How and Why Women and Girls Masturbate

Woman Masturbating with Pillow and Vibrator
From the book Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson. Copyright 1987, 1983, 1974 Betty Dodson.

Masturbation is Rewarding!

Masturbation is extremely beneficial to women throughout their life, from infancy to maturity. Masturbation provides women with the opportunity to explore their body while at the same time giving them a high degree of sexual freedom. It allows them the opportunity to experience sexual pleasure without relying on a partner, and to release sexual energy and tension when "they" choose too. Masturbation can be very empowering for women, as it gives them increased control over their body and sexuality. Masturbation is a great teaching tool, it teaches women about their body, how it responds to sexual stimulation. For many normal and healthy women masturbation is their primary or only means of experiencing orgasm. Many women experience their most intense orgasms while masturbating, because they can provide the ideal mental and physical stimulation they require, without worrying about the wants of their partner. While a woman will not always have a sexual partner, she will always have herself.

Why Learning Early in Life is Important

Masturbation is the first and most import sexual skill a girl or woman should learn, as it frequently holds the key to enjoying other forms of sexual activity. Ideally, this skill is learned prior to puberty, but too often it is not learned until a woman is in her late teens, early twenties, or later. The reason it should be learned or at least known about prior to puberty is, so adolescent girls have a constructive means of addressing their developing sex drive. It also increases their awareness of their ever-changing body, providing some sense of control over it. If a teen knows how to masturbate she is less likely to be compelled to seek out a sexual partner before she is emotionally and physically ready; while girls may start menstruating between the ages of ten and fourteen, their body is not truly prepared for pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing until late in their teens. Masturbation provides young women with an option other than sexual frustration and sex with a partner.

Learning to masturbate to orgasm at a young age is usually easier than later in life, when we have learned social mores and expectations, which frequently create barriers to sexual pleasure and orgasm. As we become older and more educated we tend to think about things too much. It is better to learn how to masturbate, and potentially experience orgasm, prior to knowing what you are doing and how others view those activities. Things teens and women have learned and experienced may and do prevent them from learning how to experience sexual pleasure and orgasm. When masturbation is learned early in life, girls often continue even if they feel guilty or fear being punished, because of the pleasure and relaxation it brings them: innocence and naivety do have their benefits.

How Do Women and Girls Masturbate?

Women and girls masturbate in an endless list of ways. They may massage their clitoris and vulva with hands and fingers, or rub their vulva up against pillows, bed cloths, stuffed animals, and furniture. Some use water spray, vibrators, and dildos to stimulate their vulva and/or vagina. The vagina appears to play a smaller role than the clitoris during a woman's masturbation activities, but vaginal insertion is by no means rare or unusual. Vaginal and G-Spot stimulation is most often used in conjunction with clitoral stimulation. Some women employ nipple and/or anal stimulation in addition to clitoral and vaginal stimulation. Fantasy often plays a major role in a woman's masturbation activities, as the brain is the largest and most important sexual organ, and as a result physical stimulation alone is frequently not sufficient to produce orgasm.

The Right Way?

It is important to understand there is no "correct" or "right" way to masturbate. Some women feel they should be able to masturbate to orgasm using a different or more correct method, because they hear other women do it that way. It is important to keep in mind that each woman's anatomy is a little different and her psychological makeup is a lot different, which results in every woman masturbating differently, even if they use the same basic technique.

While many women can masturbate to orgasm employing several techniques, others find they can reach orgasm only when they use the same method each time. There is nothing wrong with this. Partly because of conditioning and partly because of differences in woman's bodies, learning new techniques can be difficult or even impossible. If you are orgasmic with your current masturbation technique feel free to experiment, but do not feel you must reach orgasm in other ways too. Remember, masturbation should be fun and enjoyable, no matter how you do it.

Woman Masturbating with Male Partner
From the book Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson. Copyright 1987, 1983, 1974 Betty Dodson.

