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When I first started having sex, I was never quite sure if I’d had an orgasm — a sure sign that, in fact, I hadn’t.

It’s been a few years, and I’ve gone on countless solo expeditions since then. I’m proud to say I’m now the Magellan of exploring my body. I’ve gone 80,000 Leagues Under the Sheets. The depths are mysterious and magical.

I understand having to work through shame and body issues before becoming completely comfortable with self-pleasure, but getting to an emotional place where you can push your own buttons ASAP is well worth it.

Don’t worry if you’re stuck on climax mountain without a harness and can’t seem to reach the summit. I’ve recruited two sexperts to help get you there. Follow their instructions, and you’ll soon be getting yourself off any ol’ time you like.

(But you have to promise to control your inner Cersei. Having this much power can be terrifying. We wish you a much more satisfying end to your character arc than she had.)

And just to note, these instructions are geared toward women who have vulvas, as well as some trans and non-binary folks, but this story right here can help basically anyone get off.

In my 20s, I was oddly committed to seeking out my orgasms from other people (a notoriously unreliable source). It wasn’t until around 30 years of age that I really got into masturbation and learned how to reap its ultimate reward: The Big O.

Without further ado-that-again-please-oh-my-goodness, we present five ways to get you there, as well as a rundown on toys that might help nudge you in the right direction.

1. Give yourself permission

The first tip comes from sex researcher and neuroscientist Debra W. Soh, PhD.

She says, “It’s important to feel comfortable with your body and to know that sex and orgasms are a healthy part of life. As women with vulvas, we receive all kinds of contradictory messages about sex and our sexuality, but there shouldn’t be any shame around female pleasure.”

It’s true — trying to make sense of our cultural conditioning is like navigating a minefield. There are so many puritanical ideas that work their way into girls’ brains when they’re young.

Abstinence is one of these ideas, in some cases. Slut-shaming does the rest of the work toward reinforcing repressive ideals as they get older.

Combine that with our absurd beauty standards and “sex sells” mentality, and you’ve got a hotbed for hypersexed-yet-prudish objectification. It’s hard not to internalize those contradictory messages.

Trying to make sense of these clashing ideals may well make your brain explode. The way around this on the path to an orgasm? Try to get out of your head and listen to what feels good to you — not your culture’s idea of what you’re supposed to want or be.

Female ejaculation is also a thing — learn how here.

2. Start without an end in mind

Have you ever gone out for a stroll with no agenda in mind and had the loveliest day in ages? By the same token, have you hit up an NYE party expecting to have the time of your life, and it feels like… well, nothing at best, a catastrophe at worst?

Expectations can derail the simple joys of experience. We’ve all been undone by our own orgasmic expectations at one point or another (or perhaps more points than not), but it doesn’t have to be that way.

According to Emily Morse, sexologist and host of the podcast “Sex with Emily,” “When we remove the pressure to orgasm, our minds can relax into the experience and be open to those feel-good sensations. That practice in and of itself can actually lead to orgasm because you’ll be less wrapped up in your head.”

This definitely rings true for me. Playing around without worrying about the outcome is how I finally learned to make it rain. High anxiety can play a role in negatively affecting sexual arousal, according to a 2005 study.Bradford A, et al. (2005). The impact of anxiety on sexual arousal in women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2857771/

Abandon expectations and take a little pressure away from the moment. It’ll make all the difference. Sexual contact should be enjoyable — here’s how to get in the mood when you aren’t really feeling it.

3. Practice makes perfect

You don’t need an orgasm whisperer, just a commitment to getting your hands dirty on a regular basis. It shouldn’t feel like a chore.

“While I don’t have the power to guarantee orgasms, I can tell you that women who master their own masturbation routine will come closer to reaching the Big O every time,” Morse says.

“My top tip is to take pleasure into your own hands and become the expert of your own body. When exploring your self-love routine, it’s best to be patient and go slow.”

So, instead of barging into masturbation demanding an orgasm right heckin’ now, set yourself the goal of exploring your body and finding areas that feel good.

