Sex With Yourself

'Masturbation can be tangible proof that you can feel pleasure in your body or your mind, and that you can be an instigator of that pleasure as well as in control of when and how the pleasure comes.'

From The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability, ed. Kaufman, Silverberg and Odette, 2003

Question1 Doesn't sex have to involve another person?

Welcome to masturbationExternal Website that opens in a new window, which is all about solo sex (involving you, you and you). Sex with yourself involves you pleasuring your mind and body.

Some people think that masturbation is a replacement for 'real' sex - second-best if you can't have it with someone else. That's generally not true. In fact, having sex with yourself allows you to focus more on your own body and feelings without being caught up in someone else's sexual agenda. It's also the most frequently performed sex act in the world! So there you have it, by international consensus - you can definitely have great sex on your own.

Question2 Isn't it wrong to masturbate?

Masturbation is a way of loving your body and telling it that it's worthy of pleasurable thoughts and touch. Does that sound wrong to you? Hopefully not. As long as you treat your genitals gently without hurting them, masturbation is a healthy part of your sexuality.

Girls are often told that certain parts of their bodies - like their genitals or breasts - are dirty, shameful, and not meant to be discussed, touched, and certainly not pleasured. But these areas are as much a part of your body as your hair or eyes, and there is really nothing dirty about them at all.

You may have also heard a bunch of myths External Website that opens in a new window about touching yourself - that if you do it, you won't be able to have a baby, that it is morally sinful, or that you'll rack up a lot of bad karma in the process. None of these are true. A lot of these myths were created because people thought women should only have sex so they could have babies. But masturbation, like sex, is about pleasure, and you won't grow three heads or become infertile by helping your body feel good.

It's also possible that you have had bad experiences associated with your genitals. If you were sexually abused, you might feel like any contact with your genitals is shameful or dirty. Or if you've had doctors examining these areas while growing up, it may be hard to associate these parts with pleasure. If so, start by exploring parts of your body that don't have such associations before moving to more 'difficult' areas.

Question3 How can I masturbate?

Since parents generally prefer to believe that their daughters (particularly their disabled daughters) are asexual - chances are most girls, including you, weren't shown or told how to masturbate. The good news is that it's never too late to learn.

There are no rules that govern what you can or can't use to masturbate. Fantasy, hands and fingers, pillows, feathers, clean and appropriately shaped objects and water are commonly used by women to pleasure themselves.

Water is a good one, especially if you can't reach your genitals but want to stimulate them. It can be used by directing a shower or blast of water at your genitals (or any other sensitive body part), keeping in mind not to direct the water straight into the vagina or anus. This can be a good technique if the only real privacy you get is in the shower or toilet.

It's often hard to get creative with masturbation because so few people talk about it - where are you supposed to get your inspiration from? While most of the stuff on the internet is generally geared towards straight men who want to watch a woman touching herself while staring into the lens of a camera, there are a few great forums and resources that focus on making women feel good. For example, this site External Website that opens in a new window is a space for women to share techniques they use to pleasure themselves. Or if you're a teenager, this website External Website that opens in a new window answers questions that other young people have about masturbation, with the option to write in and ask a question yourself.

Here are some general tips from The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability:

  • Keep it wet. Use lots of lubricant, spit or water to prevent your skin from feeling raw afterwards.
  • Take the time to get to know your body, and make different sensual points the focus of different masturbation sessions.
  • Mix up the sensation. Sexual pleasure can come from friction, vibrations, pressure, heat, or cold. Try different kinds of feelings - pressing something against your body feels very different to lightly tickling it with a feather.
  • Women use either or both penetration (into the vagina/anus) and external stimulation (of the clitoris or other sensitive body parts) when they masturbate. Try and see what works for you.

Question3 I used to be able to masturbate in a way that I really enjoyed, but now I feel frustrated that I can't reach all the right parts anymore.

Strange though it sounds, you may have to change your routine. It may be easier to do this by dispelling some of the myths many of us have about masturbation - you don't need to be naked, you don't need to have all your nerves working, you don't need to be able to reach and touch your genitals…and it can still be really good.

By imagining yourself in different sexual situations, you can explore the things that arouse you apart from direct contact with your genitals. This could include anything from rubbing your nipples to caressing your neck to feeling a blast of water against your body. There is no age limit on learning new ways to masturbate, and though it can be tiring and frustrating to figure out what works for you, the end result(s) will probably have been worth the effort.

Question4 There are always people around me, so when can I masturbate?

If you live with an attendant, caregiver, or even in a big joint family, privacy can be hard to come by. Even so, private moments can still be carved out of most lives. Are there any moments when you know you will be alone? Maybe in the afternoon when you know everyone will be taking a nap? If your caregiver is always with you, talk to her about needing more time on your own. You don't have to tell her why you want to be alone, but just that you would like a little space to yourself each day.

If you have access to absolutely no privacy at all, then perhaps you can close your eyes and pretend to be asleep, letting your mind take you wherever you want.

Question5 My 12 year old daughter is mentally disabled and she has started touching her private parts, even in public. It's very embarrassing, and I'm worried about her safety. What can I do?

Firstly, you must accept that what she is feeling is natural, and unrelated to her disability. All girls this age experience sexual desires and begin to explore their own bodies. However, because girls with mental disabilities may find it harder to distinguish between private and public behaviour, it may seem like they have 'unnatural' sexual desires. If you say 'No' to masturbation, this may lead to her hiding it from you and doing it in unsafe places. You need to explain to her how and where she can masturbate safely.

Before talking to your daughter about these issues, consider your own comfort level on these issues. What are your own beliefs about masturbation? Are you comfortable using correct names for private body parts? Are you open to answering any questions she may have? Do you see your daughter as a full human being who has the right to pleasure? It's important to equip yourself with as much information as possible before speaking with her. If she has trouble understanding complex ideas (like good touch vs. bad touch), use pictures, drawings, stories or role playing scenarios wherever possible. Here is an example External Website that opens in a new window of how to use a social story to help people with intellectual disabilities to understand different ideas.

Jessica who teaches autistic children, has the following advice for parents: 'With puberty comes new sensations in the body, and the topic of masturbation is one that is fraught with shades of gray. As is almost everything in [types of mental disability], you have to address it on a case-by-case basis. In general if you teach across the board that it's never okay, you're denying a basic human need. It's important to be proactive about it. You can help her to understand simple ideas like ''It's okay, but she has to be alone'' or even ''This is okay to do at night before bedtime, in her own room." [By specifically describing in which private spaces it is okay to masturbate - for example, differentiating between the bathroom in your house and a public toilet - can help her be safe] With adolescent boys, teaching concrete rules about how to masturbate is in some ways easier because of the physiological differences. An erection is obvious. You can say clearly, ''This is what it means and this is what he can do." With girls it's not as obvious, physically. Which is true for typical [nondisabled] girls, too.' ( Source: External Website that opens in a new window)

Attention Parents

  • Don't say 'No' to masturbation - this can lead to her hiding it from you and doing it in unsafe places
  • Explain to her what masturbation is. Girls often don't know how to safely masturbate, whereas it's more obvious for boys
  • Talk to her about where she can masturbate safely in private

Check this: