Some advice for when masturbation isn’t working (it’s okay not to masturbate)
Hey, so I finally decided I would try to masturbate because everyone says it feels amazing and I thought I’d give it ago but, it didn’t seem to work and I don’t know why. I tried both shower head masturbation and fingering and neither were successful.  Thank you for any advice 🙂
Hey! Thanks for your awesome question. I’m sure that a lot of people will have experienced a similar thing, so I’m happy to answer.
Do You Want to Masturbate?
Just because everyone else seems to be saying that masturbation (and sex generally) feels amazing doesn’t mean that it should for you. The first thing to know about sex is that everyone is different. Everybody’s bodies are different. Every body responds in a different way, to different kinds of touch, in different kinds of places. Some people like masturbation all the time, some some of the time and some none of the time. All of this is okay. So just because masturbation is great for everyone else doesn’t mean it’s great for you – it’s all okay.
Listen to Your Body
It’s totally okay to want to want to masturbate – I get it. I’m not criticising you for trying to masturbate. A lot of the time we learn about what we do and don’t like by trying it. However it’s clear from your whole email that what you are trying so far isn’t working out for you and is actually even a little bit painful. So try to listen more to what you want rather than what everyone else says feels nice. This isn’t easy and it takes practice.
[Quick note here: some medications can affect how turned on you get. For instance SSRIs. If this is the case for you, maybe ask your doctor about different meds you could try]
Step Away from Your Genitals
Everything you described in your email was about touching your clitoris, vulva and vagina. It’s true that many people do masturbate by touching their genitals (penis or vulva) but that might only because that’s what everyone thinks counts as masturbation (I mean, if you look at the Bish guide to masturbation it’s a bit too much about genitals – this one about solo sex is a bit better though).
Actually you can get pleasure from touching your whole body. You might like to stroke your thighs, sides, belly, chest, neck, arms, shoulders, head. If a thought pops into your head during this that it’s not real masturbation or doesn’t count, just gently say to the thought: ‘go away, I’m touching myself how the f*** I like.’
You might like really gentle touch, like feathery feathery (everything you described so far was quite strong sounding touch). You might like a bit of wetness on different parts of your body. Maybe rubbing moisturiser into different parts of your body might feel good.
You can also learn more about how your body responds by not touching yourself at all. My mate Catherine has some awesome audio guides for how to slow down and notice what’s going on in your body. If you head to Helix Yoga and click on the ’10 minute body meditation audio’ she’ll take you through an activity where you just lie down and pay really close attention to every thing that is going on in your body.
Go Slowly and Be Kind
It’s really easy to be critical about yourself when you’re trying something new – particularly when you’re trying to do something that you think that everyone else is enjoying. Try to not force yourself into doing things because you feel you should. This is not easy to do, but please try. If you try again and notice that your body isn’t really enjoying a thing just gently step away and say ‘huh, okay. This is cool. I might try again another time.’
We are told so many things about what we should do when it comes to sex that it can get confusing trying to work out what we actually want. So practice doing simple non-sexual things to see what your body enjoys and doesn’t. This can be about what you like to eat and drink; what kinds of clothes feel good to wear; how much exercise or general moving around you like to do; where you like to sit; how much sleep you feel is right for you; how much support your head needs. Sometimes these things aren’t easy either – and you might not have much choice with some of them – but see where you can choose what you want to do and how it feels to do something your body enjoys.
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Right Place Right Time
How you feel about masturbation might change – but it won’t change if you try to force it. So just try to be patient with yourself and use the above to learn about how your body responds to things. If you do this you might find there are times when you are more turned on, or more in the mood to masturbate or touch yourself. It could be that you aren’t ready for sex yet, or that maybe you don’t experience much sexual attraction or arousal – all of which is okay. It’s your body.
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© Justin Hancock, 2022
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.