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Sexual Wellness

Increasing Intimacy During Masturbation

| 12/02/2021

Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

As you may grow comfortable with masturbation as a part of your regular routine, be it once a day, once a week, or once a month, repetition can make even the most fun activities boring. It can get harder to feel like you’re connecting with yourself. 

You’re alone, going through the motions, and likely even reaching the goal you created for yourself in a self-pleasure practice (reaching orgasm, experiencing physical pleasure, etc), and yet something is missing. Intimacy, emotional closeness. Intimacy doesn’t just exist between you and partners or friends, self intimacy is just as important. So for those of you beginning a journey, wanting to gain more from self-pleasure, here are some things to keep in mind. 

Your Mindset

There’s a narrative that masturbation is juvenile. It’s many people’s first experience with pleasure or orgasm, and something people often begin doing in adolescence or even childhood, long before having sex with others. This being the case, masturbation in adulthood is often framed as “the next best thing,” something one settles for when partnered sex is not an option. 

But masturbation isn’t just practice for “real” sex, it’s its own beautiful experience. Masturbation is a place to express yourself fully, without conscious or subconscious fear of being judged. Masturbation is a chance to focus solely on yourself as opposed to providing pleasure for another.

Masturbation is a means of self care, with benefits such as strengthened pelvic floor muscles (comparable to a pilates session), and the release of serotonin and oxytocin for stress relief (comparable to a bubble bath or glass of wine). Keep these benefits in mind. Your mindset establishes the foundation of making a self pleasure practice feel special. 

Set the Stage

Like many young girls in their pre-teen years, I fantasized about losing my virginity on a heart shaped bed, covered in rose petals, doused in perfume. And though that was far from the experience I got, (and though I now believe virginity is a construct) it remains a statement on how a magical environment can make for a magical moment. Makes sense, I mean your brain is your most important sex organ.

The state of one’s environment can actually trigger their sexual inhibition system. There are two parts of sexual response in the brain: 1. The sexual acceleration system, the gas pedal which upon seeing arousing stimulus sends messages to the genitalia to get “turned on;” and 2.  The sexual inhibition system which hits the brakes. Your sexual inhibition system is important; it keeps you from being aroused in many moments where it would be inappropriate for you to be, BUT it also has the potential to turn you off in moments where you want to be turned on. 

For people with sensitive brakes, the cleanliness of a room, a lack of harsh lighting, and curtains closed for privacy are all factors in just how turned on you’ll be able to get. The same way you would likely feel a tinge of warmth and appreciation upon entering your room and seeing your partner had set up something sweet, you can do the same for yourself. Put on the lingerie, grab a fuzzy blanket and light a candle or two. You can even spritz the bed with aphrodisiac scents such as lavender, vanilla, jasmine, grapefruit, orange, sandalwood, rose or mint.


Foreplay, the before part of whatever acts you may label “sex”, is not just something those with partners at their disposal can partake in. Foreplay with yourself involves an understanding or exploration of your erogenous zones. These are regions, both genital and non-genital, that elicit pleasure when touched. They differ person to person and depend largely on one’s past experiences. 

A good place to start? If you are transitioning from having more partnered sex to more one-on-one time, think about where you like being touched by your partner(s). Love when someone’s tonguing down your nipples? Invest in nipple clamps, swirl around your nipples with a finger, or use a vibrator around your nipples.

Switchin’ Up Positions

When masturbation is routine, horny thoughts can lead to “ok, assume the position”. That go-to position is likely the one you started with. If you first began masturbating on your back, then you may remain on your back every time until you realize there are other options. Some of those options include: on your back, with your legs in butterfly, with a pillow under your back or bum, on your stomach, on your knees, sitting up, sitting up in butterfly. 

Positioning yourself in front of a mirror is sure to increase self intimacy as well. How better to feel like you’re really having a sensual moment with yourself than looking yourself in the eyes?

The Element of Surprise

Part of what has conventionally made partnered sex so unique is that someone else is stimulating you, and how exciting it is that you never quite know what they’ll do next. But this can be true for solo sex as well if you’re willing to get creative. 

Hinting is the process of approaching or lightly brushing over a sensitive area such as the clitoris or G-spot, and only occasionally indulging by touching yourself the way your body so craves to be touched. 

In this practice, you’ll leave your body wondering, ‘will this be the time we indulge?’, getting hopeful, maybe even desperate, each time your finger or toy gets close, building up anticipation all the while.

Another way to incorporate surprise into masturbation is switching up the way in which you’re touching yourself as soon as your body gets comfortable with that rhythm. If you’re circling your clitoris with your finger for example, when your body starts to ease into that, start moving your finger up and down instead. The key with this is to avoid becoming robotic: as opposed to counting how many times you’ll do each movement, go with the flow. 

You might not realize it, but if you’re a person who started out with water masturbation (using a showerhead, sink or tub faucet to stimulate the clitoris), you’re pretty experienced with being surprised during solo sex. Flowing water, unlike a toy, does not have a certain pattern. It’s random and unpredictable. 

Going back to the basics might be the most underrated tactic in increasing self intimacy and renewing excitement around masturbation. In our busy, busy lives, having the time and privacy to engage in self pleasure is a luxury. Sure, sometimes enjoying this luxury might look like a quickie, 5 minute solo session, but you can also wield this privilege wisely, by building something with yourself. 

Take the care you would want a partner to take with you, and continue exploring to find your own solo-equivalents to the slow kisses, hand holdings, and whispers of sweet nothings you deserve.  

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