All products featured on Glamour are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. I had my first orgasm swimming alone one summer evening in the neighborhood pool. I didn’t even know what female masturbation was yet but wading up to a jet, I instinctively rested my heels on the tiled edge, opened my legs, and felt the benefits of female masturbation in all their glory. Afterward, walking home in my damp one-piece, I decided to never tell anyone, somehow aware that what I’d just experienced was too taboo.…CONTINUE READING
Here’s the thing: Women masturbate. Perhaps your first foray into masturbating wasn’t with a pool jet but a stuffed panda bear with one eye—looking at you, Booksmart—or My Little Pony à la Pen15 (truly a seminal show). Whatever it was, it doesn’t matter who or what turns you on, it matters that we talk about it—and that we feel free to do it without shame.
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The benefits of masturbation are plenty (more on those in a moment), for women especially. “We become powerful” when we masturbate, says Nan Wise, a cognitive neuroscientist, licensed sex therapist, and author of the forthcoming Why Good Sex Matters. “We stand up and say, ‘Hands off my body, let me put my own hands on my body.’” It’s not just a physical act but a psychological one.
Here are the most powerful benefits of masturbation that will convince you to make some time for yourself ASAP.
1. Let’s cut to the chase: masturbation feels damn good.
Obviously, masturbating feels amazing—your clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings—reason enough to reach for the vibrator. There are actual pleasure pathways in the brain that are strengthened by masturbation, Wise explains. She’s devoted years of research to mapping them out specifically for women—something that (not shockingly) hadn’t been done before. “I noticed that when women simply thought about those regions [of their bodies], they were able to activate the pathways,” she says. With enough practice, “these pathways become well-tuned highways for sensations in the body,” especially pleasurable ones.
Pleasure alone is reason enough to masturbate—something women don’t always feel comfortable with. “Really give yourself permission for pleasure so that when you do experience the biophysical benefits, you can actually bask in them,” says Jenni Skyler, a certified sex therapist and sexologist at the Intimacy Institute in Colorado.
So go ahead: Own your orgasm; be its primary contact, its first number on speed dial. It belongs to you before it belongs to anyone else.
2. Self-pleasure can help improve your sex life with a partner—how’s that for a win-win?
Knowing what feels good is important for more than the obvious reason—once you know what gets you off, you can teach your partner.
“If you feel like bringing an outsider into the circle of trust, masturbating will help you know which moves don’t cut it and which to advocate for,” says Skyler. “There’s a lot of utility to just knowing yourself and advocating for your own needs.”
3. Masturbating can help increase a stagnant libido.
It’s Tuesday night and you’re tired; your partner wants to Netflix and chill, but you would rather Netflix and sleep. Raise your hand if this situation sounds familiar.
If it does, it’s totally normal. “A falling off of desire happens for lots of people, in particular women in long-term relationships,” says Wise. But making time for masturbation can actually increase your sexual appetite when you’re with a partner.
Let’s go back to the concept of pleasure pathways—the more you walk down them on your own, the easier it will be to find them when you’re with a partner. When women masturbate, “we’re activating the systems that will turn on our appetite for sex and, in a bigger way, even our appetite for life,” says Wise. “Seeking pleasure from ourselves with ourselves is a really good way to keep those neurochemical and hormonal systems primed.”
4. All that self-love can help you destress and relax the same way meditation or mindfulness might.
There are four stages to the sexual-response cycle—desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution—each of which comes with waves of hormonal fluctuations. Put simply, genital stimulation—orgasm or no orgasm—lowers the bad (the stress hormone cortisol) and heightens the good (endorphins), triggering that rush and release feeling. In studying pleasure and the brain, Wise’s research also shows widespread brain activations during stimulation, which means “the brain is getting oxygen, which is really good for it,” she says. (One 2017 study even suggests that higher levels of sexual activity can help protect your cognitive functioning as you age.)
Masturbation can also be a mindfulness practice. Think about it: Focusing on your own pleasure leaves no room for the stress of to-do lists or whatever is giving you anxiety at work. Masturbating can be a very pleasurable path to a state of zen. Wise has seen this in her patients, many of whom come into sessions overthinking: “They’re in their heads, not attuned to their bodies at all. There’s a real imbalance there.” Masturbation can give you space to feel really present, establishing a connection between mindfulness and pleasure. Make self-pleasure a part of your self-care routine; you might like it more than Headspace.
5. Getting off can even help you get a better night’s sleep.
In the last stage of the sexual response cycle, resolution, it’s not uncommon to experience fatigue, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It makes sense; your body has just experienced a lot: muscle spasms and contractions, a rush of blood, and spikes in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.
6. When you get comfortable with masturbating, no one can legislate your orgasm.
The female orgasm is all about pleasure—it has nothing to do with reproduction. It’s time to own that idea, and masturbation can help. “Take a stand now for owning our bodies; find the pleasure in them,” says Wise.
If I could say anything to that girl walking home from the neighborhood pool in her damp one-piece, it would be this: Don’t hide the pleasure you take in yourself. Tell your friends, tell them to pass it on, and tell your daughter one day: Women should and do masturbate.
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