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Solo sex is exactly what it sounds like. And just like partnered sex, solo sex is about a lot more than how and where to touch. It’s about learning to connect your mind with your body — all in the name of pleasure.
And for the record, we’re not suggesting you ever have to devote hours to getting off. Your pleasure is yours and we honor any mode of getting it. But we also think luxuriating in an intentional solo sex session isn’t a terrible way to spend an evening — or afternoon, or morning.
Self-pleasure can be especially fulfilling for those socialized as women, who are taught that sexuality is more about performing than experiencing. When you’re by yourself, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You do you, bb.
So let this be a guide for tapping into your desires and creating a space to care for your body and your eroticism.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever planned a grocery list while having sex or masturbating. Also raise your hand if you’d prefer not to do this. The mind is slippery and sometimes you have to coax it into submission.
One way to do that is by creating a rich sensory experience. Here’s how:
- Start by turning off your phone. Push notifications aren’t going to help you connect with your sexuality, we promise.
- Dim the lights. It might sound corny but bright lights are stimulating for your brain, which can make it hard to relax.
- Tap into the relaxing effects of aromatherapy by lighting some candles or starting a diffuser.
- Put on some sexy jams. Our brains are specially designed to process rhythm and music can actually have an effect on our mood.
A really powerful way to sink into your pleasure, get into a calm headspace, and notice your body’s reactions is by using breath work. Mindfulness and sexuality researcher, Dr. Lori Brotto, suggests this simple mindful breathing exercise to ground yourself and fully experience all sexual experiences:
- Get into a comfortable position on your bed, close your eyes and breathe in. Take notice of the way you are sitting and the space around you.
- Bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensations of your body breathing in and out.
- Move your attention to your chest and notice it’s movements as you inhale and exhale. What sensations do you feel? Where are they in your body?
- Guide your focus to your belly and repeat these steps, taking care to notice feelings and sensations in your body.
If you’re used to making a beeline for directly for your those extra sensitive zones, try taking it slow. Tease yourself (it’s not like you have anywhere to be) by touching everything but the sensitive areas. Make your body want it.
A 2017 study found that although direct clitoral stimulation felt the best (those 8,000 nerve endings don’t lie), people also found pleasure touching around the clit and clitoral hood, on the sides, above and below, and also rubbing the labia.
For folks with penises, the head has the highest concentration of nerve endings, just like the clitoris (because they developed from the same material in utero!) but applying pressure to the base of the shaft and caressing the balls can also feel exciting.
The prostate is a walnut-shaped organ between the penis and bladder that swells up with blood when aroused (like the internal clitoris). Get the prostate involved in these ways:
- Stimulate it via the perineum (aka the taint). Because it’s a less direct method (more muscles in the way), add a bit of pressure to your touches.
- Use a “come hither” motion with a finger or two around 2 inches up the anal canal.
- Use a toy specifically designed for prostate stimulation! Because of its sensitivity, vibrations can be extra amazing.
For all kinds of solo sex, lube is essential! Using a lubricant not only helps reduce pain and discomfort, but one study found that people with vaginas had significantly higher sexual pleasure and sexual satisfaction.
More than 80 percent of participants in that same study about pleasure said they preferred a repeated rhythmic motion. Try grinding it out to a song that makes you move. (Don’t worry, no one’s watching!)
And don’t be afraid to experiment with new patterns. Alternating between a variety of techniques can help maximize orgasmic potential in many different directions!
If you’re willing to shell out sixty dollars, we recommend checking out the female pleasure site OMGyes. They have tons of interviews and information on exploring masturbation for people with vulvas.
If you take one tip away from all this, let it be to find joy in exploration. You’re likely familiar with those easily accessible pleasure zones so why not go on an adventure to find less traversed realms? Your body is full of nerve endings just waiting for you to find them. The key is to explore without expectations.
Common erogenous zones include the nipples, neck, thighs, earlobes, hips, lips, shoulders, and chest, but don’t stop there. When your mind is in the erotic zone, the sky is the limit for what might feel good.
Sexual positions aren’t just for partnered sex!
- Lie on your back. This is a classic for a reason: more access to your genitals and nipples. For fat folks, sex educator Elle Chase suggests propping up some pillows under your butt to maximize access.
- Lie belly down. Touching yourself in a “doggy style” position or grinding on a pillow is an easy way to generate friction and can feel great for people with all kinds of genitals. This can mimic the sensation of grinding on a partner to help bring a fantasy to life.
- Sit or squat. Sitting on the edge of a chair or bed a can feel more spontaneous and erotic than cozying up under blankets.
Sex toys are incredible tools — they’re literally designed for pleasure. There’s no shame in the sex toy game — there are no “better” or “worse” ways of exploring solo sex. What works best for you is the way to go!
There are so many amazing toys you can use during masturbation, so here are just some you might want to add to your repertoire.
If this article was a gratitude journal, you better believe vibrators would be our first entry. (Also, hello, this study found a link between regular vibrator use and overall good health.)
Vibrators range from gentle buzzing (lower pitches that can feel a bit tingly) to powerful rumbles (lower pitches that feel more like a deep massage). These vibrations are more powerful than your hands and can stimulate internal nerve endings that are hard to access otherwise.
Buying a dildo is the ultimate choose-your-own-dick adventure. There are lots of options in terms of length, girth, and level of firmness. Here are some tips for making the most satisfying choice.
