How to become comfortable with masturbation

May is Masturbation Month, which always gets us thinking about how we can help folks celebrate. In 2011, we listed the numerous ways masturbation is beneficial to your emotional and physical health. In 2012, we gave you some ideas for trying something new during your usual masturbation routine.

This year, we’re going with a different approach. We’d like to give some tips to folks for whom masturbation doesn’t come as easily. If, for any reason, you find masturbation difficult, not pleasurable, or simply dull, we hope these tips can steer you down a happier path.

  • Unlearn negative thoughts. No matter where you picked up any negative cultural scripts that play in your head surrounding masturbation, banish them. There is absolutely nothing shameful or wrong about masturbation. Read our post about the benefits of masturbation; among other things, masturbation can boost your mood, relieve stress, fight insomnia, and strengthen your sexual relationship with yourself and others. Once you unpack and undo the negative messages, they won’t be able to hold you back anymore.
  • Read an empowering book or blog, such as Big Big LoveTranscending AnatomySex for One, The New Male SexualityGender Outlaws, or For Yourself, which address body image issues as well as sexuality. There are also more matter-of-fact guides specifically about orgasm, such as Becoming Orgasmic and The Elusive Orgasm. If you have dealt with any sort of trauma, Healing Sex is an irreplaceable resource.
  • Watch an empowering (and hot!) film. Erika Lust’s Barcelona Sex Project and Buck Angel’s Sexing the Transman show folks having authentic solo pleasure. For more of an instructional film, try Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to Female Orgasm, which includes a workshop portion followed by several partnered scenes.
  • Do kegels. Kegel exercises, aside from strengthening the PC muscles (and thereby improving orgasms), can also help you get in tune with your body. These exercises can be done at any time, or you can purchase a specifically-designed kegel exercisor. Read our guide for more info!
  • Don’t masturbate when you’re in a bad mood. A negative mental state will impact the experience and only cause frustration. If you’re stressed, preoccupied, upset, or feeling guilty, it can be difficult to feel sexual pleasure, let alone orgasm. So when you’re ready…
  • Relax and get comfortable. It’s important to feel safe and at ease — whatever that means to you. That might mean taking a bath, playing music, and lighting a candle, or it may just mean blissful silence and a set of freshly-washed sheets. In any case, get rid of distractions as best you can: turn off your phone, lock the door, and send the kids and pets away! Preparation, aside from setting a comfortable scene, can help build anticipation and excitement for what’s next.
  • Explore your body, not just your genitals. There are many more erogeneous zones to stimulate! Begin by stroking and caressing your ears, neck, arms, nipples, hips, thighs, perineum… wherever your hands take you.
  • Spend time on arousal. When you’re aroused, your body will become far more sensitive and receptive to touch. So fantasize, watch porn, and/or read erotica to get the blood pumping first. Then, by the time you touch your genitals, your body will be primed for pleasure.
  • Lube is your friend. Lube can enhance masturbation quite a bit. Stroke 29 and Boy Butter H20 are specially formulated for stimulating a penis, while Yes and Sliquid Sea are wonderful for vulvas. You could also try a stimulating gel. When applied to the clitoris or head of the penis, Stimulating O Gel or ON Clitoral Arousal Balm can bring sensation to the area, helping you focus.
  • Follow what feels good. Despite what Cosmo may have you believe, there is no formula here. Everyone’s different and will respond differently to stimulation. Vary your speed, rhythm, pressure, and grip, as well as the location you’re pleasuring. There are some great alternative masturbation techniques for trans women and trans men. Try various positions — on your back, sitting up, on your stomach — as sensations will change. Take your time. You will find that certain techniques trigger more pleasure than others. Follow those cues!
  • And don’t overthink it. It’s really important not to let stressful thoughts creep in and sabotage you. At the same time, don’t completely zone out and disconnect from the experience. Strike a balance.
  • Introduce a toy. Sex toys can provide sensations that fingers often aren’t capable of. We have a guide to buying your first vibrator that can give you an idea of what’s out there. Other options include dildos, sleeves, and anal toys. Any of these can help enhance masturbation and add variety.
  • Orgasm isn’t always the holy grail. Constantly worrying about orgasm will distract both your mind and your body, which will work against you. If you can accept that you may not always have an orgasm, it will relieve the pressure you put on yourself.  Think of masturbation as pleasure for its own sake, not just an end result.