Masturbation 102: How Women Pleasure Themselves

Studies show that most women focus on external stimulation during self-pleasure.

Posted Jun 25, 2018

I am hoping that if you read my last post, you’re now convinced of the benefits of self-love and are able to let go of any anxiety or guilt you may have had. Still, you might be wondering just what female masturbation looks like, or if other women do it the way that you do.

Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock
Source: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

While no two women have identical ways of pleasuring themselves, there are commonalities across women. In her landmark study, Shere Hite categorized the way women masturbate. And, no surprise: Hite found out that women stimulate what she called the “clitoral/vulva area.” Most (73%) did this while lying on their backs. About 5.5% laid on their tummies. Another four percent rubbed up against a soft object, such as pillows. Two percent massaged their genitals with running water (e.g., by placing their vulvas under the bathtub faucet or by using a hand-held shower attachment). Three percent masturbated by simply pressing their thighs together rhythmically. Eleven percent had a main method, but sometimes switched it up. Most women focused completely on external stimulation, but around 12% sometimes or always simultaneously put something in their vaginas. Still, consistent with the notion that it’s rare for women to orgasm from just penetration (something I discuss extensively in other blogs and in my latest book), only 1.5% masturbated with the sole act of putting something inside their vaginas.  (Of note, a student of mine just conducted as study, which we are working on submitting to a scientific journal, and her results were almost identical. she found that 1.2% of women said they stimulated themselves solely by penetration)

What do all these statistics mean for you? Well, first off, if you’ve never masturbated, it’ll give you some ideas for ways to begin. And, if you already masturbate, I hope you’ve found your general style listed above. No matter how you masturbate, I want you to know that there are other women out there doing this same thing!

Still, if your style is one that fewer women use, perhaps you’re wondering if this is a concern. Absolutely not. However you masturbate is right for you.

And, here’s something extremely important: While many women think of what they do when they pleasure themselves as separate or different from what they do with a partner, just the opposite is true. That is, the more you incorporate your solo-sex methods into partnered sex, the more satisfying and orgasmic your sex will be.  Indeed, as I’ve mentioned in a prior blog, the most crucial action needed to orgasm during sex with a partner is to get the same type of stimulation you use when pleasuring yourself!

Certainly, there are some styles that are easier to transfer to partner sex than others. Stating the obvious, those (rare) women who masturbate solely by putting something in their vaginas aren’t going to have a problem transferring this to heterosexual sex. On the other hand, women who can only reach orgasm by running water on their clitorises would have a harder time transferring this to partner sex—they’d need to find a partner who is always willing to take a shower or bath with them. Still, any masturbation styles can be transferred to partner sex with creativity and communication.

If you already have a masturbation style that consistently leads to orgasms, but you haven't been incorporating this into partner sex, take a moment to think of how you might do so. If you orgasm from touching yourself with your hand or a vibrator while on your back, for example, you might show your partner how to do the same. Or, if you have sex with men and want to combine intercourse and clitoral stimulation, you could touch yourself with your own hands or your vibrator during intercourse. The possibilities are limitless.

If, however, you’ve never pleasured yourself or never had an orgasm while doing so, or just want some advice to take your self-pleasure to the next level, stay tuned for the next blog in this 3-part series on self-love: Masturbation 103: Advanced Self-Love Lessons.

Much of this post was adopted from the chapter on self-pleasure ("Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands") from my latest book, Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--And How To Get It.