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SEXUAL HEALTH

The Ultimate Guide to Masturbation

by SUNNY MEGATRON AND KEN MELVOIN-BERG
Published: APRIL 30, 2016 | Updated: JUNE 15, 2021
There is no one way to masturbate or one thing that works for everyone. That’s why it’s important to explore new techniques and parts of your body regularly.

Masturbation is defined as touching one’s own body for sexual pleasure. It sometimes ends in orgasm, but not always. For many, masturbation is a taboo topic often referred to by euphemisms like jacking off, flicking the bean, or spanking the monkey. It’s frequently a source of guilt and shame few openly admit to doing (although that's starting to change!). Science tells us, however, that self pleasure is exceptionally common. One of the largest masturbation surveys, Tenga's Self-Pleasure Report, found that 88% of respondents have masturbated. Some people masturbate multiple times a day and are still considered perfectly happy and healthy.

Researchers and experts overwhelmingly agree masturbation offers a myriad of psychological and physical health benefits. Masturbation can relieve stress, boost your immune system, ease insomnia, and even make partnered sex better. It’s not only a normal part of human sexual development, it’s a very important part of a healthy sex life. Luckily, negative societal attitudes about masturbation have lessened in recent years. Gone are the days when we believed masturbators risked growing hair on their palms or would experience terrible acne breakouts. Today we have toys, tips and tools at our disposal to help us get the most out of self pleasure.

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This masturbation tutorial is designed to teach you about the many benefits of masturbation, reduce shame, and arm you with techniques to help enhance your love affair with yourself.

Masturbation Myths

Although masturbation is much more acceptable than it once was, there is still quite a bit of stigma and false beliefs about the practice and those who do it. A few common myths about masturbation:

Myth: Masturbation will make you sterile, damage your genitals, or otherwise “use you up.”

Fact: Our capacity for sexual pleasure and orgasm is infinite. It isn’t like a bank where if we make too many withdrawals we deplete all of our resources. In fact, the opposite may be true. The more we regularly stimulate our genitals the greater our capacity for orgasm becomes.

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Myth: Partnered people shouldn’t masturbate.

Fact: Sexual stimulation isn’t only for procreation or feeling more connected to a partner. Masturbation not only relieves stress, it can help us have better sex with our partners. Solo sessions allow us to discover what types of pleasure we like best. Bringing what we learn from self exploration into the bedroom can greatly enhance partnered lovemaking. After all, how can we tell others exactly what we want if we don’t know ourselves?

Myth: If you masturbate with a vibrator, it will take away your ability to orgasm from partnered sex.

Fact: Motorized sex toys offer intense sensations so they often cause people to orgasm quicker. They can also help those who have difficulty orgasming consistently reach climax more predictably. This does not mean sex the “old fashioned way” is ruined. Think of manual sex as walking to a destination and a vibrator as a car. The vibrator will sometimes get you to your destination faster, but it does not take away from the fact that walking can still be enjoyable.

Myth: Everyone should enjoy masturbation.

Fact: Sexuality is a spectrum of behaviors that vary in type and frequency. Not everyone enjoys masturbation or partnered sex and that’s perfectly normal.

The Benefits of Masturbation

A number of recent studies indicate that masturbation offers countless health benefits. It can assist with issues ranging from cancer prevention to reducing stress levels. Masturbation is also wonderful for our general well-being. It’s one of the best ways for us to learn about our sexuality and engaging in it can strengthen our romantic relationships. Here are a few of the benefits experts say result from regular self loving:

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Are you ready to fly solo?

An Intro to Masturbation Techniques

Ideal masturbation technique depends on an individual's sexual anatomy and personal preference. So, we’ll address vulvas and vaginas separately from penises and prostates. It’s also important to remember what works for most people may not work for everyone and that’s normal. Much of the fun of masturbation is experimenting to find out what specifically works for you. In addition, a person’s sexual preferences will change throughout their lifetime. There’s a good chance you’ll enjoy different things 10 years from now than you do today. You may even prefer different sensations on Tuesday than you will on Thursday. That’s the beauty of human sexuality. It’s ever-changing and not always as predictable as most of us think.

Tips for Vulvas and Vaginas

Just as our sexual response can change over our lifetime, for those with menstrual cycles, it can change throughout each cycle. Differences in sexual preference can occur during ovulation, your period, and at other points during the month.

Another important thing to remember is that there is no correct way to masturbate. We’ll go over some of the most common techniques to experiment with, but it’s up to you to determine what works for your body.

