It’s pretty much the OG form of self-care, a practice most of us need now more than ever.

By Maressa Brown
Updated Mar 27, 2020 @ 4:15 pm
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During a global pandemic, with stay-at-home orders and social distancing practices in place, many of us are spending more time alone than we ever have before. We’re also trying our darndest to manage the multitude of stressors that are popping up a la whack-a-mole. If your current isolation situation could stand to be infused with more relaxation — and more pleasure — there has never been a better time to master masturbation.

“Self-pleasure has many physical, mental, and emotional benefits,” says Shannon Chavez, Psy.D., a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles. For instance, it relieves both physical and emotional stress, floods your body with feel-good, pain-killing endorphins, and orgasms release chemicals and hormones that boost immunity, Chavez points out.

Masturbation can also be like waving a magic wand at stress-induced and inducing physical and mental roadblocks that are being exacerbated by this crisis. “A release of oxytocin also makes you feel safe and calm,” she says. “It will improve sleep issues. It can improve self-esteem and body image by reducing sexual and genital shame. It also improves circulation and blood flow. The benefits to your skin are better than a day at the spa.” (Seriously, have you ever seen how your skin can glow after an otherworldly orgasm?)

Talk about a persuasive case for elevating your solo sex practice. Here, 16 tips for solo sex that’s sure to be fire.

1. Start with a relaxing, non-sexual activity.

If you’re so stressed that sex of any kind feels like the last thing on your mind, you’ll do well to start with simple non-sexual activities that will get you out of your head and into your body. A few options:

  • Make a playlist. “Music helps manage stress and relax the mind and body,” Chavez notes. “More upbeat music can help you feel more energized and alert and slower music can calm the mind and release tension in the body by relaxing your muscles.”
  • Practice mindfulness. “Any preparative mindfulness breathing exercise can be a great beginning to a fuller sense of one’s own embodiment,” says Sari Cooper, an AASECT-certified sex therapist and director of the Center for Love and Sex who is offering virtual sex therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic. She recommends the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which calls for zeroing in on one point of focus, usually the inhalation and exhalation of each breath. “As you practice this mindfulness breathing, you’ll become better adept at observing your thoughts as separate things that can be set aside for the moment to bring the focus back to your breath and your body,” says Cooper. “Start with five minutes and work up to 10, 15, and then 30 minutes a day.”
  • Take a hot bath. Not only will slipping into a warm tub release tension in the body and create a soothing ambience for relaxation and peacefulness after a long day, but you prime your body through sensual touch and massage for self-pleasure using your favorite soaps, oils, and bath sponge, Chavez says.
  • Stretch. Any movement is beneficial for physical health but stretching can urge tight, tense muscles to chill out, relaxing the body and amplifying blood flow, both of which can improve arousal and orgasm, according to Chavez.
  • Have an impromptu dance party. “This can loosen up your muscles and energize the body,” says Chavez. “It can also be a playful or seductive and a way to explore your body through movement." Start by giving yourself a strip tease or naturally release tension in the body by shaking your arms and legs, she suggests — "it's a primal instinct that we have socially unlearned in order to appear in control and it can bring you to a state of balance and prepare you for self-pleasuring.”

2. Sensual sets the stage for sexual.

Chavez recommends focusing on feeling yourself sensually before diving into sexual stimulation. You can start from your head and work your way down, running your hands through your hair, massaging your neck and shoulders, caressing your breasts and belly, and massing your inner thighs.

From there, you might begin to touch your genitals through your clothing or underwear or use your palm to massage the pubic mound, the fleshy tissue above the top of the vulva area, or give your clitoris a sensual massage. Don’t hold back from making noises, if you’re so inspired. “It can signal to the brain that you are aroused and increase sensations in the body,” says Chavez.

And if this is new for you, this is also a good time to let go of any shame or guilt, says Jessica Baum, founder of the Relationship Institute of Palm Beach. “Give yourself permission to look at this as an exploration of your body,” she notes.

