Solo sex is a very personal, intimate and even spiritual experience. My experience with masturbation (aka solo sex) has taught me many things. It is the key that opens the door to self-love. By providing a foundation of pleasure, it ultimately contributes to a deeper understanding of oneself.
Sex is dynamic. There is an ever-constant fluidity that surrounds sex and the people who engage in it. In my pubescent years, I remember being afraid of sex (due to conditioning of growing up in a religious family, in a small town, in a patriarchal society), but also, on a deeper level, I was afraid of my body. I don’t remember having an in-depth health education course that taught me about sex or the changes happening to me on an anatomic, physiological or emotional level. Instead, I learned sex was gross and if you have it before marriage you will get AIDS, get pregnant, and probably go to hell. Fun!!!
As a woman, I can’t tell you how important it is to know your body. It is vital that you know the inner workings of your specific vessel in order to know how it operates for you. I am shocked at how little importance is placed on sex health. The vagina is a mystery — a mystery that is often not shown in a particularly pleasant light. Growing up, everything I knew about vaginas existed synonymously with shame. For example: periods are gross, vaginas smell bad, and if you have an enlarged clitoris guys will make fun of you. Not surprisingly, as we live in a society that perpetuates male pleasure and deprives women from everything except making their counterpart another sandwich. Essentially there is, in my experience, a general societal belief that vaginas are too complex and women too complicated. Men, on the other hand, are easy — stroke their stick and the fountain erupts.
If people are taught that something is difficult, what is their motive behind learning to master it? My personal opinion is that most people would rather take the easy way out, disregarding the time and effort that goes into mastering any craft. Because of how off-putting this dialogue is, I know many women who dislike masturbation and even receiving oral sex from their partners. But remember, hard work and understanding pay off!
I remember being afraid of my vagina. When I got my first period, I was terrified and didn’t know what to do. I took a similar approach to solo sex. I was a horny prepubescent and had no clue how to manage my urges. As I recall, I humped everything I could in the privacy of my room. Towards the end of elementary years, I remember a friend introducing me to the joys of the Jetstream in our local swimming pool. From there I discovered how to masturbate with the running water from my bathtub; truly heavenly.
It wasn’t until high school that one of my best friends pulled me aside and told me I needed to masturbate using my hand. Shout out to her! The emphasis she placed on how important it was to know my body gave me the confidence to explore myself. Before that, I had a hard time even looking at my vagina in the mirror. It took a little time to figure it (and myself) out, but let me tell you, the reward was so worth it.
But I didn’t fully understand just how important masturbation was until I started having sex as an adult. Suddenly it became apparent that I needed to understand how my body worked in order for my partner to be able to please me. In this way, solo sex contributes greatly to sex with a partner(s). As the saying goes, if you can’t pleasure yourself how can you expect anyone else to pleasure you. When my partners asked me how I reach orgasm, I realized I both wanted — and needed — to be equipped with the answer.
Try a bunch of different things and see what fits.
This is where the fun part comes in. Discovering where your sexual interests lie coincides with the trial-and-error technique. Try a bunch of different things and see what fits. It is also very enjoyable if you have a partner who is willing to help you out with this task. I have always been a very experimental person, and I believe keeping an open mind really helps. That being said, it is also super important to know where your boundaries (emotional and sexual) lie so that you can communicate that to your prospective partners. Sex is dynamic, leaving your interests ever-changing. What got you off when you were younger may not do the trick now. Yet another reason why maintaining a healthy solo sex routine helps you to continually understand your wants and needs.
On a purely anatomic level, solo sex has taught me the heights to which my body is capable of achieving. It is common for women to not be able to reach orgasm when having penetrative sex with a partner. Unfortunately for me, I am one of those women, but through masturbation I have been able to train my body to learn how to orgasm from penetration by practicing. I bought a dildo that catered to my g spot and used it, along with clitoral stimulation, to train my body to achieving orgasm via this sensation. Eventually I was able to achieve orgasm without clitoral stimulation (although I prefer both) but through the penetrative act alone. This has improved my sex life immensely.
The fact you can teach your body to react and respond to different things, like in exercise training, astonishes me. Just like working out any muscle, sexercise is a real thing! Sexercises, such as Kegels, can do wonders for the vagina. The pelvic floor exercises have been linked to better urinary health, preventing vaginal prolapse, and mind-blowing orgasms. Other benefits of sexercise, the physical act of sex or preparation of, include: lower blood pressure, increased immunity, decreased risk of prostate cancer, reduced stress, raised self-esteem, and better sleep patterns. The hormone oxytocin, which is released when you orgasm, is shown to help form bonds (between people or with yourself) and build trust.
In many of my interviews (and personal dialogues with friends) it has also been brought up how masturbation can help work through sexual trauma. By focusing on yourself and reclaiming your body, as well as your sexuality, you are inadvertently healing those wounds. Having someone violate you sexually is more than enough cause to want to dismiss sex entirely. As a survivor of such traumas, it is my experience that masturbation helped me create autonomy over my body again. For that I am thankful.
And quite possibly my favorite reason for solo sex is that it cultivates self-love. Having sex with myself has proven to be such an intimate act. It has ultimately contributed to my self-worth and self-esteem. Along with boosting my confidence, it also helps me relieve stress in a healthy manner. By creating a space to develop intimacy with myself, I have built a solid foundation to create intimate relationships with friends and lovers. For these reasons and more, I continue to cherish solo sex and everything it has to offer
Shelby Sells is a sexologist, writer, photographer, and cinematographer based in NYC. Her work is centered around the intersection of love, sex and relationships. She aims to liberate sexual prowess through these mediums and educate my audience through emotional intelligence and awareness. She is finishing her degree in Psychology with a Human Sexuality focus.
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