Read: 8 Masturbation Sex Positions for People with Vulvas

Masturbation Prerequisites

If you’re someone who has a lot of guilt and shame surrounding masturbation, do some self-reflection well before you dive into exploring solo. They say the biggest sexual organ is the brain. If your head isn’t in it, it will be hard to let go and reap the benefits of masturbation.

Dig down deep and ask yourself where these shameful feelings come from. If you can isolate the source of your anxiety, it may be easier to conquer it. Let’s say you realize your embarrassment stems from a dislike of your body or from growing up in a repressive household that viewed masturbation as “dirty.” With that knowledge, you can zero in on breaking down shame surrounding nudity or indulging in your own sexual pleasure. If your discomfort runs deep, you may even choose to speak with a sex therapist about it.

Before you get down to business, you also need to be familiar with what parts of your body you can explore both externally and internally. Make sure you’ve reviewed and understand the anatomy of the internal clitoris and g-spot. You may choose to consider anal play as well.

Read: 10 Ways Sex Toys Can Help You Drop Guilt and Sexual Shame

Pre-Game

The pre-masturbation set up is important especially if you’re exploring new territory and are planning on an extended session. Before you begin, make sure you have clean hands, a comfortable and private place to indulge, and lubricant and a towel to put under you if anticipate a significant amount of liquid production. Additionally, do what you need to do to completely relax. That may include soft music, dim lighting, warm room temperature, etc.

The goal of masturbation is not necessarily orgasm, although it can be a wonderful ending. Often we spend so much time chasing the goal that we forget to enjoy the journey. In the 1960s, Masters and Johnson determined that while it takes men an average of four minutes to reach climax, it can take women an average of 10-20 minutes. Modern research delivers similar numbers. Because people with vulvas need stimulation over a longer span of time ( and are capable of having multiple orgasms without a break), it’s not unusual for a masturbation session to last 30 minutes to an hour. Make sure you prepare for this and reassure yourself that if you’re someone who needs more time, you’re perfectly normal.

Become an Explorer

Remember, there is no one way to get off. You can masturbate in a variety of different positions and by stimulating different parts of your genitals. While it’s common for many people to orgasm from stroking their clitoris, that's just one of many techniques. Some people pleasure themselves by squeezing their thighs together and rocking back and forth, humping a pillow, or grinding against furniture. Others prefer inserting fingers or toys into the vagina. Still others are most likely to reach maximum pleasure by stimulating themselves anally, playing with their nipples or other erogenous zones, or performing a combination of these techniques. Those with a penchant for BDSM may even find erotic pain most arousing. For genital stimulation, steady pressure coupled with rhythmic repetition is often the winning combination leading to orgasm, whether you’re using hands or a toy.

Solo sexy time is also the perfect opportunity to try out new things you can teach to a partner later. Rather than going straight for the clitoris or another favorite spot, take some time to get to know parts of your body you may have skipped over previously.

Start exploring yourself with your hands and set your goal at simply identifying what sensations feel best. Be sure to include your entire vulva when playing externally. Rub and tug your labia and touch your vulva in new ways. Try stroking around the outside of the clit or squeeze each side of its shaft and slowly jerk it off. Stroke with one finger, then two, and then the entire flat of your hand. Rub with your fingertips then gently flick with your fingernail. Caress yourself through underwear to see what kind of feeling that creates. Play with your breathing as you play with yourself. Try slow, deep breaths or holding your breath for short periods of time. Insert fingers, starting with one and moving up to what feels best. Use two hands for simultaneous external and internal play. Masturbate in different positions or even different rooms. Add a little anal stimulation if you’re comfortable with it. Try using porn or fantasies to see if they enhance your arousal. Push yourself to think outside of the box and experiment with all the new sensations and scenarios you can think of. This way you can build a rich portfolio of favorite feelings. The more often you practice, the bigger your portfolio will become.

A Note on Lube

While some people prefer to masturbate dry, the majority opt for the silky slickness of personal lubricants. If you’ve never used lube for masturbation, don’t knock it until you try it (and no, saliva does not count as lube). The general consensus is that in most cases lube makes sex better. Many like the staying power of silicone lube or extra virgin coconut oil for vaginal play. The right lube for you, however, will depend on a number of factors. You can read more about different types of lube in Kinkly’s lube guide.

Although “there’s no such thing as too much lube” is a common saying, that may not always be true when it comes to vulvas. If you cover too much surface area with lubricant right out of the gate, it may hinder your efforts by making things too slippery. When you first use lube for external stimulation start with a little bit on a small area. You can increase this as you figure out what feels best for you. To do this, put a healthy drop of lube on your finger tip and apply directly to the area you’re touching. For many of us, that will be on or near the head of the clitoris, but not always. Lightly spread the lube over a small area until you’ve made a thin, even coat. If you’re using a toy use the same technique to apply a thin coat of lube to it also.

