How to masturbate for women: 32 tips for solo play

Medically reviewed Dr Roger Henderson, words Mia Sabat and Christine Webber
Photo credit: DmitriiSimakov - Getty Images

From Netdoctor

Masturbation feels good. It also relieves stress, reduces pain and teaches you more about your own sexual desire than anyone else ever could. And yet for many women, the idea of pleasuring themselves still feels taboo, while some just don't know where to start.

Most of women masturbate. Research shows 78 per cent of British women pleasure themselves. More than a third of women say they do it a few times a month, a fifth of women do it weekly and the average women does it around 4.1 times per week, according to a survey of 13,000 people.

We speak to psychotherapist Christine Webber and Mia Sabat, sex therapist at Emjoy, bout how to masturbate with a vagina, how to get started and how to orgasm harder for longer.

What is masturbation?

“To masturbate means to stimulate yourself in a sexual way,” Webber explains. “This can be done by hand, or with sex aids – some highly-sexed women can even do it by rubbing their thighs together. And a small minority of women can do it with no genital contact at all, but simply through caressing their breasts. Such stimulation often leads to orgasm, but not invariably, as many women enjoy stroking themselves and experiencing pleasure that does not necessarily culminate in a climax.”

How do women masturbate?

“Masturbation is a great way to lessen tension in your body. It's a very safe way to have an orgasm. And it's probably the best way to learn about how your body likes to be loved. But masturbation, like most things, takes practice. And the only way to learn about your own sexual response is to try it.”

“If you're a first-timer and have no idea where to start, or have masturbated before and just want to improve your technique, try investing in a masturbation guide book (yes, they exist!). Books such as Carlyle Jansen's Sex Yourself: The Woman's Guide to Mastering Masturbation will give you an in-depth knowledge of the history, tricks and tips of solo play.”

Different types of masturbation for women

These are the common types of ways women masturbate, and how they feel:

  • Clitoral: the clitoris is a tiny hot spot for pleasure. Most women use their hand or fingers to play with their clitoris but you can also use sex toys, such as vibrators.
  • Vaginal: use your fingers or a sex toy, such as a dildo, to penetrate your vagina.
  • Anal: use your fingers or a sex toy for anal play.
  • Combination: stimulate your vagina and clitoris simultaneously using both hands or a combination of sex toys and fingers.
  • Erogenous zones: playing with other areas of your body, known as erogenous zones, such as your nipples, inner thighs, ears, neck or other, can also be pleasurable.

Is masturbation good for you?

Webber adds, “Most clinicians and counsellors working in the world of sex and/or relationship therapy believe that a woman can learn a great deal about her own sexual response through masturbation, and that she can then pass on what she knows to any partner – male or female – she may have.

“So, masturbation should not be regarded, as it once was, as immature or shameful. It's something that most normally-sexed women do. They may reserve it for when they feel in need of a treat, or they may do it very regularly – even when they're in a relationship.”

Benefits of masturbation

Learning to pleasure yourself comes with a number of proven health benefits:

  • Some women masturbate in order to ease abdominal cramps during their periods
  • Many women have also discovered that masturbation helps to send you off to sleep
  • Others masturbate for sexual relief privately
  • Lots of women enjoy masturbation as part of the foreplay with their partners

How to get started

In order to masturbate in such a way that will maximise pleasure and satisfaction, you might need to plan how and when to do it, rather than leave it to chance.

For a start, you need to ensure that you're going to have adequate time to yourself and that you won't be interrupted. Then try the following female masturbation tips:

1. Relax and caress yourself

“Begin by taking a shower, or a long, scented bubble bath. We suggest investing in some luxurious bath foam or shower gel, such as the Neom organics luxury bath foam or even a specialised product such as Femfresh. Soap your body all over and enjoy touching your breasts and your genitals in particular,” Webber says.

2. Get to know your body

“Dry yourself carefully, then rub your favourite lotion all over your body. Keep touching your body everywhere – it might be a good idea to stand in front of a mirror while you do it, so that you can get into the habit of looking at it and getting used to the sight and feel of it.”

