Masturbation. Let’s be honest; we all do it, so we may as well talk about it. Masturbating is actually very healthy because it allows you to get to know your body — know what you’re comfortable with, what you aren’t into and what you are interested in trying with a partner. If you don’t know your own body, your own pleasure or your own dislikes, how do you expect your partner to? If you want to avoid uncomfortable, awkward or even painful sex, know what you like and communicate it to them.
Moreover, you don’t need to masturbate just to learn what you like. If you want to experience sexual pleasure, there’s no reason you need someone else there to do so. At the same time, if you’re not into masturbating, don’t ever feel like you have to or that you owe it to yourself to pleasure yourself. For some men and women, that’s just not what they like. And that’s okay, too. Your sexual experiences are yours to take ownership of.
The double-standard that men are able to own their sexuality and experience pleasure whenever they so desire but women aren’t or can’t is outdated and inherently sexist. Woman do not exist for the pleasure of man. We are our own beings, and we have every right to experience sexual pleasure and intimacy. Whether this happens with a partner or on our own, female pleasure is women’s right.
Before you move from masturbation to sex, we need to talk about consent. It’s not something with unclear lines; it’s actually very simple. If you don’t want to have sex, or if your partner doesn’t want to have sex, then do not have sex. Period. Sex is a very intimate, personal experience and should only take place when both parties are willing and have given a verbal yes.
This means discussing with your partner what you’re comfortable with, what your personal boundaries are, and openly communicating throughout any kind of intimacy, whether it’s a hot-and-heavy make-out session or penetrative intercourse. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your partner about what you want and what you don’t want, you probably shouldn’t be having sex with them. Sex should be fun, intimate and enjoyable for all parties involved. So make sure they want it and you want it. Once again, as with masturbating, don’t feel like you have to if you don’t want to or it makes you uncomfortable. You have every right to own your sexuality and your sexual experiences, and sex should happen when you’re ready, wanting it and when your partner(s) feel the same way.
If you are having consensual sex, safety should be one of your primary concerns. Anytime you have penetrative sex, pregnancy is a risk, and any type of partnered sexual behavior runs the risk for STI’s. Protecting yourself is crucial in confidently enjoying sex.
Protection against pregnancy: Birth control is your best option for avoiding pregnancy when you’re sexually active. While on it, whether you’re using oral contraceptives, intrauterine contraceptives or a hormone bar, your body isn’t ovulating, so it’s physically impossible for you to get pregnant if you’re using it correctly. Birth control does not protect against STI’s, however, so make sure you’re still using a condom—there’s no harm in using both.
Protection against STI’s: Using condoms is the only way to avoid contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) altogether, but again, they only work effectively if you’re using them correctly. Make sure you and your partner (there’s no reason you can’t both be on top of your protection) have access to and are using condoms that fit correctly and ensure that they’re properly applied before any intercourse occurs. Condoms are also important when performing oral sex—yes, you can still get transferable diseases through cunnilingus.
If you’re not looking to pleasure yourself with a partner and are interested in some solo fun, yes, you absolutely should still be using a condom. While you can’t get pregnant from a sex toy, these products need to be properly cleaned and be donned with protection because various diseases, while not necessarily STI’s, can still exist on the plastic and enter your bloodstream. Again, protect yourself and your body so you can enjoy yourself without any concerns preventing you from relaxing.