Learning to use lube is sort of like cooking without a recipe. Think of the lube as your spice. If you add too much lube immediately you might end up with a sloppy mess that isn’t to your liking. If you add it gradually to “taste,” increasing the amount only when you feel you need it, you’ll figure out the exact amount that works for you without accidentally overpowering your “meal.”

Vulva and Vagina Sex Toy Tips

Just as there is no one thing that feels best for everyone when it comes to manual stimulation, the same is true for sex toys. They come in all shapes and sizes, can vibrate, thrust and even be controlled by a smartphone app. The choices can be overwhelming.

Most researchers estimate anywhere from 60-80% of women require clitoral stimulation to orgasm. This is why external vibrators are one of the most popular sex toys for people with vulvas. Palm size or wand style vibrators are suitable for many. Rabbit-style dual simulators are very popular also. These kinds of vibrators have a clitoral tickler plus a vibrating insertable dildo that can be used simultaneously. Those who prefer internal stimulation can choose from a wide variety of vibrating and stationary dildos.

If you aren’t very experienced with sex toys, it can be difficult to choose a suitable one. How do you know what you will like if you can’t try before you buy? Well, when you build your manual stimulation portfolio, you should have figured out what type of basic stimulation you like best - internal, external, or both. That will help you narrow down your choices quite a bit. Next, if you like external stimulation, for instance, ask yourself if you prefer pinpointed sensation on one area of the clit or if you like it to cover a wider surface area. This will help you pick the shape and size of your toy. Lastly, determine if you can take very intense sensation or if you are more sensitive. This helps you decide what type of power capability your toy should have.

Quiz: Which Sex Toy Should You Get Your Vulva Next?

Popular sex toy review bloggers generally do a good job of analyzing which types of toys are best for certain types of sensations. Visit review blogs to find out what’s getting the best reviews and which sex toys mimic your favorite sensations. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few options, go to a sex shop if you have one near you to check out some of the in-store display models. Most shops will have toys charged up and ready to test out on your hand. Expect to experiment with different toys over time until you find what’s perfect for you. You may eventually find a few favorites that suit you for different moods. (Learn more in Our Top Tips for Buying Your First Vibrator.)

Masturbation Tips for Penises and Prostates

Masturbation is quite literally one of the best things you can do for yourself. Even better, it’s free, feels really good and doesn’t require any help. Cumming is good for you too. In fact, studies suggest frequent ejaculation can reduce prostate cancer risk. Luckily, you have many options when it comes achieving satisfying solo sessions beyond the standard get hard, stroke and repeat until orgasm.

One of the more amusing things about our relationship with masturbation is our tendency to not want to talk or think about it in serious terms. We give our penises cute nicknames like one eyed pal, cyclops, Fred, Wilma, heat seeking moisture missile, willy, dick, cock, John Thomas, tallywacker, and bald bishop. Well, you get the idea. And we do the same for the act of masturbation. In fact, there are many more nicknames for penis masturbation than for vaginal masturbation like:

  • Choking the chicken
  • Beating the bishop
  • Spanking the monkey
  • Waxing your dolphin
  • Polishing the rocket
  • Bleeding the weasel
  • Buffing the banana
  • Playing pocket pool
  • Pumping the python
  • Having an appointment with Dr Gropenfeel

In order to get the most out of masturbation, we need to be a little serious. It’s important that you’re familiar with your pleasure anatomy, which includes the penis, testicles and prostate. You also need to be aware of the plentiful options you have to choose from for maximum self-pleasure.

We live in an age of modern wonders where orgasm technology has become a game-changer. Think about all the things we use for jacking off these days besides our hands and cock. We regularly use computers, cell phones, tablets and even paper magazines (if you’re retro enough to have porn made out of trees). To take it further, we have all kinds of toys, lube, love dolls, or specialty items at our disposal. Whew! It’s exhausting just thinking about all the stuff you can use to jack off.

Below are some pro tips to assist those with penises and prostates in their masturbation adventures!

Masturbation Prerequisites

Before you get started, check your penis and balls for any health issues that may prevent you from masturbating safely. There are several things to look for when evaluating a penis for good health. Does it have sores? Are there any lumps on your testicles that shouldn’t be there? Is there raw skin? Are there pimples or ingrown hairs? Health issues like diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, breathing problems, low/high blood pressure, or an STI may affect your ability to masturbate. You can also check with your doctor to make sure your particular health issue does not impact arousal and that you can safely engage in sexual activity.

