National Masturbation Month – Enhance Your Sexual Pleasure

The art of self-pleasuringIf you been reading over a period of time then you know that I write about sex. And, since May is National Masturbation Month, it’s only fitting that we talk about masturbation–or what I prefer to call ‘self-pleasuring’.  This article was originally published on Midlife Boulevard, as How Masturbation is Like Playing the Piano.

I was forced to take piano lessons as a child. And, I hated the daily practice—playing the scales, working my way through those clever exercises to remember the names of the keys. I hated struggling through new songs. What I didn’t really understand was the benefits of practice. If I had continued with the piano I would have learned to move my fingers gracefully across the keys and found my own rhythm. I might even have enjoyed hearing the results of my work. Needless to say, these subtleties were lost on me as a child. Now I understand the need for practice when it comes to doing those things we want to improve, enhance and enjoy in our lives.

So, what does masturbation have to do with piano playing? May is National Masturbation Month, and throughout the sex education and blogging networks, folks are writing about and practicing masturbation. I like to call it ‘self-pleasuring’ as it has a gentler tone.

Why should you self-pleasure?

That’s where my piano analogy comes in—to get good at something we need to practice. Many women come to me with stories about their inability to orgasm or their lack of interest in sex—they want to enjoy it, they want to want sex but something is missing. So often we don’t know where to start, particularly if we were schooled to think that touching ourselves was sinful or bad for us.

If you want to have better sex you need to understand how your body works—you need to know where your clitoris is, how sensitive it is, and how you like your genitals touched.  And, that takes practice.

Some of you are saying things like, “I’m done with sex”, “Why bother, I have sex with my husband once a month, that’s enough”, “ I don’t like the idea of touching myself” and so on. You know who you are. Here’s the thing–sex, whether partnered or solo, through masturbation, is good for our bodies and our emotions.

Self-pleasuring doesn’t have to be about orgasms. The term itself defines what you want to do—give yourself a pleasurable experience. If you have orgasms with ease and regular sex with a partner you’re probably not the person who needs this article because you already understand the benefits of taking care of your own sexual needs.

If you’re not satisfied with your current sexual response and want to change things, start by self-pleasuring yourself on a regular basis. There are sexual health benefits to be derived from having sex, with a partner or with yourself. Worried about lubrication as you go through menopause? Self-pleasure will help by bringing blood flow to vaginal tissues, stimulating your body’s natural lubrication. Concerned that you will have trouble with sex once you’re ready to start a new relationship? “Practice” by yourself. Feeling a little down or sad? Orgasms cause the body to release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.

Think of your body as an exquisite piano with many options for bringing forth sensations. What does your body respond to? Light and fast, firm pressure, slow and measured? Where are your erogenous zones? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, chances are your lover doesn’t either. When you take the time to learn your body you are investing in your own pleasure and your sexual health. How much practice? Well, I know of people who practice their art daily. That may be a little too much in the beginning. Start slowly. Take 5 minutes as you step into the shower to explore a little. Or block off 30 minutes for a sexual meditation of slowly exploring your whole body, with a sensuous focus. The practice of masturbation, or self-pleasuring, is about embracing your sexuality, creating moments of arousal, and taking the time to appreciate your body. It’s more satisfying and much cheaper than buying new shoes or getting a pedi/mani. So have fun, the month has just begun.

More articles from Walker Thornton on this May celebration:

Let’s Celebrate, It’s National Masturbation Month In this article I talk about tools to assist you in self-pleasuring

The Merry Month of May-National Masturbation Month, 2014

Spring and the Sexual Self, on Midlife Boulevard

A house, an ending and a beginning

ExpectationI haven’t been able to write for the last several weeks–getting my house ready for sale would be the easiest excuse–the cleaner, less emotional answer. The truth is that this whole decision to move has created all kinds of unexpected emotions. It was a smart decision and one I made of my own free will a few months ago. The house is too big for one person. I want a simpler life. I want to be debt-free. Now I find it’s a matter of needing to let go and move on. And while that sounds so practical and wise, it’s awfully damned difficult.

With a signed contract (fingers crossed) and 79 days left in the house, I’m in the midst of an identity crisis. Or is it a housing crisis?  I can’t actually ‘see’ myself anyplace else. There are bound to be plenty of options but it’s more than just finding an available spot, it needs to feel right.

So, I ran away; I’m at the beach. Proximity to water always seems to open me up. This morning’s writing brought forth a couple of “aha” moments. The house, my deceased husband’s childhood home, has been a place I’ve loved since the first time I laid eyes on it in 1975. Forty years. It has been my home for the last 16 years. I’m leaving, I’m finally closing a door on that part of my life. I’ve been grieving without understanding who or what I was grieving for–until this morning. Myself. The life a young 22-year-old woman expected as she walked down the aisle. The life that kept bumping up against big obstacles and challenges. I find myself in a “Now what?” place.

The idea of leaving this too-large house, becoming debt free, and living a less cluttered life seemed inspiring at the time. I hadn’t expected to feel so emotional (and a little lost) in the process. I’m having to let go of expectation. And, a large dose of judgment about what my life ‘ought’ to look like.

