Many of us learned some sex-negative ideas during childhood. Sometimes these concepts came from parents, a religion we belonged to, the sex education we received, pornography, or even our peers. Yet, these ideas often linger into adulthood unless they are intentionally removed. Below are some ideas on how to feel more empowered, no matter what you were told during your adolescence.
What We Learned
Sex education failed nearly everyone, which gave people almost no knowledge about what gets people with vulvas off. Penetration alone was the gold standard for most of history, even though women who orgasm through penetration are few and far between.
This is why children who were raised as girls can have an especially difficult time realizing sexual empowerment. The notion of women’s sexual pleasure until very recently was treated as an afterthought at best. Throughout history, women’s sexual pleasure was debated as to whether it was even real. That left most kids growing up with next to no information on women’s sexual pleasure.
Worse yet, women are often socialized into acting as people-pleasers and putting their needs second to their partner’s. The mindset of “deserving pleasure” is unfamiliar to many people with vulvas, which makes asking for what they need in bed difficult, if not impossible.
It can be difficult for women to explain exactly what turns them on and then give feedback on what changes they’d like to see in the future. It’s much easier, unfortunately, to have performative sex where orgasms are faked—and many women see this as the best way to keep the peace. Their partner has an orgasm, their relationship retains a sexual component, but often they are left feeling deeply unfulfilled.
Good sex shouldn’t center around keeping your partner’s ego intact. Instead, it should be an experience where two people take time to learn and understand their partner’s body and focus mutually on each other’s pleasure.
Why Masturbation Is So Effective
Many things prevent women from experiencing empowerment. Movies and porn often show sex that results in a loud, earth-shattering orgasm from the woman after just a few minutes of penetration. These pervasive viewpoints on how sex “should” look are hard to shake, but it can be done. It gets much easier if you take matters into your own hands, so to speak.
The first step is to identify what you like during sex and how that differs from what you were taught. The most efficient way to find this out is to self-pleasure. When you touch yourself, you get good information on what arouses you and brings you to climax, and how that differs from the sex you’re currently having.
If you have a hard time clarifying the types of touch you like to your partner, use a mirror or a camera to watch yourself masturbate so that you can see precisely what your fingers or a sex toy are doing. Better yet, masturbate while your partner watches. Not only can this be highly erotic, but it also gives them a visual memory to refer to that helps them understand what you like.
Moving Past Shame
The tricky part on the journey towards feeling sexually empowered is that some people grew up understanding that self-pleasure was wrong. Others may think that masturbation counts as cheating on their partner or that itis only for people who don’t have someone to have sex with. Even if they philosophically disagree with those sex-negative ideas now, they may still feel shame when they masturbate.
Sometimes giving yourself verbal permission to masturbate can help counteract the shame. If you’re worried about your partner’s feelings about your self-pleasure, have a conversation about it with them. Lastly, realize that nearly everyone masturbates, and it’s not simply for people who don’t have sex. It’s a joyful, pleasurable, calming experience that everyone deserves to have.
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Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform. Click here to take the sex quiz for women.