Some body parts you might consider including in your masturbation session: your nipples, chest, neck, thighs, labia, perineum (the space between the vagina and anus), and anus. “Play with variations in sensations like light, medium, and hard touch by fluttering your fingers, pinching, slapping, or grabbing,” DiFrank suggests.
6. Remember that sex toys can be a lot of fun.
Sex toy shame is, thankfully, at least somewhat lifting culturally in the U.S., but embarrassment isn’t the only reason you might not be embracing them. Maybe you’re getting off just fine without a toy, or you don’t know where to start with one. If your fingers feel better to you, by all means, do your thing, but many people find that toys add to their pleasure both alone and with a partner, Laurie Mintz, PhD, sex therapist and author of Becoming Cliterate, tells SELF. One 2009 study on more than 2,000 women in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that participants who used vibrators reported better overall sexual functioning, including increased arousal and more frequent orgasms.
And in case you’re concerned, vibrators are unlikely to become “addictive,” replace your partner, or desensitize your clitoris, Dr. Mintz adds. They can, however, “give you the type of stimulation most likely to lead you to experience orgasm,” she says.
Not sure where to begin with toys? “I strongly recommend starting with a clitoral vibrator, particularly one with multiple speeds and patterns,” she says. “But, if you know you like combining external and internal stimulation, then go with a rabbit vibrator.”
7. Know that less might be more—pleasurable, that is.
Given all the clichés about the “elusive female orgasm,” it’s no wonder many of us think we need to blast our clitorises with vibration on the highest setting to get off. But clits are super responsive—you may not even have to touch yours directly to feel intense pleasure. One of the biggest mistakes I see people with vulvas make is thinking they need to make direct contact with their clitoris,” Vanessa Marin, LMFT, sex therapist and creator of online orgasm course Finishing School, tells SELF. “For a lot of people, the clitoris is too sensitive for that.”
And even if you’re feeling just fine with powerful stimulation, experimenting with different levels of intensity can help you get to know your body even better. Marin suggests experimenting with keeping your underwear on when you masturbate or touching the areas around the clitoris with your underwear off. “You can also try rubbing through the labia, or even circling around (but not directly touching) the clitoris,” she says. If you require (or simply like) more stimulation, there’s nothing wrong with that either, but it can help to get a sense of your sensitivity level first, so you can find your sweet spot.
8. Free your mind; the rest will follow.
Another way to become more dialed in during your sexy self-time is to stop hyper-focusing on reaching orgasm. “Letting go of that agenda allows us to discover new pleasurable terrain and increase our erotic intelligence,” says somatic sexologist Jaiya Ma. She suggests setting aside just 10 or 15 minutes for goal-less masturbation, during which you can stimulate different parts of your vulva and surrounding areas with different types of touch, varying the speed and pressure. “You can explore around the clit, the pubis mons, inside the folds where your inner thighs meet with the pelvis,” Ma says. When your attention starts to drift, bring it back to your body to tune into the sensations you’re feeling. You might actively avoid orgasming (more on that below) or allow it to happen if it happens on its own; the key is not to force it, she says.
9. Know that if you build it, you will (be more likely to) come.
And speaking of orgasms, prolonging the climb can make them that much more intense once you get there, Dorian Solot, sexuality educator and co-author of I Love Female Orgasm, tells SELF. Plus, it can be a fun way to stretch out your me-time. Solot recommends playing what she calls the “game of 10:” “Masturbate until you get close to orgasm but stop before letting yourself climax—that’s one,” she explains. “Pause to let your arousal fall back a bit, then change to a new position and masturbate close to orgasm again—that’s two. Repeat (in a different position each time, if you want) until you reach 10 and finally let yourself enjoy the blissful release!”
10. Just add water—with a showerhead or not.
The showerhead is a self-pleasure icon, and for good reason: “Detachable showerheads with multiple speeds can be a wonderful way to engage in self-love,” Markie Twist, PhD, marriage and family therapist and certified sexuality educator, tells SELF. “You can control the speed, pressure, and positioning—and there’s no clean-up.”