As someone who now talks so openly about sex and masturbation — and does a lot of both of those things — it might be a surprise that I was a late masturbation bloomer. Though I started having sex at 15, I didn't start masturbating regularly until I went to college. Although I was very sexual in some ways, I was completely out of touch with my own sexual wants and needs. I just didn't engage with them. But during my Freshman year at NYU my friend and their partner took me to a sex shop to buy my first vibrator, and that changed— fast.
Now, I love masturbating. Even though I have an amazing sex life with my partner, masturbation is still a regular occurrence. It's not just to scratch the itch, although that's definitely part of it. As someone who's struggled with body image, food, sex, alcohol, compulsive exercise, and pretty much every self-destructive habit you can think of, masturbation has been an amazing confidence-booster and leveler. It's just good for the soul. And I don't mean in a 'light a thousand candles and take a bath' way. I normally masturbate after a spoon-full of peanut butter after my workout, still sweaty and smelly and half in lycra, and you know what? It's still good for the soul. And it's been the single best thing for my confidence and my sexuality, for a whole lot of reasons.
It Made Me Comfortable Putting My Sexuality Out There
I've always been really frank about sex and my sexuality. In high school, I was always confused by the fact that so many people I knew were having it, wanting to have it, thinking about it constantly— and just not talking about it. Pretending they had no interest in sex, or were above it. I hated the shame associated with sex and I was determine to keep being open about it despite the criticism it provoked. But when my friends took me to Babeland and I saw how matter of fact everyone was bout sexuality, it was a revelation. Everything was unapologetically sexual, without being vulgar, and talked about sex in a way I had always craved. It gave me huge confidence boost when I realized there were other people who looked at and thought about sex the same way I did. No shame necessary.
It Made My Pleasure A Priority
I've always been more of a pleaser in bed— it's just my style. And it's not a bad thing to be a bit more submissive, but when I was younger I confused that with my pleasure not mattering. When I started masturbating, my pleasure— whether that meant orgasming or not— became a much bigger part of my sex life. I had the sexual confidence to realize that, even if pleasing the other person gets me off, that doesn't have to be the end of the line.
It Made Me Realize That Female Orgasms Don't Have To Be Elusive
The first time I used my vibrator I came before the Billy Joel song I had in the background finished. (I don't care how you feel about Billy Joel, I apologize for nothing.) Even though I had never had much trouble orgasming, seeing just how quick it can be completely cut through all the "the female orgasm is a mystery" bullsh*t I had been fed for so long. It was a total game changer. Once I realized that, for most of us, the female orgasm is there and totally accessible as long as you're willing to find out how that person works, it made me feel so much more sexually empowered.
It Made Me Feel Sexy AF
If you struggle with body confidence, it can be totally debilitating. I started struggling with disordered eating before high school, and by college, fighting my body image and restricting my food intake had become totally consuming. Although I would love to say masturbation was some miracle quick fix of learning to love my body, that's just not the case. But it helped. A lot. Touching and engaging with my body in a way I hadn't before, made me believe in my own sexuality as something more than just a way to please other people. I felt sexier, more confident, and happier. But more importantly, and on a more basic level, it reminded me there was something way more to my body than a vehicle for critique and obsession and anxiety. It's one of the best things I've done for myself. And I'm not stopping any time soon.
Images: Author's own; Giphy (2)