And what if you like one way more than the other?

By Maria Del Russo
Updated: Feb 10, 2019 @ 9:10 pm
Copyright 2019 Katarina Simovic/Stocksy

One of the more iconic scenes in Sex And The City happens in season 1, when Charlotte declares to Carrie during a yoga class, “I think I broke my vagina!” Her reasoning? She’s been spending a lot of time tucked up in bed with The Rabbit, a remote-controlled vibrator that once made her orgasm for five minutes straight. (That just sounds excessive, IMO.) She then goes on to explain that she’s afraid she’ll never be able to be pleasured by a man again, because her vibrator is just too good.

Charlotte isn’t the only woman (fictional or not) who has feared busting her vag with too much masturbation. Women who love to get off solo often wonder if doing it “too much” will lead to a decreased sex drive — or a flat-out terrible time with partnered sex. Anecdotally, you could find arguments in either direction, so I consulted Dr. Angela Jones, Astroglide’s resident sexual health advisor for the real story. In short? Masturbating, even a lot, won’t screw you up with sex forever.

It all comes down to what happens to your vagina when you masturbate. And it turns out, pleasuring yourself and being pleasured by someone else aren’t all that different from a biological standpoint. “Anything that stimulates the vagina will cause it to become more engorged due to increased blood supply to stimulated areas, more sensitive, and more lubricated,” Dr. Jones says. “Masturbation, or any pleasuring of the vagina, will also cause it to become more elongated.” This happens during penetrative sex, too. Have you ever noticed that your partner’s penis seems to “fit” better in your vagina once things get going? That’s because stimulation elongates your vagina — and that’s the same thing that happens during masturbation.

The only way that masturbation truly differs from sex, anatomically speaking, is that your level of arousal may vary. Some feel more aroused during sex, while others get the most turned on when they’re approaching the situation from a solo point of view. “Your level of pleasure can also vary depending on the type of stimulation being provided,” Dr. Jones says. “So if the sex or masturbation is penetrative, if there are toys involved, and so on.” But sex and masturbating DO feel different — so what gives? Sadly, it’s more about what we’re not getting.

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The main reason women tend to think that masturbation is ruining their sex lives is because they’re really and truly getting themselves off, which isn’t happening for them in partnered sex. And a lot of times, this comes down to clitoral stimulation, which is kind of key in female masturbation and just plain is not during hetero sex. “The vagina and clitorious are two different entities entirely,” Dr. Jones says. “They both respond to touch and stimulation in different capacities.” She also says that most female orgasms are not related to penetrative sex. So you can understand why people think that masturbating with their vibrator is ruining sex for them. It’s a completely different kind of stimulation — and it works.

But here’s a silver lining: Masturbating with either your hand or a vibe on your clit can actually make sex better for you by helping you to realize that you should be bringing some of that stimulation to the table during partnered sex — either doing it for yourself or showing your person the way.

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That said, sex and masturbation can differ on a psychological level, and that’s important, too. “Allowing someone into your space and building levels of trust and intimacy are reasons why sex is appealing to a lot of individuals,” Dr. Jones says. But it can also be seriously scary — and if you’re not in a place emotionally to be that vulnerable with another person, partnered sex may not feel that great to you. But the opposite can be true, too, according to Dr. Jones. While plenty of people feel relaxed during masturbation, because there isn’t another person around, some people may feel in their own head and, therefore, unable to open up.

“An easier way to say this is just that there are numerous reasons, beyond just the physical, that might cause desensitization to sex,” Dr. Jones says. It’s important to recognize these psychological and emotional blocks in order to fully understand the way you experience pleasure.

And then, it’s way less likely that masturbation will ruin sex for you, and way more likely that it’ll be worked in as a useful part of your sex life. “It’s an easy, natural way to get to know and become more comfortable with your body and your likes and dislikes during sex,” she says. In other words: Why choose one when you can have both?

 

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