What the hell does life look like at 60? I have no concrete answer to that. Life is what we make of it. And, I’m giving myself the greatest opportunity of my whole life, really. I get to create whatever I want. I get to take care of me—finally—without fretting over what ‘people’ think. No rules, no expectations, no restraints–and that’s scary as hell if you’ve lived a somewhat controlled, vigilant life.

I’ve done one round of uncluttering and scaling down–in terms of personal possessions. Now it’s time to dig deeper. To open doors and examine it all. This house selling isn’t as much about the house in literal terms as it is swapping out my old life for a more satisfying experience suited to who I am right now and how I want to live for the next 30 years.

I will figure it out, hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m looking at housing options, trying to intuit what feels like the right fit for this next stage. I am reminding myself that this is an exciting opportunity. Change can be challenging and much of it is about attitude. Shifts can create an opening for unexpected new delights and challenges. I remind myself that I should be grateful to have this opportunity.

Joan Price and the Best Sex Writing of the Year

I was invited to write about Best Sex Writing of the Year as part of their launch. I am happy to support the publication of this book and help get the word out about sex-positive experiences and lifestyles.Here’s what the PR people at Cleis Press have to say about the 2015 Best Sex Writing of the Year.

“In Best Sex Writing of the Year, no topic is too small or too taboo for writer, radio personality, and sexual pundit Jon Pressick, who has compiled a compelling collection of nonfiction writings on sex. With a forward by pornography actress and feminist activist, Belle Knox, as well as writings from well known authors like Joan Price, Jiz Lee, Charlie Nox, and Cory Silverberg, this anthology open the doors wide to reveal the secretive and hidden side of sex. From heart-wrenching tales of sexual exploit to musings on sex toys and race relations, this book covers the sexual gamut.”


sex writing, Joan Price, sexuality Given a selection of writers to feature, naturally I chose Joan Price. Joan is a friend and colleague, who writes about sex in a straightforward, no BS manner. Joan isn’t apologetic about aging nor is she unrealistic in her advice for older adults. Sex and desire is just as natural for adults over 60, or 70, as it is for those in their 20s and 30s, a message Joan embodies in her personal life. From Best Sex Writing of the Year (this is an affiliate link with Amazon), here’s a snippet of Joan’s story for your reading pleasure–a sad story but a pivotal one in her life.


Best Sex Writing of the Year, Volume 1, edited by Jon Pressick

Excerpt from “Sharing Body Heat” by Joan Price

August 2, 2008: I crawled into Robert’s bed and wrapped my body around his. If I could only get close enough to make the last hour, the last months, disappear. I hugged him tightly, desperately. I wailed his name and listened to his silence, remembering his murmurs, his words of love. I nuzzled my face into his neck as I had many times before, but there was no warmth now, no “I love you, sweetheart,” no kiss on the top of my head, no strong arms pulling me into him. I covered his thigh with mine, snaking my arm under his pajama top so that I could stroke the chest hair I had first touched seven years before.

I willed him to respond.

But he didn’t.

I willed him to come back to life.

But he didn’t.

“Do you need some time alone with your husband before the mortuary takes his body away?” the hospice nurse asked me gently. I nodded, shut the bedroom door, turned off the light, and crawled into bed with Robert’s dead body.

It was the first time in three months that I could wrap myself around my beloved and hold him tightly without causing him pain. Multiple myeloma—a blood cancer that affects the bone marrow’s ability to make healthy blood cells—had ripped Robert’s life from him while he still lived. His fragile bones broke, causing excruciating pain. His strong dancer’s body weakened and withered.

We could no longer make love—which had been our great joy—or even snuggle. Every touch was painful to him. All I could do towards the end was rest my hand or cheek lightly on his chest, or hold his hand. These little acts became making love.

Earlier that night I had held Robert’s hand—the hand that painted extraordinary works of art, that gestured gracefully as he talked, that rested on the air as he danced, that caressed me for seven years. I talked to him for hours, telling him how much I loved him and recounting memories. I reminisced about the afternoons that turned into evening as we gloried in the tactile paradise of each other’s bodies, the rhythm of our breath in sync. Now there was no breath at all. My tears spilled onto his hand. I lifted his hand and rubbed the wetness into my cheek.

“No-o-o-o!” I wailed.

Ours had been a later-life love affair—we met when I was fifty-seven and he was sixty-four. Robert Rice (yes, his name differed from mine by one letter) was a lifelong artist and a trained dancer from the age of two. He had recently moved to my area and was looking for a place to dance. He discovered my contemporary line-dance class.

The moment he walked into the room, my postmenopause-diminished hormones went into overdrive. I met his blue eyes and fell into them. I let my eyes travel to the tuft of chest hair that peeked from the V of his shirt, top two buttons undone, and I yearned to unbutton it the rest of the way down. Then when he moved his hips to the music, I pictured them moving under my hands and I lost my place in the dance I was teaching. It was lust at first sight.

