One of the biggest misconceptions about self-care is that it’s selfish. As a generation, we’ve purported this idea of treating ourselves, but often don’t stop to ask what we need from a mental, physical, and spiritual level. Rather than doing item #4 on a list of “10 Self-Care Activities,” why not sit down and consider what the physical body needs, what the mind is missing, or what our deeper self is really seeking?
Maybe the best way to tackle self-care is simply to start caring for the whole self. In that exploration, something that may come up is a desire for a deeper connection to the self or for a joy that's not contingent on anyone or anything else. Self-pleasure tackles both of those items. What once was a scary and shameful topic, is coming into the conversation in a big way (and its benefits could be far more significant than your typical bubble bath). And, yes, it is okay to talk about it.
Why Self-Pleasure is Self-Care
Catherine Tingey, life and business coach, ties masturbation to self-empowerment by stating that, “self-pleasure is self-care because a woman who is in touch with her turn-on is a powerful woman.”
As for Dr. Marqui Rennalls, he explains that masturbation can lead to better sleep and even lower blood pressure. Where we once considered self-care as another mani/pedi, Rennalls identifies self-pleasure as a “DIY home remedy for relaxation and release of stress and anxiety.” Sexpert, Kayla Lords, also pointed out that self-pleasure is one of the few things you can do that is just for you. “No one else's expectations, desires, needs, or wants factor into your self-pleasure.”
Dr. Gina Senarighi, a sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach, took her explanation a bit deeper by identifying how arousal and orgasm stimulate the release of oxytocin, prolactin, and DHEA. “All three of these are essential hormones in our overall happiness, satisfaction, and relaxation in life.”
Beyond hormone stimulation and regulation, Dr. Senarighi also states that “self-pleasure gives us a space to meditate on our own (often overlooked and undervalued) pleasure. Creating a masturbation practice by setting aside time to connect with our bodies--intimately and playfully--is a vital way to make space for ourselves and demonstrate that we prioritize our wellness and joy.”
Breaking The Stigma
It’s clear that self-pleasure is a great self-care tool, but we still feel guilty about it. After speaking to many “sexperts” about the stigma, one of the most prominent themes was that self-pleasure (and even self-care) can be seen as selfish. As women, it’s possible we feel the pressure of needing to please others before we tend to ourselves. So, naturally, personal time can fall to the wayside.
The ironic thing is that we need to take care of ourselves before we can effectively take care of anyone else. As Lords put it, “there's a reason we're told to put on our oxygen masks first in an airplane--we can't take care of anyone else around us if we don't first take care of ourselves. And self-pleasure allows us to take care of our needs.”
As for breaking the stigma, Nicole Buratti, a certified sex coach, advises surrounding yourself with like-minded people. “Get out to a women's group where self-care is a topic of discussion, or visit the Museum of Sex in New York City.” Buratti also suggested speaking to staff because when you see how comfortable they are talking about sex toys and other related products, it may help ease your anxiety about them.
Even if we take those steps toward inviting this topic naturally into our conversations, the real change comes when we’re unapologetic about our own needs.
Sarah Brown, a spirituality podcast host, broke down the stigma in her community by sharing her sexual interests and pain points with close friends in safe circles. “Being the first person to bring the subject up and willing to share personal experiences allows others to feel trust that they can share with you as well.”
Sienna Halliburton, a sex educator & marketing manager, also raves about the new phrases like “YOURgasm” that reflects a growing trend where self-pleasure is seen as healthy and empowering, particularly for women.
On the flip side, sex therapist, Angela Watson, believes that the stigmas are already disappearing. “Over the years, I've seen a noticeable increase in the number of male clients I have who own sex toys. I've also seen an increase in the number of female clients that own sex toys as well, particularly in women over the age of 30.”
So, what do you say, isn’t it about time we demystified pleasure? We all need it, and we all deserve it. Let’s chat about it.
Sonya Matejko is a writer, yoga teacher, and communications consultant living in New York City. She’s on a mission to help people express and empower themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually. By embracing vulnerability, Sonya hopes to move people toward their highest potential. Her writing has been featured on HuffPost, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, I AM & CO, Mogul, and Yoga Magazine. In 2018, she also founded @aforceofnurture on Instagram as a dedicated home for inspiration and self-expression.