My first foray into sexuality occurred at the age of 14 when, one afternoon on my bedroom floor, I glimpsed the silhouette of a naked woman in a teen magazine and became suddenly and unexpectedly aroused.
I proceeded to clumsily and guilelessly mash at my clitoris—not really knowing what I was doing, only that it sort of felt good—until, a few minutes later, I came. This brief moment of pleasure was followed immediately by a wave of guilt and confusion.
While my experiences with sex and sexuality have developed in the decade since then, for most of my life, masturbation continued, more or less, as a scrambled version of that first time. The clitoris mashing became only slightly more refined, the two-dimensional stimulation shifted from the page to the screen to my own imagination. But though I’d learned to suppress or ignore it at times, the wave of guilt remained ever-present.
And why? Because I had never truly explored sex on my own.
I’d learned how to share sex with others, particularly how to please my partners, but the question of pleasing myself had never really been brought up. That’s not to say I didn’t have partners question it for me.
The man I discovered sex with spent years trying to coax my desires out of me, invested in the hope of offering me exactly the type of pleasure I wanted. But when the time came to express those wants, I froze. This created frustration for both of us. I couldn’t determine my own desires, which created a spiral of guilt that drew me further and further away from my own body.
When I did masturbate—which was infrequently—it was usually out of boredom. It became a purely utilitarian task with no real thought to it. The only goal I had in mind was to reach orgasm, which was usually mediocre.
From time to time I would attempt to experiment in the hopes of learning more about the mystery of my sexual fancies, but in hindsight this experimentation was not rooted in genuine curiosity, but in finding a quick fix to my partner’s frustrations. I didn’t know myself and I didn’t know how to know myself. So I just accepted that this was my lot.
As time went on and relationships shifted, I saw these patterns coming up again and again. The clumsy technique, the visual or imaginary stimulation and the guilt all remained staples of my masturbatory experiences. And eventually, I began to question these things. Then last spring, I stumbled upon a different philosophy surrounding touch. A new lover introduced to me to the ideas espoused by sex therapist Betty Martin in what she calls the Wheel of Consent.
For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into the whole philosophy, but it deals with dividing the separate roles and dynamics within touch relationships. I began to discover the different, and very delineated, roles of giving, receiving, taking and allowing with my new lover and found, to my surprise, that I struggled greatly with the receiving role.
I discovered a raw vulnerability that had been underlying so many of my sexual experiences. It was in the guilt that followed my masturbation and the ability to figure out what I wanted.
The fear of selfishness had been blocking me from listening to my own body.
My lover and I practiced exercises—both alone and with others, sexually and platonically—designed to allow each partner to fully embody the role they had chosen. And a veil was lifted. When given permission to be selfish, to receive without guilt or expectation of reciprocation, I could relax and give space to my own desires. Miraculously, I discovered what my body had been saying all along, that everything I had been searching for was already there, if only I would stop resisting it.
I had never experienced the freedom in receiving pleasure and it shifted my understanding of my sexuality entirely.
This discovery buoyed me with new energy. I found myself exploring sexual relationships in an entirely different way. This information had not yet reached my masturbatory habits, however, until a few months later when I was offered an impromptu orgasmic meditation session from an acquaintance. My curiosity got the better of me and I agreed to participate in what turned out to be one of the most valuable sexual experiences of my life.
Operating as a partner exercise, orgasmic meditation positions one person as the receiver, while the other is the giver, providing one repetitively and rhythmically administered touch to either the clitoris or the frenulum.
Laying in a dimly-lit room receiving this repetitive, meditative sexual stimulation, I felt fully aware of my body. There was no need for fantasizing or visual stimuli. I was completely present, in the moment, in my own body. Concentrating on the sensations I was experiencing brought me the most wonderful, slow-burning pleasure.
Later, on my own, I explored my body for what felt like the first time in my life. I appreciated my contours and curves, the softness of my skin. I touched myself lovingly, intimately, sensually. I touched myself the way I would touch a lover.
Since then, I’ve continued to explore myself and develop an understanding of my own physical and sexual desires.
The patterns developed on my bedroom floor all those years ago would have continued unobstructed had I not stumbled upon a different path. Without connecting guilt-free with my body, I’d still be stuck in the same frustration and dissatisfaction that governed more than a decade of my sexual experiences.
I now experience masturbation as a tangible act of self-love, a practice intended to serve myself, know myself and celebrate myself. And it is beautiful.
Author: Jazz Meyer
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Helga Weber/Flickr