Self-Pleasure That’s Really About Pleasure

Self-pleasure is a particularly relevant topic right now, as COVID-19 reshapes the way we conduct our lives, including our intimate lives. Many of us are quarantined, sheltering in place, or socially-isolated, and most of us are avoiding unnecessary contact with others, even if we’re still going to a physical workplace. Some are separated from partners, others are not. Either way, this moment in history is an opportunity to explore your own sense of what is erotic. I’ve gotten some questions about this topic, so today, I’m going to focus on self-pleasure and how to build a stronger erotic connection with yourself. 

In our culture, we tend to assume that desire comes from outside ourselves: we see a sexy person walk by, and we get turned on. But the truth is that desire comes from within: when that sexy person walks by, it leads to a thought, and that thought comes from within you. It’s your interpretation of any given stumulus that makes it erotic, and results in you feeling turned on. It’s not a “bolt from the blue;” it comes from your own erotic self. 

Why is this important? This is the point I want to make: because sexual desire is essentially seated with you, it is something that you can nurture. This is where building a positive relationship with your erotic self starts. Could you build the ability, within yourself, to turn yourself on because you want to be turned on? To feel sexy because you want to feel sexy? To create a sexual vibe within yourself, because you want to experience that? 

In our culture, self-pleasure is called masturbation, and it’s seen as a sin, or as somehow harmful. We’re subjected to tons of propaganda about the dangers of self-pleasure, social, religious, and otherwise. I want to reframe that: self-pleasure is simply that, pleasure you create for yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you have one partner or multiple, whether you’re in the same home or in different homes, or whether you’re sheltering in place separately or together. Everyone has access to their own feelings of desire and arousal within themselves, and this is a great opportunity to explore that.

When we talk about masturbation, the implication seems to be that it’s a quick and somewhat shameful thing you do in secret. Maybe you do it for a purpose: 

  • to manage anxiety
  • because you’re bored and it gives you something to do
  • as a study break or a work break
  • to relieve your menstrual cramps
  • to help you go to sleep
  • to relieve intense feelings of desire

Now, all of those are great reasons for self-pleasure, but it seems to be that the “pleasure” part is strangely absent. If this is a sneaky, shameful thing we do as quickly as possible, just to get it over with, I think we are selling ourselves short. 

What if you really treated self-pleasure as a form of pleasure? What would make it luxurious and lovely? Think about it for a minute. 

  • Would you light candles? 
  • Would you take your time? 
  • Would you tease a little? 
  • Would you bring in some other things that are sexy to you? Maybe some props or a sexy story? 
  • Maybe a sexy phone call with your beloved? 
  • Would you explore your body more broadly?

Whatever you would choose to bring in to make your self-love deeply pleasurable and erotic is wonderful; it’s all about discovering your inner eroticism and following where it leads. 

If you missed last week’s blog, check it out here; it’s all about self-pleasure strategies partners can use to stay connected while they’re self-isolating. I’m going to be vlogging and writing a lot more in the coming weeks about the impact of COVID-19 on sex, intimacy, and relationships, so stay tuned!

How Self-Pleasure Can Help Partners Stay Close in the face of COVID-19

Last week, I blogged about how COVID-19 has impacted people’s romantic and sexual lives. Today, I’m following up by offering some practical advice for how people can maintain a fulfilling intimate connection and a joyful sex life, even when they’re socially distanced from their partners. I’m going to be focusing on self-pleasure, because it’s one of the most useful skills you can have for maintaining a satisfying erotic life. 

Contrary to popular belief, self-pleasure can be immensely useful for strengthening your sexual connection with your partner. This is more true than ever right now, when many people are socially distanced from their partners, either because they’re living in separate households or because they’re trying to avoid sharing germs within the same household. It can be very disappointing and frustrating to be unable to physically connect with your partner in person. Right now, if you are socially distanced from your partner, you can’t have partnered sex, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share erotic experiences, or experience intimacy and closeness. That’s where self-pleasure comes in. 

If you have clients who are socially distanced from their partners, now might be a good time for you to get comfortable discussing the concept of self-pleasure with your clients. They may need your help to think creatively about the possibilities for connection that are still open to them, even in this time of social distancing. They will also need your encouragement: it’s hard, but they can get through this. It’s going to be okay. In fact, I think there are some ways that partners can actually take advantage of this situation to build skills that will help them to create a stronger sexual connection now, and in the future. 

In our culture, we tend to assume that sexual touch should be from one person to another person. I don’t agree with that idea. In my experience, one of the most powerful sexual skills you can possibly have is the ability to touch yourself for pleasure when your partner is with you, and for you to find it erotic to watch your partner do the same. 

