Like many people, I have a masturbation routine—the toys, positions, and settings I rely on to get me there, fast. Whether I’m enjoying a mid-day fap or lulling myself to sleep, self-pleasure is my favorite form of self-care.
Except—that routine is hurting me.
I realized this shortly after starting pelvic floor physical therapy. How I contort my body and the way I clench but don’t relax my pelvic floor when I self-pleasure aggravates my two types of arthritis (facet and ankylosing spondylitis for my fellow rheumies!).
The efficiency I worship has a cost and my body pays it
I switched up my routine, relying on techniques or toys that I use whenever I really need to procrastinate…only to remember the reason I save those for a rainy afternoon: they take too long, or the toy is too loud. Stronger orgasms or expediency, not both. At 1am, with my partner asleep next to me, I just want to rub one out without waking him and drift off to sleep!
Then, I stopped self-pleasuring. My pain ebbed. My pelvic floor relaxed. My core engaged. But I missed masturbating, my beloved pleasure practice that had buoyed me through eating disorder recovery, graduate school, fights with my beau, sex droughts, the grief of two autoimmune diagnoses, and so much more.
When I returned to my routine, my therapy progress halted, and my pain returned. I knew something needed to change. I also knew I wouldn’t do it for myself.
A month-long mindful masturbation challenge
For me, the words “mindful masturbation” generally elicit eye rolls that rival those of any teenager. When I saw my friend and fellow sex educator Caitlin Roberts post a video inviting us to join, I watched it expecting only to be entertained.
Except, her approach intrigued instead of annoyed me. Maybe it’s because May is International Masturbation Month. Maybe it’s because I already know and trust Caitlin. Maybe the fact that she’s collecting data for research appealed to my desire for fame and importance.
Maybe all the therapy, meditation, and other personal development practices are working—and I’m learning to recognize and act on what my body needs.
Trying new things is key to an intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex life that lasts
According to Caitlin, mindful masturbation is about breaking patterns, following your pleasure, and focusing on what’s actually happening versus what we think should happen. It’s less about stopping thought and being more present, and more about doing things differently.
It’s asking, what else? and approaching masturbation from a place of curiosity, exploration, and patience.
Mindful masturbation also helps you create new neural pathways for pleasure, boosts a variety of feel good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin, and provides all the personal and relationship benefits of other mindfulness practices—with a side of pleasure.
I prescribe a form of it at almost every workshops or counseling session. Which makes it a much-needed dose of my own medicine.
It’s scary to try new things, and in that discomfort intimacy and connection blooms
I’d be lying if I didn’t say the challenge terrifies me. Because of the healing work I’ve done, I have some idea of how it’ll go, both the positive changes and the challenges. If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s to embrace that discomfort.
To have a Big Scary Talk with your beau. To invest when the money doesn’t make sense but your gut says, “fuck yes.” To commit to the practice that’ll leave you heaving with sobs some days; scaring your neighbors with primal stomps and screams the other; and, giggling and dancing until you collapse on others.
The practice may revolutionize my life, deepen my relationship, and heal my body. Or none of that could happen. I’ll learn about myself, my desires, and my boundaries regardless. So while I can’t say for certain what will happen over the next 31 days, this much I know for sure: I won’t be the same person at the end of it.
Want to do your own mindful masturbation challenge? Check out Caitlin’s intro video (NSFW) for inspiration. Have a sex question? Email email@example.com and I’ll answer it in an upcoming post.