For the Wrong Reasons

There are women who masturbate for the wrong reasons, which results in them not masturbating as often as they could, should, or would. We often have negative feelings about masturbation and feel guilty when we do. Women are sometimes concerned by the fact that they masturbate and the frequency at which they do so. This often results in them not masturbating as often as would be emotionally and physically beneficial to them. Some of those reasons are explored below.

A Question of Need: Women often use the word "need" to describe their masturbation habits. Some women say, "I need to masturbate weekly." or "I need to masturbate daily." By saying they "need" to masturbate they are unknowingly trying to justify their frequency of masturbation. If they did not have to they would not, at least not as often. They are implying they do not have a choice. Other women say, "I only need to masturbate once a month." or "I do not need to masturbate very often." These women are unknowingly saying that while they would prefer not to masturbate at all they sometimes will as a last resort. A woman who feels comfortable masturbating would not avoid masturbating. She would not forego masturbating for so long she felt she absolutely had to or go crazy with sexual frustration. By using the word "need" to describe their masturbation habits women are saying they feel masturbation is inappropriate, even though they may masturbate frequently. A woman who is comfortable masturbating is more likely to say, "I enjoy masturbating daily." or "I masturbate once a week."

Lack of Peer and Social Support: In spite of the sexual revolution female masturbation is still somewhat taboo. Even though popular songs, movies, and television shows make mention of female masturbation, or the use of vibrators, it is not a common topic of discussion. Madonna's touching of her genitals on stage was seen more as an obscene gesture than as a public display of a normal sexual act. In my experience, men and women are more likely to make mention of boys and men masturbating than girls and women. This is in part due to a lack of slang words to describe female masturbation. It is given that men and boys masturbate, but for girls and women, even though it is commonly accepted that it is okay for them to, they are not expected to. If a woman does not know that her peers masturbate and that they presume that she does she is less likely to do it. Even if it is acceptable to do something people are less likely to do it if they do not know their peers do it. Since women do not generally talk about it, it is presumed that they do not masturbate.

Woman Masturbating with Vibrator
From the book Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson. Copyright 1987, 1983, 1974 Betty Dodson.

Only Single Women Masturbate: There is a negative social stigmatism attached to the label of being a "single woman." The majority of women I know refuse to go to a public social event alone. How often do you see a woman by herself at a restaurant, the movies, or the theater, compared to men? It is "okay" to be single, but everyone would prefer to see you with a partner. It is socially acceptable to be a single man but less so to be a single woman. Since there are so few single women, and only single women need to masturbate, there are not many women who masturbate. While this is hardly true, it does describe the premise behind why some women do not masturbate. They do not because if they have a partner they do not feel they should have to, or if they are single masturbating would substantiate their single status. If they were not single they would not have to masturbate. Instead of masturbating they go in search of a sexual partner. This results in many unhappy unions and sexually unsatisfied women.

Masturbation Equals Infidelity: Since masturbation is seen as a "solo childhood" activity some women with partners do not feel it is appropriate for them. Some view masturbation as a form of adultery when you have a partner. Plus, if you have a partner it is believed your sexual activities with them should fulfill all your sexual needs. While a nice ideal, in real life, their partner, no matter how good and loving they are, does not fulfill the sexual needs of many women. For women with partners it is important for them to understand it is perfectly okay and normal to masturbate, and they should do so without feeling guilty. Their peers and partner most likely do.

Having a Partner Equals Less Masturbation: For many, if not most women, the frequency at which they masturbate should not decrease when they go from being single to having a sexual partner. While this may be the expectation some women actually find they masturbate more when they have a partner as having a partner makes them feel more sexual and increases their desire for sexual pleasure and orgasm. Having a partner does not mean masturbation is no longer fulfilling or there are not times when you want to enjoy some solitary pleasure. When you have a partner they do not need to be the sole means of having an orgasm and they do not need to be present during all your orgasms, nor is it necessarily beneficial if they are. You are not denying your partner anything by having orgasms alone.

