I grew up in a small — and very traditional — town. Coming from a conservative background, I never really saw myself as the ideal candidate for owning a sex toy.

Growing up, masturbation was completely taboo. Sexuality wasn’t even discussed, aside from strict reminders about the importance of abstinence. And orgasms? I’m not sure I even knew what that meant until I was in college.

Even then, I remember sitting in the basement of my college dorm with all of the incoming freshman girls only to be given a lesson on how masturbation was not only a sin, but a destructive habit that could be dangerous.

As you can imagine, the idea that I’d even consider it — let alone write about it publicly — was laughable.

After I got married, masturbation was uncharted territory. My attitudes toward sex had changed over the years, and I was gradually learning to be more comfortable with my sexuality. I wanted to embrace my body and kick my sex life up a notch, but I still viewed masturbation as a Big No.

Truthfully, I bought into the myth that spending a little solo time would ruin my sex life with my husband. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.) Because of this, I continued to practice self-denial at all costs.

The few times I considered masturbation, guilt would hit me like a freight train. I couldn’t do it, and it strained my relationship when I discovered my husband was the complete opposite.

One day we ended up having a candid conversation about sexuality and masturbation, and I realized that I still felt like a prisoner to what I was raised to believe.

Despite the fact that I’d already broken most of the self-imposed “rules” I swore I’d never break (like trying legal marijuana), I just couldn’t let this go. I didn’t know how.

I did, however, know that masturbation was common and perfectly normal. I’d read statistics, I’d skimmed articles, and I’d come to terms with the fact that masturbation was not, in fact, a sin. It was fine.

Eventually, I realized it was something I could even enjoy — and something my husband didn’t actually mind — without it detracting from my relationship.

Not only was masturbating not destroying my sex life with my husband like I’d been led to believe, it was a completely controllable habit that started to make my life better.

My weak pelvic floor began to strengthen until I was able to add jumping rope to my workouts — a love of mine I’d had to abandon back in middle school to avoid embarrassing, erm, leakage.

Plus, it helped give me a boost of feel-good chemicals to keep me going on days when I felt completely sluggish and bleh.

After talking with my husband about the ways that masturbation had improved my health, I sheepishly asked him if he would mind if I ordered my first vibrator. (Side note: I don’t think anyone needs permission for a vibrator, but my lack of confidence around anything sexual meant I was looking for validation, not permission.)

My husband didn’t mind at all if I vibed out. If anything, he thought it was a great idea.

I spent some time researching what type of vibrator I should buy, and I settled on a model that I could order online instead of having to brave a novelty store. (Thanks, Amazon.)

When it arrived fully charged, I decided to put it to use and was shocked that I could not only use a sex toy for a little solo pleasure (or to spice things up with my partner), but I really enjoyed the experience.

I don’t have a crazy high sex drive, and I’m definitely more of a Charlotte than a Samantha when it comes to sexuality, but investing in a toy surprised me in more ways than one. Not only was I more confident in my own skin, but that confidence started to radiate outward into other aspects of my life.

So much of my life had been dominated by self-limiting beliefs like, “I can never do this” or “I’m not good enough for this.” For once, I was starting to realize that the limits I’d placed on myself were completely imaginary.

I could speak up. I could feel confident even when I wasn’t receiving external validation. I was capable of making decisions by myself without needing a second (or a fifth) opinion.

Plus, using a vibrator improved my sex life with my husband. Because I’d become more comfortable with taking my own sexual pleasure into my own hands (literally), I wasn’t as afraid to tell my husband what I enjoyed in the bedroom.

After five years together, it was the first time I’d told him, “Hey, I actually don’t like this.” (OK, it was more like, “Hey, I really, really like this.”) As a result, he felt more confident in our sexual encounters because he knew he was making me happy, and I definitely enjoyed the benefits.

Faster (and, um, way better) orgasms? Yes, please! Less stress? Sign me up! Improved mood? Better sleep? My vibrator led to so many improvements in my life — but nothing compares to how it made me feel about my body.

I’m done holding on to outdated rules and self-imposed standards about how things should be done. Instead, I’m listening to myself — and my body — and learning how to be more confident about making decisions that are right for me.

I’ve learned that investing in my own pleasure and sexual wellness is more empowering than I could’ve ever imagined. The rest is just a much-appreciated perk.

edit made by chaz 07.19.19