Female Masturbation

Female masturbation is a rather hush-hush subject. The female genitalia are smaller and less obvious than the male's genitals. Many females are not aware of the different parts of their genitals and do not always know when they are aroused. The clitoris, which contains the most nerve endings and is the most sensitive area of the female's genitals, is hidden under a little hood and covered by the inner and outer lips of the vagina. Not all females know about the clitoris or where it is.

No two women are alike, and hence, it is likely that no two women masturbate in the same way. Masturbation provides an excellent opportunity to get to know one's body better and to be creative. It has several benefits: stress-release, self-empowerment, and a better understanding of one's sexuality. Some women enjoy using fantasy and thinking about sexual thoughts while they masturbate. "Sex for one" is the place to begin when trying to overcome difficulties with arousal and orgasm; once a woman has figured out what feels best to her, by herself, she can teach these techniques to her partner.

The setting and situation are very important for a good masturbatory experience. Women benefit by choosing a situation where they have plenty of time and know that they will not be interrupted by a roommate, telephone, boss, etc. It is essential that one be able to relax and focus only on oneself. Many women feel that these opportunities to take time for themselves are few and far between-but this just makes it all the more important to find the time and get back in touch with their bodies and senses.

The images of sex which are most prevalent in the popular media tend to focus in on the vagina. If not having penile-vaginal sex with men, women are usually depicted getting themselves off with a dildo or vibrating phallus. Men tend to think that inserting something into the vagina is essential for the sexual pleasure of both parties-when in fact this represents the male phalli-centric worldview. Given the chance to explore for themselves, most women find that stimulation of their clitoris is much more important than vaginal stimulation.

Getting Started

After dimming the lights and setting the mood-some women like to have soft music or candles-take off your clothes and relax into a comfortable position. Begin by softly touching yourself all over, paying careful attention to the areas of the body that are most sensitive. These exercises provide the opportunity to appreciate your body. Can you arrange a mirror to let you see yourself? Focus on seeing the attractiveness which a sex partner would find in your breasts, thighs, skin, stomach, and hips. The goal is to become completely enthralled both by your own touch, and by your own body. You may try arching your back, fondling your breasts, or clenching and rubbing your thighs together. Once you feel turned on, you're ready for genital stimulation.

Masturbating With Your Fingers

Lie down in a comfortable position, and begin by stroking your inner thighs. Bring your fingers gradually closer to your vagina: Run them along the outer and inner vaginal lips (labia majora and labia minora). Try massaging your mons, the fleshy area on top of your pubic bone (where the pubic hair is). To locate the clitoris, run your index finger along the inside of the vaginal lips, up toward your navel. The clitoris is hidden under a hood of skin, but most women do not enjoy directly touching the clitoral glans because it is so sensitive. The touching method you choose will depend on how much stimulation you enjoy: You can rub or stroke the shaft of the clitoris through the clitoral hood, or massage the labia, which will stimulate the clitoris indirectly. Try using two fingers in a "V" shape: With one finger on either side of the clitoral shaft, slide your hand gently up and down. You may want to alternate between stimulating your clitoris and touching your vagina. Make circles with one finger just at the edge of the vaginal opening, stroke just inside your vagina using a fingertip, or insert an entire finger (or two, or more) into the vagina.

You can use your fingers to rub yourself at whatever speed and pressure feels best to you. Some people may like to press hard, while others prefer softer strokes. There is no right way to do it; just whatever feels good to you. As you become more aroused, your vagina will become lubricated. Vaginal lubrication is a clear fluid that can be used to make masturbation more pleasurable. As you become more aroused and vaginal lubrication increases, the sensations you experience from touching yourself will become more and more intense. Sometimes when the vagina does not produce enough natural lubrication, it may help to use an artificial lubricant such as K-Y jelly.

Experimentation with Clitoral Stimulation Techniques

Knowledge of the female genitalia is only part of the equation for enjoyable sexual stimulation—preference also plays a large role! When involving the clitoris in sexual activity, it is important to monitor how your body feels. Here are some suggestions that might help you find what you like.

Different Patterns of Stimulation

Try stimulating the clitoris in a variety of ways, including circular patterns, up and down, and back and forth. If you are at a loss for what to do, you might want to think of your ABCs. Moving your finger(s) as if you were tracing different letters in the alphabet, starting with A, can be a fun and effective way to discover which patterns of movement you like.

Different Levels of Pressure

Different people enjoy differing levels of pressure at different times. You can try a gentle pressure, consecutively stronger pressures, and even different frequencies of pulsing. Women tend to enjoy a lighter pressure at first, with a subsequent increasing of pressure with arousal, but everyone is different.

Different Methods

Your Pillow

Some women enjoy masturbating by rubbing their vulva against a soft object. Try placing a pillow between your legs and rubbing your clitoral area against it. You can do this either laying on your side, or lying on top of the pillow and thrusting into it. Other women sit on the edge of a chair, or place a pillow on top of a chair, and rub their clitoral/vulva area against it.

Your Bathtub

For some, the bathtub faucet can make an excellent masturbatory companion. The bath is also a great place to touch yourself with your fingers. While filling the bathtub with warm water, climb in, lie on your back so that the water flows onto your clitoris, and relax. Make sure that the water is at a comfortable temperature, and experiment with moving your vulva/clitoris in different places under the stream of running water. You can adjust the level of stimulation by trying different body positions-legs together, legs apart, knees bent, etc.-or by filling/draining the level of water in the tub. Another variation on the "water massage" technique is to direct the stream of a handheld showerhead at the clitoris.

Your Vibrator

There are all kinds of different vibrators and dildos on the market, tailored to the specific preferences of all kinds of women. A vibrator can be held near or against the clitoris or even inserted into the vagina. Dildos can also be inserted into the vagina, and many women enjoy stimulation from a dildo and a vibrator simultaneously. While vibrators have been reported to produce more intense orgasms and more multiple orgasms than other means of masturbation1, some women may prefer the feel of fingers or water.

However you choose to masturbate, it can be an extremely rewarding experience. Experiment with different methods, to find the one(s) that bring you the most pleasure. Finally, try masturbating in front of your partner, so that he/she can learn the techniques that work best for you. If there is a technique not described here which you think could benefit other women, please share it with us!

If you want more information, please watch this video created by Buzzfeed!


1. Davis, C.M., J. Blank, H. Lin, and C. Bonillas. "Characteristics of Vibrator Use Among Women." Journal of Sex Research. 33(1996): 313-320.

Last Updated 29 January 2009.


UCSB SexInfo Copyright © 2016 University of California, Santa Barbara. All Rights Reserved.