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I can’t remember precisely the first time I masturbated. However, if I had to guess, it was probably in college after watching an episode of MTV’s “Undressed”. Over the years, I remember a few instances where I curiously slid my middle finger in and out of my vagina, feeling all over the place and wondering: what is this?

The first time I really masturbating in a steamy way, give yourself an orgasm, was much more memorable. I had recently turned 18 and a few friends bought me a Spencer’s vibrator named “Ever-Ready Freddy” as a gag gift for my birthday. Freddy had an intense, menacing face and if you squeezed him in a certain way he would say one of his signature slogans, like, “Damn, can’t you have a real man?”

All that to say, I doubt my friends thought that I in fact use this demonic looking sex toy. But boy, have I used it. And thanks to Freddy, I was introduced to the magical power of the clitoris to unlock orgasms and sought his help several times a week until the sad day he finally went kaput.

We asked women to share their early masturbation experiences. From sensual to shameful to ridiculous, here’s what they told us.

Responses have been slightly edited or condensed for length and clarity.

Preschool play time

“The first time I masturbated I was barely able to crawl. I started rubbing on the mat when all the children were sitting in a circle in kindergarten. I remember it was really heartwarming and wanted to keep doing it, but I’m pretty sure the teacher made me stop. – Hayley Jade, sex worker

Shower in pleasure

“Like many girls, I discovered masturbation in the shower with a handheld showerhead. When I discovered that the persistent and insistent jet of water directed at my clit made my thighs tremble, I learned to lie down in the tub, plant my feet on the cold tile, and surf wave after wave of water. ‘Orgasm. I was about 7 or 8 years old. Masturbation was the time of my life when I felt the safest, happiest in my body, and most alive, in an otherwise rocky childhood. – Chris Maxwell Rose, sex educator and host of the “Speaking of Sex” podcast

Jungle Gym, FTW

“I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but at one point in elementary school climbing on the jungle gym poles became EXTRA fun for me! It wasn’t until I started training to be a sex therapist that I realized that it was quite common for girls and women to masturbate while rubbing against objects. I thought I had just discovered an amazing secret! So many women think this is a ‘weird’ or ‘unusual’ way to masturbate, but in my experience teaching thousands of women how to reach orgasm is actually one of the three most common techniques. – Vanessa Marin, sex therapist and creator of the online course Finishing School: Learn How To Orgasm

Wrapped in shame

“The first time I remember masturbating, I was about 6 years old. I figured out pretty quickly what was working and what was not. I remember feeling really good until I was about 10, when I started to feel guilty about being sexual and ashamed of objectifying women. I knew early on in my life that I was gay but denied it for a few more years. It was like saying it out loud that I loved women that I would be rejected by everyone I love and that everyone would know my private thoughts and feelings. I was fortunate to have supportive gay and lesbian cousins ​​who were the first, and that gave me the courage to step out at 14. Now I’m sexually positive, a lot of my artwork and work is LGBTQ focused, and I’m engaged to the love of my life! – Tevy Khou, illustrator

The summer of love (of self)

“I was 15 and I was in my room. It was summer and I was alone in the house because everyone was outside by the lake. I read pamphlets about becoming a personal trainer that I had hidden between my mattresses. When I grabbed the edge of the bed to push them back to their hiding place, I reached out to grab hold of and ended up with my hand under my jaws. Surprisingly, I was feeling pretty good, so I finished securing my things and rolled over on the bed, face down, and put my other hand in my pants to get the two of me involved.

I remember slipping over my underwear because I didn’t want my hand to get wet, which is still my favorite to this day. I wanted to be calm so I stayed face down on the floor and pushed my face into my comforter to calm any noise. This is probably why I like a good asphyxiation session now. I did not enjoy. I thought I did, but I definitely didn’t. It felt good. It only lasted as long as I could hold my breath, then I had the most beautiful nap of my life! – Mara Marek, actor and host of “The Happy Never After Podcast”

What’s up doc?

“The first time I masturbated I had no idea what I was doing. And I didn’t do it alone. I must have been 10 or 11 years old and every time I dated these three girls in particular we would play “doctor”. One at a time, we pulled our pants and underwear down to our knees and lay on the bed on our stomachs with a pillow between our legs. One of the girls put a popsicle stick between our cheeks to “take our temperature.” Then we moved our hips until we felt better. For some reason we called it the bra. ‘OKAY. It’s bra time. You will feel better when you are done! we said to each other.

We were very methodical about it and ridiculously giddy when we were done. I never did it alone back then. No idea why. And it wasn’t until I was in college that I really made the connection. Suddenly all the rubbing against pillows alone in bed throughout my late high school years made sense! – Jenny Block, author of The ultimate guide to solo sex

Gandalf, gratification and guilt

“I remember my first pretty vivid masturbation. I was about 14 or 15, sitting in the living room, watching “The Lord of the Rings”. I just finished my nuclei biology project or something and decided to watch TV before going to bed. I remember being so in love with the sound of Gandalf’s voice (I learned later in life that I am an oral therapist) that I felt my pussy tingle for the first time. I didn’t understand what my body was trying to tell me. I felt hot. My body was simmering with anticipation. My body started to ache and I honestly didn’t know what to do. I was so wrapped up in so many foreign feelings.

I was taught at a very young age that young women DON’T like each other. Pleasure is a privilege of marriage. Only married women can enjoy their bodies with their husbands. The more I watched the movie, the stickier my thighs got. The more I watched the film, the more I was ashamed. I felt very torn. I turned off the TV, went to my room and prayed until I fell asleep. Three hours later, my body woke me up with a vengeance I had never experienced before. I rolled over onto my stomach and placed my hands between my thighs to soothe the discomfort. For the first time in my life, I felt pleasure in my toes. Dizzy with fear and desire, I felt the urge to understand the pain. I started to trace every part of my being until I shudder and come. The high was as instantaneous as the immediate low. I began to repent of taking pleasure from my future husband.

I felt so bad for indulging myself that I made a vow of purity. I didn’t masturbate until I was 19, the same night I lost my virginity. – Brittany G.

Sex Ed for Grown-Ups is a series that tackles everything you haven’t learned about sex in school – beyond birds and bees. Keep checking back for more expert-based articles and personal stories.

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