Indiana Daily Student

Speaking of Sex: The right way to masturbate is doing whatever feels good to you

I masturbate, but I don't think in the "right" way. Frankly, I'm terrified of what's down there, but I still want to have sex at some point. Is this okay? Sometimes I think having a loving partner will make me feel at ease with my body, but other times I worry I'll never be comfortable with anyone until I am with myself, and I'm not sure when that will happen.

Masturbation and spending quality time with our genitals can feel like a shameful or even dirty act. These feelings can stem from a number of places, whether they be psychological, trauma-based or even cultural ideas about how we “should” or “shouldn’t” masturbate.

Silence surrounding desire and masturbation has ingrained in us self-doubt and a willingness to compromise our pleasure. Thankfully, there is no right or wrong way to masturbate.

I spoke with Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez, a sex educator, coach, researcher and author pursuing a doctoral degree in health behavior at the IU-Bloomington School of Public Health. Her work focuses on identity, relationships, consent, pleasure and communication.

Related: [Speaking of Sex: Our new series responds to reader-submitted questions exploring gender, sexuality]

Masturbation is a safe, common and natural way to learn about our bodies. For people with vulvas and vaginas, it can involve methods such as penetration and clitoral stimulation — with or without a sex toy — to achieve orgasm. Or it can involve none of those things. You can masturbate to relieve stress, explore your body or for any reason that works for you.

“You don’t have to reach orgasm through masturbation,” Rosenstock Gonzalez said. “It’s really a space and time for you to dedicate to yourself in whatever pleasurable form that is for you, and ideally without having to have specific goals, since those for some people can be stressful.”

If you’re having trouble masturbating, what is your intention? Is your intention to prove that you can orgasm? Or is it to know your body, feel different sensations and explore your body?

Our brains are the most useful tool in how we decide to masturbate, so a positive view of pleasure and the ability to be vulnerable with ourselves and our potential partners is important. That’s not to say that masturbation and figuring out what makes us feel good is a simple task.

Often, when we’re scared to talk about sex or even our genitals, it’s rooted in some form of shame. This might be something to consider before or while you are sexually active. If you are experiencing shame, where else in your life are you experiencing shame and how is that hindering you?

“If you’re unable to share when something hurts, or when you do or don’t want to do something, or if you’re unable to share your insecurities and ask for support in being present, those things will make it difficult for you to have a safe, consensual and pleasurable experience,” Rosenstock Gonzalez said.

Regardless, getting to know your body in its entirety is not necessarily a requirement before having sex. The emotional and intimate aspects of partnered interactions may help you learn about your body in conjunction with your partners if you are comfortable and in a safe space to request your wants and needs.

“I do not think you need to love yourself in the ways people tell you you should,” she said. 

Instead, Rosenstock Gonzalez said, you should enter a space in which you can ask if your situation is serving or honoring you or feeding into negative tendencies.

Toxic positivity culture teaches us we’re always supposed to be happy with our bodies and love ourselves all the time. We can alleviate some pressure by embracing our vulnerability and being open to confronting some of our innermost feelings of shame.

Ultimately, deciding when, where, why and how to masturbate or have sex should be a decision only you can make.

Rosenstock Gonzalez told me that body love is not a destination, but a lifelong journey. The right way to masturbate is doing what feels good to you, and you do not need to master your body completely in order to have safe and pleasurable experiences. 

Speaking of Sex will be an affirming, nonjudgmental space exploring a myriad of topics related to gender and sexuality such as bodily normalization, pleasure-focused sex, healthy boundaries, consent and alternative relationships. You can submit questions via email at speakingofsex@idsnews.com or anonymously in this form.

Editor’s note: Advice offered is intended for informational use and may not be applicable to everyone. This column is not intended to replace professional advice. 

Peyton Jeffers (she/they) is a senior studying human development and family studies and human sexuality. She is a member of Camp Kesem at Indiana University.

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Comments


Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2021 Indiana Daily Student