As part of PAPER's month-long "Sexpress" series, New York-based sexologist Shelby Sells will be writing weekly columns that investigate modern sexuality. Dive into her sexpertise, below.
Loving someone else doesn't mean you should stop loving yourself. Masturbation is a beautiful and significant tool in the practice of self-love. Knowing how to touch yourself and give yourself an orgasm is the first stop on your way to Pleasuretown. Exploring your body and understanding how it works is an exciting journey. There are many advantages to masturbation whether you are single or in a relationship.
The old-school, patriarchal mentality that surrounds hooking up tells us it's easier to please a man than it is a woman. This leaves a lot of women feeling left without pleasure during sex and a lot of men feeling intimidated by the female anatomy. Regardless of gender or sexual identity, knowing what gets you off is important so you can understand your body better in order to show or tell your lover what feels good.
There is a lot of shame, fear, and guilt surrounding masturbation. As children we are usually taught it's bad to touch ourselves and this stigmas sometimes ends up carrying over into our teen and young-adult lives. Growing up I found creative ways to masturbate, but didn't end up touching myself and exploring my anatomy until my best friend at the time encouraged me to. Even I was intimidated by what I will refer to as my delicate flower. Once I got over the initial nervous hump surrounding my own bodily pleasure, I immediately began reaping the rewards of physical self-love and I have never looked back.
There are a number of advantages to masturbation including a better understanding of your body and the release of sexual tension. Plenty of research has shown the health benefits of masturbation. It can reduce stress, help you sleep better, improve your self-esteem and body image, help treat sexual problems, relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension, and strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas. Don't forget to wash your hands and sex toys regularly to avoid bacteria infections — and remember, lube is your friend.
Related | How to Spot the Emotionally Unavailable
Masturbation helps you figure out what you like sexually; where you like to be touched, how fast or slow, and how much pressure to apply. Knowing your pleasure points as well as your turn ons/turn offs will help you become more comfortable with sex and give you greater confidence. Each person's anatomy varies and has to be catered to differently. Not everyone is wired in the same manner and that's okay. It's important to establish bodily boundaries for yourself and your partners.
After you have established how to get yourself off, communicate your needs with your partner. Being able to have an orgasm on your own can make it easier to have one with your lover. Opening up the conversation about what gets you off is not only sexy, it is healthy and will lead to an exciting sex life. Listen and learn about what your partner enjoys. Each new lover is a fresh slate. The more you and your partner listen and tend to each other's needs, the more pleasure there is to be had.