This blog is the transcript of Episode #63 of “Under 10: A Mini Podcast on Intimacy”. Listen along here.
Last episode I invited you to go on a story journey with me. I told you my masturbation origin story and recounted my unforgettable meeting of the famed Grandmother of Masturbation, Betty Dodson, herself. This week I want to build on those stories by delving deeper into why a self-pleasuring practice matters as well as exploring ways to create or grow your practice. This show is for you if you have a long-established self-pleasure practice, and also for you if you have never dared to explore your sexual body but are ready to learn more. It takes courage to be here either way. I’m so glad you made it.
So let me begin by stating the obvious. The vast majority of people don’t talk about masturbation. And the things we don’t talk about live in a very particular place inside of our private worlds, often a very unconscious place. Unless you are one of the rare humans who can speak freely about willingness to pleasure yourself, it’s likely that you’ve never thought about masturbation as a conscious practice, right? Since I started this show in 2020, the premise of “Under 10” has always been that healthy intimacy can be learned by regular engagement of intimacy practices. But having never discussed the matter openly, you may have never realized that your quick get-off in the shower before work could also be a practice!
That’s the thing with not talking about it. The things we don’t share receive the least amount of our awareness and can live in a what feels like a “cut off” dimension of our personalities. Because we are social creatures, the very act of sharing something shifts our relationship with it. By speaking something aloud that has previously lived in silence, it’s as if we re-attach this aspect of ourselves back to the whole of our lives. This can also work as you listen to me share about this topic. As you hear my stories, you may be shining a light on what lives in the quiet recesses of your worlds where perhaps your own stories about self pleasure hang out, too.
After last week’s show, I heard from several of you thanking me for talking about what most people don’t. Consciousness is a phenomenally powerful substance. What we aim our attention at changes the object of our attention. Dedicating ten minutes to telling stories about masturbation changed us. We broke the taboo around self-pleasure. Seriously, if you listened last week and are listening along now, congratulations. Something in the Universe is irrevocably shifting. Perhaps something fractured inside of you is getting more whole. This is a very good thing. Let’s keep going.
I remember the first time I ever thought about masturbation as an intentional practice. I had just gotten out of a volatile, toxic relationship and chose to enter into a period of dedicated celibacy. No more dating, no more partners, no more complex relationship dynamics. I needed to regroup and better understand what was underneath my urge to partner.
I learned to play the ukulele. I focused on my business. And I also entertained the notion of masturbation as a whole body, self-honoring ritual. It was a male friend of mine who had been studying conscious sexuality who suggested making self-pleasuring a full body affair. My mind was blown. I had always thought about masturbation as only genital focused and also, purely climax driven. Yet if I made love to someone and they only went for my genitals before any form of full body connection, I wouldn’t like it. So why hadn’t I considered that for my sex-for-one time?
Slowing down to pay attention to yourself can take so many forms and is counter intuitive in a culture that teaches us to constantly reach for more outside of ourselves. It’s so easy to think of your body only as a machine responsible for producing. Focused on making money and taking care of others and seeking external validation and punching a clock and then going to bed to wake up and do it all over again the next day. There’s a quote by Eduardo Galeano, an accomplished journalist from Uraguay, that speaks to what’s possible when we choose to shift that focus.
“The Church says: the body is a sin.
Science says: the body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The Body says: I am a fiesta.”
I’ve always loved this! Note, that last line is in the voice of the body. Not a voice from the outside in, as in the first three lines. A voice from the inside out. I am a fiesta! You can think of creating dedicated time to nurture your body’s pleasure as a way to inhabit yourself. To come back inside. The culture of condemnation of sex places us outside of ourselves. If masturbation is scary for you – which is totally okay, you’re definitely not alone – it can be that you’re positioned in the voices that call your body a sin, a machine or a business. Setting aside time to explore what your body likes and doesn’t like, what feels lovely, what feels calming, what feels arousing and everything in between, is a way to enter into the voice of the party and say, “I am here. We are here. I choose to be a fiesta”. I want this for you.
Imagine with me what it could be like if you set a timer, give yourself fifteen minutes or more, turn off the devices and relate to your body with care and appreciation. Do this as an exercise right now in your mind’s eye. Beginning by massaging the skin on your face in slow, deep circles, especially those tired places around your eyes. Traveling to your arms, your chest, your genitals, your hips and even your feet. The beauty of this practice is that the communication is so direct. Imagine freely moving your hands to discover what makes you feel happy and relaxed according to the desires of your very own fiesta. Imagine exploring your genitals as part of the whole experience. Perhaps use oil or lube. Try building sensation and then moving to another part of your body. The temptation may be to go straight for climax, which is totally perfectly fine. Climax is wonderful. As you imagine, just know that you have permission to make this up, to slow it down, to get curious and see what happens if your journey includes head to toe touch without a goal. Breathe and notice what you feel as you envision this scene. Imagine using pleasure to help you come back inside your body. Imagine being gentle.
Do you notice judgment? Does it feel awkward? Do you think, I could never do that? Shifting from relating to our bodies from the outside in to the inside out is a process and takes time. You can begin in the imaginal sense only – just visualizing touching yourself with intention – and see if your curiosity takes you further. It can be amazing to realize that you could simultaneously be the person touched as well as the one doing the touching and have a powerful experience. Inhabit both. See if you can even imagine bringing a sense of reverence to your own body. Imagine that you have a body that is worthy of reverence. See what happens as you take that in.
If you are ready to try setting aside the time, for this week’s homework, use a timer and dedicate at least 15 minutes to exploring your body. You might keep your clothes on and include non-erogenous zones as your starting point. Just map the territory. Softly press your fingers into your chest, over your heart, and express gratitude for all the feelings that you feel there. Massage your ribs, your belly and your hips. If you decide to explore your genitals, do so with light touch at first. See what happens when you caress around the most sensitive areas as well as the sensitive ones, too. Follow your curiosity. This is the kind of touch for exploring, not for creating any peak experience unless you want that. Find out what kind of touch feels good to you and give it to yourself. Allow your exploration to include your full body and breathe deeply as you receive your touch and maybe even notice a feeling of homecoming. I feel excited for you to meet yourself more deeply in this way.