Give Yourself a Hand: Part Two (Female Masturbation!)

Our guest writer is a UNC graduate student in public health who focuses on sexual health and the social factors that influence it.


Female masturbation! In Give Yourself A Hand: Part One, I explored varying perspectives on female masturbation throughout history and some of its less obvious benefits. Here, I offer an introduction into its mechanics for those female-bodied readers newer to the solo no-pants dance. Because I wanted you to be informed by more than my thoughts and experiences, I solicited the input of lady friends across the country. To those wonderful women who opened their bedroom doors to us, I offer my sincerest thanks.

Masturbation can be defined as self-stimulation of genitalia for sexual pleasure. I like this broad definition, because it reminds us that there are no rules about how and with whom you masturbate, and that masturbation does not need to result in orgasm in order to be pleasurable. Still, in the varied forms that female masturbation takes, there are a few key things to keep in mind:


Pretty obvious, but it’s important enough to mention anyway. While many women masturbate to relieve stress or frustration – or even to procrastinate – feeling thoroughly aroused can make the experience exponentially more enjoyable. Take a moment to relax your muscles and clear your mind. Add in some music, reading, or a movie that makes you feel sexy and turned-on. Often, situations from your own life can be your aphrodisiac. One friend noted that it was visiting mentally-stimulating environments like museums and libraries that gets her juices flowing; for another, it was falling in love.


There is a great deal of variation between women’s sexual responses. You may experience a long plateau between initial arousal and orgasm while masturbating. This is not a cause for concern. As one woman described: “I’ve found that when I am stimulated (by myself or a partner) too quickly, the orgasms are weak or don’t happen at all. If you need to, start slow, then give yourself some warm-up time in a way that makes you feel sexual.”


The clitoris tends to be a focal point of female masturbation – and with good reason. As the anatomical structure with the highest concentration of nerve endings (yes, even more than the male penis), the clitoris is a powder keg of sexual potential.

Just below where the inner labia converge at the top of the vulva lie the glans (head) and shaft of the clitoris, but they are usually covered by the clitoral hood. During sexual excitement, the clitoris swells, but with further arousal and/or stimulation, it will retract under the clitoral hood. Prolonged massage of the clitoral area will likely buy you a one-way ticket on the Orgasm Express. Still, I’d recommend taking some time to explore what kinds of clitoral stimulation you like best – light or intense pressure; circular, back-and-forth, or figure-eight motions; contact by one or multiple fingers, vibrators, running water, or other objects; indirect contact through clothing or humping pillows, blankets or furniture. Lubrication can greatly enhance pleasurable sensations – manually explore the vulva and especially the vagina, which swells and secretes fluid during arousal. You may also enjoy using other types of lubricant – be it oil, silicone, or water-based [a word on that below].


It’s not just for intercourse! Many women involve vaginal or anal penetration in their masturbatory practices. Like clitoral stimulation, penetration can be achieved with one or multiple fingers, or with other objects such as vibrators, dildos, or those ancient-yet-trendy ben-wa balls. Once again, lubrication is key, but make sure your lubricant matches your toys of preference (for more information, see this helpful post.


While the genital area is often the focus of masturbation, your body has many other sources of pleasure worth getting to know. Stimulation of the breasts and nipples is frequently part of women’s arousal and climax – some can orgasm through caressing their breasts without any genital contact at all! But don’t stop there. Try stroking other areas – your neck, inner thighs, earlobes, buttocks, navel, and even armpits are erogenous zones primed with concentrated nerve endings that can provide lots of sensual pleasure. Experiment with positions, toys, and props; as one gal notes, “your self-love life can be just as varied as your partnered love life.”


Clearly, one thing to love about masturbation is the ability to experience sexual pleasure provided just by you, just for you. But as you discover what most turns you on (and off) through auto-stimulation, communicate that to your current/future intimate partner(s) to make your shared sex life even more enjoyable. Among the friends I surveyed, most had incorporated masturbation or masturbatory techniques into their partnered sexual practices, and felt that masturbation had enhanced pleasure with a partner.

But whether or not you have a partner, masturbation can be a great way to get to know your body, enjoy sexual satisfaction, feel sexy and – most importantly – show yourself some love.


Come for an encore performance of “Orgasm? Yes Please!” on 2/13/13 at 7pm in the Great Hall at the Carolina Union. Tickets will be available at the Box Office in February (free and one per OneCard).


Babeland ( and Good Vibrations ( are both female-friendly sex shops with fantastic websites that feature loads of how-to’s, product reviews, and live chats for questions.
Dodson B. Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving.1996.
Solot D, Miller M, Chiang S. I Love Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide. 2007.
Sundahl D. Female Ejaculation and the G-Spot: Not Your Mother’s Orgasm Book! 2003.
Winston S. Women’s Anatomy of Arousal. 2009.

5 thoughts on “Give Yourself a Hand: Part Two (Female Masturbation!)

  1. Natalie Rich January 15, 2013 / 12:20 pm

    This is an amazing post! I love how you talk about different types of arousal. So true. There are so many ways to get satisfaction from sex.


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