3. Set the mood

“At this point, as long as you know that you're in no danger of being disturbed, move to your bedroom. Make sure that it is warm and comfortable. Put on some relaxing music if you like. And just enjoy yourself.”

4. Lube up

“Lie down on your bed and use a mirror to look at your private and intimate places. Gently spread your labia: you may want to use a spot of lubrication. There are very nice modern ones that increase the sensuousness of the occasion – such as Liquid Silk. But if you don't have any lubrication, use saliva.”

5. Find your pelvic floor muscles

“Try to tighten and relax the muscles at the base of the pelvis. If you find it difficult to know whether you're doing this successfully, try inserting a couple of fingers inside your vagina. That way, you'll be able to feel whether you're tightening and relaxing the muscles or not.”

6. Explore yourself

“Many women much prefer masturbation if they can feel some bulk in the vagina at the same time as they stimulate the clitoris – so touching yourself internally might feel very good indeed. If you now tighten and relax the muscles in rapid succession you will feel contractions of the kind that many women experience when having an orgasm.”

7. Stimulate yourself

“You might also notice a warm sensation in your abdomen. Try touching yourself all over your body, including the breasts and your genitals where you will quickly find the most sensitive spots. In particular, experiment near the opening of the vagina and clitoris and stimulate yourself in whatever way feels best. So long as you do not rush, and you are keeping relaxed, then your own fingers will automatically do the right thing and will move with the right amount of speed and intensity for you.”

8. Focus on yourself

“Try to familiarise yourself with exactly how touching yourself makes you feel. Ignore everything around you. Just think about what is going on inside you, or fantasise about making love with someone you care for, or with a celebrity, or in some gorgeous and romantic place.”

9. Try erotic fiction

“While you touch yourself, you might like to look at something that turns you on – pictures, perhaps, a film; even a sexy book. Interestingly, men and women differ somewhat in what they find arousing. Most men like graphic pictures of sexy women or of people having sex. Women are frequently much more turned on by words – so an erotic novel can often increase a woman's pleasure.”

10. Ride the wave

“If, as is likely, your sexual tension rises, keep going. If you have never previously masturbated to orgasm, you might suddenly feel tired and want to stop. Or you may be nervous about the build up of excitement in your body. Don't worry about this. Just take your time. And if you don't want to go on right now, then that's fine. You can always try again another day.”

11. Enjoy the rush

“Eventually, the pleasant feelings will build up and you'll be comfortable with this and increasingly excited and you won't want to stop. When that happens, you will almost certainly suddenly experience a huge rush of ecstatic feeling and you will bring yourself to orgasm.”

12. Try sex toys

“For some women, it's not enough to just use their fingers – they like to use sex aids as well. A vibrator may be useful (small vibrators such as bullets will be best for first-timers), or you could try stimulating yourself with the hand spray when you are in the shower. Use your fingers at the same time.”

13. Nipple play

Sabat adds, “Nipples are a very sensitive area of the body, and one of our key erogenous zones. When masturbating, experiment with your breasts and nipples to find out how (and if!) you like them to be touched. Relax, take your time and enjoy exploring this often under-appreciated part of your body. In time, you may even find that you can reach orgasm through nipple play alone.”

14. Map out your erogenous zones

“Sex and masturbation is about much more than just the clitoris,” Sabat explains. “Everyone has unique parts of their body which they love being touched, or gain arousal from. You’d be surprised where you can find them – but the best places to start are often sensitive areas like your earlobes, neck and inner thighs.”

15. Find your turn-ons

“Do you dream of dominating your partner, or are you most aroused in a submissive role? Are there certain situations that always get you going? Knowing your turn-ons is important and masturbation is a great way to explore them with your own mind. Take time to figure out what really makes you horny: doing so will make your self-pleasure sessions even more climatic.”

16. Dabble in different forms of porn

“Not everyone is happy with mainstream pornography, and others are. Still, if you are curious, don’t be afraid to experiment. Consider trying out audio erotica, sexy and erotic novels, magazines, or even different types of films and genres, like female-focused, female-made pornography.”