Masturbation is not a sexual activity you engage in only when you are alone, it is also a means of "sharing pleasure" with your partner. Many enjoy watching their partner give himself or herself pleasure and get intense pleasure from sharing this activity with them. As a result of watching your partner masturbate you develop a better understanding of what forms and techniques of stimulation they find most enjoyable. Knowing your partner can experience orgasm without your involvement helps to reduce some of pressure you may feel and allows sex to be more enjoyable for both partners. Couples, especially those in their teens, who do not wish to risk pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, will find masturbating together allows them to experience and share sexual pleasure without those risks. During pregnancy both partners can masturbate together when vaginal intercourse is no longer possible or desired. Masturbation should always be considered a normal part of partnered sex.

Knowing how to masturbate to orgasm is important to women because it is often necessary for them to stimulate their clitoris during intercourse if they desire to have an orgasm. Many sexual positions do not provide a woman's partner with easy or comfortable access to her vulva. A woman's partner may be facing in the wrong direction or their arms cannot reach her vulva. It is simply easier for the woman to provide the stimulation. It is also easier for a woman to stimulate her clitoris because there is no need for verbal communication with her partner and she provides herself with the ideal stimulation she requires each and every time. A woman stimulating her clitoris should not be taken as indication that her partner is not a good and caring person, or has poor sexual skills. If it means anything it is that a woman has taken responsibility for her own sexual pleasure.

Lesbian Couple Masturbating
From the book Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson. Copyright 1987, 1983, 1974 Betty Dodson.

A Perfect Partner Equals Perfect Sex: There are times in all relationships when your partner is not available for sex when you desire it, even when they sleep beside you. Couples frequently have different levels of sexual desire and expectations regarding physical intimacy. This is why women frequently masturbate secretively in the shower, or masturbate silently in the early morning hours while their sleeping partner lies beside them. Masturbating when you have a partner is normal and a woman should not feel ashamed for doing so; most women have probably done it at some point in their relationship. It is often a necessity. Forgoing masturbation and sexual pleasure because you have a partner does harm to you and your relationship because you will slowly begin to blame your partner for your sexual frustration. As your sexual frustration grows so does your frustration with the relationship. An affair or divorce may soon follow.

Women are Less Sexual than Men: While it is extremely untrue, the majority of people believe women are less sexual than men. We are led to believe women think about sex and desire sex much less often than men. Society frequently creates outcasts of women who are openly sexual. This results in women believing they should not have strong sexual feelings and desires. Unfortunately, many women are ashamed to admit they have a strong sex drive, that they become "horny." This results in women introverting and denying their own sexual feelings and desires. While a woman's desire for sex may change with time, as the result of hormonal influences, they are just as sexual as men. If a woman accepts that she is as equally sexual as a man she is more likely to feel comfortable with her desire to masturbate and the frequency at which she does.

Low or Absent Sex Drive: Even though women are very sexual beings sexual desire should not be the primary motivation for them to masturbate. The main reason a woman masturbates should be because it simply feels good. Women with strong sex drives may masturbate frequently but they do so because it feels good, not because they are driven to. If it did not feel good it is not likely that they would. A woman should not forgo masturbating just because she does not have a strong sex drive. Even if you have no desire for partner sex you should still enjoy giving yourself pleasure. The fact that preadolescent girls masturbate proves that a hormonally induced sex drive is not the only reason to masturbate. Young girls do it for no other reason than it feels good and helps them relax. Since it does feel good there is no reason to expect adult women not to. There is nothing wrong with a woman giving herself pleasure on a daily basis, or less often if she so desires. For masturbation to be pleasurable it does not have to end in orgasm. Masturbation may involve no more than placing your hands against your vulva when you go to sleep at night because it feels good.

Note: A low or absent sex drive and/or lack of genital sensitivity can be an indication of low testosterone levels or sensitivity.

