This article was scientifically fact-checked by Human Sexuality expert Dr. Laurie Mintz.
After our article focusing on methods for masturbation involving a penis, we received a lot of feedback asking how women masturbate.
Masturbation for vulva-having folks is something LELO has always been dedicated to enhancing through our pleasure products, but the techniques are not always described in explicit terms. With slang such as ‘fingering’ and ‘polishing the pearl’ (not to mention frequent references to removable shower heads) it’s no wonder it can all be a little bit confusing for some. Here, we explain some of the most common methods of female masturbation, so even if you’ve had plenty of practice, you might learn a fun new way to experience solo pleasure!
Why Do Women Masturbate?
Women masturbate for exactly the same reason as men; it’s pleasurable and can help with everything from insomnia, boredom, or good-old fashioned feelings of sexual frustration.
Percentage of women who masturbate can vacillate from just 38% to 92% depending on who you ask and how, but that really isn’t too terribly important. What is important is that masturbation is healthy and normal, however you really shouldn’t be concerned if you’re doing it twice a day or twice a month as long as you’re happy with your personal sexual experiences.
And that is one of the most important part of masturbation to focus on, as part of your personal sexuality. While we can (and do, and do recommend) masturbating with your partner, masturbation is an important part of your personal relationship with your own sensuality and pleasure. It is self-care and sex* combined, and shouldn’t be treated as less important than other aspects of your sex life.
How Do Women Masturbate?
Female desire is a little understood (and until recently, little studied) phenomena, but it does seem apparent that we can be quite flexible when it comes to what turns us on. It can be a sexy yet not necessarily explicit sex scene in a movie that makes our imaginations run wild, or intensely kinky written erotica.
Thankfully, things like the overwhelming popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey and vocal women who are creating feminist-porn, the taboo toward consumption of erotic content by women is being broken down. Advice for masturbating and reaching orgasm is no longer just suggestions of lighting scented candles or taking a bath (though these do certainly work for some people, and it’s always nice to treat yourself) and we are able to talk much more explicitly about female pleasure.
Equipped for Pleasure
Now, let’s start with the most important tool we have for pleasure: our own bodies. While there are a ton of erogenous zones all over the female body that may be involved in your masturbation, we are going to focus specifically on the primary sexual anatomy.
Because we don’t have to touch our genitals when we urinate like men do, we don’t always have the same familiarity with our genitals as men unless you are one of those lucky women who was given a mirror and a copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves when you were younger.
This is a shame, because our genitals are beautiful. While we often use ‘vagina’ to refer to our entire genital anatomy, by doing so we are ignoring (some even say linguistically erasing) some of our most erotic parts. Technically, the vagina is just the canal on the inside, while the outer part is the vulva.
The vulva is made up of the vaginal opening, the clitoral hood, the clitoral glans, and the inner and outer lips. Both the clitoris (including the hood and the glans) and the inner lips are made of the same tissue as the penis. Both start out the same in a fetus, and all are densely packed with nerve endings. Also important, while the outer lips are on the outside, , the inner lips can be bigger than the labia majora and can be visible from outside.
Methods of Stimulation
There are three common ways women begin to masturbate. Some learn when they are quite young that pressure feels good―before they even understand what or why they’re doing it; some first have a sexual partners and then start exploring on their own and some learn about the concept of masturbation before actually trying it.
While we discuss different methods of masturbation below, one of the most important parts of masturbation that so often gets neglected is the use of lubricant. Unlike saliva or lotion, a good water-based personal lubricant is specifically designed for use with your body and sex toys, and it is helpful in getting you aroused and avoiding discomfort.
The Ultimate Female Masturbation Guide
Whether it be on a pillow or a harder surface, some people are able to bring themselves to climax by grinding or rubbing their vulva against something.
If you prefer to grind and are looking to intensify the sensation, you can try putting a very strong massager such as the Smart Wand Large in the middle of a folded pillow or towel and move against its flexible head.
