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Masturbation May: 5 ways to celebrate self-pleasure this month

To get stuck into Masturbation May, here are 5 sexpert-recommended tips for celebrating self-pleasure.

Let’s be honest – most of us don’t need the month of May as an excuse to flick the bean, charm the cobra, burp the worm, or whatever you want to call it. That being said, if you’ve been looking for more reasons to justify extending your “me time,” here’s a perfect one.

In case you didn’t know, Masturbation May is celebrating its 27th year. It was launched by Good Vibrations – an iconic sex shop in the US that pioneered the development of safe, educational and sex-positive spaces for women. The idea for Masturbation May was inspired by Dr Joycelyn Elders; a former Surgeon General and sex-ed advocate considered hella progressive for her time.

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Back in 1994, Elders was forced to resign after saying that masturbation education in schools may lead to a decrease in unsafe sex. Conservatives blew her statement way out of context and thought she might be suggesting dildos in class or something.

Good Vibrations knew what she was actually on about, though. In 1995, they declared “the merry, merry month of May” as National Masturbation Month. The movement later became international, and now, here we are.

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Masturbation – most of us do it, most of us like it, and most of us have probably figured out that it’s good for our health in some way. So, why do we need a four-week global campaign about it every year?

“Because many people still feel guilty about it, or feel they do it too much, or feel it’s a second-best substitute for ‘real’ sex,” explains Good Vibrations.

“We think it’s important to bring it out into the open and let people feel better about what they’re doing.”

In other words, let’s stop feeling bad about touching our junk! But of course, for those who might’ve grown up being shamed for this act, getting rid of the unnecessary guilt can be easier said than done.

“Given the negative messages children often receive about touching themselves while growing up; it’s understandable they may retain elements of shame and embarrassment which can affect their sexuality for the rest of their lives,” explains Matty Silver in The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Self-pleasure is, indeed, our birthright – so why is it still a taboo topic in many social circles? Well, there are a lot of reasons at play, including religious beliefs, misinformation and historical misconceptions. Inevitably, these factors have culminated in some pretty insane myths throughout time, including the notion that masturbation can cause blindness.

Many myths about masturbation, such as this one, come from back when people believed sex was only meant for procreation,” explains Dr Justine Marie Shuey; a board-certified sexologist from Philadelphia. “People also believed masturbation could lead to insanity, tuberculosis, hairy palms, and death. Obviously, none of these things are true.”

Luckily, modern-day society (for the most part) has shoved these fucked-up myths aside. But even with that progress, there’s still a long way to go. That’s where International Masturbation Month comes in; established by Good Vibrations “to raise awareness and to highlight the importance of masturbation for nearly everyone: it’s safe, it’s healthy, it’s free, it’s pleasurable and it helps people get to know their bodies and their sexual responses.”

So, without further ado, here are five tips from certified sexperts on how you can celebrate self-pleasure this month.

#1 – Make ‘mindful masturbation’ part of your self-care routine

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Self-care and self-pleasure go hand in hand. Neither is selfish, and both are essential. This month, you can try being a little more deliberate when it comes to setting specific time aside for yourself,  in order to prioritise self-pleasure and experience it in new and meaningful ways.

Sex and relationship expert, Dr Nazanin Moali, recommends engaging in the practice of mindful masturbation:

“Mindful masturbation is about cultivating an active awareness of your body and immersing yourself in the immediate experience of masturbation.”

This involves slowing down the pace, paying attention to your entire body, and fully immersing yourself in the feelings of relaxation and enjoyment brought on by the act. Overall, the focus is more on the journey rather than the destination. This differs from non-mindful masturbation, which is often centred around reaching climax as soon as possible.’

Moali says, “regular masturbation is like driving a car to your final destination without being conscious of the journey or paying attention to how you even got there.” In contrast, mindful masturbation “involves actively taking in the beauty of your environment as you drive, paying attention to detours and new routes. Not infrequently, you may discover exciting new paths that will make the trip even more enjoyable.”

Why you should try it

If you’re someone who often has trouble achieving The Big O, or feels overcome by insecure thoughts about your body during sexual activities, Washington-based sex and mental health therapist, Nancy Owen, recommends giving mindful masturbation a shot:

“Mindful masturbation is great for everyone, but in particular for those who struggle with orgasm or sexual shame that impedes pleasure, as it gives permission for the person to engage in touch simply for pleasure’s sake, with no specified goal,” she says.

According to Owen, other benefits include lowered anxiety and stress, and “improved emotional regulation.”

