A Full Guide On How To Masturbate & Love It, From A Sex Therapist
Masturbation is a glorious experience to get to know your own body, how it works, and how to bring yourself pleasure.
And yet, it often feels like a weird taboo—even though most people are doing it. Most people have never really learned how to do it, why it's good for us, and what a healthy masturbation practice even looks like. Instead, it's typically done in secret, coated in a thick layer of shame, and often becomes a confusing topic of conversation when we enter into romantic relationships with other people.
Today, we're leaving all the shame outside of this conversation. We don't need it. Your masturbation practice should be all about fun, pleasure, and exploration.
You're likely here because you're now embarking on developing a masturbation practice. Maybe you're new to the game, or maybe this isn't your first rodeo. Wherever you are, here are some helpful tips to get the ball rolling and some insight into why your masturbation practice is important—because it really, really is:
Get into the right headspace.
It's really important to get into the best headspace possible for your self-exploration and pleasure. Take some "mindset magic" time before you start touching your body. Pleasure, like climax, happens in the brain, so if our minds aren't on board with what we're doing, it can be really hard to feel in alignment with ourselves.
If you feel any type of way about masturbating other than hell yeah, it might help to ask yourself these questions:
- What did I learn about masturbation/masturbating growing up?
- How do I think that answer affects my beliefs and feelings about it now?
- What do I believe about masturbation? What does it mean to me?
- What about masturbation do I enjoy? What feels hard or scary?
At the start of any masturbation session, consider setting an intention for your time. You can do this in the format of "I am..." So, if your intention is to be present with yourself and love your body, you could say, "I am present and love my body."
Take your time.
Sometimes, for some people, masturbation is a quick, feel-good experience with the intention of "just getting the job done." That's understandable. It can be hard enough to find time to exercise, cook dinner, and do chores—and then you're somehow also supposed to find time to masturbate for an hour with vigorous curiosity?
The thing is, masturbating will feel more exciting if we are approaching ourselves with curiosity, warmth, and sexual self-esteem instead of feeling like it's just another chore to check off the list. So try to take your time. Approach yourself with curiosity, intentionality, and love.
Try creating some ambience for yourself. Make yourself dinner, have a glass of wine (if that's your thing), watch your favorite show, or listen to some music, and then treat yourself to some self-love time.
Because most of us weren't taught self-love, we might think it's weird or selfish to be romantic with ourselves. In truth, though, it's so fun to create a cozy, spicy setting for ourselves, too!
Get to know your body.
Look at your body naked. Really look at it.
Beyond just taking your clothes off and standing in front of the mirror, get up close and personal with yourself. Take a mirror down to your bits and really check them out. If you feel comfortable, touch your bits while looking in the mirror so you have an idea of where everything that feels good is located. This also comes in handy anytime you may have partnered sex because you know exactly what feels good and where it is. (If you have a vulva, read our guide on all the different types, here, to get to know yours better.)
We weren't taught to appreciate our bodies or even get to know them. We were taught to critique them, "fix them," and "look good" for others. This mentality not only separates us from our bodies, but it creates some deep feeling that our bodies aren't really ours.
But guess what? Your body is yours. It is for your pleasure, your self-exploration, and your appreciation. The more we learn to love and appreciate our bodies, the easier it will become to give them adoration and attention—and to truly accept love and adoration from others.
So seriously, get naked and check yourself out!
It's exciting to get to know your body—after all, you live inside it!
Oftentimes, when we have a new partner, there is something so exciting about getting to know their body. We want to understand it and know it. We should take that same energy into discovering our own bodies.
Whip out your toy or your hand and just explore. Take your time touching different areas, trying different strokes and styles of touch, and just have fun experimenting. Your body is worth exploring—promise.
6. Use your imagination.
Use your mind to help you get in the mood and get your brain on the same ride you're taking your body on. When it comes to fantasizing, the biggest key is to release any judgment and shame. Whatever comes into your mind to turn you on, go with it. Explore it. Stop stopping yourself. It is such a gift to get curious and look into what is coming up when you allow yourself to truly fantasize.
(And remember: If you're in a monogamous relationship, it is not cheating to think about another person while masturbating or even having sex. This is a natural human experience.)
Find what feels good.
If you've never masturbated before, you may be thinking, "Do I just lie down, rub my clit, and hope for the best?" And the answer is, in some ways yes and in some ways no. Like most things, masturbation isn't all or nothing or a binary. There isn't one "right" way to do it.
