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Mindful masturbation: beyond the hype

While mindful masturbation may have fallen victim to some form of hype, we shouldn’t dismiss it as the wellness trend du jour.

By Aurelie | 18 July 2021
mindful masturbation Illustration by Mari Fedi of a relaxing athmosphere

So many things are overexposed these days we are quick to develop a natural aversion to popular concepts. While mindful masturbation may have fallen victim to some form of hype, we shouldn’t dismiss it as the wellness trend du jour. More than a life-changing secret technique, it serves as a helpful reminder to rethink our goal-oriented ways and pay more attention to the process.

Mindfulness + masturbation = mindful masturbation?

Mindfulness 101: a quick refresher

Explained in rather simple terms, “mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.” This definition, courtesy of leading app Headspace, touches upon the fundamental aspect of setting any expectation aside; we do not engage in meditation to reach an outcome of benefit, meditation itself is the benefit. More than a state, mindfulness is a skill that requires some form of training. The best way we know how to train it? Through meditation. (If you haven’t done it yet, follow our special guided meditation here.) More than relaxing with our eyes closed and some form of soothing music in the background, meditation is a powerful exercise in the art of observation; it is less about emptying our minds of thoughts and more about observing them.

What does mindful masturbation actually involve?

Because it can be a way to bridge a gap, the orgasm gap, masturbation is often approached with a goal-oriented mindset as opposed to an expectation-free practice. The point of mindful masturbation is to take the pressure off, to experience arousal without the anxiety that can come from following established scripts (that almost invariably always culminate in mind-blowing orgasms).

It also acts as an invitation to judge less and observe more. As social animals, we are profoundly judgemental creatures, and the judgment often falls on ourselves; in the sexual realm, we judge everything from how our body looks (and the face we might make when climaxing) to how well we are performing as a partner (to others or ourselves). Training our minds to observe, by choosing touch and pleasurable sensations as a focal point, means slowing down and truly being in the moment.

A mindful mindset can act as a powerful healing tool to a number of sexual issues ranging from poor body image to anxiety, trauma and even genital pain.

Keen to explore? Two ways to practice mindful masturbation

While there are no rules and intuition plays a major role, there are ways for beginners and skeptics to approach mindful masturbation. As with any practice, it takes consistency, and experts in the matter advise scheduling up to 2 sessions a week, on days when we are under no time constraint and can create the right atmosphere.

Method #1: Pleasure mapping

This is all about uncovering what gives us pleasure by experimenting with different types of touch across different areas. This taps into the distinction between psychological and physical arousal: while the former is what turns us on, what we fantasise about, be it an act, a person or a context, the latter is about how we enjoy being touched and what actually gives us pleasure during sex. Because there almost never is a perfect juxtaposition between the two and fantasies do not necessarily generate pleasure, learning to distinguish between the psychological and the physical is key. Just like taste, touch can be explored by taking a number of variables into account. Here are some of the aspects we can focus on:
  • Pressure: how pressure is being applied at any given moment
  • Friction: if the contact point is in motion, how much friction is applied
  • Speed: how fast the point of contact (finger or hand, for example) is moving
  • Angle: which direction the contact is coming from and pointing towards
  • Pattern: whether it follows a consistent pattern, random bursts or waves (being brought close and then back down)
Since every single one of these parameters can literally be mapped out, sex educator Kenneth Play came up with pleasure mapping; and while he suggests trying it out with a partner, doing it solo can help establish an ever stronger connection with our body. What is mindful about pleasure mapping? The key to this practice is to forget what we (think we) know, and leave habits behind; if we have been masturbating for a number of years especially, chances are we have fallen into a pattern of automatic reflexes and mindless gestures. Establishing a body map also involves thinking beyond genitals and considering every area as potentially erogenous and pleasurable; by pleasure, we do not mean orgasm.

Method #2: Orgasmic meditation

Orgasm may be in its name but don’t let it put you off: the goal isn’t so much orgasming as it is focusing on experiencing pleasure in the moment. What sets this apart is that, unlike exercises in body mapping, the clitoris is the main focal point. The premise is pretty straightforward: 15 minutes of clitoral stroking. And while the official practice originated as a partnered activity (which has earned it a fair share of criticism and skepticism), its main dynamics can be replicated alone with a vibrator. What sets it apart from most vibrator play is that orgasm isn’t the end goal (we previously discussed the orgasm injunction here). Having set up a pillow nest, and a double timer at 13 and 15 minutes, the practice consists in stroking the upper-left side of the clitoris, which is considered by orgasmic meditation to hold the highest concentration of nerves. Lubricant is key. After 13 minutes have passed, the practice involves grabbing a towel and pressing it against the vulva to exit the meditative state.

In a nutshell…

Is any this revolutionary? Not necessarily. New agey? Nope. Can it serve as a reminder to force ourselves out of our goal-oriented ways? To anyone who has tried any kind of mindful masturbation, the answer is a resounding yes.
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