How it’s done

When it comes to mindful masturbation, there isn’t one specific right way. The experience will be a little different for each person, but the main objective is to take the time to connect with different parts of your body and focus on discovering pleasurable and interesting sensations wherever they arise.

Reflecting on her own mindful masturbation journey, NYC-based sexuality writer and coach, Niki Davis-Fainbloom, recommends creating “a positive environment” to begin with:

“For a lot of folks, cleaning their bedroom will help to create a space of relaxation and enjoyment. Some folks enjoy taking a bath, lighting a candle and putting on some relaxing music to set the scene.” She continues, “I highly suggest turning off your phone and clearing your calendar for at least an hour (if not seven) so that you can really sink in and enjoy the experience.”

Unlike run-of-the-mill masturbation, which typically neglects most parts of our body except the main sex organs, Niki recommends “getting in touch with your whole self.” She says, “you could begin by standing naked in front of a mirror and looking at your body. Take notice of at least three parts of your body that you like. Then lie down and begin to touch yourself, focusing in and thinking of those three parts.”

She continues, “take the time to explore your erogenous zones from your chest to your inner thighs, before narrowing in on the bullseye. Pay attention to the types of pressure, rhythm and movement that feel good for you.”

#2 – Treat yourself to a new toy (you deserve it!)

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When it comes to sexual stimulation, the main goal for a lot of people is orgasm. And whether it’s achieved manually or electrically, we can all agree that it feels incredible. For some people, however, reaching that climax through manual stimulation alone can be tough.

“For people who struggle with using their hands to masturbate — or who simply don’t enjoy it — touching oneself can take a toll,” writes Vanessa Martin, a licensed sex therapist and columnist at Allure magazine. “A vibrator might be much easier for you to use since it does the majority of the work for you.”

Finding the right vibe for you

When it comes to finding the right battery-powered stimulator for you, Carly S., pleasure educator and founder of Dildo or Dildon’t advises women to contemplate what sensations they already like to experience during solo or partnered sex.

“Knowing what places you like to be touched can make it easier to find a tool that helps you touch that place in a feel-good way,” she explains.

So, if you’re a “nub-rubber” for the most part, Carly suggests investing in a good clitoral vibrator. The good news is, there are plenty of them to choose from, but “wand, bullet, and palm vibrators are the most common categories,” according to Gabrielle Kassel; writer at Healthline.

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If internal penetration is more your thing though, you should probably think about how shallow or deep you like it: “During penetrative sex, do you find yourself pulling your partner deeper inside you? Do you L-O-V-E doggy style or riding on top?” asks Kassel.

If your answer to these questions is a resounding YES, then you’re probably a fan of getting your “A-spot” (anterior fornix zone) or “C-spot” (cervix) stimulated. These pleasure zones are situated at the far end of the vaginal canal. So, to reproduce that “deep and full” sensation you may have experienced during partnered sex, Kassel recommends trying “a long insertable vibrator like the LELO Liv 2, Fun Factory Stronic G, or Unbound Bender.”

However, if you prefer to stay on the more shallow end of internal penetration, you probably favour “G-spot stimulation,” in which case, Kassel suggests opting for vibrators like “the LELO Gigi, Dame Arc, or Satisfyer Petting Hippo.” 

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So, whether you’re bored with your current collection of battery-operated joysticks, keen to explore some new sensations, or you’ve just been waiting for the right time to pop your sex toy cherry, Masturbation May is the perfect excuse for you to spice up your self-pleasure routine by picking up one of these bad boys.

For men and women who are seasoned travellers in the sex toy game, it’s no secret that these vibrating little helpers can make self-pleasure a hell of a lot more exciting. And the great news is, the incredibly wide range of them out there means there’s something for everyone.

So, if you’re looking for a great place to shop for your next pleasure-igniting product, our friends over at Lovehoney are currently hosting a Big Brand Event on their site, offering up to 50% off on their most popular brands. You can check that out here.

#3 – Talk shamelessly about self-pleasure

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Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you make a public announcement every single time you stick your hands down your pants this month! But in favour of destigmatising masturbation, it might help to talk about the topic with people in your life that you normally chat about things like that. Close friends, significant others, or anybody else you’ve sussed out well enough to know they’d be cool with it.

You don’t have to dish out all the nitty-gritty details, either…unless y’all want to. Overall, it’s really more about normalising the topic and taking some of the awkwardness out of it, in an effort to lower the shame and criticism still attached to this normal act.

