Men, Make 2023 a Better Year for Self-Pleasure
For one 30-year-old video producer in Austin, Texas, it started with photos of women in swimsuits.
"My family had a computer in the living room," he said, recalling his early forays into masturbation. "When my parents would go to the grocery store, I would go on, Google image search 'Maxim models' and that would get the job done."
After graduating from Maxim models, the video producer progressed to pleasuring himself to "sexy dancing videos" and, eventually, porn.
Regardless of the choice of stimuli, his masturbation experience remained fairly constant over the next decade.
"It was always this hurried thing for me because it was a race against the clock," said the man, who requested anonymity.
Jordan Gray, a sex and relationship coach based in British Columbia, relates to this experience and believes a lot of men raised in the digital age do, too.
"[We] grew up in a pornified culture," Gray said. "For most young men, the majority of experience with self-pleasuring was hushed and hurried."
Our penchant for porn-charged self-pleasuring is a problem, because it disconnects us from our bodies, according to Gray.
"When men are disconnected from their bodies, several things happen: They experience less sexual pleasure, they struggle with sexual stamina and they struggle to connect as deeply with their partners," he said.
With a new year ahead of us, now's a good time to abandon masturbation patterns that no longer serve you and embrace ones that do. To help you make 2023 a better year for self-pleasure, here are suggestions from sex experts.
Try mindful masturbation
Nearly unanimously, the experts we interviewed touted "mindful masturbation," or the practice of turning off autopilot and masturbating while being aware of all your senses and feelings.
"The aim of mindful masturbation is to be aware and present with the experience and not become a 'spectator' or judge or criticize what is happening," said Alejandra Lucatero, L.C.S.W., a social worker who specializes in sexual health at the Hawaii Center for Sexual and Relationship Health in Honolulu.
The purported benefits are numerous.
"Mindful masturbation helps you really be present and learn what feels good so that you can then share this insight with your partner and help your partner feel more confident in their ability to help experience pleasure," Lucatero said. "[It can also] help reduce anxiety in sexual experiences by learning to redirect the mind when it starts to judge and criticize, which is very common for someone who experiences erectile dysfunction."
Getting started with mindful masturbation can be as simple as slowing down, according to David Chambers, a London-based relationship, dating and intimacy coach for men. He recommended making time to be with yourself instead of hurrying to the end of masturbation. This approach lets you tune in to the sensation of your own body.
Cut back on porn
Another unanimously endorsed strategy is eliminating or cutting back on porn and "reconnecting with your body the old-fashioned, analog way," as Gray put it.
The process of masturbating without porn might feel weird—at least, at first.
"Allow this to take time," Gray said. "If your body has years of experience with the hurried, ejaculation-focused type of masturbation, then deepening your relationship to your own internal sense of pleasure and turn-on is going to take some time. There can be quick wins in the first couple of experiences, but for the most part, this is a fundamental relearning."
The benefits play out in self-pleasure sessions and partner sex, Gray maintained.
"The real pleasure in solo and partnered sex is found in slowing down and feeling fully," he said. "Just do that, and everything expands from there."
Try different positions and places
Masturbate in new positions, suggested Colin Richards, a sex and relationship mentor at Intimacy Matters in London. Facing a screen sitting down is an unnatural way to masturbate, Richards said. Instead, he suggested experimenting with lying down, standing up or being in front of a mirror.
Lucatero recommended taking your stimulation a step further by changing your environment.
"The bathroom or shower is a common location to masturbate," Lucatero said. "Try a different room or a different time of the day to switch up the context or even invite a partner to watch."
When you involve another person, consent should always be top of mind, she added. Don't engage in solo sex in front of anyone who doesn't choose to watch enthusiastically and consciously.
Wherever you decide to masturbate, exclusively do it in a place where your body feels deeply safe, Gray said.
Involve your other senses
Something else to try: Focus on different senses, such as smell and touch, during your self-pleasure session.
"Consider what it means to arouse yourself from all five senses," said Reba Corrine Thomas, a pleasure-positive sex educator and CEO of Sexpert Consultants in Washington, D.C. "Perhaps [try] lighting candles or using aroma therapy that makes you aroused or relaxed."
To heighten your sense of touch, Thomas proposed switching the type of material your skin comes into contact with and investing in silk sheets. She also advocated for playing around with different types of lubricants.
"There's coconut oil. There's thicker gel lubes. There's water-based versus silicone. Play around with the textures," she said.
Use a toy
One recommendation from Richards is a penis-specific massage wand. He recommends one that the user can move up and down the shaft and twist around, rather than one that stays at the base of the head, on the frenulum. Such a toy is good for both solo and couple play.
Another toy Richard endorses is a silicone sleeve that recreates the feeling of a vagina or an anus. The penis is designed for penetrative sex, he pointed out, so you want something that recreates the feeling.
Chambers is a proponent of nonejaculation—also known as semen retention—or the practice of orgasming without ejaculating.
In tantric sex, nonejaculation is thought to foster a more intense, full-body orgasm, as well as provide benefits such as self-control and body awareness. Part of orgasming without ejaculating involves training yourself to control your ejaculatory response.
According to Chambers, one way to gain that control is to try edging, or masturbating right to the "edge" of ejaculation and stopping before orgasm.
After bringing yourself to the brink of ejaculation and back a few times, Chambers suggested ending the session by lying still and feeling how the sensation in your body has changed. Abstaining from ejaculation lets you just be present to that feeling instead of trying to clean up and rush off somewhere.
Full disclosure: The research on any purported benefits of semen retention is limited. In fact, more frequent ejaculation may reduce prostate cancer risk, and retaining semen for more than four days adversely affected sperm DNA and implantation success rates during a study using men at an in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic.
Explore other parts of your body
"Explore the rest of your body—nipples, thighs, anus, etcetera—while you touch your genitals and notice what comes up for you," Lucatero advised.
The new sensations might be subtle but impactful.
"We often expect suggestions to be out of this world and be a huge change, but again, the smallest modification can lead to immense satisfaction," Lucatero said.