Scared but Determined

Friday, December 05, 2008

Question

I'm a 19-year-old female who has never had sex, nor have I masturbated before. I want to take that step in discovering my body and how to pleasure myself, but I'm afraid of feeling pain. I have received hand jobs from my former boyfriend but found I am pretty sensitive to pain. It took me a long time to actually "learn" to enjoy it. I was wondering what the best way to start experimenting with myself would be—hand, dildo, vibrator? To be honest with you, I have no idea where to start. I'm totally oblivious to my vagina and where exactly the G-spot is and what not.

Answer

I think you ought to start with some basic anatomy before you proceed to masturbation. Get a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves and read about how the female genitals are constructed. Joni Blank's Femalia contains some beautiful photos of several different styles of vulvas.

If young girls or women get any sex education at all, they are told that boys have penises and girls have vaginas. Or they are just told about the uterus as the place "where babies come from." This education is woefully incomplete. Take a mirror, lay down, spread your legs, and have a look at your own bits. First you will see the outer lips, which are furry, to keep you nice and warm. If you part those structures, you'll see two thinner inner lips, which often have sensation and feel nice if they are stroked or gently tugged. At the bottom of your inner lips, down toward the anus, you'll find the opening of your urethra, where urine is emitted, and then the vagina. It's important to locate the urethra because it can be an erogenous zone, and it can also cause you sensitivity or pain, depending on how it's wired. Some women unfortunately have the urethra placed very close to the vaginal opening, and this may make you more susceptible to vaginal infections. It's important to get up and urinate after sex, to flush out the urethra, and also wash off the external vulva to keep bacteria from getting in there.

The vaginal opening is not a gaping hole. It's more like several delicate folds of tissue that lay against one another unless something separates them. Some women do have orgasms with vaginal penetration alone, but this is pretty rare. The vaginal opening is sensitive to being stroked, and nerve endings inside the vaginal respond to pressure. So I don't want to ignore this part of the female body as a wonderful source of pleasure.

The G spot is located inside the vagina. This is a nickname for an erogenous zone (a place that is arousing when touched) on the roof of the vagina, up toward the belly button. It's located just a few inches inside and up. Some women like to feel this part of the vagina stroked or pressed; others find it annoying, and it may make you feel like you need to urinate, because the bladder is located in that area. But it's possible to have a great sex life without ever going near your G-spot, so I wouldn't worry about it for now.

I want to introduce you to the primary source of orgasms for women. That's the clitoris. Use your mirror to find the inner lips. Go up toward your navel. At the top of the inner lips, there's a small pink pearl of tissue that's the head or glans of the clitoris. It's normally protected by folds of thin tissue called the clitoral hood. The clitoral hood may look like it is connected to the inner lips or labia. Sometimes it's hard to see where the hood stops and the labia begin.

This little organ has as many nerve endings as the head of a man's penis. It's extremely sensitive to all kinds of touch—wet, dry; strokes or pressure; being jiggled or feeling vibrations. Because the head of the clitoris is so sensitive, some women find that they don't like the glans itself to be touched directly. They prefer to be touched above, below, or to one side of the clitoris. And sometimes a dry finger doesn't feel good.

Rather than buying a sex toy, for now just find a lubricant that you like. Using a water-based lubricant is a good idea. It means you'll be used to a lubricant that can also be used with condoms. Hand lotion, massage oil, or cooking oil are not good to use. Your vagina will have trouble getting rid of them if you get any oil-based lube inside. Some women are sensitive to glycerin, so you might want to find a lube that doesn't contain this item. I'd also recommend you avoid any lubricant that contains nonxoynol-9. This sperm-killing chemical is actually a strong detergent, and you don't need it when you are masturbating.

Draw a mental map of your external genitals or vulva. Set some time aside when you won't be interrupted—a minimum of 20 minutes. Turn your phone off. Then experiment with a dry hand or finger and also with a finger that has lubricant on it. See how each of the parts of your vulva react to touch, pressure, stroking, tugging, etc. Don't worry at first about making yourself orgasm. Just enjoy touching yourself.

Lonnie Barbach has written a great book about learning how to give yourself an orgasm. Called For Yourself, I recommend it for women who want to start having orgasms. She describes a series of exercises you can do to further explore your own body and see what creates pleasure for you.

Don't ignore the mental aspect of sex. Many women find that masturbation doesn't work unless they can also fantasize about sex. Some enjoy using drawings, photos, or fiction about sex. For some women, it's romantic thoughts that make masturbation exciting. They imagine being with somebody they love, spending time with that person, looking into one another's eyes, holding and kissing each other. Playing music might help another woman to set a mood for enjoying her own body. Lighting incense, taking a bubble bath beforehand—set a sensual atmosphere by giving generously to your body.

When you find a mode of touch that feels really good, keep doing it. See what happens. You'll probably start breathing more quickly and your heartbeat will increase. That's normal. Don't forget to breathe! Holding your breath could give you a headache. If the way you are touching yourself stops feeling good, don't worry. The clitoris is kind of picky, so you sometimes have to find more than one way to make her happy. You may even have trouble recognizing your orgasms at first. A weak sort of flutter in the muscles is often reported as the first sign of learning how to come. Don't give up—it can be hard to push away any of the negative messages you've learned about sex or your own body so you can just relax and enjoy yourself. Build yourself up, get as excited as you can, and allow that to subside, then build yourself up again. An orgasm will probably surprise you. You'll find that you can't stop touching yourself until you peak or feel a sort of physical crisis and release. Instead of having an ejaculation, you'll feel energy shooting out of your body. It's awesome.

I hope your partner is open to hearing what you learn about how your own body works. I love to watch my female partners masturbate. If they are too shy to do that, I like to hear about what feels especially good. Her explorations can make our sex life much better. Furthermore, it's normal to need to keep on touching your clitoris during intercourse. Relatively few women can have orgasms from vaginal stimulation alone. Giving the clitoris some attention can be all that you need to get over the brink and experience erotic fulfillment.

A hand job should not hurt. If your genitals are giving you pain despite a gentle touch, you may need to consult a doctor to find out why you have genital pain. If so, write to me again, and I'll locate information and resources for you. A few women are unfortunate enough to have chronic vaginal or vulval pain. But masturbation is one of the recommended forms of treatment. Partners may not be intuitive enough to understand exactly what your responses are, to avoid setting off that pain reflex.

Please feel free to keep in touch with me and let me know if any of this is helpful. If your hand doesn't provide you with strong enough sensation, a vibrator might be a good idea. But I do recommend trying with your hands first because this resembles a partner's touch and can thus enhance your sex life with your partner. But vibrators have helped many women who had trouble "clicking" to get that pesky clit to finally give it up.

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