Women and Masturbation | SexHealthMatters.org

Feb 05, 2019

Back in December, we brought you a blog post on men and masturbation, discussing the benefits, risks, and ways to enhance the experience.  

This month, it’s the women’s turn.

Do women masturbate as much as men do?

Female masturbation is sometimes considered taboo, an activity that isn’t meant for “nice girls” who aren’t supposed to enjoy sexuality. But times are changing.

Female masturbation has become more common over the last few decades. In 2017, a study of 913 French women found that 74% of survey respondents had masturbated at least once in their lives. In 2006, a rate of 60% was reported, and in 1970 the rate was just 19%.

Still, men masturbate more than women do, the study authors explained, noting that 95% of men said they had masturbated compared to 74% of women. Half of the men said they masturbated at least once a week, but only 14% of women maintained this frequency.

Why masturbate?

Masturbation, pleasuring oneself sexually, is a natural, healthy way to achieve sexual release. It can have health benefits, too:

  • It’s a stress reliever and mood booster. Simply taking time for yourself for an enjoyable activity can take your mind off stress and help you focus instead on pleasure. And if masturbation leads to orgasm, the body releases endorphins – powerful neurotransmitters associated with feeling good. (Note: Orgasm shouldn’t necessarily be the end goal of masturbation. If it doesn’t happen for you, don’t worry. It’s fine to just relax and enjoy the experience.)
  • It teaches you about your body. When you’re exploring your body privately, you can try new things that you might not try with a partner. You might find that touching areas like the nipples or ears can be just as exciting as touching the genitals. You might share these discoveries with your partner.
  • It helps keep your genitals healthy. This is especially true for older women. Estrogen is an important hormone for keeping the vagina moist and flexible. When estrogen levels drop at menopause, the vagina can become dry and brittle, making sex uncomfortable. However, masturbation improves blood flow to the area, which might help with lubrication. (Learn more about genital changes at menopause here.)
  • It is (generally) safe. Masturbation is a low-risk sexual activity, and women don’t need to worry about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. That said, it’s important to stay safe. Women should wash their hands before masturbating to avoid transmitting any bacteria to the genitals. Sex toys, if used, should be clean and appropriately sized to avoid injury. (Learn more about the sizing of dildos and vibrators here.) Also, if you find that masturbation is interfering with your day-to-day life, be sure to talk to your doctor.

How do women masturbate?

There is no right or wrong way to masturbate, as long as the practice does not hurt anyone. This is a time to treat yourself to new experiences along with the tried-and-true routines.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Lie on your back (or stomach) and rub your genitals and other erogenous areas. If you aren’t sure exactly where those areas are, let your hands wander and explore.
  • Squeeze your thighs together.
  • Use your imagination. Fantasize about a particular person or locale.
  • Watch an erotic movie or read a sexually-explicit book while masturbating.
  • Insert a finger or dildo into your vagina.
  • Try using a vibrator.
  • Let water from the shower massage your genitals. (You can also use a hand-held shower head.)
  • Take it slow. You don’t have to rush to orgasm. You don’t even have to orgasm at all. Just enjoy the journey.



McCoy, Krisha

“Health Benefits of Solo Female Sexuality”

(Last updated: October 15, 2014)



Scaccia, Annamarya

“How to Masturbate with a Vagina: 28 Tips and Tricks for Solo Play”

(Reviewed: March 13, 2018)


Psychology Today

Mintz, Laurie, PhD

“Masturbation 102: How Women Pleasure Themselves”

(June 25, 2018)



Zoldan, Rachel Jacoby

“14 Benefits of Female Masturbation and Why Every Woman Should Do It”

(December 31, 2018)


Sexologies via Science Direct

Kraus, F.

“The practice of masturbation for women: The end of a taboo?”

(Full-text. October-December 2017)



Pagán, Camille Noe

“Female Masturbation: 5 Things You May Not Know”

(March 11, 2014)


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