by Dr. Barb DePree, M.D.
Whether we are on our own or with a partner, self-stimulation is an important skill for anyone who wants to develop and maintain her ability to enjoy sex. It becomes even more important as we get older, as hormones wane and it takes more effort to get the same result, sexually speaking.
Few women, even when young, achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration alone: It takes direct stimulation of the clitoris for most. And even if your partner is doing the stimulating, for you to articulate what you like, you need to be familiar with your own body. Like any skill, the more we practice self-stimulation, the better we get.
Self-stimulation accomplishes two important things. On your own, regular stimulation helps you remain responsive to sexual attention when it comes your way. And when it is time for partnered sex, stimulation by you or your partner can ready all of your genital tissues for enjoyment.
Betty Dodson, who's taught generations of women to discover and enjoy their sexuality, teaches five elements of self-stimulation: clitoral stimulation, vaginal penetration, pelvic movement, pelvic muscle contractions, and breath work.
- Set aside some uninterrupted time and privacy in a warm room where you can recline comfortably. Think about pillows or bolsters to support your back and hips. Silence your cell phone. Save the wine for later (alcohol will dull your senses).
- Take a few deep breaths before you start. It's tempting to hold your breath for long periods during stimulation, but try to remember to breathe deeply and often.
- Pelvic muscle contractions and pelvic movement: Mastering Kegel exercises will make you familiar with your pelvic floor. Flexing that muscle rhythmically now while rocking your hips forward and back or in a circular motion, in a rhythm that works for you, will stimulate deep pleasure centers.
- Vaginal penetration: This is nice, but not necessary for everyone. Many women like to use Kegel weights, a dilator, a vaginal vibrator, or dildo to offer their vagina a feeling of fullness during stimulation.
- Clitoral stimulation: If you are unfamiliar with your clitoris, take some time before you attempt self-stimulation to learn its anatomy (see this blog post for an illustration). The glans is the sensitive little button that peeks out from under its hood when it's excited. Behind it is the shaft, which also grows longer and harder when stimulated. Branching off of the shaft and running down behind your labia are the two crura, long leggy extensions of the clitoris which are quite sensitive and fill with blood as you get excited.
- Many women like to use their fingers to lightly stimulate the glans and shaft, and the their whole fingers in a peace-sign to stroke the length of their crura on either side of the glans. Many of us want and need more stimulation over longer periods, so a clitoral vibrator can be handy. Use the vibrator to stimulate the entire body of the clitoris and internal and external labia. You may want to investigate other sensitive areas with your vibrator, like your perineum, inside thighs, lower belly, and nipples.
It's a good idea to aim for two sessions each week. Try not to have a specific outcome in mind: Yes, orgasms are nice. We've never met anyone who didn't love them. But the goal of stimulation is to take care of yourself by exercising your sexual organs, feeling good, and feeling alive as a sexual being. Orgasms will come in their own time and way.