Spanking the monkey. Jerkin’ the gherkin. Slapping the salami. There are hundreds of euphemisms for male masturbation, most of them funny, most of them known. While masturbation among men is generally perceived as normal, common, and even necessary, female masturbation is still one of the most taboo of subjects (up there with our periods and our difficulties with orgasm).
Even with our girlfriends we don’t go there. A woman will spill every detail about the mind-blowing sex she had the night before, but the out-of-this-world orgasm she gave herself? Not a word. Though this could also be because she’s not having them: According to a recent study conducted by sociologists at the University of Chicago, only 38 percent of women reported masturbating during the previous 12 months (compared to 61 percent of men).
What gives, ladies? Taboo or not, masturbating is just about the best thing you can do for your sex life, not to mention your overall health and mood. If you’re among the majority of women who haven’t flown solo lately, it’s time to take the plane out for a spin. For those of you who’ve mastered the art of self-love—just as with sex—you can always benefit from trying something new.
Why Masturbation is a Must:
It leads to better sex, better relationships, and more pleasure. Masturbation acquaints you with your body—its needs, turn-ons, and hot spots. “Ultimately, each of us is responsible for our own sexual enjoyment,” says psychotherapist Lisa Schwartz. “By engaging in self-pleasuring, a woman can learn about her likes and dislikes, what is ‘normal’ for her — her sounds, how she feels, what she thinks about when turned on, what toys she likes. And this self-knowledge can be used to enhance her sexual experience with others.”
Stephanie Buehler, psychologist and sex therapist, agrees: A woman “needs to not only get to know her own genitals—her clitoris, labia, and vagina—but also the rest of her body, so that she can communicate that to her partner,” she says.
It’s better for your health. Much has been said about the health benefits of orgasms. If you’re masturbating, you’re having better orgasms more frequently. According to sexologist Yvonne Fulbright, masturbation can help relieve chronic back pain, alleviate premenstrual cramps, and even help you avoid yeast infections. Because orgasms cause the muscles of the body to fully relax, self-loving can also help with sleep, anxiety and stress.
It can get you through a dry spell. If you haven’t had sex in a few weeks (cough, months), getting your solo groove on can make those lonely nights much more bearable — and even a little fun.
It’s not just for the single ladies. Though many assume that masturbation is for the unattached, Fulbright assures women: “There’s nothing wrong with self-pleasuring while in a relationship. A number feel that their pleasure should be dependent upon their partner and don’t give themselves permission or see the need for it.” But the time you spend alone in the bedroom will improve the bedroom time you spend with your partner.
It promotes self-confidence. “Masturbation is self-love,” says Buehler. “It’s a wonderful way to learn that you can take care of yourself.”
Getting Down to Business
While every woman should masturbate, the ways to go about it vary from woman to woman—different strokes (literally) for different folks.
Vibrators vs. hands-on love. For many women, using a vibrator is a sure-fire way to get the job done. In fact, if a woman is having difficulty climaxing for any set of reasons—physical or emotional—sex therapists often recommend the use of a vibrator as a first step toward finding pleasure.
Sexologist Ava Cadell endorses the We-Vibe, which stimulates the clitoris and G-spot simultaneously, similar to the much-hyped Rabbit. “Visit an adult toy store and see what interests you,” she advises. “Pick a size and shape that you feel most comfortable with, and try using the toy in different positions.” These days you can even get a vibrator application for your iPod or iPhone—seriously.
A vibrator with different speeds may be useful, adds Schwartz, “since sensitivity changes during sexual excitement, and each person has a different tolerance level related to stimulation.”
But don’t feel like you have to get fancy to go solo. Your hands can work just as well, if not better. “I tend to think fingers are better because a woman can find out how she likes more delicate areas to be touched, like the inner and outer labia,” Buehler says. “She can also easily explore her G-spot with her fingers.”
Judy Kuriansky, sex therapist and author of “Generation Sex”, offers other creative suggestions: “Lift you legs up under the shower, rub a pillow between your legs, hump the side of the couch, go horseback riding or sit on anything that vibrates.” There’s no need to limit yourself, so do what works best for you—you’ll know it when you find it.
Set the mood. Once you’ve established your method, help yourself along with the right ambiance. Just as you wouldn’t want to have sex with CNN blaring in the background, treat yourself to a similar dose of romance. Draw a bath. Watch one of your favorite sex scenes. Get yourself revved up before you turn on the vibrator.
Even if we’re not yet ready to talk about it, there’s no good reason why 21st-century women shouldn’t be steaming the oyster … ugh, we need to work on our euphemisms though. Says Cadell, “You never need to make excuses about why you do it. It is a gift you have just for yourself.”
– Julie Bogart