Ask a Doctor: Masturbation Questions with Dr. Zhana

Hello everyone, this is Dr. Zhana! It’s time for a monthly Q&A! Since May is masturbation month, that’s what we are going to talk about. And there are so many good questions that you’ve asked. I can’t wait to answer them all. Here we go!

may masturbation dr zhana

It’s not shameful to masturbate, right?

This is actually a great place to start! No, it is not shameful to masturbate. What is shameful and sad is that there are so many people out there who think masturbation is shameful. This pervasive attitude stigmatizes and pathologizes a practice that’s perfectly healthy, natural, and normal.

Does masturbation make it difficult for you to reach orgasm through penetrative sex?

Absolutely not. In fact, masturbation can help you get to know your body, know what works, know what can get you to orgasm, and be able to reproduce those specific techniques and mental states more of the time during partnered sex. Most vagina owners don’t actually orgasm simply from the in and out vaginal penetration. They need some kind of external clitoral stimulation to orgasm and masturbation definitely prepares you to understand what kind of external clitoral stimulation will help, since this is the way many people with vaginas masturbate.

Is squirting an orgasm, or are they two different things?

Squirting itself is not an orgasm. It’s literally the physical expulsion of liquid from the genito-urinary tract of vagina owners. So just because someone is squirting, does not necessarily mean they’re orgasming. In fact, sometimes, you could be squirting and not enjoying it, or even feeling discomfort. That said, much of the time when people are squirting, they are also orgasming. So the two can definitely go hand-in-hand. But don’t always.

Since I can climax within seconds of using a vibrator, will it affect my IRL (in real life) sex life?

Well, the chances are that with a partner you will not be orgasming within seconds, aside from some very unusual circumstances. So if that’s your expectation for how sex should go, then yes, I guess your expectations could affect your sex life negatively. But the beauty of partnered sex, the amazingness of it, is in so much more than just cumming as quickly as possible. And that’s something that your vibrator practices are not going to affect in any way. So go for it.

Still trying to figure out the Sona Cruise 2. Do I hover it over the clitoris?

The Sona is a different kind of toy, so it can take a minute to figure it out. You don’t just hover it over the clit; you literally press the toy against your body, with the clit kind of fitting inside the opening. And then what it does is it sends these sonic waves that pulsate through you. That experience feels really powerful and amazing and it’s very different from the way regular vibrators work. I love the Sona. It’s one of my favorite toys ever.

Tips for making yourself squirt? Just something I’d like to experience if I can.

One of the most reliable ways to get someone to quirt is to stimulate their g-spot in that “come hither” motion. So you can try that with your hand or you can use one of LELO’s g spot vibrators, like the Soraya or the Ina Wave. Also, I’ve actually been getting a lot of reports of people squirting using the Sona. The pulsating sonic waves are fucking magic.

Is semen retention a myth?

Semen retention is the practice of avoiding ejaculating, whether by avoiding sex altogether, having sex but not cumming, or learning to orgasm without ejaculating. It’s not a myth. That’s a thing you can do, you can retain semen. Proponents claim that it has all sorts of mental, physical, and spiritual benefits, but there’s not a lot of research to suggest whether these claims are true or not. A couple of small studies found increased levels of testosterone in men after a week or so of abstinence, but that’s all the scientific evidence we have at this point. 

Is it normal for a 34 year old woman to have never had an orgasm? I’ve had sexual partners but still never experienced one.

It’s unfortunately fairly common in women in particular, in our culture. Between all the shame and stigma attached to it and the lack of education and encouragement, it can make it really hard to figure out! If you’re someone who has never had an orgasm, my recommendation would not be to try and do it with a partner. Especially if you don’t have the most amazing, caring, attentive, and skilled partner, which many people don’t, again due to the lack of education I just mentioned. I strongly suggest trying to achieve this through masturbation because that’s going to allow you to try lots of different things, get to know your body, and take away the pressure to perform for someone else.

Does lifelong anxiety have anything to do with not getting motivated to masturbate?

There’s actually remarkably little research on the connection between anxiety and masturbation. But there is some research showing that, in women in particular, higher anxiety is linked to less desire for sex of any kind, so I assume that also goes for masturbation.

What should I do with my foreskin when masturbating? Pull it back? Leave it?

It depends on what feels good for you. Most uncircumcised guys I know use the foreskin to masturbate with, or maybe pull it back a little bit. But I know some men who will pull it all the way down and then jerk off with an exposed glans, similarly to how it would look and feel if you had a circumcised penis. Try both and see what feels better to you! There is no “correct” way to do this. Again, as we have been discussing this episode, it’s about getting to know your body.

What about anal masturbation? Any tips?

So glad you asked! I love anal play, and I’m a big proponent of incorporating it into masturbation, as well as partnered play. I especially love when heterosexual men are not afraid to admit they’re curious, interested in, or enjoy anal play. I’d say start small, with a single finger or a tiny butt plug and LOTS of lube, and see what feels good. Explore… And then slowly add more depth, more girth, maybe a second finger, slightly bigger butt plug, and so on.

One of my all-time favorite anal vibrators, if you want vibration in there (and you should try it, it’s amazing!) is LELO’s Billy because it’s not very large, it’s barely 2 fingers thick, so it’s perfect for beginners. 

How do I keep my sex toys in a place no one will find them but where they are also easily accessible? Any tips?

This question makes me a little sad because it reminds me of the fact that we live in a world where so many people feel that they have to hide their toys so completely. But, having said that, maybe a safe with a fingerprint lock under your bed would work?

Okay folks! That is it for me for today. I hope this was useful. I hope you’re also staying healthy and sane during this insane time. I’ll be back next month to answer more of your questions.

Written by: Dr. Zhana Vrangalova

Zhana Vrangalova, PhD, is a NYC-based sex researcher who studies casual sex, nonmonogamy, and sexual orientation. She holds a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University, teaches Human Sexuality at New York University, shares new sex research on social media, and runs the Casual Sex Project, a place for people to share their true hookup stories. She provides daily sex education using the live video streaming app Periscope, and is currently writing a book about the science of healthy hookups.

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