- Decide on a firmness and material. The firmness you land on will affect what girth you choose. If you go with a softer silicone, you may want a thicker dildo since there will be more give. If you go with a glass or stainless steel option, you’ll likely want to scale down on girth.
- Decide on a girth. The average human penis is approximately 1.5 inches in diameter, if that helps you get an idea for what you want. If that doesn’t apply to you, try using your fingers. Or you can even try inserting a (clean) penis-shaped vegetable, like a cucumber.
- Opt for a body-safe material. Silicone, stainless steel, and glass are you best bets. Other materials, like Jelly, PVC, or “silicone blends,” can contain toxic materials like phthalates that can lead negative reactions like headaches, cramps, or nausea.
Butt plugs are a great beginner anal toy that can provide a feeling of fullness, stimulate the many nerve endings in the anus, or massage the prostate.
Be sure your butt plug has a flared base, since unlike the vagina, the anus doesn’t have any barrier to prevent your sex toy from taking a little trip up your insides.
Having someone be involved in your masturbation — or creating the illusion someone is watching — is one way to tap into feelings of sexiness and feeling sexy can be one serious arousal boost. Here are some ways to make that happen.
Sexting is basically like writing erotica tailor-made to what you like! Telling your partner your sexual desires and fantasies can feel taboo, which can make sexting suuuper arousing. And unlike talking dirty in person, you have ample time to think of what you want to say.
Sending photos or videos can also be a way of eroticizing yourself, getting into a sexy headspace, and seeing yourself through your partner’s eyes.
How to send a great nude
- Put on something that makes you feel sexy (lingerie, your partner’s baggy shirt, a blazer).
- Zoom out. This advice is for all those penis-having folks out there who insist on the close-up dick pic. Trust us.
- Experiment with angles. Look down at the camera for a more dominant vibe, or try looking up for a more submissive feel.
- Don’t overthink it. Stay away from over-analyzing or picking apart your body. We promise — YOU LOOK HOT.
Watch yourself in the mirror
This is basically the same theory as dancing in the mirror. Watch your body’s movements. Make eye contact with yourself. Your body really is a wonderland and appreciating it in all its glory might be more sensual that you expected.
And PSA for the vagina-having folks in our midst: If you haven’t held a mirror up to your vulva yet, we highly recommend giving that a try. Because, hello, you don’t have a very good view from up there.
While it’s great to use your imagination, it can also be pretty tough to focus on something in your mind. Enter: erotica.
You probably know about mainstream sites PornHub and YouPorn, but we urge you to explore more ethical porn options, aka porn you pay for. While we all love free things, the reality is any porn that you don’t have to pay for likely isn’t paying their performers fairly or has content that is stolen from another platform.
Sex work is work, so pay for the entertainment you enjoy! Some great options to do this are clip sites like ManyVids or OnlyFans, or porn companies like Pink Label TV, Four Chambers, or Cinesinclaire.
Written erotica and comics
The world of written erotica and erotic comics is as diverse as humanity’s sexual interests, so whether you’re into BDSM, romance, fantasy, or realism, there is something out there for you!
Filthy Figments is a great go-to for comics, the membership site has over 200 stories and 10,000 comics! For written erotica, dip your toes in with an erotic anthology — a compilation of shorts from various authors and styles — to see what suits you.
Want to hear some sexy sounds? Audio erotica might be just the thing for you! From audios of folks having sex, intimate recordings of other folks’ masturbation sessions, or “jerk off instructions” for YOU, audio erotica can be a whole host of fun.
Studies have shown cannabis can reduce stress and anxiety, which some find helpful to get themselves into a sexy headspace and avoid distractions. For many, cannabis can also heighten sensation (like how food somehow tastes WAY better when you’re high).
CBD has also been found to reduce pain, which can be helpful for those with chronic conditions like endometriosis or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). If you want to explore these yourself, there is no shortage of THC and CBD sexual wellness products on the market!
It is also important to note that for some, weed can lead to increased anxiety, so be sure to explore cautiously.
Mental health and sexual health are intrinsically connected. How you feel up there impacts how you experience pleasure down there. So when we talk about cultivating a positive sexual identity, we’re also talking about working through barriers that exist in our mind.
Mindfulness and meditation
That’s why we wanted to end this piece on solo sex with some advice on lifestyle changes that foster good mental health. Research has found strong evidence for the power of mindfulness in boosting your sexual experience, both with partners and alone. There’s even a whole book!
Get physical with yoga, stretching, and dance
These kinds of activities increase bodily awareness and overall comfort with one’s body. Styles like hip hop, Latin dance styles, or pole dance can help boost confidence — which can definitely translate to the bedroom.
Talk to a professional
There’s nothing shameful about getting support around your sexuality. There are so many amazing sexuality professionals (sex therapists, coaches, counsellors, etc.) who can help you address all kinds of roadblocks or challenges.
We want to acknowledge that for people who’ve experienced sexual trauma, or those whose identities don’t line up with mainstream ideas of sexuality, talking and thinking about sex can be fraught and complicated.
Eva Bloom is a queer Canadian sex educator and researcher who is dedicated to making sure that sex research doesn’t die in academic journals and spreading the word about the life-changing magic of masturbation. She is the creator of the award-winning webseries for youth “What’s My Body Doing” and co-hosts the sex-ed webseries for kids “Every Body Curious.” Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.