Once you know where it feels good to touch, you can work on making those areas feel really good. There’s also a lot of myths about the “side effects” of masturbation, so we debunked several of them.

4. Experiment, experiment, experiment

Location rules when it comes to real estate, but when it comes to masturbation, experimentation reigns supreme.

Each one of us is a special snowflake with our own unique sensitivities. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. If masturbation was one-size-fits-all, it’d be so much easier. But it’s not.

So try loads of different pressures, touches, and positions, and have fun with what feels great.

For example, I have a friend who always masturbates on her stomach, but that has never once worked for me. This is why Morse recommends experimenting with different positions to unlock your winning combination.

Exploring your sexual tastes isn’t only a solo side project. It’s important for making a relationship click too. So work with your partner on it, if you’re with someone.

5. Lube it up

Would you dive onto a Slip ‘N Slide without water? I didn’t think so. Similarly, Morse says, “Always start with some water-based lube, like Good Clean Love.”

And yup, I could not agree more. Adding lube to my masturbation regimen was an absolute game-changer. If you only take one thing from this article, let this be it.

Lube is an absolute must for anal play, if that’s what gets you going. Here’s everything you need to know about putting stuff in your butt.

If you think sex toys aren’t for beginners, then it’s time to take the training wheels off, baby. They will rocket your solo sex game into the stratosphere, no doubt about it. (Also, if your dildo has wheels on it, that’s weird. Send it back. You’ve accidentally received a tricycle.)

Luckily for our readers, Morse is an aficionado when it comes to your sexual toolkit.

In terms of self-pleasure, she advises, “Toys are a great accessory to add to your sexual health repertoire — especially if you’ve been close to orgasm but never crossed over that climatic threshold.”

But with such a wide (and growing) variety of toys available, where do you even start? (If you’re on a budget, this article might help.)

Well, for indirect clitoral stimulation (especially for those who are on the more sensitive side), Morse recommends the womanizer2go. According to the company’s private testing (which is admittedly pretty biased), 98 percent of women reached orgasm in less than 5 minutes.

The product has an adorable faux-lipstick design. More importantly, uses its trademarked Pleasure-Air Technology to mimic a suction feeling similar to oral sex, pulsating to stimulate the clitoris indirectly.

In the market for more direct clitoral stimulation? Morse also suggests the Magic Wand rechargeable as a great go-to because it’s durable and strong. “It’s called the Cadillac of all vibrators for a reason,” as she puts it.

Morse says it tends to be easier for women to unlock an external orgasm before an internal one, but if you’re looking to unlock both — or want to experience a blended orgasm — the We-Vibe Nova would be her vibrator of choice.

There are, indeed, different types of orgasm — we provide more information here.

She explains, “It’s a rabbit-style vibe, so it gives you internal and external stimulation. Plus, you can control it with the We-Connect app, which makes it a bit easier to use and enables you to create your own patterns for a custom vibration.”

(Yep. There really is an app for everything.)

Soh gives her nod to the Queen Bee by Hot Octopuss, pointing to its patented ‘piston’-like PulsePlate Technology, which claims to induce stronger orgasms than a typical vibrator via higher-amplitude oscillations than typically found in sex toys.

While I’m not sure if that’s exactly true, it’s certainly a great claim… and one worth exploring. Whether you’re into stimulation with your hands or need further assistance from the world of electronics, exploration is the key thing to aim for.

There’s no single way to come. What you enjoy will probably be vastly different to anyone else. The most important thing to remember is keeping it fun. The idea of an orgasm should be intriguing and sensual, not intimidating and stressful.

Avoid putting pressure on yourself mentally (physically, apply as much pressure to your sexy parts as feels good) and stay curious about motions, positions, and areas of your body that turn you on.

And that concludes your self-pleasure primer. Now we’ll leave you to your own devices… vibrating and otherwise.

We went into more science on the sometimes-elusive art of the orgasm here, if you’re looking for more information.

Courtney Kocak is a Los Angeles-based writer and host of the sex and love podcast “Reality Bytes.” Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @courtneykocak.