For the basics of how to masturbate, here are some specific techniques to get started with:
- For vulva owners: Sit up, lie down, or lie on your belly—whichever you find to be most comfortable. Curl your pointer finger in a *come hither* position and place it on your clitoris. Try this motion softly, swiftly, and all the speeds in between until you find one that feels great for you! Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do anything—everyone's body is different. You can also try experimenting with external or internal stimulation or both at once.
- For penis owners: Sit or stand in whatever position feels most comfortable for you. Apply some lube to your hand of choice, and start stroking! Try switching up the stroke speed to slow, then fast, then slow to feel different forms of pleasure and which you most prefer. (Sometimes it's a mix of both!) You can also try moving your hand in a bit of a twist motion for even more of a sensational feeling.
Mix it up.
Try something different just for the sake of mixing it up with yourself! We should honestly treat our personal sex lives similarly to our partnered ones with care and attention, which will sometimes call for spicing things up, trying new things, and getting creative. Treat yourself to that same amount of care and attention!
If you're someone who usually masturbates in places of convenience (like in bed or in the shower), try masturbating somewhere new. If you live with roommates and don't feel comfortable doing so, try a new position. Sometimes it can feel silly to do this, but remember: Masturbating is sexy time with yourself! You deserve to mix it up and enjoy your personal sex life.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Buy a new sex toy (there are lots of great sex toys for men too, by the way!)
- Listen to audio erotica.
- Watch some ethical porn.
- Try a new position.
- Test out different speeds or patterns than you usually do.
- Masturbate while wearing lingerie.
- Masturbate in a different place than you usually do.
- Consider mutual masturbation with a partner!
If you feel like you are in a masturbation "routine," so to speak, and it feels a little mundane, often altering one thing can feel like spicing everything up. Also, striving for a masturbation practice, as opposed to a routine, can make all the difference. Routine sounds like something similar that happens almost daily because it has to, whereas a practice seems more open-ended, with room to grow.
Don't worry about orgasms.
Having an orgasm isn't the goal—it's a major perk, but it absolutely isn't essential. Prioritizing self-care can often just look like providing intentional care to ourselves. Take the pressure off yourself that the care you are providing yourself has to have a specific result to be valid. All the care you provide yourself is valid no matter what.
Be intimate with yourself in other ways.
Having a self-care practice is an ongoing process that we will probably be learning how to do forever, but what I've learned about self-care is that I am more consistent when I am caring for myself in a bunch of different small ways.
Develop a skin care routine, take a bath, slather yourself in lotion, do some yoga, or do something that makes you feel connected with your skin and body. We don't often slow down to do things with our bodies intentionally. Finding ways to be deliberately intimate with our bodies is an excellent way to encourage ourselves to keep up with our self-care routine and masturbation routine. Even if it feels a little uncomfortable at first, you'll more than likely end up enjoying it.
11. Be gentle on yourself.
If this is a new experience for you, it will likely take some adjusting to, and that's OK. Keep trying, but don't make yourself feel bad. There is no right or wrong way to masturbate, and there is no right number of times to do it—it's simply up to you and your body to decide.
The bottom line.
You are worthy of love, attention, pleasure, and adoration from others—and especially from yourself. Contrary to what the world taught us growing up, our bodies are, in fact, extraordinary. Your body is pumping your blood as you read this and keeping you alive—there is so much going on that we can't even see! And on top of that, your body has these magical parts that feel pleasure just for your enjoyment—how amazing is that?
Psychotherapist Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT, is recognized as one of the freshest voices on modern relationships, mental health, and sex. She is an experienced therapist, educator, coach, speaker, group facilitator, and on-camera mental health and relationship expert. With a master's degree in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Rachel has worked with thousands of humans worldwide, helping them scream less and screw more.
Rachel has been featured widely in the media, including on Cheddar TV and PIX 11 (NYC); as a regular contributor to SHAPE, INSIDER, mindbodygreen, InStyle, The Dipp, and Well & Good; and in Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, NBC News Radio, Huffington Post, and hundreds of other outlets. She has brought her message to stages across the globe, was SHAPE Magazine’s Sex Relationships Coach, and created the virtual workshop series What You Wish You Learned in School: Sex Ed, and she is currently one of mindbodygreen’s article review experts. She also recently did a show at Green Room 42 in NYC called “One Night Stand: A Night for Sexier & Healthier Broadway.”
Rachel lives in New York and loves live theatre so much. You can probably find her in PJs eating gluten-free food with one of her partners if she’s not working! Learn more at www.rachelwrightnyc.com or connect in her cozy corner of Instagram, @thewright_rachel.