17. Blend self-care and masturbation

“Stop thinking about masturbation as a dirty little secret. It’s a perfectly healthy thing to do, with a myriad of health benefits. It can be used to ease pain, boost your mood and even help with period cramps. By framing masturbation as part of your self-care routine, instead of something to feel embarrassed about, you can explore your body with comfort and confidence.”

18. Arouse your mind

“Did you know your brain is your most valuable sex organ? Next time you consider self-pleasure, try stimulating your mind before even touching your body. Engaging with alternative forms of pornography that start with your brain, such as audio pornography or erotic literature, or even spending some time crafting your own sexy fantasy, can lend a totally new experience to your personal time.”

19. Don’t shy away from anal play

“There is no better person to explore your body than you! While anal play is burdened with some of the strongest stigmas, it’s important to understand that exploring your butt can result in an incredibly pleasurable experience. Next time you feel the urge to venture out of your comfort zone, get some lube and try exploring your more taboo erogenous area. Start by slowly caressing the outside of your anus, and move at a pace that makes you comfortable and excited - it could lead to your best orgasm yet.”

20. Try your hand at edging

“Edging is the act of repeatedly leading yourself to the edge of an orgasm, and stopping stimulation just before you climax. For some, doing this repeatedly will make the final orgasm absolutely explosive. Edging also offers a great opportunity to experiment with different techniques, toys, methods and positions to help you discover something new every time.”

21. Experiment with pressure

“You’d be surprised how easily the body responds to touch, and testing out different ways of touching yourself can be exhilarating. Experiment with the amount of pressure you use on your body and clitoris, to see what suits you best. You may discover a new-found sensitivity, or pressure points that you like to be a little rougher with.”

22. Take it to the shower

“Showergasms are one of the most tried and tested masturbation techniques. Begin by using your hands to caress your body and breasts. Next, bring the showerhead close to your skin and let the water run down your body, towards your vulva. Enjoy the pressure of the water on your genitals, but never direct the jet of water directly into your vagina. Don't be afraid to experiment, either – change the temperature, adjust the pressure and let your imagination run wild!”

23. Explore areas that are usually a little neglected

“Because the opening of the vagina is often seen as an entry point, it’s not unusual for this area to be neglected. For some, playing with this region can often be even more pleasurable and intense than deeper penetration. You can experiment with this area with a practice called shallowing: try exploring your vaginal entry by moving your fingers or preferred sex toy with gentle, soft motions. Be patient, and stay within the first inch of your vagina to build increasingly intense sensations – and yes, they can lead to orgasm.”

24. Try some new positions

“Masturbation, just like partnered sex, can lead us to fall into routines or certain habits - so it’s always good to mix things up a bit. Consider trying a new ‘position’ for masturbation, and venturing outside of your comfort zone. Sitting, standing, lying on your front or side: be just as adventurous as you would with a partner, and see if you can find new positions that drive you wild.”

25. See if you can achieve multiple orgasms

“One of the most amazing and unique things about the female body is that it can experience multiple orgasms, and a session of self-love can be a great way to figure out how this is possible. Use the time after orgasm to establish how sensitive you are, and if other forms of stimulation can keep you aroused enough to achieve a second orgasm (or more!). The key here is using a variety of different ways to stimulate yourself, and to find out which parts of your body are the most responsive after orgasm number one. Who knows how many more it could lead to!”

26. Play with different breathing techniques

“Breath play and tantra are popular for a reason, and there’s no reason that you can’t get in on the act whilst you’re flying solo. The best way is to get started is to experiment with the rhythm of your breathing and the deepness of your breaths to help you centre your mind and focus on the pleasure you’re giving to yourself.”

27. Experience sensory deprivation

“Human beings have five senses, all of which play a part in arousal. Still, if you really want to get yourself excited, experiment with them one at a time. Winding yourself up with audio erotica, for example, whilst denying yourself touch, can be a way to make the main event seem all that more exciting. You could even try using a blindfold or closing your eyes – so that you are entirely focused on the sensations you create when you do decide to touch yourself.”