While grinding is a less direct way to stimulate the clitoris and other sensitive parts of the vulva, actually touching your vulva—especially your clitoris—is the most common methods of masturbation. There are many different types of finger motions that women use so experiment with what works best for you! A few options or common finger positions including rubbing circles (with one, two of four fingers) on your clitoral hood. Some women like to rub to the right or left of their clitoris rather than directly on it, and many have a favorite side when they do. Some women like to make large figure-eight circles on their entire genitals, touching the clitoris, the inner lips and the vaginal opening. Again, these are just a few options. See what works for you!
(A helpful guide when buying your first vibrator and trying to decide between more pinpoint stimulation like MIA 2 or more diffused like LILY 2 is to note whether you use 2 fingers to focus directly on the clit, or more fingers to make wide circles around the whole vulva.)
Also, some women like to pleasure themselves through their undies or a cloth as their clitoris is too sensitive to direct touch. If you find your clitoris is too sensitive for this direct contact, you may enjoy a product like ORA 2 as it has subtle sensations that you can control the pressure of.
Using the tub faucet or shower head to run water over your clitoris and vulva is another method of masturbation, though depending on your bathtub it can get a little tricky to maneuver.
We also encourage you to try SONA the World-First Sonic Clitoral Stimulator which stimulates 75% more of the clitoris (including the part of its structure you can’t see)!
3.Fingering, G-Spot Stimulation & A-Spot Stimulation
Some really interesting research finds that almost 98% of women stimulate their external vulva when masturbating—some do it alone and some couple it with internal, vaginal stimulation. Of course, if you are a woman who likes to pleasure herself just with vaginal stimulation, that’s ok too! Whatever gets you off is totally fine!
So, if you want to try internal stimulation, with or without clitoral stimulation, you can use your fingers to massage within the vaginal canal itself. Some people greatly enjoy pressure just within the opening of the vagina, and some like to massage higher up, on the G-spot.
Methods for stimulating these internal areas can vary. . Any of our G-spot stimulators can ably stimulate these internal areas, though if you are looking for to combine clitoral and vaginal stimulation, try the SORAYA or INA Wave.
Just because the you don’t have a prostate doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy anal stimulation in the same way.
During masturbation, this can involve use of fingers, butt plugs, or dildos combined with any of the above techniques or on their own. What is most important to remember when incorporating anal play into your self-pleasure is to use lubricant, never to use something vaginally after it has been used anally unless it has been thoroughly washed (or covered with a condom) and to only use products anally that have a flared base, lest you’re keen to make an awkward trip to the emergency room.
The benefits of masturbation, aside from the mental and physical health benefits, are such that the let us explore our bodies and desires in a relaxed, low pressure situation, which ultimately makes us more confident to tell our partner what we want and need. As well, never underestimate the power of indulging in ‘me-time’ to rev up your sexual desire. The more sex you have, including with yourself, the more sex you want!
*In this article, for ease of reader understanding, we are using the words sex and intercourse as synonymous, as is done in popular culture in general. Similarly, we use the word “foreplay” the way it is used in popular culture (i.e., the sexual acts such as oral sex that come before intercourse). However, as aptly pointed out by our sex expert Laurie Mintz, we would also like to acknowledge that such language exalts men’s most reliable rout to orgasm and linguistically erases women’s most reliable route to orgasm—clitoral stimulation, either alone or coupled with penetration. Indeed, only between 4% and 18% of women reliably orgasm from penetration alone. We look forward to the day when such language is not commonly used in culture.
Facts checked by:
Dr. Laurie Mintz
Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Florida, teaching Human Sexuality to hundreds of students a year. She has published over 50 research articles and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Mintz also has maintained a private practice for over 30 years, working with individuals and couples on general and sexual issues. She is also an author and speaker, spreading scientifically-accurate, sex-positive information to enhance sexual pleasure.