Exploring the act of self-pleasure for the first time can feel downright daunting. Despite its proven benefits, masturbation isn't yet a totally accepted practice, and there's continued stigma surrounding the topic for various reasons, from religion to insecurities. However, as Dr. Sara C. Flowers, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told NYLON, masturbation is crucial in gaining a better understanding of your body.
Ultimately, whether you decide to masturbate or not remains entirely up to you, and as is the case with anything regarding your body, it all comes down to what you feel comfortable with. "People of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, and ability status masturbate — and that’s completely normal and healthy. It's also normal to not masturbate because it's a personal decision and totally up to you to explore, or not," Dr. Flowers said.
How Can You Feel Confident About Exploring Self-Pleasure?
Self-pleasure is a personal experience, and how you decide to enjoy the time with your body will come down to personal preference, Heather Mayone Kiely, Director of Tribeca Therapy, told NYLON. "For some, I think simply exploring their body parts with their hands and a mirror, really getting to know their body, the sensations, the part, the aesthetics, can be a great and simple and straightforward way to start," she said.
Dr. Flowers further backed the notion of spending time becoming familiar with your body, noting, "Some challenges to comfort with masturbation may also be part of how we feel about our bodies and our standards of beauty. Like other body parts, genitals don’t always look like what is shown in the media or pornography — and yours is perfectly normal. Normalize that every body may look different."
What Are The Benefits Of Self-Pleasure?
Along with providing you a more thorough understanding of what you like sexually, masturbation comes with added physical and mental benefits. Dr. Flowers explained that masturbation releases endorphins, which are hormones that can block pain and increase pleasure. With the release of endorphins, you may find that masturbation allows you to "relieve stress, sleep better, improve your self-esteem, release sexual tension, or ease cramps from your period," she said.
Masturbation is even more important during a time in which social distancing is encouraged. "People —quarantining alone or with partners — may masturbate to relieve stress and/or find joy," Dr. Flowers said. "Furthermore, it is natural to yearn for physical touch because, let’s face it: skin hunger is real. Pleasure and touch may help people manage anxiety and feel secure. Masturbation, and mutual masturbation may help folks build connections to self and others that are personally fulfilling, physically satisfying and emotionally healthy."
What To Know About Buying Your First Vibrator
There are multiple options for practicing self-pleasure, but when it comes to purchasing a sex toy, it again all comes down to your comfort level. For those that want to start with a vibrator, Polly Rodriguez, CEO and Co-founder of Unbound, suggested keeping a few things in mind while you shop. "The diversity in size and price point with vibrators can be really overwhelming to a first-time buyer, or a seasoned pro. When looking for your first vibe focus on the following: make sure the materials are body-safe, decide on a price point that you feel comfortable with, and start small if that makes you feel more comfortable." For first-time buyers, she suggested looking into bullet vibrators or smaller vibrators.
Before using a vibrator for the first time, she suggested carefully reading any accompanying information, and ensuring that if a product needs charged or batteries, that it's all set up and ready to use. "Whether you're new to toys or a pro, if it's the first time you use a toy, take your time and don't expect to go from 0 to 60. It might take a few sessions to get the hang of things and that is perfectly ok. You're there to enjoy you and that product is just there to help you do that more."
We only include products that have been independently selected by Nylon’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
What Can Help Enhance The Self-Pleasure Experience?
Whether you're new to the act of self-pleasure, or this is familiar territory for you, experts did recommended ensuring you have the right products to enjoy the experience. According to Rodriguez, allowing yourself time to become accustomed to masturbation is key. "When you are new to sex toys (especially internal ones), it might take a while to become more comfortable with penetration," she said. "The best thing you can do for yourself is to breathe, be patient, and get a water-based lube. Lube can really help to keep things moving and aid your body's response to pleasure whether. you're pleasuring solo or with a partner."
Along with the use of lube, Dr. Flowers said that you should always begin with a thorough clean of your toys, and by washing your hands. "If you’re using sex toys — either alone or with a partner — remember to clean them before and after every use to prevent germs from building up," she said. "You can also use a condom on your sex toy to help keep it clean and avoid any germs that might be on it from getting in your body. No matter which option you choose, just remember to always clean your sex toy or put a new condom on it before the sex toy touches another person’s genitals to prevent spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or germs. Also never put a sex toy that’s been in an anus into a vagina or mouth without washing it first or changing the condom."