Next, it’s important to know whether you are able to get an erection.The largest issue with both mental and physical health for penile masturbation is erectile dysfunction (ED). If you are older, depressed, stressed out, or have diabetes, or hypertension you may have erectile issues that are beyond your control. You can still enjoy sexual touch if you have ED, though. Prostate massage and certain vibrating penis sex toys don’t require an erection to produce pleasure. (Read 8 Tips for Choosing a Prostate Massager for tips on how to pick out a prostate sex toy.)

In addition to cock stroking, you may choose to play with your butt or prostate during masturbation. If this is the case, you’ll want to make sure your back door is in good health too. Do a quick self-examination by checking yourself out with your fingers. Feel for lumps, cuts and bumps in places they shouldn’t be. If you find anything out of the norm or have difficulty urinating, have your doctor perform a rectal exam. This is especially important if you have a family history of prostate cancer or have a history of hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or polyps.

Masturbation Inspiration

Not everyone needs something to inspire the urge to masturbate. Those who do commonly use porn (this includes both video, audio, and written erotica), their own dirty thoughts, or an object.

These days porn is plentiful, available in every form, and includes something for everyone’s taste. Some prefer written erotica so they can work out the erotic scenes in their mind’s eye. Others love traditional porn and are avid consumers. Support your local porn stars and buy from them direct whenever possible. If sex sounds turn you on, try asking a lover to masturbate and make an audio recording of it for you. This is a fun, creative and anonymous activity you can do while apart from your partner. Some people are fetishists and can’t achieve orgasm without the object of their fetish. Some examples of fetish objects needed for orgasm are smelly socks, a pie, used undergarments, or clothespins clipped on the body. Those who prefer masturbating to their own imagination often recall a sex scene they had with a partner or fantasize about a celebrity, friend, or an incredibly unlikely partner (boss, someone you dislike, a friend's spouse). Sexy thoughts you’ve tucked away to masturbate to later are referred to by some as a “spank bank.”

Many people use laptops, cell phones, and tablets as masturbatory aids. It’s not uncommon for some to lie in bed with a laptop or tablet propped up on their chest allowing them to masturbate with two hands.

Masturbation Inspiration

Not everyone needs something to inspire the urge to masturbate. Those who do commonly use porn (this includes both video, audio, and written erotica), their own dirty thoughts, or an object.

These days porn is plentiful, available in every form, and includes something for everyone’s taste. Some prefer written erotica so they can work out the erotic scenes in their mind’s eye. Others love traditional porn and are avid consumers. Support your local porn stars and buy from them direct whenever possible. If sex sounds turn you on, try asking a lover to masturbate and make an audio recording of it for you. This is a fun, creative, and anonymous activity you can do while apart from your partner. Some people are fetishists and can’t achieve orgasm without the object of their fetish. Some examples of fetish objects needed for orgasm are smelly socks, a pie, used undergarments, or clothespins clipped on the body. Those who prefer masturbating to their own imagination often recall a sex scene they had with a partner or fantasize about a celebrity, friend, or an incredibly unlikely partner (boss, someone you dislike, a friend's spouse). Sexy thoughts you’ve tucked away to masturbate to later are referred to by some as a “spank bank.”

Many people use laptops, cell phones, and tablets as masturbatory aids. It’s not uncommon for some to lie in bed with a laptop or tablet propped up on their chest allowing them to masturbate with two hands.

Male Sex Toys

Hands

Hands are one of the best masturbation tools we have. You can use them dry, but many prefer t o lube them up for stroking. Instinct and repetition is the best method for masturbating the cock and balls when using hands. In fact, watching someone masturbate their own cock is one of the best ways to figure out how to give that person a good hand or blow job. Don’t neglect the balls and the scrotum. Tugging down on the sack and balls with lubed up fingers can add amazing sensation.

Lube

There are two specific types of personal lubricant that are ideal for penises, butts and most toys.

Silicone lube is hypoallergenic, vegan, and is one of the slipperiest, longest-lasting lubes on the market. Always look for a silicone lube with the fewest ingredients. Lubes with fewer than four ingredients are the least likely to include fillers, which means they are the most effective. Silicone lubes may not be compatible with all silicone toys. Because of potential compatibility issues, some people choose to never use a silicone lube with a silicone toy while others spot test and take their chances.

Extra virgin coconut oil has health benefits beyond consuming it in food and drink. It is an amazing lube to use on your cock or in your butt. It’s also great for your skin and digestive tract. The only negative thing about it is that you cannot use any oil-based lube with latex condoms, gloves or toys. Oil-based lubes made specifically for sex have great staying power too but they are harder to find.

