How Does Vaginal Masturbation Work? A Sex Educator Breaks It Down

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In this week's Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about how to masturbate using vaginal penetration.

Q: How does vaginal masturbation work? Not clitoral.

Reader, I am so here for masturbation questions! Masturbating is the number one thing you can do to learn about your own body, your arousal cycle, and even which fantasies turn you on. (Not to mention, it just feels great.) So many people with vaginas aren’t taught how to masturbate or even that it’s a healthy and good thing to do, so I'm always more than happy to provide tips. But before we dive into the details, I do need to do a little clarifying of body parts and terms.

What I’m about to say might come as a little bit of shock, considering how long we’ve presented vaginal and clitoral orgasms as separate, but “vaginal orgasms” and "clitoral orgasms” are actually the same thing! That’s because the clitoris isn’t just that little extra-sensitive nub. It actually extends into the body and wraps around the vaginal canal. The vagina itself doesn’t have many nerve endings, so when you feel turned on when something is inside you, it’s mainly because the internal part of your clitoris is engorged and rubbing up on your vaginal walls.

Also, the external part of the clitoris — the clitoral head, which has more than 8,000 nerve endings and is the only human body part that exists solely for pleasure — is kind of hard to avoid when you’re aroused and touching any part of your genitals, inside or out. So, I’d argue that any time a person with a vulva masturbates, it’s going to involve the clitoris, either inside the body or because vibrations/rubbing/sucking/whatever you’re doing is also touching the clitoral head.

Andrew Zaeh/Bustle

But before we even get close to the clit and the vagina, Jodie Dunne, sexologist and CEO of the sexual wellness company Bliss for Women, recommends that you start masturbating by touching other parts of your body.

“Begin caressing your body from the top of your torso/breasts and then down over your lower torso and onto your thighs and back up,” Dunne tells Bustle. “Use varying pressure as you touch your body and remember to breathe. Spend at least five to 10 minutes touching the rest of your body and getting yourself turned on; the clitoris is not a fan of being touched unless aroused.”

And neither, I should add, is the vagina. Anyone who’s ever pulled out a dry tampon at the end of their cycle or tried to have penetrative sex without proper warm-up knows that the vagina needs a lot of lubrication before anything goes in or out. With that in mind, Dunne recommends investing in a great lube.

“Our bodies naturally lubricate when we feel pleasure, but lube can give us that extra little hand,” Dunne says. “It doesn’t mean that anything is broken or that you’re not interested. Think of it like your favorite topping on your fave ice cream: you don’t need it, but it’s a whole lot more pleasurable when you have it.”

Even when you’re focused on having a penetrative orgasm, why not get your clitoral head involved too? You can work your body up to high arousal by stimulating the external part of your clit in the ways that feel best to you. Then, you can switch to penetration only or penetration plus external stimulation, based on how you’re feeling. Either way, Dunne suggests taking it slowly — and starting with your fingers rather than with toys.

“Try starting at the opening of the vagina, then lightly drag your fingertip ever so slowly towards your clitoris,” Dunne says. “You can trace your way back down one side of the labia lips to the opening of your vagina, trace circles around it, and then back up. Try placing some gentle pressure on the vaginal opening, and if this feels pleasurable, you can move to insert a finger into your vagina to begin exploring there. A dildo or a vibrator could be interesting — lube included — if you are feeling ready for it.”

Andrew Zaeh/Bustle

One motion that many people with vaginas like is the “come hither” motion, which is when you put two fingers inside your vagina and then bend them at the second knuckle. It’s the sex move that’s most likely to stimulate the G-spot, which is a sensitive area behind the pubic bone. For a lot of people, G-spot stimulation can lead to intense orgasms or even “squirting.”

Dunne says, “movement preferences are very personal” — and that goes for both vaginal penetration and external clitoral stimulation. So your best bet is to experiment with different motions and see what feels best. And while it’s generally a good idea to start with your own fingers (because they give you a more direct connection with your body than a toy), there are also a lot of toys out there that do things your hands could never dream of doing.

When you’re choosing a toy for penetrative masturbation, start with something that has some give and movement. (In other words, maybe don’t go right to the stainless steel dildos. They’re great! But not really beginner toys.) Some awesome ones to check out are the Bender by Unbound, the Petite Squirting Set by Le Wand, and the Ella by Lelo. When you’re ready to really up your game, check out the Osé by Lora DiCarlo, which has the most innovative robotics I’ve ever seen in a sex toy. (It’s especially good if you’ve learned that you love that “come hither” motion.)

Masturbation is one of the very rare times in life when the journey truly is more fun than the destination. Not to hate on orgasms (love those!), but there really is something amazing about observing and feeling the different ways your body reacts when you're touching yourself. So start slow, grab the lube, and get exploring! You're in for an excellent time.

Experts:

Jodie Dunne, sexologist and CEO of the sexual wellness company Bliss for Women