This post was formulated and edited by Sujata Martin, MS OTR, CD.
Have you introduced yourself… to yourself?
Female pleasure is a topic that almost all societies globally tend to overlook. Female sexual pleasure and orgasm are often considered only to exist in the presence of a partner, who is usually male. Even in this co-dependent idea of a pleasurable sexual experience, female pleasure often is accidental or a “by-product” of the the male partner’s desire, pleasure & orgasm.
This minimizing of the female sexual experience leads to the normalization of sexual pain conditions, and decreased or absent sexual pleasure & orgasms among women. While sexual pain and decreased or absent orgasms affect a women’s quality of life and her intimate connection with her partner, it also affects her gynecological and overall health. These concerns can also be signs of hormonal imbalances, pelvic floor muscle tension, and poor pelvic muscle strength.
A 2006 study found that in women, sexual intercourse & orgasm are associated with mood enhancement, fertile menstrual cycles (ovulation is more frequent) and improved vaginal function post menopause.
Importance of a self pleasure practice
Now that we know all the benefits of sexual pleasure & orgasm, we ponder on how to use this normal bodily function to improve our physical & emotional health. While partnered intercourse has numerous benefits, it is not accessible to all women consistently. Learning to self pleasure can hep improve self confidence both inside and outside of the bedroom. A woman who is comfortable with self pleasure is also able to enjoy partnered intercourse more.
While the use of toys is an easy way to access self pleasure, gaining confidence in the use of one’s own hands for pleasure is recommended by our sex counselor, Sujata Martin MS OTR/L.
Ms. Martin, who offers in-person and teletherapy sessions to individuals & couples to improve their sexual confidence and intimacy, says “Battery-operated toys are a sure-fire way to experience pleasure, however no human partner – male or female – can match up to the level of stimulation electric toys can provide. Relying solely on toys for self-pleasure can lead to disappointment & dissatisfaction in partnered intercourse.”. This does not mean one should steer clear of all sex toys. We recommend making the best of both worlds by using toys along with only manual or hands-on self pleasure sessions.
Learning to self pleasure is also an effective way to decrease pain associated with gynecological health conditions like vaginismus, vulvodynia, or dyspareunia. Self pleasure can be used to relax pelvic muscles before using an internal pelvic massage wand or dilator set used for treatment of tight or hypertonic pelvic floor muscles.
Learning to self pleasure
Now that you have decided to try exploring your sexuality, here’s where you can begin.
The process of a woman’s self-discovery, or self-exploration of her body can manifest feelings of confidence and self-acceptance while deepening her understanding of her role as a lover to herself.
Unfortunately, the complexities of life experiences, upbringings, cultural backgrounds, education, and societal expectations/norms can negatively impact a woman’s relationship with pleasure. That’s why self-exploration is a pivotal practice in women of any age and background to promote a positive self-identity and a more comfortable & pleasurable intimate relationship with their partner.
First, acknowledge if you have received any negative messaging around your body and sexuality by the closest to you or from pop culture. This could involve thoughts or attitudes that may have been learned from your family, friends, religious system, or media. If these leave you with negative feelings about exploring your physical body, acknowledge that this is normal and there is no shame in increasing your familiarity with your genitals. Increased body literacy has several health benefits and helps improve overall confidence as well.
Who is self-exploration for? Self exploration can benefit women desiring to learn self-pleasure for the first time (remember, this can be at any age), those who wish to improve their ability to orgasm with partnered intercourse, women experiencing pain with intercourse, and/or past guilt & trauma which influences their ability to engage in intercourse comfortably.
What does self-exploration look like? Let’s dive into the steps of the female self-exploration process. You may enter this process with questions and preconceived notions. The steps below are a general overview of female self-exploration. The following article is general guidance to improve your individual experience of sexuality. Please work with a sex counselor for individualized care. You can contact our sex counselor here for personalized guidance.
The self-exploration begins with just you, and you only. You’ll want to practice in a calm, distraction-free area. Ideally, find an area in your home where you can create soft lighting by dimming lights or lighting candles, play soft music, and have little interruption from family members or pets.
By yourself, spend 2-3 minutes gently touching areas of your body, starting at your face. You will want to use soft, loving touch around the face for this period of time before moving down to the body, spending 2-3 minutes exploring & caressing each part. (Ex: face -> breast -> stomach -> pubic area). You can alternate between using the palm of your hand, and the back of your fingers for this loving self-exploration.
Let go of the pressure of expectations with this touch. It doesn’t have to look or feel a specific way. Your touch may or may not be pleasurable. Just remember, the goal is not to orgasm. Your goal is to familiarize your body with your own touch.
You can create a more relaxing experience by positioning yourself comfortably semi-reclined in bed and softly closing your eyes. When practicing gentle loving touch, practice long & deep exhales and sighs as you visualize your whole body relaxing downward towards the bed.
To fully assess if this practice is beneficial, attempt the initial phase at least 3 times before judging it to be beneficial or not.
After you have spent the time with yourself and your body, you may introduce your partner for parallel self-pleasure. You are not receiving any touch or penetration from your partner at this point, instead, you are showing your partner “what works for you” in terms of self-touch or self-massage, anywhere and everywhere.
When you are ready to engage in intimate touch and/or penetration with a partner, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to support your experience:
– Schedule intercourse: Sex doesn’t have to be, and isn’t always spontaneous. Try discussing and setting a day and time for intimate activities so you feel prepared and have adequate energy levels for connection. Your partner can also help you be more relaxed and present for intimacy by taking care of chores or reducing other responsibilities you may have earlier in the day.
– Create a calming physical environment: Just as you did in the beginning stages, experiment with calming sounds, dim lights, and smells in your environment to hep you feel relaxed. Once again, this should be an area with minimal interruptions or distractions. It may be helpful to use a use an alcohol-free water based lubricant to make vaginal insertion easier for enhanced pleasure.
For tips & tricks to enhance pleasure during partnered intercourse, watch recommendations from our sex counselor below –
For more information on female self-exploration or sexual health in general, get connected with our pelvic floor therapist or sex counselor who can work with you to address barriers to improving your sexual connection and confidence.
Pelvic Soul LLC continues to be the best-rated Pelvic & Sexual Health practice in Tampa, and can help you feel comfortable and confident with your sexuality & intimate relationships. Call (813) 563-1585 to claim your complimentary consult.