Masturbation as Stress Relief: Making Love to Myself
Honestly, sometimes it’s not even about the orgasm, it’s about offering yourself a chance to be out of your head and fully in your body, even just for a moment.
I know it sounds redundant. Talk and writing on sensuality and slowing down have seemed to be popping up all over social media feeds and blogs amongst the wellness community quite often these days. We are all aware of our societal need to slow down and tune in and we think we have it figured out. But let me tell you, I straight up preach this shit for a living, I talk about sensuality and make art about it and write about it and center my life on living from a place of embodied connection with the self on a literal daily basis, and somehow even I have forgotten to maintain a practice of integrating time to come back into my body over the past few weeks. And it has been manifesting all over the place.
It’s not as simple as understanding the concept of sensuality on an intellectual level and having that be where it stops, because it can’t stop there. Sensuality as it is put into practice doesn’t exist in intellect. It’s in the body, in the senses. Sensuality itself, is about abandoning our constant search for logic so that we can bring our awareness downward. Instead of the analytical manner in which we must go about navigating our work lives, our finances, our plans and daily tasks, it’s about finding what lives outside of all of this, and inside ourselves. Who we are without it all, as living, breathing, feeling human beings. It’s an ongoing, daily practice. It’s consistent self-reminders, check-ins, and training of the mind to release patterns we were taught we needed for survival. Unlearning and re-training, both of these are work, and one cannot happen without the other. But when our lives, and our heads, are already filled to the brim with things that feel like work, our relationships with ourselves often fall to the back-burner without our even realizing it, until our body’s need for attention starts to manifest in ways that impact our performance in other areas of our life where we can’t afford to fall behind.
And then we hopefully start to listen.
For the past month or so, I’ve been moving through a period of more work-relating stress than I have experienced in several years. As I cultivate a more self-reliant, freelance-based career, I have been experiencing a plethora of varied emotions on a daily basis. From worry to panic, imposter syndrome, fear, self-doubt and exhaustion, and then over to the opposite side of things where lives moments of triumph and pride, my life currently lacks any conventional form of stability, and this is reflected in my inner experience. I have been having trouble sleeping, meditating, practicing yoga, even just sitting still to read a book without checking my email – all of these being things I regularly turn to as self-care without resistance or difficulty. Recently though, I just haven’t been able to slow down enough to connect with any of it simply because I can’t get out of my damn head.
AND I HAVEN’T BEEN CONNECTING TO MY FRICKIN AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL BODY?!
Today, I decided to make my morning about feeling good, rather than clicking away on my laptop. I had a beautiful bath, drawn intentionally with soothing oils and candles and intentionally dim, sexy lighting – my sanctuary for meditative self-holding and serenity. The act of drawing myself an elaborate bath, and then sinking into the atmosphere and the hot, steaming water usually calms my restless mind in an instant. Rituals such as this give me the chance to seduce myself, and then sit with myself and tune everything out so I may tune in. Today though, once I was settled in, all I could think about were the 475 things I had to do after I was finished. I tried some breathwork to help myself sink into the experience, to feel the luxury of the moment, but I couldn’t stop the mental buzz, so of course I wrapped it up as fast as I could justify and went to get dressed for the day.
As I was moisturizing my body, I started to realize the way I was actually feeling in my body – completely indifferent, numb. Usually at this point in my cycle (pre-ovulatory), I feel a lot more drawn to and connected with my body. As I shed the weight of my menstrual phase, I feel lighter and more sexual in my skin, and I use this as a chance to spend more time and energy on my sexual relationship with myself. I often look forward to this phase as a chance to be playful and explorative with myself, as my time to really prioritize my own pleasure and learn about myself in this way, and yet this time around I hadn’t even considered sex with myself. It hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Reckoning with this, I laid down on my bed and tried to tap into sensuality. Again, all I could think about was work, just like the night before, when I had laid down in this spot to try and go to sleep. As I started to experiment with touch, I literally couldn’t even feel my hands on my own body. My fingers making their way across my chest and arms, downward across my torso and grazing my inner thighs, which usually feels like a magic unlocking for me, weren’t even registering. It’s not even that I was struggling to feel things fully, there was no sensation at all. Touch can’t just be sexy because it happens to confront parts of the body that we link to sex. Touch without intention is just touch, there is nothing sexy about it, and even if the giver of touch is intending to offer pleasure, if the receiver is not open and intentional about receiving the pleasure, then the pleasure is left and lost at the surface of the skin and an act with such electric potential falls null. Pleasure cannot exist without presence.
After a few minutes, I again recognized my own lack of presence and took to a more deliberate grounding method. I placed one hand firmly like a cup over my pubic bone and the other over my heart, and started taking long, full, deep breaths into these two places. After a while, once I could actually feel the connection between my palms and my body below them, I started repeating out loud:
“Come out of your head, come into your body. Come out of your head and down into your body. Come down into your body. Come into your body.”
Saying this over and over out loud felt like an order, like a demand I was making to myself. And, as someone with a kink-dominant erotic blueprint and submissive sexual tendencies, when being given an order during sex I am motivated to oblige. Slowly, my own demand for sensory attention started to resonate and integrate, and my awareness consented. I started to feel heat rising between my hands and the skin they were exploring, and as touch began to feel more pleasurable, I was able to quiet my mind enough to relax and tune in for the first time in days.
It took quite a while, quite a lot of patience, slowness, softness, and a lot of compassion for where I know I’ve been at and what I’ve been moving through recently, but I was able to spend a few quiet moments with myself in peace after all, and that alone was orgasmic. While I could feel myself at first growing frustrated with my own lack of ability to focus, my only way of fully relaxing into the experience was to release this self-judgement and meet myself exactly where I was at. During the process, my focus would waver, would start traveling back upward, and I would gently invite her back down, back to the touch and sensations it created, and we went on a journey together, my body and mind, until we were able to focus on pursuing pleasure.
Sex with ourselves can’t always be about the orgasm, because with that pressure to achieve we send ourselves right back up into our heads. We must find ways to keep our attention on the immediate, on what’s happening right now rather than the results., and regardless of if you cum or if you don’t. It’s about creating a space where you can offer yourself those few moments of precious peace. This really is the love being made.
Love is a verb, loving yourself is an action and a practice it is not just a concept. Making love to yourself is about creating a space with yourself where love can be expressed and explored. We can’t always show up to love in the light, carefree way we idolize. Sometimes it requires asking for what we need, even if it’s uncomfortable, even if it’s not as sexy as we’d like to be. To carve out the time for making love with yourself, then, is to recognize yourself as your primary partner and accept yourself with as much compassion and tenderness as you would your dearest loved one. Masturbation isn’t always glamorous, but it is always an act of love.
It is always an act of love.