What does self-pleasuring have to do with having orgasms with my partner?

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Dear Dr. Myrtle

I keep hearing about the importance of self-pleasure, but I’m not sure why I should. I'm only interested in sex with my partner.

Statistically, people express higher levels of sexual happiness when they are able to persuade their own body to higher levels of sexual arousal. So the short answer to your question is that even if you are only interested in partner sex, you are a better sexual partner when you know how to arouse yourself.

Even if a woman feels that it’s okay to self-pleasure, some never develop their own techniques. Romance novels don’t exactly help - there are always those paragraphs about how everything happens "naturally". Movies are no better.  Few people in our culture really talk about women as self-pleasuring beings. Rather, we are always there for someone else’s pleasure, and are rarely making time for ourselves.

Is this you in here somewhere?You are not alone. This is a pretty usual state of affairs for women in this culture. Consider reading a couple of books (For Yourself, Sex for One, The Elusive Orgasm), or looking at the video Lover’s Guide to Self-Pleasuring or Orgasmic Women, and look at different perspectives and techniques for pleasuring yourself. Also consider playing (and I do mean this in the "fun" sense of the word) with a vibrator. The reason I suggest vibrators for play, is that often women can learn more about their orgasmic cycles - the whole process by which one becomes orgasmic - with the consistent stimulation of a vibrator, whereas it’s more difficult with a hand (hands get tired, etc.)

All of this play will get you much more familiar with how arousal and orgasm happen for you. Then you can use this knowledge during partner sex. You can show your partner how you like to be touched and stimulated, what kinds of stimulation bring you to orgasm, and you can share how long it takes you to have orgasms. You might even introduce your partner to the sensations of vibration. Who knows: might be a fun experiment.

There are some ideas which can help increase your arousal during intercourse, too.

  • Reduce distractions: lock the doors, put the Fido in her den, turn off the phones, etc. (Don't even have communication devices in the room with you: devices are complete buzz saw for arousal.)
  • Relax before you begin: prime your body for experiencing sensation by taking a warm shower and massaging every bit of your body before jumping into bed. Sometimes, it's easier to get into bed first and swish your lets and arms around just to get your body in the "feel this" track. Then you can greet your partner full of the sensation experience from the beginning.
  • Some people use this time to warm up with self-pleasuring techniques before their partner joins them. As one customer put it: "I tell my husband we have to preheat the oven before you can bake the bread." Priceless concept.
  • Retrain your focus on really feeling what your body is sensing in the present. It's normal for the mind to wander a bit, but practice bringing yourself back to the feeling of your breath, and the sensual experiences of "the now".
  • Focus on your arousal, but don't stare at it. Let the feelings build and follow what feels good to you. At the same time, let your expectations wander a bit, and just feel what is there.
  • Giving yourself the time and the expectation that it might take 20-45 minutes of consistent stimulation to arouse you or bring yourself to orgasm.
  • Direct genital stimulation (self touch) is more consistently arousing than just thinking arousing thoughts (cognitive arousal).

Self-pleasuring is often the beginning of a new understanding of your sexuality and how pleasure works for you. It’s important, and healthy. Have fun!

Dr. Myrtle