3. Combine your touch with your breath.

When you feel aroused enough to start massaging your clitoris, go slowly and gently to start, and pay attention to your breathing, recommends Alissa Vitti, women's hormone expert, author of WomanCode, and founder of FLO Living.

“Approach your clitoris with light strokes at first, and breathe deeply into your abdomen,” she advises. “Many women stop breathing during stimulation, which then limits their sensation. You need oxygen to start a fire with your clitoris.”

4. Take your cycle into consideration.

You might already recognize that you get extra horny just before your period or when you’re mid-cycle and ovulating, but having a more acute awareness around what your hormones are up to can support your self-pleasuring efforts. “If you are in a phase like the ovulatory phase or the first half of the luteal phase, then you will have the added boost from an estrogen and testosterone surge driving both your interest in sex and your ease in achieving climax,” explains Vitti.

“So, don't judge yourself if you are not interested in self-pleasuring during your bleeding week or your follicular phase,” says Vitti. “If you want to self-pleasure, then add lube, as these are both 'dry' phases and it will take more support to achieve climax.”

5. Pick your favorite erotic medium.

Chavez recommends checking out an app called Dipsea, which offers sexy audio stories and intimate guided sessions which are touted as relatable, celebratory, and featuring people who are “empowered in their sexual, social, and romantic experiences.”

If you’re more visual, think about movie scenes that have turned you on in the past, and pull them up online, or recall fantasies that have previously gotten you hot, and search for porn that has that theme attached to it, advises Cooper. Pro tip: If you’re new to porn, dip your toe in by checking out XConfessions.com, run by indie, feminist adult filmmaker Erika Lust, who makes short erotic films that are smart and sex positive.

6. Set up a “masturbation nest.”

Getting comfortable is key to getting off, so invest some time setting up a luxurious, relaxing space that lends itself to letting go. “Use pillows or blankets to create a ‘masturbation nest’ that is comfortable for different positions,” advises Chavez. You might want to put one under your butt to elevate your hips and give you easier access. And you could also try sitting in a lotus position or Baddha konasana (Butterfly pose), which opens the hips and vulva area.

7. Try touching yourself while standing up.

While exploring your body on your back or side in bed might be your go-to, you might find extra excitement from an unexpected position. “We need variety with sexual pleasure,” says Chavez. “Novelty helps spark sexual desire so you need to experiment with your pleasure and orgasm. It can also be a rehearsal for partnered sex to figure out what feels good for you, so that it’s easier to communicate with a partner.”

For all of those reasons, try touching yourself while standing up. “You’ll get better access to your genitals while also being able to watch yourself in a mirror,” says Chavez.

8. Try the Voyeur position.

Speaking of the mirror, watching yourself in any position can intensify your experience. “This can be helpful for those looking to let go of sexual shame during sex,” notes Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., resident sexologist at ASTROGLIDE. “The more comfortable you are with your own reactions, the more likely you’ll be to ask for what you want with a partner.”

If you’re not feeling immediately amped to masturbate fully in front of a mirror, you can ease into it. “Perhaps, you begin in the dark or position the mirror so that you can only see your facial responses before adjusting to enjoy a view of your entire body,” says O’Reilly.

9. Straddle a pillow.

You can boost the amount of friction — and, in turn, sensation — you’re getting from your hand or vibrator by squeezing your legs around a pillow, explains Chavez. “Rub against the pillow or rock your hips back and forth while stimulating yourself with your hand or vibrator,” she says.

10. Use a clitoral-stimulating gel or lubricant.

While we tend to think of lube as an aid for penetrative, coupled sex, you’ll also benefit from extra moisture, slip, and, depending on the product, blood flow during a solo sex session. Chavez recommends reaching for a clitorial stimulating gel like Sliquid O Gel or Omax O-Shot CBD Arousal Oil.

If you’re in a state where THC products are legal, you could check out a THC-infused lube, like Foria Pleasure. Chavez recommends starting with a quarter size amount you’ll massage all over the external tissue of the vulva, inside the vaginal canal, or anterior wall where the G-spot is located, as well as on the pubic mound and perineum.

