How do I masturbate?

For those who don’t know, masturbation means touching yourself for sexual pleasure. It’s about figuring out what turns you on and makes you feel good. If you’re interested in masturbating, find a private space, do something to set the mood or that you find stimulating, and explore!

There’s no right or wrong way to masturbate.

Different people like touching different parts of their bodies, with different motions and pressures, at different times. People usually touch their genitals when they masturbate. For people with penises, this can mean the penis, testicles (balls) and/or anus. For people with vaginas, this can mean touching the clitoris (its only purpose is pleasure!), other parts of the vulva (external genitalia) and the anus, and/or inserting fingers or a toy inside their vagina. This is a great way to get to know your body better. If you’re not entirely sure what’s going on down there, check out sexual anatomy for people with penises and sexual anatomy for people with vaginas.

Here are some other things you should know about masturbation:

  • Again, there’s no right or wrong way to masturbate.
  • It’s completely normal to masturbate, and it’s also completely normal not to!
  • People of all genders masturbate.
  • Masturbation is all about YOU. It’s a great way to help you figure out what turns you on, and what makes you orgasm (or come/cum), without the pressure of pleasing a partner.
  • Masturbation is not unhealthy or bad for you. Read more about masturbation myths.
  • It’s normal to masturbate whether or not you’re also having partnered sex.
  • Some people find that masturbating makes them have fewer (or no) wet dreams (also called nocturnal emissions).
  • You don’t have to have an orgasm (come/cum) to masturbate.

Even though masturbation is completely normal and nothing to be embarrassed about, there are a few important but less-fun things to keep in mind.

  • Even though there’s nothing wrong or shameful about masturbation, it’s still a private activity. Make sure you always do it in a private place (like your bedroom, or the shower) where no one is likely to walk in on or overhear you. NEVER touch yourself in public. Touching yourself or exposing your genitals to someone without their explicit, enthusiastic consent is sexual harassment, and very serious.
  • Some people watch porn to help them masturbate. That’s completely normal and ok, but it’s also important to understand that usually, porn is not like real sex. Porn (and erotica, for that matter) is a fantasy.
  • If you use a vibrator or other sex toy, clean it with soap and hot water after masturbating. This is extra important if you ever share them with anyone else—sharing toys can also share sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in some cases!
  • Do you masturbate or watch porn multiple times per day, most days, for a long time? Do you choose to masturbate or watch porn instead of hanging out with friends or doing activities you usually enjoy? It may be time to rethink your relationship to masturbation and porn. You may be relying on it too much to make you feel good. Find time for non-sexual activities that you enjoy, like sports, dancing, playing music, journaling or something else. Talk to a counselor, healthcare provider, parent or other trusted adult about what you’re going through.

Have more questions about sex, relationships or anything else health-related? Stop by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in NYC for free, confidential healthcare! Call (212) 423-3000 for an appointment—you’ll be welcome. No judgment, no charge.