That’s because, over the course of their life, there are almost certainly going to be situations where partnered sex is off the table. We’re living through a very dramatic example of that principle right now, but this will probably not be the last time that your clients find themselves in a situation where their typical ways of having sex aren’t working for them. 

When that happens, you don’t want them to have to shut the door to intimacy entirely. Self-pleasure is an incredibly useful, and versatile, skill. Being able to experience pleasure in tandem with your partner, without worrying about giving them an orgasm, or about triggering sex pain, or about having an orgasm too quickly or too slowly, can really reduce anxiety, and therefore free up more psychic energy for pleasure and connection. It can allow partners to have a joyful, connected sexual experience, when otherwise they may have had a stressful, disappointing experience, or given up on having sex entirely. 

The key to having great sex over a lifetime is flexibility. If you want to maintain a fulfilling sexual connection over the many changing circumstances of a lifespan, you’ll need to be able to respond creatively to new challenges. Now is a perfect moment to practice that skill. Let’s imagine that you’re on some kind of videoconference platform with your partner, and you’re having an intimate interlude. You’re going to have to touch yourself if you want there to be genital touch, because your partner is far away, on the other side of a screen. This is the same for phone sex and sexting. Of course, if you just want fun, juicy flirtation, you can totally do that without touching your genitals. But if what you want is genital touch, I’m here to remind you that you can do that. Just put your hand on your genitals, and enjoy the vibe you can build with your partner when they’re doing the same. 

This as an opportunity to for your clients to build their repertoire of ways to experience erotic connection with one another. If they can respond to this moment with creativity and flexibility, it will certainly pay off in their relationship down the road.

3 Ways to Connect With Your Sexual Self

Last week, I wrote about why I believe it’s essential to cultivate a good relationship with the erotic side of yourself. I talked about how it can improve not just your own health and happiness, but your relationships. I also shared a series of questions that you can ask yourself if you want to release some negative ideas or stereotypes that you may be carrying about self-pleasure. If you missed last week’s blog, you can find it here.

This week, I’m going to be building on last week’s installment by sharing some tips for ways to improve your relationship with your erotic self. Some of these are activities, and some are shifts in attitude. This isn’t a prescription, just a set of ideas–you can pick and choose from this list based on what sounds exciting, enjoyable, and useful to you. Happy browsing!

  • Connect with your senses. Many people don’t feel very connected to their bodies–and particularly their experiences of bodily pleasure. They’re tuned out from their senses. They may notice when something feels bad, but they don’t necessarily check in and notice when something feels good. So take some time to pay attention to the small moments of pleasure you experience throughout your day. It doesn’t have to be sexual–you can try paying more attention to the feeling of warm water hitting your back in the shower, or the delightful feeling of freshly-washed sheets, or the sweet smell of flowers in your garden.
  • Consider your “erotic theme.” Most people have certain fantasies that they return to again and again. As diverse as these fantasies appear on the surface, there’s often a core theme or themes running through them. For instance, a variety of different fantasies might be united by the idea of being so wanted by someone that they are willing to break a taboo or act totally out of character, just to be with you. Think about the fantasies that you return to, and ask yourself what unites them. Why do they continue to resonate with you? What’s the spice that makes them sexy? Understanding your erotic theme can help you identify fertile new ground to explore, as you can develop new fantasies that fit into, expand, or develop your core erotic themes. If you’re able to express what you discover to your partner, it can be a fun, sexy conversation, and also help them understand where you’re coming from and what sex means to you.
  • Release yourself from expectations and pressure. One of the most common reasons that people don’t explore new sexual activities, fantasies, or experiences is that they’re afraid that they won’t be aroused enough to get hard and stay hard, or to reach orgasm. They might also be worried that they won’t reach orgasm quickly enough. Any time you try something new, it is likely to take some time to figure out how it works. That’s just life. But there are so many benefits to switching things up sexually that it is more than worth the journey. Plus, the journey itself should be fun. Imagine just exploring pleasure without a lot of outcome goal or time pressure. You can do this either alone or with a partner, but for the moment I’m focusing on self-pleasure. Next time you try this, make sure you won’t be interrupted, and create an intention of deep self-loving, not just “getting off”. Take the time to allow arousal to ebb and flow. Remind yourself that there is no rush. Allow yourself to explore freely–you can always return to your usual style of touch or your favorite fantasy when you want to.

If you’re interested in learning more about the many benefits of switching up your sexual routine, you might want to check out these previous posts:

What Makes Good Sex Good?

Getting What You Really Want Out of Sex

Good Sex Over a Lifetime

Are Vibrators Habit-Forming?

Flexibility is the Key to a Satisfying Sex Life