A Beginner’s Guide To Touching A Vulva

Experts share 9 crucial tips for pleasuring a partner.

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Sex experts reveal how to touch a girl and finger her vagina.
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We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. Today’s topic: how to touch and finger a woman.

Q: I just started dating women, and I'm not super experienced with it. Do you have a general primer on how to give a hand job to a woman? One problem I have is that I’m not totally sure what I like on myself, so I have a hard time knowing what to do to another woman.

A: Thanks for your question! I think a lot of people underestimate how pleasurable hand jobs can be, which is a real shame. Before we get into technique, I want to encourage you to do some exploration on your own first. You have a whole world of exploration at your finger tips! Take the time to get to know your body and what it likes. Not sure how? Check out our handy guide to female masturbation.

Also, despite what the headline says, it is important to note that just because someone identifies as a girl or woman does not mean they have a vulva, and not all people with vulvas consider themselves women. For the purposes of this article, we will be using the term "people with vulvas."

Now let’s jump right to eight crucial tips for anyone who wants to make someone with a vulva come with their hand.

1. Prepare Your Tools For The Job


It’s really important to have clean, well-groomed hands when you’re touching someone with a vulva's genitals. Keep your fingernails trimmed and filed, to avoid scratching their sensitive skin. Don’t cut your nails right before hooking up; they’ll still be too rough and sharp to touch this person. You also want to make sure to wash your hands right before getting down to business, to protect your partner from getting an infection in this area.

2. Tease Your Partner

Spend plenty of time warming up before you move between your partner's legs (with their permission, of course). Make out with your partner, kiss their neck, and nibble on their ears. Caress your partner's butt, hips, and thighs. When you start to work your way down, rub your partner's crotch through their pants using your palm, or grind against your partner with your thigh or pelvis. Even after their pants are off, keep teasing your partner. Leave your partner's underwear on and trace a fingertip up and down their labia. You want your partner to be aching for skin-to-skin contact by the time you finally let them have it. For many people, teasing is the best part of the entire experience, so don’t skip over it in your haste to get to their clothes off! Just check in with your partner first and make sure teasing is something they'll enjoy.

3. Know What You’re Touching

Let’s go over a basic anatomy refresher of what your hands are going to come into contact with. You’re going to want to spend most of your attention on these four areas:

  • Your partner's outer labia are the two lips that are covered in pubic hair. This is the main area you’ll be teasing through your partner's clothes. There aren’t a ton of nerve endings in the outer labia, but you can rub them with your fingertips and even roll the skin between your thumb and forefinger. It’s also hot to pull their labia apart with your hands.
  • The inner labia are the set of lips that don’t have any pubic hair. The skin here is thinner and wet, so you’ll need to be a little more delicate than you are with the outer labia. Stroke the inner labia lightly with your fingertips.
  • The vaginal opening is further back, towards your partner's anus. It’s where penetration occurs if you have intercourse, and it’s also where vaginal lubrication is secreted from. The majority of the nerve endings are located in the outer third of the vaginal canal, so tracing your finger around the opening or inserting a few fingers inside will feel great.
  • Your partner's clitoris is hands-down the most sensitive part of their anatomy. The tiny little nub is packed with nerve endings. Most people need direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. Be very gentle with the clitoris until you get a sense of how much stimulation your partner likes.

4. Ask Your Partner For Feedback

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According Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, if you're new to touching someone's vulva, it's important to communicate and ask for feedback. This can be verbal, or non-verbal.

"Have a discussion before hand, figure out what is going to best for everyone," Watson says. "What is the best way to provide information, is it a groan, or a hard no? Communication is key here. Some options would be verbal responses, response through touch or movement. But all must be agreed upon first. Also discussing that what might have felt good before might not feel good today, and that is not a personal attack or critique it's just how most with vulvas can respond. Then talk about it after, what went well, what felt good, what could change?"

This way, you're both on the same page and enjoying the experience.

5. Use Lube

As I mentioned above, the skin on a your partner’s genitals is quite delicate. You don’t want your fingers pulling and tugging at their skin when you’re touching them. I highly recommend using artificial lube when you’re fingering your partner. You can use their natural fluids as lubricant (just dip your fingers into their vaginal opening), but they won’t last as long and they may feel embarrassed if they “dry out”. Artificial lube will not only decrease your partner's discomfort (and any potential pain), but it will also increase their sensitivity and help your fingers move more deftly. I think silicone lubricant lasts longest and feels best against the skin.

Try: Personal Lubricant by Penchant, $22, Amazon

6. Experiment With Your Touch

Every person’s body responds differently to touch, so you’ll want to play around with a few different ways of touching your partner to figure out what they like best. There’s no need to go crazy with a ton of different techniques; just give your partner a few options! In general, people with vulvas like one of three different approaches: clitoral stroking, penetration with your fingers, or both at the same time.

Try a couple clitoral strokes, like circling around their clitoris with one finger, gliding diagonally across the surface, rubbing up and down, or going side to side. Next, try using your fingers inside of them, starting with one, then moving up to two and three. Then try using one hand inside of your partner and the other on their clitoris. Ask your partner, “do you like it better when I do this or this?” Or see which approach makes them moan louder or breathe heavier.

7. Hone In On Your Partner's Clitoris

Once you’ve got your partner going, make sure you spend particular attention to her clitoris. Most people with vulvas need repetitive, consistent clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. Find your rhythm and don’t make any changes as your partner starts to near their climax. You can also ask them what their typical technique is when they masturbate to help figure out what feels best for them here.

8. Let Your Partner Tell You When To Stop

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People with vulvas take an average of 14 minutes to reach orgasm, though it may take longer, and a lot of people are sensitive about taking “too long.” One of the best things you can do as their partner is to tell them you’re going to keep touching them for as long as it feels pleasurable for them. Note that I said “for as long as it feels pleasurable” instead of “until they orgasm.” You don’t want to put pressure on your partner to reach orgasm. Focus instead on making your partner feel good.

Similarly, Watson says a candid discussion about what your partner enjoys is a good thing to have before and during. "I would recommend talking to the partner who is receiving the touch and ask them what they like," Watson tells Bustle. "Start there. Then explore with types of pressure, you can use different textures, temperatures ... Get creative."

9. Enjoy Yourself

Bringing another person an immense amount of pleasure with just your hands can be an incredibly fun and empowering experience. Enjoy the ride! Plus, the more fun you have, the more relaxed your partner is going to feel, and the more pleasure they'll allow themselves to take in. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!


Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist


Rowland, D. L., Sullivan, S. L., Hevesi, K., & Hevesi, B. (2018). Orgasmic Latency and Related Parameters in Women During Partnered and Masturbatory Sex. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 15(10), 1463–1471. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.08.003

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