"Masturbation has helped me to know how to have an orgasm, and to recognize the stages of arousal I go through."
My mother recently gave me a book she said changed her life in the late 1970s. Masturbation, in a very real sense, is one of the most important subjects discussed in The Hite Report book by Shere Hite, and was a cause for celebration because it is such an easy source of orgasms for most American women. Many women in the study said they could masturbate and orgasm with ease in just a few minutes. Of the 82 percent of women who said they masturbated, 95 percent could orgasm easily and regularly whenever they wanted. Many women used the term "masturbation" synonymously with orgasm: women assumed masturbation included orgasm.
The Hite Report, first published in 1976, was a sexual revolution in 600 pages. To answer sensitive questions dealing with the most intimate details of women's sexuality, Hite's innovation was simple: she asked women, a lot of them, everything—and published the results.
Importance of MaturbationMost women felt that the main importance of masturbation was to substitute for sex (or orgasm) with a partner. If some of these answers sound a little cold or stiff, it is merely a reflection of the deep embarrassment the question aroused in the women Shere Hite interviewed.
- "I suppose it's important to relieve some of the frustration of not being able to get a good lay."
- "Masturbation is satisfying, but not a substitute for male attention and affection."
- "It keeps you from going nuts when you need sex."
- “It’s only a substitute for successful coitus."
Others saw it as a learning experience. Many women mentioned that masturbation was an important way of learning about sex:
- "Masturbation has helped me know how to have an orgasm, and to recognize the stages of arousal I go through."
- "It teaches you to have orgasms and how to accept them: what they feel like, how you react and feel after, what you feel like after you climax."
Some women also felt masturbation helped them to have better sex with another person.
- "Masturbation teaches you to know your own body, and to gratify it, which leads to increasing your sense of independence and may also increase your ability to relate to someone else: being able to tell someone else what gives one pleasure can do a lot for a relationship."
- "If you feel guilty about touching yourself, you can't be very free in giving yourself to another, or touching someone else."
But some women saw it as a means of independence and self reliance.
- "Masturbation is the only way I can come without embarrassment and self-consciousness and trying to succeed for my partners sake."
- "It gives me control over my own body because I don't have to be dependent on another person for sexual fulfillment. Because this is possible, I have control over my relationships."
And some women described it as pure pleasure, important in its own right.
- "Masturbation is important for pleasure, as a different aspect of any person's sexuality, just like heterosexuality and homosexuality. I don't think enough people have thought it all through. I also strongly feel that my church is wrong in saying that masturbation detracts from sex with other persons. It doesn't; it's just different."
- "The attitude that masturbation is just for when you can't relate to someone else sexually for whatever reason is nonsense. Masturbation is another form of sex and should be seen as such."
- "Masturbation wakes me up in the morning. It's an energy starter."
- "It has taken me a long time to realize my sexuality is nine to enjoy, not something I owe my husband or anyone else. It's nice to have fun all by yourself!"
Type IA Masturbation (Manual/Clitoral Stimulation)
Type IA (manual/clitoral) was used by the overwhelming majority of women who answered. Forty-seven percent of the women who described how they masturbate (plus 2 percent who could also masturbate in other ways) used this type of masturbation. Another 17 percent used it with variations. Basically, it means lying on your back and stimulating your clitoral area with your hand (or a vibrator).
This type of masturbation is so classic that popular usage of the term "masturbation" seems to be synonymous with it. It is important to clarify the usage of the word "clitoris" in the following quotes. "Clitoris" is a term that came into popular usage, thanks particularly to Masters and Johnson and feminist writers of the 20th century. In most of these quotes, "clitoris" seems clearly to be used to refer to the general clitoral area, and not the clitoris itself, which is only approximately one fourth of an inch in diameter.
- "To masturbate, fantasizing or getting into an aroused state mentally is important. Also, for me, being alone is important. I use the tips of my fingers for actual stimulation, but it's better to start with patting motions or light rubbing motions over the general area. As excitement increases I begin stroking above the clitoris and finally reach a climax with a rapid, jerky circular motion over the clitoral hood. Usually my legs are apart, and occasionally I also stimulate my nipples with the other hand."
- "I usually lie down, with my legs apart, maybe my knees up. I touch myself very gently, especially the inside of my thighs, then proceed to manipulate my clitoris directly with the middle finger of my right hand. I start slowly around my clitoris, and lubricate it with saliva or soap if necessary (soap if in a tub). I make my whole body "vibrate by tensing my arm and moving it back and forth as fast as possible. I stop every so often, especially if I'm near climax, so I can enjoy the period of arousal. My whole body moves rapidly upon reaching orgasm, and my pelvic area moves spasmodically up and down. Otherwise I lie quite still except for my hand moving."
A small number of women (4 percent) stimulate the clitoris more directly. They generally hold the skin or lips stretched tight around the clitoral area, then stimulate the clitoris itself directly with the other hand. Many of these women mentioned that lubrication of some sort is necessary and that after one orgasm the clitoris was too sensitive to touch for a while.
- "I use my third finger, moistened, to stroke and rub on and around my clitoris. My other hand pulls back the lips, keeping a gentle tension on the clitoral area. I alternate the rapid clitoral rubbing with a slower rub of the vaginal entrance. (Actually, rub is hardly the right word, since it is a very light touch until just before orgasm, by which time I am very wet.) My legs are wide apart, my knees up-not much torso motion until orgasm, when there are strong muscle spasms in my torso and pelvis."
Type IA2 Masturbation (Vaginal Penetration)
Type IA2 is the basic method of manual/clitoral stimulation, but always with some form of vaginal penetration. Five percent of the women who said how they masturbated did it this way.