The Growing Acceptance of Female Masturbation

I do not want readers to get the impression based on the above statements that all women have negative views of masturbation or that all women need to masturbate more often. Women are increasingly developing very positive attitudes towards masturbation. Eighty to ninety percent of young women do it at least occasionally. If given the opportunity women will often discuss their masturbation habits with pride, without the least amount of guilt. It appears that more young girls are being permitted to masturbate by their parents. This results in increasing numbers of adult women who find masturbation as normal as breathing. In addition, I see accounts of mothers who cannot contain their pride at seeing their daughter learning to masturbate at a young age. This positive attitude is transferred to their daughters. These statements are intended only to help women feel better about masturbation, not to make them feel that they have to masturbate to be happy, or that they need to masturbate daily to benefit from it. I just want women to see masturbation as normal, regardless of whether they masturbate, because their peers, siblings, and daughters most likely do.

Children and Privacy

I believe every article or book I have read that endorses childhood masturbation recommends parents tell their children it is a normal activity one engages in when alone. It is an activity one does in "private." I can understand why they recommend this but they overlook one major point, young children have no privacy. If you bathe, dress, wipe their nose and bottom, and walk into their bedroom unannounced, how much privacy do children have? Is it then reasonable to expect them to understand the concept of privacy or private? As a result, we send mixed signals to our children. Young children will likely believe their parents really do not want them to masturbate. If it is normal, why hide it? Why do their parents not want to see them masturbating if it normal and everyone does it? If it really is normal, parents need to treat it as such.

Children may consider what they do at home and with their parents and siblings as private as well, as they are not in public. They may masturbate in the living room when no one is around but when someone walks in they may be accused of not doing it private. One young girl started to masturbate in front of her older sister. When her sister told her she should not do so, her reply was that since they were both girls, it was okay. If you sleep, bathe, dress, and use the bathroom together, why hide masturbation? Children often have a different and more honest view of sex and masturbation than do adults.

It is perhaps best to recommend children masturbate in their bedroom or when they bathe versus telling them to do it in private. Set appropriate times and places. If they do it at other times or places, do not scold them, distract them with something else. If you have nothing better for them to do, then it is perhaps best to leave them alone.

Parents should be as supportive of their child's sexual activities as their individual circumstances permit. Having witnessed several children explore their genitals and masturbate in public with no harm being done to them or those around them, parents may not need to be as concerned about the possibility of this occurring as they may believe. If anyone does act inappropriately in these situations it is the adults, not the child.

Fetal Sexuality: Who Could Have Imagined?

The following quote was printed in the book The Clitoral Truth by Rebecca Chalker; it originally appeared in a letter in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 175, Sept 1996 page 753.

"We recently observed a female fetus at 32 weeks' gestation touching the vulva with fingers of [her] right hand. The caressing movement was centered primarily on the region of the clitoris. Movements stopped after 30 to 40 seconds, and started again after a few moments. Further, these light touches were repeated and were associated with short, rigid movements of the pelvis and legs. After another break, in addition to this behavior, the fetus contracted the muscles of the trunk and limbs, and the climax, clonicotonic movements [rapid muscle contractions] of the body, followed. Finally she relaxed and rested. We [several doctors and the mother] observed this behavior for about 20 minutes."

This raises the possibility that infant girls, as well as boys, may have some sexual awareness at birth. They may already know what sexual pleasure is and how to obtain it. Is it possible that fetal thumb sucking and masturbation are equally necessary and beneficial to the developing fetus? When an infant girl touches her vulva is she just then becoming aware of it or is she demonstrating what she learned or knew prior to birth? What are the psychological consequences of pushing her hand away? Would we do the same if she were sucking on her thumb? This one obscure record of fetal sexuality challenges our perceptions of human sexuality, if it does not in fact destroy them.

Web Resources:

Medical Article Summary: Masturbation in Infancy and Early Childhood Presenting as a Movement Disorder: 12 Cases and a Review of the Literature

Last Update August 23, 2015
First Published October 17, 1998