Why embracing female pleasure is the key to a happy life and self-love

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Let’s talk about masturbation. If you have a vulva, this is a loaded topic. It is often rife with messages of shame, discomfort, and a general lack of knowledge.

According to a 2020 survey by SKYN condoms, 83 per cent of people equate intimacy with sex and want that with a partner, yet the orgasm gap still exists. Only 4 per cent of women and vulva-owners report having orgasms through penetrative sex on a consistent basis. Most of us, regardless of gender, want our partners to be satisfied during sex. So why aren’t we all coming? The problem lies in a three-pronged, interconnected set of issues: sex education is startlingly undertaught, porn has become default sex education, and as women and those raised females, we aren’t taught to prioritize female pleasure or our sexual wants. “I was always taught that sex was about pleasing a man and I spent so many years sleeping with dozens of shitty partners,” remembers Melissa Vitale, 27, a New York-based publicist. “If I had masturbated and embraced female pleasure more in high school it may not have taken literally 14 partners before I had my first orgasm.”

To put the lack of awareness around women’s pleasure into a (low-key disturbing) historical perspective: we didn’t even know what the internal clitoris was until the late 90s. Young women are not taught about the clitoris. You’ll rarely if ever, hear it mentioned in a sex education course. This leads young women to believe that they should be having intense orgasms through penetrative sex. When they don’t, they feel broken. No wonder that same SKYN survey found that 50 per cent of women have faked an orgasm. We’re not given the tools to thrive as sexually autonomous people. We’re told that we should give our partner orgasms as the top initiative in our sexual lives and aren’t told that we need to rub our clits to get off.

When you rely on a partner for pleasure, you can never truly be in control of your life and joy. This is where self-love comes in. It is so incredibly important to overall joy and happiness. Embracing female pleasure and prioritizing what we want (and indulging in it without guilt) is the ultimate life-hack for being completely in control of your confidence. Once you rely only on yourself for pleasure – once you get so in touch with your body that you know you can make yourself orgasm over and over again – there really is no stopping you.

Having power over your orgasm, pleasure, and life starts with making female masturbation a treasured event in your daily routine. It’s time we face the music on this one, pals: masturbation is self-care. For all the yoga, meditation, journaling, and green juice drinking we do, we seem to forget that orgasms are a cornerstone of health. “Exciting yourself lowers blood pressures and raises endorphins, the chemicals responsible for helping to ease stress and increase relaxation,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills, California, family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. Studies have shown that orgasms can help with everything from anxiety, to sleep, to hangovers.

What’s more, female pleasure and orgasm have the power to help us cope with trauma. “Pleasure is such an effective healing tool, especially if you have had difficult or traumatic experiences because you are teaching yourself that feeling good is safe and you are in charge”, explains Lucy Rowett, a Brighton-based certified intimacy coach and clinical sexologist. Being in charge of your orgasm brings you into your body and grounds you. Boundaries are built from a place of control and it’s women who embrace pleasure fully and completely that know how to set boundaries that work for their needs.

When you know what brings you pleasure, you begin to cultivate the tools you need to relay those desires to a partner. “Pleasure and happiness begin with oneself. Only when we are truly happy can we then partner up with another [person] and hope to be even more deeply fulfilled and bring joy to them as well,” Walfish explains. We do all of these activities and routines for a better, fuller life – masturbation deserves to be included in your practice. It might sound like a big commitment, but be real. If you skip one episode of your Netflix binge tonight, you’ll have plenty of time to get yourself off.

As with all practices, you’ll need to customize your self-love to your schedule. Embracing self-love can take many different forms. It doesn’t need to be a quick “lay the vibrator on the clit for a one-and-done” situation. Melissa says that she romances herself as a part of her entire self-love practice. She takes luxurious baths, eats French chocolates, and reads erotic literature to get herself in the mood. “Don’t wait for a man to get the hint,” she says. Especially for those who were raised in sex-negative, religious, and conservative backgrounds, masturbation can feel like this “bad” thing we’re not supposed to do. Sometimes romancing ourselves is a good way to remind yourself that you’re the first love of your life and that relationship needs tending to as much as any partnership.

Walfish says that we need to let go of the notion that masturbation could be anything other than an act of love towards oneself. It’s as critical to our well-being as eating or sleeping. “Those archaic beliefs and ideas only inhibit, constrict, and limit one’s ability to enjoy their own body and sexuality,” she says. It’s time we give self-love the attention and gratitude it deserves. This is not some fringe act for the sad, lonely, or sexually deviant. It is a tool to harness your inner power. Without self-pleasure, we can never truly love ourselves. And without self-love, we can never have true and lasting happiness anywhere in our lives.

Gigi Engle

Gigi Engle, is a certified sexologist and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: a guide to sex, love,

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