- "I use my fingers first to penetrate my vagina, for purposes of enlarging the sensation in the general area, but then for orgasm. I lightly and then more firmly rub my clitoris in circular or up-and down motions. With my other hand (left hand), I'm generally surfing porn. Yes, it's awkward. Legs apart."
A few women in all the types also occasionally penetrated themselves anally:
- "Upon thinking certain sexy thoughts my blood pressure feels like it's increasing, my heartbeat instantly becomes quick and hard. My clitoris tickles and within a few seconds my vagina gets slippery. I rub my clitoris with my left index finger. I penetrate my vagina and/or rectum with the index and/or middle finger of my right hand and move them in and out at whatever speed I wish. My genitals reach two or three stages of tickling intensity—each tickling more than the one before. I rub my clitoris in a back-and-forth motion."
Type II Masturbation (On Your Back)
Masturbating in Type I means lying on your back, and using your hands, fingers, or vibrator; Type II is very similar, except it means lying on your stomach instead of your back.
An interesting sidelight of Type II is that a much higher percentage of women hold their legs together than in Type I. Only one-fourth of the women who described the position of their legs held them apart-an unusually low percentage.
- "I lie on my stomach, elevating my ass, using one finger of my right hand, rotating it on my clitoris directly. I move a lot."
Some Type IIs depend mostly on body movements, rather than hand movements:
- "I lie face down on the bed with my arms underneath me, both hands over my genital area. Sometimes I need a soft substance between my hands and my genitals, as I move my body, not my hands. I have my legs together, with my ankles crossed."
Type III Masturbation (Thrusting)
Type III means masturbating by thrusting into a pillow or other soft object. Four percent of the women masturbated in this way, plus an additional 1.2 percent who could also masturbate in other ways. Type III is similar to Type II because it is done on the stomach, in the face-down position, but different because no hands are used.
- "When I masturbate, I usually lie face down on the bed with some cloth, like a blanket or spread, pulled together so there is a mound I rub back and forth on."
- "Usually I masturbate on the corner of a chair or something similar with a pillow between my legs. I hump up and down with my legs together."
Another variation, the final version of Type III, referred to earlier as unusual, involves holding yourself off the ground with your arms, and rubbing the pubic area against something while suspended:
- "I stand on a chair with a protruding but low wing back and rub first against it, then raise myself so I am above it, and stroking downward. This method allows much freedom of movement for my body, which I like. I first learned it as a child while playing on a chair my mother had."
Type IV Masturbation (Squeezing)
Type IV is a way of masturbating in which you cross your legs very tightly and squeeze rhythmically. You can be sitting, or lying down, or on your side, just strongly tensing and un-tensing your legs, especially the upper thigh muscles. Sometimes there is a pillow between the legs, which can help to center and generalize the stimulation.
Most of the 3 percent of women who masturbated this way (plus the additional 9 percent who could also masturbate in other ways) simply squeezed their thighs together or contracted their muscles:
- "I masturbate by rubbing my thighs together, usually lying down, but it can be done sitting up (in an office, on a bus, etc.). I rub them rhythmically, putting subtle pressure on the clitoris. The tension gradually builds to an orgasm."
Some women who masturbated this way also held something—usually a pillow or towel—between their legs.
- "I use a pillow or some other object that is firm but soft. I hold it between my legs and rub it up and down or squeeze it with my thighs. I can get stimulated somewhat by rubbing my fingers directly on my genitals, but can't touch my clitoris, as it is too sensitive. In fact, I'm better off wearing pants so I don't become too directly stimulated. My legs have to be clasped on the pillow, they can't be apart. I move quite a lot but don't need to if my fantasy is strong enough. I need lots of air, so therefore I prefer it out of the covers, with my ass and feet, especially, exposed."
Type V Masturbation (Water Massage)
Type V (water massage) is masturbating by running water (usually warm) over the genitals to orgasm. Two percent of the women who masturbated (plus another 2 percent who also masturbated in other ways) used this method. The most common way of doing it is to turn on the faucet with a strong, hard flow, lie on your back with your legs up on the wall and your clitoris positioned under the rushing water. Legs are usually apart.
- "I masturbate with shower water only. I aim it at my clitoris, legs spread apart. Sometimes I hook up a hose and sit on the side of the tub, and use a nice steady stream of water. Or I lie down in the tub, and let the shower water strike my clitoris if it is hard enough."
Importance of Orgasms
Are orgasms important to women? Although the answer would seem clearly to be yes, it has often been said, and written, that women do not need orgasms, at least in the same way men do. It is said that ours aren't as strong and don't feel as good as theirs.
- "Whoever said orgasm wasn't important for a woman was undoubtedly a man. Good sex expresses love, relaxation, and letting go, plus pure body pleasure."
Most women agreed. Women are sometimes under great pressure to perform by having orgasms, especially during intercourse.
It does seem clear that women should have a right to orgasms during sex as part of the natural course of things. However, now that the idea has become popular that women should enjoy sex "too," women are made to feel that they must have orgasms more to please the man than to please themselves.
- "It is only fair to him, and makes him feel 'as a man' and successful."
- "I perform and boost his ego and confidence and love for me with an orgasm. I do not like to think of myself as a performer, but I feel judged, and also judge myself, when I don't have an orgasm.”
There is also a social pressure that says a woman who has an orgasm is a "real" woman.
- "I don't think orgasms are that important; the literature has given women another burden. But I'm ashamed to admit, because of the myth, I feel 'good having an orgasm—like I'm a real woman. Arrgh..."
- "I can enjoy sex without orgasm, but psychologically I feel like I'm a failure, like a not totally functioning woman."