touch — whether it’s stroking, rubbing, or circling around your clitoris. “Get a bottle of lube and let your imagination go wild with your fingers,” recommends Claire Cavanah, author of Moregasm: Babeland's Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex. “Just roll around with yourself and connect.”

Look for lubricants that are free of parabens and glycerins, which are safer if they slip inside the body. We like Sliquid, a company that makes an impressive variety of natural and women-friendly lubes.

Packed with twice as many nerve endings as the penis, the clitoris is super-sensitive — too sensitive to touch, for some women. “If that’s the case, you can stroke yourself around the clitoris in circles,” recommends Allison. “It’s a matter of exploring and learning what your body likes the best and trying different things so that you can figure out your own formula.”

Try stroking in a figure eight, up and down, or side to side to see which feels best. You can also experiment with lightly tapping or even slightly squeezing the clitoris, to amp up the sensation. When you’re turned on, try slipping a finger or two inside of yourself.

“If you put your hands inside and curl your fingers up as if you’re going toward your belly button, you’ll find a spongy-type spot,” says Mayer. The spot she’s referring to is the G-spot, which some sexologists believe is the internal legs of the clitoris. “If you press on it, it may feel like you want to pee,” warns Mayer. But this is actually a good sign — if you keep the pressure there, the peeing sensation will go away and you’ll relax into pleasure.

“When you find the stroke that’s really going to get you there, you’ll notice your vulva becoming more plump. Then you might want to speed up your strokes and maybe put a little more pressure,” says Allison. It doesn’t matter what strokes it takes to get you there, as long as you’re oohing and ahhing.
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Just like you’d seduce a lover, creating a romantic ambiance is key to solo sex. Maybe you don’t need full-blown rose petals on the bed, but consider dimming the lights, slipping into your favorite lingerie, and playing a favorite album — anything that helps you feel relaxed.

“It can be helpful to carve out a mental and physical space for yourself by turning off your phone and computer, locking your door, and generally signaling to yourself and the world that this is time for you and you alone,” recommends Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor of The Big Book of Orgasms. The point is to create an environment where you won’t be distracted.

Allison recommends drawing a warm bath, both to relax yourself and create a romantic mood. (Plus, some women enjoy the sensation of water falling out of a bath spout.) “A lot of women learn to orgasm in the tub, because that space lends itself to an environment where you can light your candle, lock the door, and let yourself get turned on.”
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You can easily take your pleasure from zero to 60 by adding a vibrator. “It’s a fact that most women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, and how better to do that than with a vibrator? It’s just not going to get tired,” says Cavanah, who cofounded the women-friendly sex-toy boutique, Babeland.

For something discreet, try a clitoral vibrator like the Jimmyjane Form 2. The pink tool is about the size of your palm with two prongs that surround the clitoris in vibrations.

If you’re looking for internal stimulation, try something like the Cuddle Vibe, a sleek pink vibrator made by Love Life. It’s specifically designed to hit the G-spot, but can also be pressed against your clitoris.

Looking to make the smallest investment? Get a bullet vibe, like Babeland’s Silver Bullet. “They’re very small, smooth, and they feel good,” explains Cavanah. Plus, you can attach them to a dildo or other sex toy later, if you choose to try a more advanced routine.
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Sex positions aren’t just for intercourse. You can pleasure yourself on your back, on your stomach, lying down, or standing up.

One way to figure out how you’ll like it best is to look to your favorite intercourse positions. Does woman-on-top get you there every time? Try lying on your stomach might be a great position for you. If missionary is more your thing, lie on your back and slip your fingers between your legs. For the more adventurous sort, you can try standing up or even pleasuring yourself in front of a mirror. “When you change positions, you change the way the sensations feel,” says Allison. “If you were to squat down, you would feel more open — as opposed to lying on your back with your legs closed, where the stroke is hugging your fingers more.”

You can also move your fingers in different ways. Most stroking involves the pads of your fingers, or the part that you use to press a doorbell. But, you can also use several fingers to massage yourself, creating a wide surface with your hand. “Trust me,” says Allison, “our fingers are some of the best sex toys we’ve got.”
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Sometimes solo sex feels so good, it just needs to be shared. Once you’ve mastered your own mind-blowing technique, consider inviting your partner to watch your self-pleasure. “You can give yourself an orgasm, so you don’t have to rely on a partner to give it to you. But, it can also be beneficial for your relationship, so that you can teach your partner how you like it,” advises Allison.

If your partner is wary of watching your solo routine, mention that it’s just another way to get turned on — together. Mayer advises that “masturbation is just another tool, another thing to add to your repertoire as a couple. It’s like the same way you would add a sex toy.”

Your partner might want to be a spectator at first, either by lying nearby or holding you while you touch yourself. But, you can also invite your partner to participate, by adding secondary stimulation: kissing, playing with your nipples, or massaging your body. Cavanah recommends involving your partner by using a small vibrator.

“There are also finger vibrators and either person could wear this. The woman can be wearing it on her finger or her partner can be.”

The result is bound to be bow-chick-a-wow-wow sex — for you and whoever is lucky enough to be there with you.

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