Vulva owners have a variety of experiences and desires for masturbation. Some might enjoy it and do it frequently, but for some, it may not cross their mind at all or might feel uncomfortable. Religious beliefs, shame factors, and stress cycles can add a problematic layer to sexuality that can make it challenging to find what is pleasurable for your body as well as create barriers to exploring a meaningful connection with yourself. However, masturbating can be about more than just achieving orgasm when you are feeling sexy and don’t want or have a partner! As a therapist, I find that I “prescribe” masturbation for a variety of reasons, and here are my main three:
When You Want To Understand Your Body Try Masturbation
Another sex therapist and friend of mine, Victoria Haynes, shared that she often prescribes masturbation for her vulva-owning clients that have not been able to explore their own bodies due to upbringing or shame. She states that she“assigns exploration with a mirror first” so that clients can see the physical parts of themselves and start to become more familiar with their own bodies. This is so important not just from a sexual perspective, but to understand where different sensations and pressure can be coming from.
For example, if you started to notice pain, burning, or discomfort in the vulva region, it would be important to be able to describe accurately where you were feeling it to a doctor. Unfortunately many are not taught anatomy in detail in school and have to find alternative ways to learn it. Additionally, learning your own body is critical as no two people have the same body. If you google “vulva pictures” or “clitoris”, you’ll get thousands of hits, but that does not mean anything looks like yours! Being able to understand what your body looks like and what it does is healthy, normal, and important.
To Encourage De-Stressing Try Masturbation
Sex has significant mental health benefits, so it would make sense that masturbation does too. Masturbation is similar to sex in the sense that it releases important neurotransmitters such as dopamine, oxytocin, and prolactin. In a previous article, I wrote that having a solid night of sleep is instrumental in not only your sex life but your overall well-being. There is a relationship between sleep and stress, so the better and deeper you sleep, the less likely you are to experience stress symptoms.
If I have a client that is struggling with anxiety, stress, or panic and I am aware masturbating is not actively happening, I almost encourage it as it can help you get that chemical boost and go to bed relaxed! Many people believe that masturbating is purely sexual and should happen when you are feeling frisky, but that just isn’t the case. Sometimes we need a few minutes to re-center ourselves physically in order to re-center ourselves mentally, and masturbating is a very effective way to do that.
To Take Ownership of Your Sexuality Try Masturbation
Masturbation can be essential to a healthy sex life for many adults as it can assist you in learning what you do and do not like. For example, if you start a new sexual relationship with a partner and you find yourself not enjoying it as much but you also do not masturbate, it can be difficult to express to them what kind of changes or improvements you would like. Do you find that you like predominantly external stimulation? Do you enjoy vibration but find yourself distracted if the pressure is too high?
Experiencing your body by yourself allows you to better focus and insight into what feels good to you. Masturbation can also increase your self-esteem and body image as you begin to trust you can bring pleasure, and orgasms, to yourself. This can translate into the bedroom as a newfound sense of confidence and openness to exploration and can ensure that sex is about you just as much as it is your partner. It is important to recognize that the person most responsible for ensuring you get pleasure is you.