(Note that gentle, water-based lube is your best bet if you’re prone to UTIs, bacterial vaginosis, or yeast infections.)

11. Experiment with a new vibe.

If you’re just starting out, consider finding a vibrator that offers multiple options—so you’ll be able to experiment with a wider variety of sensations, positions, and stimulation. “Aim for at least seven different vibrations patterns and speeds and a vibrator that can be used internally and externally,” says Chavez. “Make sure all products are medical-grade silicone, so that they are non-toxic to the body and easy to clean.”

She likes the Lelo Gigi 2, which is designed with G-spot stimulation in mind, but also features eight different vibration patterns and can be used externally.

One that’s good for beginners, according to sexologist Megan Stubbs, EdD, ACS sexual wellness, relationships, and body image expert: The Doc Johnson iPlease, which is small, compact, and has adjustable vibration settings and various patterns.

12. Play with different types of pressure and stimulation.

Not only can you try devices geared to different pleasure points — including the G-spot, clitoris, labia, and perineum — but you can explore varying degrees of pressure or different types of stimulation.

For instance, Cooper recommends using your fingertips or your nails or experimenting with fabrics (think silk or leather) on your body’s many erogenous zones, from your nipples to your neck to your labia.

13. Lie flat on your stomach.

O’Reilly recommends a position called the Snake for anyone who finds they love rubbing and grinding. Lie flat on your stomach, then stimulate yourself between your legs with your hands or a toy.

You might also try rubbing or humping your hips to figure out which rhythm works best for you, says Cooper. While on your stomach, it might be easier to fantasize that someone is below you and/or allow the weight of your body to provide more pressure on your clitoris, vulvar and clitoral shaft for more arousal, she notes.

14. Consider scientifically-proven moves.

Cooper refers her clients to OMGYes.com, a research-based platform that was created in partnership with researchers at Indiana University and The Kinsey Institute. The site features techniques for women’s pleasure (not to mention helpful clips of real-life women self-pleasuring), which stem from thousands of interviews and the first-ever large-scale, peer-reviewed and published studies about female self-pleasure.

You might also pick up a classic self-pleasure tome like Sheri Winston's Women’s Anatomy of Arousal or Betty Dodson's Sex For One. “Both of these pleasure pioneers have created a step-by-step way for you to know what to do that gets results every time,” says Vitti.

15. Take advantage of a removable showerhead or your bathtub.

If your showerhead detaches from the wall, directing the propulsion of water to the clitoral area can be very arousing, notes Cooper. Experiment with different amounts of pressure, starting off softer and working your way up to a more intense stream.

You could also try the Lovability Inc. WaterSlyde, an attachment that fits onto your faucet and directs water to the midline of the tub, making it easier to enjoy water play while relaxed on your back.

16. Backburner your vibe on occasion.

We’re innately creatures of habit, so if you find a vibe that never fails to bring you to the big O, chances are you’ll reach for it time and again. But you could benefit from taking the occasional hiatus from your fave toy. Vitti explains that using a vibrator hyper-stimulates your clitoral nerve endings, reducing the time spent in orgasmic plateau (the time just before climax), expediting climax, and keeping you in the refractory period (during which you’ll be unresponsive to further stimulation) longer.

By comparison, using your fingers leads to a build-up of calming oxytocin and blood flow-boosting nitric oxide, and you’ll spend more time in the orgasmic plateau, which is stress-releasing and mind-clearing. “Not to mention that you can have multiple climax experiences by extending the orgasmic phase, as well,” notes Vitti.

Why Prioritize Self-Pleasure Right Now?

No matter what it looks like for you, solo sex is bound to offer a wide range of benefits. Not only is it an easy, free, blissful way to relieve stress and strengthen your vitality, but as Chavez notes, “Masturbation normalizes sexual pleasure, whether you are partnered or not. It provides a space to explore your pleasure without judgment.”

The bottom line: It’s pretty much the OG form of self-care, a practice most of us need now more than ever.