Whatever you choose to call it - masturbation, self-pleasure, solo sex, sexual self-care - it is the voluntary practice of learning about, and caring for, your own sexual desires.
Learning what your body finds pleasurable can have so many benefits, including increasing your sexual fulfilment in life and relationships.
Yahoo Lifestyle asked Lucy Anderson, founder of female-powered feminine care company, WooWoo, for expert tips on how self-pleasure can improve self-esteem, image and confidence.
What is self-pleasure?
Lucy describes self-pleasure as “the art of masturbation and the beginning of a journey of self-discovery”.
“It can take any form; whatever floats your boat goes,” she explains.
“Finding out what works for you will ultimately increase your own sexual fulfilment, so before you explore sex with a partner, it’s healthy to spend time getting to know what turns you on, and what makes you feel good.
“When you’ve got into your own personal rhythm and know what you like, you can use that knowledge for sexual experiences with a partner and communicate more effectively what you want, or as a self-care tool and confidence boost whenever you need it.”
Physical and mental benefits of masturbation
“Masturbation can have many physical and mental benefits, thanks to the feel-good chemicals that sensual pleasure and orgasm release into your system,” Lucy says.
“Self-pleasure can aid restful sleep, relieve stress and even ease period pain.
"But it’s also hands down ( … your pants, obviously) one of the best ways to feel better about the skin you’re in.
“Acknowledging the power your body has to make you feel fantastic can make it easier to feel fantastic about your body.”
Masturbation can relieve stress and boost happy hormones
“Masturbation triggers the release of dopamine in your body – a chemical which creates feelings of contentment and happiness," Lucy explains.
"If you reach orgasm, the hormone oxytocin is also released, which reduces the presence of our stress hormone, cortisol.”
Self-pleasure can help with insomnia and other sleep issues
“Masturbation can fight insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)," Lucy says.
"As well as the increased levels of dopamine and oxytocin, the post-orgasm release of the chemical prolactin can cause a state of drowsiness and slumber.
"Orgasms can also help women to heighten their REM stage of sleep, deepening sleep and enhancing recuperation.”
Self-pleasure can boost self-esteem and self-confidence
"Your sexual fulfilment shouldn’t depend on having a partner and, when you’re capable of giving yourself orgasms, you’ll no longer be reliant on other people for pleasure," she says.
"This is an incredibly empowering place to be and you’ll feel a sense of independence."
Self-pleasure can also create a stronger connection between your physical body and a sense of contentment and pleasure, which can boost self-image.
Self-pleasure tips from a sex and relationship expert
With all that in mind, sex and relationship expert and consultant for Netflix’s popular Sex Education series, Alix Fox, has shared with Yahoo Lifestyle some exercises that use solo sex to help you be a better bud with your bod.
These include gentle suggestions to help you get back in touch with your sexual side if your libido is low, and to rediscover the uplifting powers of solo sensuality.
A gentle practice
“Start the magic with some hocus pocus focus," Alix says. "In X-rated media, people are often described as masturbating 'furiously' (why so angry?!) or 'vigorously', but self-love can be slow, laidback and gentle... and it doesn’t have to focus solely on the genitals."
Here are Alix's tips:
Try beginning a session by using a fingertip to lightly trace the lines on the palm of your hand, as though reading your fortune, then stroking the insides of your wrists, your collarbones, and the super-soft skin around your earlobes.
Pay attention to the subtle, tingly tickles. Honing your ability to tune in to even the most understated nice feelings like this is called "sensate focus". It’s an exercise commonly recommended by sex therapists that helps you enhance your sensitivity and appreciate your whole body’s potential to feel delicious.
Next, add a few drops of an arousal boosting oil, such as WooWoo’s Bliss Oil and spend a moment giving yourself a hand massage. This helps you relax, gives you a chance to start getting in the mood, and maybe fantasising; and underlines the fact that you don’t have to make a beeline straight for your bits!
Try some self-reflection - when you’re ready, let your silky-slick fingers explore your neck, your nipples, your nethers ... whatever feels right IS right. You do you – literally!
Consider touching yourself in front of a mirror: getting comfy with how you look while you’re enjoying yourself creates positive connections in your mind between your appearance and contentment. Becoming familiar with how your private parts look also means you’re more likely to spot any changes that might indicate health issues – getting to know your down-belows helps you monitor your wellbeing."
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