While water-based and hybrid lubes are certainly better than nothing, they are not the most ideal for masturbating. They tend to dry and gum up quickly, especially when stroking or using for anal play.


Penis Toys

There are two basic types of sex toys for penises: motorized and manual strokers.

In the motorized category, most toys vibrate while some oscillate. The difference with these types of motors is vibrating happens in all directions at once while oscillating moves to and fro. Some motorized toys focus on the head of the penis, the underside of the cock, or the entire shaft. There are a number of toys that can be used on a soft penis while others require an erection.

You don’t need to buy a special penis vibrator to enjoy motorized sex toys. It’s possible to use any kind of conventional vibrator on your cock, balls, perineum (taint), and your external anal area.

Conventional strokers are a soft tube or u-shaped item that you lube up, stick your lubed cock into, and slide back and forth until orgasm. They are made to mimic a mouth, vagina or anus. Usually, these are made from TPE, TPR, or cyberskin. They come in vibrating and non-vibrating versions.

Butt and Prostate Toys

Most butt toys range in size from the girth of a finger to a penis. The most important rule of any butt toy is: “Without a base, without a trace.” Meaning, don’t put things in your butt that don’t have a handle or flared base. Basic butt toys and plugs differ from prostate toys in that they are not angled specifically for a prostate and just go straight in like a penis. Some vibrate and some don’t. It’s critical to use ample amounts of lube with any type of anal insertion to avoid pain or injury. Most people use a butt toy while stroking their penis with their hand or another toy.

Prostate toys are shaped like a crooked finger with a bulb at the end for massaging the prostate. Prostate orgasms are said to be the most intense someone with a penis can have. When using a prostate toy, the curved tip should point up towards the belly button. (Get more tips in Guys, Here's How to Hit the P-Spot Using a Toy.)

Toys for prostates also come in vibrating and non-vibrating versions.When using a toy to milk your prostate, it’s important to use lots of lube and take lots of time - at least 20 minutes - to orgasm. Just before you cum, massage the prostate gently with slight pressure. Milking your prostate once a month feels great and there's some evidence it can decrease the risk of prostate cancer as well. This is because the process oxygenates the prostate causing it to dispel all the fungal, bacterial, and viral build up.

Everything Else

Massaging your feet, rubbing your own thighs, or even throwing on a set of nipple clamps can be a great prelude to a masturbation adventure. Don’t forget about ambiance; a hot bath, incense, candles, music, etc., can all be used to enhance your mood.

Masturbation Tips for Couples

You don’t always have to masturbate alone. Mutual masturbation is a wonderful form of sex that can serve many purposes. First of all, it can be hot to watch a partner hungrily please themselves. It can also help you learn to satisfy them better because you can see exactly what techniques and toys they prefer. Mutual masturbation is also a great way to explore sexually with a partner without STI risk. Many couples say mutual masturbation helps them feel more connected to a partner because they can really let go, be themselves and learn new things about their lover.

A Recap of What We've Covered

Let’s recap what we learned about masturbation.

Masturbation shouldn’t be a shameful act; it’s natural and healthy. In study after study, medical professionals have cited a laundry list of amazing benefits that accompany self-pleasure. Also the “use it or lose it” theory may be true as regular masturbation strengthens muscles helping us get the most out of sexual pleasure and orgasm. It can also help with loss of libido and erectile issues. Additionally, because regular masturbation helps us become better lovers to ourselves, it can make sex better with our partners too. One of the best ways to learn exactly what pleasures you and be able to explain it to someone else is to figure it out yourself first by exploring solo.

Contrary to popular belief, masturbation doesn’t have to end in orgasm or only involve the genitals. For some, a relaxing pleasure session without release can be very satisfying. The pressure of performance anxiety can sometimes affect us even when we’re alone; removing the goal of orgasm may help us enjoy the ride.Those with penises don’t even need to be erect to experience sexual pleasure. Masturbation can involve more than the genitals too. Nipples, butts, and any part of your body that feels good to touch can be part of the fun.

There is no one way to masturbate or one thing that works for everyone. That’s why it’s important to explore new techniques and parts of your body regularly. Our sexual preferences also change over time. With regular exploration, you may discover new affinities, or rediscover old sensations. Sex toys and lube also enhance solo sex, and your preferences for them can evolve over time as well.

Whether this tutorial is new material to you or a simply refresher, you can use this guide as inspiration to take your solo session to the next level. You never know how even the littlest shift in perspective may change your sex life for the better!

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Photo for Sunny Megatron and Ken Melvoin-Berg
Sunny Megatron and Ken Melvoin-Berg

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