28. Discover your G-Zone

“The G-Zone can help us reach true orgasmic euphoria. You might be surprised to learn it’s not a spot, but an area located at the front of your vaginal wall, behind the pubic bone. This area is most commonly located between 2-5 centimetres within the opening of the vagina, internally. This location, and the G-Zone’s texture, varies person-to-person. But one thing every woman has in common? It’s the most sensitive part of the vagina. Next time you masturbate, try seeking out your G-Zone. To find it, it is important to be fully turned on. Start by exploring all sides of your vaginal wall with a bit of pressure. You'll likely experience more pleasure in the frontal vaginal wall and, when you get the feeling that you might need to pee, you’ve found the G-Zone! When there, make a “come here” gesture with your fingers, to experience an intense and deep orgasm. Try to let yourself go completely and enjoy this time with yourself. That said, don’t fixate on achieving an orgasm: it takes time, and exploring is just as fun.”

29. Engage with sensory play

“The skin is a highly responsive organ, and finding new ways to stimulate it can be very arousing. If you’re trying to take your self-pleasure sessions up a notch, consider investing in new materials that will play on your sense of touch. This could be anything from feathers and silk to latex or sensory lubricants. Decide what excites you most, and get experimenting! Just be careful of any allergies and introduce objects to your body in a responsible way.”

30. Treat yourself to a sensual massage

“Everyone loves a massage, and giving it a sensual twist can only make things better. Try marking your personal pleasure points with body oil or lotion, creating a map for you to explore. Experimenting with different levels of pressure and kinds of caress can be tantalising! This practice will not only help to turn you on, but assist you in understanding what you do and don’t like. It’s truly the perfect blend of self-pleasure and self-care to spoil yourself with at the end of a long day.”

31. Arouse your mind and body with music

“Music is immensely powerful and can help us to really tap into our senses. Turn on that special playlist, and let the rhythm take you. Fantasise as you move and really commit to letting yourself go while you dance or touch yourself. Let your body lead, and your mind follow.”

32. Romance yourself

“Just because you’re going solo, doesn’t mean that you have to skip the romance. Don’t be afraid to light some candles, put on some perfume and dim the lights to really set the mood. If masturbation is the main event, then you can stimulate other zones and experiment with getting yourself aroused. This is your own personal adventure, and something to enjoy. Don’t rush it or sell yourself short – this is about treating yourself in exactly the way you want to be treated, and you deserve the best.”

How to reach orgasm during masturbation

Webber says, “Most women can learn to masturbate and to orgasm – and the guidelines above should help you to achieve this.”

“If you don't know exactly what it is you enjoy sexually, or what it takes for you to reach orgasm, it's a good idea to practise on your own.

For some people the very idea of stimulating themselves can seem worrying, or unappealing, or something to be ashamed of. It's a good idea if women can rid themselves of these feelings.”

Do women masturbate less than men?

“Most men have masturbated, often beginning at a fairly young age. Women tend to start masturbation later however, and it doesn't tend to be such an automatic activity as it is for most men and boys. Furthermore, even once a woman has learned to masturbate, she will probably do it less than the average man – and it seems that far fewer women than men do it regularly. Various people have speculated on why this is the case. But most agree that it is to do with basic sex drive.

If you compare the sex drive of an average young woman and an average young man, then the man is likely to be the more highly sexed of the two. This is partly because a woman's fluctuating hormones tend to mean that her desire for sex is not as constant as a man's.

Another reason for masturbation being less important to women than men is that a man's sexual apparatus is all outside his body and he's focused on the pleasure his penis provides him from a very young age.

Women's sex organs are less obvious. For example, the clitoris – which is the main organ of pleasure in most women – is hidden away under the labia. Also, though this is less the case now than it used to be, girls have traditionally been brought up to be more modest and secretive about their bodies.”

Last updated: 01-06-20

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