A brief guide to female self-pleasure, self-exploration and self-knowledge, from sex expert Alix Fox

Want to know the one key secret to getting the best out of sex, for every woman out there?
Knowing yourself.

Being familiar and comfortable with your own body. Learning which parts make you feel great when they’re touched, and what sorts of touch feel greatest. Becoming an empowered B.B.B. – your own Best Body Buddy.

No two women are exactly the same. Masturbation and self-exploration are vital to discover the unique way you’re personally wired – what turns you on, and what turns you off. Once you figure out how to enjoy yourself, by yourself, for yourself, it’s easier to have satisfying, scintillating sexual experiences with a partner.

Yet despite how important self-pleasure is, most of us are never taught how to explore ourselves. And even if you already masturbate regularly or are having super sex, it’s still healthy to try new ways to self-pleasure, especially as our bodies change over time. Here are some suggestions on how to begin your own very personal journey of bliss-covery…

Reflect on things

Have a proper look at your genitalia with a hand mirror, or sit in front of a full-length mirror so you have both hands free to investigate yourself. Use a diagram if you need to identify what’s what.

Many women have never seen another female’s genitals close up. Pornographic images are often digitally altered to look perfectly neat and symmetrical, and aren’t representative of the full varied spectrum of what ladybits can look like, so it can be hard to know what’s ‘normal’. The truth? All sorts are normal! And every sort has the power and potential to feel wonderful. The more you’re able to feel love for what you’ve got, the more likely it is to feel lovely.

Get in touch with yourself

With your fingers, see how it feels to touch different parts of yourself in different ways, inside and out. For many women, stroking or rubbing diagonally across the clitoris feels gorgeous, but no movement is wrong – try a mix to find your fix, as different tricks work for different chicks!

Experiment with tapping motions on your clitoris, or make tiny circles orbiting it with a fingertip, interspersed with more intense flicks or pinches to give you a thrilling twinge. Try lightly tickling your labia with your fingertips, then cupping the whole area with your hand and pressing to encourage blood flow and sensitivity. Vary between light and firm touches. Play! Whatever feels right is right.

Once you’ve found a combination of motion + location that feels marvelous, keep going. Lots of ladies need repetitive, consistent stimulation to orgasm, so when you hit on a type of touch that makes you tick, see what happens if you keep it up.

Take your time

Studies show that although women tend to climax faster when they’re alone than with a partner, it can still take around 20 minutes to reach that point, and it’s not uncommon to take much longer.* A lot of ladies think that they can’t orgasm simply because they’re not giving themselves a decent chance.

Don’t make ‘The Big O’ the big goal

Don’t focus on making having an orgasm the whole point of your ‘session with yourself’. Just enjoy the process of discovery, savouring whatever feels lovely. You’re on a quest, not taking a test, so if you don’t climax, don’t worry.

Plus, fretting about whether or not you’ll climax can make orgasms run away!

See if squeezing feels pleasing

Squeezing your muscles as you masturbate can enhance sensations in quite surprising ways. Try curling then releasing your toes; clenching your buttocks; or stretching your legs out taut. It might feel good to hold the squeeze, or to tighten then release in a rhythm.

In particular, the pelvic floor muscles can have a strong effect upon sexual pleasure. They’re the ones you squeeze when you’re weeing in order to stop the flow of urine. Try clenching in the same way while you touch yourself; you should feel a tightening, lifting sensation inside your vagina.

Change the position of your body, not just where and how you touch yourself…

Lots of women automatically lay on their backs while self-pleasuring, but in the same way different positions can change the way intercourse feels, altering your stance can change the effect of masturbation, too.

Experiment with kneeling as though you were straddling a partner, or getting on all fours. Bend over a piece of furniture. Spread your legs wide, or hold them close together.

…and don’t just touch between your legs

How does it feel to pull your nipples, or your hair? What about running your fingers over your inner thighs, or your perineum: the little stretch of skin between your vagina and your anus? Caressing your neck or the backs of your knees?

Placing a palm on your lower stomach and pulling upwards while you touch your clitoris with the other hand feels amazing for some women, as it can create extra tension and tightness in the vaginal area.

Try a tube of lube, or a stimulating gel

Lubes make every touch feel superbly smooth and silky. They’re a simple, easy-to-use product, but can have a big impact. A gentle water-based formula like Durex Play More is a good place to start.

Other lubes and gels add extra sensations and additional effects. Durex Intense Orgasmic® Gel heightens the sensation of of intimate areas, creating a delicious mixture of cooling, warming or tingling feelings. Stroke on a few drops and see how it feels for you…

Could a change in breathing take your breath away?

Some women find that changing their breathing patterns when they’re close to climax can tip them over into orgasm. Notice what happens if you breathe extra deeply while you touch yourself, if you pant, or if you hold your breath for a moment.

See if a toy brings you joy

Vibrating toys not only provide a blissful buzz, but larger ones can also help you touch inner parts of yourself that can be tricky to reach with fingers alone. Invest in a Durex Intense Bullet to use on your clitoris.

What’s happening upstairs affects what’s happening downstairs…

Your brain is one of the most important organs involved in your sexual pleasure. What’s happening in your head affects what happens in your bed. The more relaxed, confident and excited you feel mentally, the better you’re likely to feel physically.

Imagining a hot fantasy can make you feel hotter in reality, so let your mind wander as your hands wander… Reading erotica, listening to music or playing an X-rated audiobook can help set the mood and fire your imagination.

On the flipside, interruptions and distractions that break the spell can send you instantly out of the ‘moan zone’! So: switch off your phone. Give yourself your full attention.

* Masters, William H.; Johnson, Virginia E.; Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (U.S.) (1966). Human Sexual Response. Little, Brown.

Alix Fox

Alix Fox is a multi award-winning journalist, broadcaster and sex educator. She presents The Guardian's hit sex podcast, Close Encounters; is resident 'erotic agony aunt' on The Modern Mann show; and is Sex & Relationships Expert for Durex. Alix's writing can be found in publications including Marie Claire, Glamour, Cosmo, LOOK, Time Out, Vogue, The Independent and more, and she frequently collaborates with sexual health charity Brook. She fervently believes in open, honest conversation about sex, and thinks everyone should have access to dependable information to help them become their most liberated, healthy, happy sexual selves.