If you’re not comfortable having that conversation, however, that’s understandable. After all, no matter how common and natural it is, masturbation is still a deeply personal and strictly-private practice for many people, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to discuss anything that makes you uncomfortable. But in case you’ve been feeling secretly embarrassed about your cheeky little habit, or the fact that you do it on the daily, it’s time to put your mind at ease.

According to Planned Parenthood, “studies show that about 7 out of 10 adult men and more than 5 out of 10 adult women masturbate. Some people masturbate more than once a day, some people masturbate once in a while, and some people never masturbate — and all are completely healthy and normal.”

So, no matter your masturbation habits, it’s safe to assume that most people around you are doing it, or at least have at some point. Chances are, those burning questions you’ve shied away from asking (or Googling) about masturbation, your sexual preferences, and whether your habits are normal, have crossed other people’s minds too.

According to certified Aussie sex coach, Georgia Grace, feeling like you don’t have a safe, judgment-free space to get these questions answered can negatively impact sexual experiences, both individually and with others.

“Many people experience sexual shame as a result of limited education, misleading information, no access to sex-positive spaces or opportunities to inquire, religious teachings that condemn sex beyond procreation, and culture of taboo around sex, bodies and relationships,” explains Georgia. “It’s setting people up for a lifetime of confusion and not so great sexual experiences.”  

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Thankfully, however, the last few years have seen a gradual uptick in the amount of accessible online research about the topic, as well as in the development of safe spaces where people of different ages and backgrounds can freely acknowledge, discuss, and educate themselves on sexuality.

For children and parents, for example, there’s Outspoken Sex Ed. Established in 2018, the organisation aims to address important knowledge gaps that may arise from insufficient sex education in schools. Their goal is to foster open conversations between parents and young people about sexual health, body image, consent, self-pleasure, and relationships.

#4 – Get your partner involved

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Self-pleasure doesn’t have to be a solo experience, it can be shared. According to sexual health expert and tantra coach, Tara Skubella, mutual masturbation can positively impact relationships in multiple ways. For starters, it can bring couples closer together: “Self-pleasuring with a partner, whether in person or virtually, can be one of the most intimate and sexual experiences we can share with a person,” she says.

Not only can it help you and your S.O. feel more connected to each other, but it’s also a great opportunity to learn more about each other’s desires, and demonstrate what you like. Sex and relationship therapist, Todd Baratz, says: “Mutual masturbation can be used as a learning opportunity where you show each other what feels good.”

Gabrielle Moss and Khristine Fellizar, writers at Bustle, add, “showing your partner exactly how you like it done, by showing on yourself, can make a world of difference — a picture (of you touching yourself) is worth a thousand words. And no, this doesn’t have to be dryly educational; showing your partner how you like to ring your own doorbell can be sexy as hell, especially if you incorporate dirty talk, toys, other touching, or whatever else your heart and vag desire.”

Whether they’re a voyeur or active participant, mutual masturbation with a partner can go down in a number of ways.

“Although there’s some debate on the term, it can mean whatever you want it to mean,” explains Dr Jill McDevitt; resident sexologist at CalExotic. “One partner can masturbate while the other watches, both can get it on simultaneously, or they can alternate on and off.”

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To kick things up a notch, NYC-based sex therapist, Stephen Snyder, recommends bringing sex toys into the mix: “Once you both have a toy you like, try using them in front of each other. Mutual masturbation is hot, folks!”

Snyder continues, “the really good way to use a vibrator in bed with your partner is to take the vibrator in your own hands, like you would if you were alone. Don’t worry about them feeling left out. Give them something to do, if that makes you feel more comfortable—like stroking your hair or kissing your neck.”

#5 – Set the right mood

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Whether it’s scented candles, a sexy video, erotic fanfic, or a Spotify-curated ‘Masturbation May’ playlist, setting the right mood can make all the difference in your self-pleasure journey over the course of this month.

“TBH, it’s pretty hard to get turned on when your room smells like leftover salmon and you’ve got clothes thrown everywhere,” writes Gabrielle Kassel in Healthline. This is why arranging the right atmosphere can be crucial. Pleasure educator Carly S. recommends thinking about doing things “that will ignite each of your five senses.”

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For your aural senses, “a sexy playlist” or “erotica audiobook” might do the trick. To enhance your self-pleasure visually, Carly suggests cleaning your room or watching porn. For taste, she says, “brush your teeth, taste yourself, or eat some dark chocolate.”

So with that in mind, dim the lights, pour a glass of champagne, crank up the tunes, slip into something sexy/comfortable, and have yourself a Happy International Masturbation Month!