My crush was one-sided, though. Robert kept coming to dance class, but he seemed oblivious to my interest, though it was obvious to all the other dancers, they told me later. Robert was there for dance, not romance.


Joan’s story of her life with Robert opened the door to a career in writing and speaking about sex for seniors. I have spent time with Joan at conferences and heard her speak on sex and sexuality. She’s a dynamo!

Best Sex Writing of the Year is full of stories from sex educators and writers across the country. Their stories are unique and represent all walks of life and ways of looking at sex and sexuality. I ordered my copy last week and I invite you to get your own copy.

To learn more about Joan Price, see her website, Naked At Our Age.

The case for self-pleasuring

female sexual desireWith spring finally here and the juicy energy warm weather brings, it’s a perfect time to explore the sexual side of life. I want to share some thoughts on the art of self-pleasuring, originally published at Midlife Boulevard.


I hold my skirt, sash untied.

And stand before the window with unpainted eyebrows.

Silk clothes fly open so easily.

If my skirt opens, I’ll blame the spring wind!

Zi Ye, translated


In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson


What is it about spring that leads people to think about sex? Is it the phallic nature of flowers as they push out of the ground? Is it the shift in temperatures that tempts us to shed our heavy clothing and expose our bodies to the sun? Maybe it’s our pagan heritage.

Tennyson speaks of a young man’s fancy. I want to expand the idea of spring as an aphrodisiac to include men and women, young and old.

About 10 days ago I decided to treat myself to 25 days of self-pleasuring after hearing another sex educator talk about her yearly practice. The idea appealed to me and fit my spring-induced mood. I planned to journal about my feelings and experiences, privately, and maybe write a little about the experience of self-pleasure as a daily habit. A habit that’s not unlike going to the gym every day or vowing to drink 8 glasses of water a day. I believe that sexual wellness requires us to focus on our intimate body parts and our emotional needs. Self-pleasuring, whether you’re in a relationship or not, is good for us.

I got started, then fell into the trap I often warn others about. I got busy and failed to make time for self-pleasuring. Here are some of the things I let get in my way:

I’m too busy

Waste of time…

It’s late and I’m tired.

This is going to take work to get in the mood.

I need to be focused; this will be distracting.

Is sex all that important?

Some of you are probably asking, why does sexual pleasure matter? Or maybe you’re patting yourself on the back and saying, “I already experience desire, why do I need this?” Or, “I have sex with a partner, why would I want or need to self-pleasure?”

Do we ever know all we need to know about something? Do we get to a certain level of mastery or satisfaction and then step back? Of course not. And, why would we not think ourselves worthy of our own focused attention? I learn more about my own desire with every experience. I find new levels of arousal. I discover new sensations. It makes me a better lover and it makes me happier. And, if a low libido is the issue, then taking time to be intentional about desire may help women feel greater desire.

Let me get a little personal and tell you what happened on those days when I devoted my attention to my body. On the first day I found myself in full arousal just thinking about this idea, partly spurred on by some delicious erotica that popped up in my inbox. I stopped what I was doing and turned my focus on my pleasure. It left me with a smile and a sense of well-being.  I went back to work (I work from home) feeling more energetic. Later in the morning when I did my dry brushing before showering, I was more aware of the sensations of the brush stroking my skin. I slowed down, turning my attention to what I was doing and found myself again in a place of heightened arousal. My skin came to life, my body tingled and my mood lightened.

Day two was hectic and wasn’t finding the time for play, so I focused on the act of dressing—what did I want to wear, what would make me feel good. The smooth nude-colored bra or the black lacy one? Lace. The pleasure for that day was taking time to look at my body—to see and feel the way lingerie and clothes embraced my body and contributed to my uplifted mood. I found pleasure in what I saw in the mirror—I owned my sexiness in that moment. A different kind of self-pleasure.

I don’t know whether others set a goal for their 25 days. I want to be present to my body, my sexual moods and to expand my capacity for pleasure.  Sexual desire is not as simple as flipping on the bedroom light switch. Female desire is complex; our desire and physical arousal build in delicious layers. When we’re not directing all our focus on our body, and maybe our partner’s body, we can’t fully experience all that sex has to offer. It’s like wandering out to smell the flowers wearing dark sunglasses with a stuffy nose, while trying to read emails on our phone. The opportunity for enjoyment is diminished if we fail to give it our full attention.

I’m back to my daily practice, actively thinking about my sexual pleasure during the day. For me the practice of self-pleasuring is not goal-oriented, it’s more of an acknowledgement of the value I place on sexual arousal. Each day can present me with a chance to be playful, to allow myself to feel new sensations, and to teach me something new.  For the woman who experiences a lack of sexual desire this is a great exercise. In fact, it’s the focus of the book I’m writing on stepping into our sexual desire. Self-pleasuring is ideal for learning how to awaken the body, discover and explore erogenous zones, and increase your ability to feel desire. I’m committing to this practice and I invite you to add self-pleasuring to your daily routine.

Feel free to comment here, or come over to Midlife Boulevard and add to the conversation there.


Image by Milada Vigerova at UnSplash