Self-pleasuring to rediscover the sexual you

By Barbara Carrellas, AASECT

I’m a huge fan of masturbation — and not just because it’s fun and healing and orgasmic. Masturbation is much more than just a sure-fire way to get off. Self-pleasuring can be a brilliant way to rediscover what you want and not just how you like to have sex — but also what you want to get out of sex.

A woman concerned about her sexual health

I work with all kinds of people who want something more in their lives than they have now. Most of the issues they want to work on have something to do with sex. But many times, delving into someone’s sexual dissatisfaction uncovers a deeper, more complex insight about what they want in the rest of their lives.

I’ve discovered that masturbation can be a sweet and satisfying path to self-discovery for many of my clients. That’s just what happened with a client I saw recently — let’s call her Allie. Allie is almost 50 and first came to me just as she was getting out of a 25-year marriage. She was finally at the stage where she thought she was ready to head out into the dating world.

But something was worrying Allie, and that’s what she needed help with.

After years without sex, how do you figure out what you want?

Allie confided that her marriage had been virtually sexless, though that hadn’t been her choice. In fact, at the beginning, Allie had a healthy sex drive and planned on building a good, satisfying intimate relationship with her husband.

But it didn’t work out that way. Instead, Allie sublimated her sexuality for the sake of the relationship. Though they were incompatible sexually, and in many other ways, Allie and her husband stayed together for decades. But all those years without sex and physical closeness took its toll on Allie and her sexual identity.

Finding herself single at midlife was unsettling, to say the least, but Allie was motivated to move on toward a happier, more satisfying future for herself. As she prepared to get back into the dating scene, Allie realized quickly that she had no idea what she wanted from a sexual relationship — or even what she liked.

Allie is one of those people who’d rather tackle a problem head on than fumble around hoping to stumble upon a solution, so she came to see me. Since Allie’s sex life had become dormant years earlier, she was now estranged from her physical self. I felt that the best way for her to figure out what she liked and wanted sexually would be to get reacquainted with her body.

Allie and I designed a self-rediscovery program built around masturbation. Orgasm was not the goal (although it would become an enticing side benefit of the program). Our intention was for Allie to learn to listen to her body and to follow its lead.

Allie’s masturbation sessions included:

  • Exploratory touch
  • Breath practices
  • Vocalizing and making sounds
  • Meditations during masturbation
  • Sex toy experimentation
  • Journaling

Every part of the self-pleasuring plan was devised to let Allie discover what kinds of touch she liked, and where she liked it. Allie and I identified certain techniques, props and toys to locate and explore the parts of her body that respond to vibration and/or pressure.

Allie gave herself plenty of time to engage in these little adventures so she could fully process what she was learning about herself, and have fun along the way.

self-pleasuring helps a woman know what kinds of touch she likes and where she likes it

Masturbate to get know yourself — again and again and again

I encouraged Allie to allow herself to feel and to express whatever emotions came up before, during and after her self-pleasuring sessions, including any sad and angry feelings. This turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding part of Allie’s journey.

Conscious masturbation is a deeper practice than you might imagine. You may be surprised — as Allie was — at how many different sensations, reactions and intense feelings it can expose, especially after years of suppressing sexual expression. The emotional rediscovery during this process is as important as the physical one.

Finally, I asked Allie to keep a journal of what she discovered. This step helped her to see what worked consistently and what didn’t. Just as important, being able to put words to her feelings makes it possible for Allie to explain to a partner what she wants and how she wants it.

Allie is not an exception. There are a lot of women just like her who need and want to rediscover sex after a long absence. Masturbation is useful (and fun!) at every step of that process. Whether you’re ending a relationship or starting a new one, happily single, or single and looking for a relationship, masturbation gets your sexual energy moving, releases old stuck emotions, and shows you what you want in future sexual encounters.

Of course divorce is painful — it’s the end of an important chapter in your life. But a breakup is also a new beginning. Self-pleasuring is a wonderful way to discover what you want in your next relationship, and how to get it.

Make time for self-pleasuring in your life — you won’t regret it!

Masturbation has health benefits? Heck yeah! Read about them here.

Published: May 3, 2018 - Last Updated: April 2, 2021

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