Between long periods of COVID-19 quarantines and the recent activity of our nation’s courts, the last two years have been like one long public service campaign to get women to masturbate more. Among the selling points:
You can do it in the comfort of your own home.
There’s no risk of pregnancy, STDs, or having to deal with creepy texts afterward.
There are also some less obvious, but more scientifically grounded, perks. Research published this year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that for women at least, frequent solo sex actually enhances the quality of sex they have with partners as well. Essentially, the study authors say, while men tend to view masturbation as a consolation prize when they can’t get laid, women use it to level up in the bedroom.
Just one more way we rule the world, ladies.
“There are many benefits to solo sex, and when people feel comfortable masturbating without shame, they get to explore aspects of their eroticism, pleasure, and body that may not be as accessible during partnered sex,” says Kate Balestrieri, a licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist, and founder of Modern Intimacy, a group therapy practice with locations in Los Angeles, Miami, NYC, Denver and Chicago. “It can help a person understand more about their own fantasies, bodily responses to various stimuli, and limits.”
To really see these benefits, though, it helps to vary your routine. Boredom is one of the top libido killers, so if the sight of your favorite vibrator doesn’t thrill you like it used to, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to make chasing your next O exciting again.
Do it more often. While research has found a wide variety in how often most women masturbate (or at least, how often they’ll admit to it), the consensus is around an average of eight times a month, Balestrieri says. We can—and must—do better! After all, practice makes perfect.
Set the mood. Few women are fans of the cold call approach to sex—as in, being asked, “you wanna?” when you’re still cleaning up dinner dishes. Most of us tend to like a nice, slow burn. So, try seducing yourself for a change. Wear something that makes you feel sexy, whether that’s a thong or a swishy skirt. Sneak a few touches throughout the day if you’ve got the time and privacy for it (Zoom camera off). You can even go the whole nine with candles, music, dim lights, and clean sheets if you want. It can also be fun to edge yourself—a.k.a. bring yourself to the edge or orgasm and then stop, so you’re worked up and frustrated and wanting more. It makes the final release all the more satisfying.
Foreplay, dammit! Part of what makes partnered sex so hot (when it’s done right) is the buildup: the kissing and caressing, not just going straight for the honeypot. So, practice that yourself. Trace your lips. Pay attention to your breasts. Run your hands up and down your thighs. It can be hot when you do it, too.
Slow down. Quickies can be fun, but if you’re always rushing, you may want to ditch the wham, bam, thank you ma’am routine. One study found that on average, women brought themselves to climax in nearly half the time it took them to orgasm with a male partner. Make a game out of seeing how long you can stretch it out.
Think outside the clit … Yes, most women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. But penetration can be fun too! You can add dildos (using them as oral aids can be a turn-on, too) or anal toys or plugs to enhance a session.
…and outside the bedroom.
Lots of toys are waterproof, and the reason some dildos have suction cups is not so teenage boys can make YouTube videos of throwing them at cars. They can adhere to a variety of surfaces so you can experiment all over the house. Changing up where you have sex can heighten the interest.
Get new toys. Speaking of toys, yeah, I get it, everyone loves a vibrator. And if it ain’t broke, you don’t need to fix it. But over time, your body can get used to the same sensation. So as grateful as you are for that reliable Hitachi wand, it can be fun to see how else you can get yourself off. You don’t even have to give it up. Start by varying the setting, or the angle you hold it, or maybe only add it in at the end. Remember, you don’t always want the fastest orgasm, sometimes you want the biggest one.
Related: How All-Access Sex Toys Can Transform Your Sex Life
Change your position. You do it with a partner, so don’t get stale when you’re alone. Changing positions has the added benefit of helping you learn to orgasm in different ways, which can come in handy when you have a helper. In one study, researchers found that the more overlap between women’s masturbatory activities and the things they did with their partners, the more likely women were to overcome orgasmic difficulty, to experience orgasm, and to experience greater orgasmic pleasure. Just sayin’.
Use your imagination… In that same survey, a little more than a third of women said they engaged in sexual fantasy. But so much of sex is mental! Instead of relying on porn or the latest Marvel movie, start by reading erotica, which forces you to use your imagination. Pretty soon you won’t need the help.
…or someone else’s imagination. Porn can be problematic in many ways, but research has found that women and men with frequent pornography use were more likely to experience greater masturbation frequency and greater sexual satisfaction. “Erotic material can offer so many positive elements to solo sex,” says Balestrieri. “Some women shy away from mainstream, free porn, because it is unrealistic, lacks depth, or has a higher chance of depicting or containing exploitative dynamics. Seeking out porn that is either feminist or ethically produced can offer a set of options that cater to the female gaze, can be trusted to be free from exploitative practices, and depict a more realistic portrayal of sex that feels more accessible.”
Related: 8 Tips That’ll Help You Feel More Comfortable Taking Erotic Photos
Look at yourself. Controversial, I know. But taking sexy selfies can help get you in the mood, even when there’s no one to send them to. Plus, this can help you become more comfortable and appreciative of your body and how hot it is. Women who have a more positive body image report greater rates of sexual pleasure, says Balestrieri. “When we take pleasure into our own hands, literally, it can serve as a reminder for how awesome our bodies really are,” she says. “Without the fear of rejection or judgment, we learn to make peace with our bodies, and give permission to pleasure despite perceived imperfections. That permission can give way to permission to seek pleasure with partners, unapologetic about our bodies.” Work your way up to it with audio recordings first, then photos of your favorite features, then videos or doing it in front of a mirror.
Related: 7 Common Questions About Orgasms—Answered by Experts