Last Sunday over video chat, my friend Lucia was sharing period jokes from her stand-up act in Barcelona, where she lives, and we got to talking about "Broad City." I asked her the moderately dumb question I ask everyone who watches the show but doesn't live in New York, which is, simply, whether it's as funny to watch from somewhere else, given its focus on the city.
"I mean ... it's just as funny when you are them in real life, which is how I feel," she said. "Like, Ilana's masturbation scene at the beginning of that one episode -- how could that not be funny everywhere? Who doesn't also have some bizarre, elaborate masturbation technique?"
Of course, this launched us into a half-hour-long discussion of our own masturbatory habits, which vary so much from one another it's almost impressive we have the same genitalia and can both achieve orgasms. Obviously, that's how it goes with sex and sexuality: Everybody gets off in a unique way, because we are all special butterflies.
But the way that special butterfly-ness carries over to masturbation, and creates all these differences in the ways we get about getting off — well, that’s just fascinating. Neither my friend nor I preps for "alone time" with oysters and green lipstick as Ilana Wexler does, but that lack of commonality is about the only thing our rituals share — and that’s to be expected.
Except maybe it’s not to be expected, because it’s so rare we talk about this stuff. The "Broad City" masturbation sequence was so funny and refreshing for that very reason. The scene highlighted the fact that individual quirks are what make for “normal” masturbation, but it did so in a way that felt comfortable and humorous for pretty much anyone — whether that person’s masturbation ritual is more, less or equally elaborate.
So, to open up a conversation about the ways we go about getting off when we’re alone (or when we have one or more partners watching, or maybe even a live webcam audience), Salon asked friends and readers to share their personal masturbation rituals. Below are 15 insights from anonymous people of various backgrounds, which have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
1. I hump. That’s the only way I can reach an orgasm. I hate penetration sex of any kind. I cannot reach an orgasm through oral sex, never reached an orgasm through penetrative sex. I hump my mattress, yes. No porn; I have images stored in my brain. I don't really hear of too many guys who hump like I do... I think of women when I’m doing this but I never think of myself and a woman having actual sex. Now, I hump my mattress feverishly, but I’m not a slob: I cover the bed with towels, wash them and replace them afterward (with new ones of course, quite frequently). Granted, I go through so many towels, but hey, it comes with the territory I guess.
2. I use a vibrator under a lot of blankets to muffle the noise (because I have a roommate) and watch porn with headphones. (My only demand for porn is genuine reactions from any women in the video. Bad actresses ruin it for me.) If my roommate isn't home I don't go under the blankets, but I still use headphones in case my dead relatives are paying attention.
3. I am a straight woman, but I pretty much need to watch lesbian porn because the men in porn are such turn-offs. Why do they all wear ear gauges now? I have a vibrator that's sold under the name "Butterfly Kisses," but it's much louder than any butterfly I've ever seen. It's helpful to play music loudly because I have a platonic male roommate. I think it's especially fun to play, like, opera. It was a New Year's resolution of mine to masturbate at least once a week, which is probably how often I do it. But it also makes me feel lazy. Like, I'm not an uptight woman, but sometimes I'll spend hours masturbating and then think, “Man, really wish I had used that time for taxes or something.” The absolute best way to masturbate as a woman is to smoke weed first. I believe this is a universal rule.
4. I'm usually good on the bed looking at porn on Tumblr, or sometimes a movie. I do it straight up most often, but my favorite times are when I can use my wife's toys. Either a vibe or anal beads that I'll use in my ass while I get off. Sometimes I'll taste my own cum. Also, although I consider myself straight, I must admit I have an affinity for MMF porn. I like the fantasy more than the reality. It really gets me hot, though, MMF. Damn, now I need to cum!
5. Lights off or a small light on, blankets pulled suspiciously high up on my neck, using a hand and reading erotic literature on my laptop like someone who's afraid of a parent or roommate walking in. My doors don't lock, so my ears are really alert. Recently I've stopped being lazy and invested in vibrators, cheap ones that die quickly and then an expensive one that was faulty (the manufacturer is still slowly going about replacing). If I'm using a vibrator I blast Grimes because that definitely covers up the low humming noise. If I do go the porn route, I watch about 10 seconds of a variety of videos, get disgusted, switch, try another, switch, until I give up and then half-heartedly try to make one work. I like it when the actors moan or seem like they're into it (like for real, not the creepy moans with the weird dead eyes). In terms of reading, I tend to like plots that play off of power imbalances and cheating, for some reason.
6. I'm in bed, lying down and reading (not erotica). I suddenly come across a paragraph of intense imagery, describing the scenery of, I don't know, the landscape (?!), and this somehow gets my mind on touching myself. I put down my Kindle, grab my laptop, pull up Tumblr GIF porn, then retrieve the Kindle, set the laptop so that the screen is in my peripheral vision, and lie down. Continuing where I left off in my book, I scroll through Tumblr with my right hand, reading with the book on my knees, and touch myself lightly with my left hand. This is a very well thought out process. I continue to read. (We're getting to heavy dialogue regarding the weather in Tokyo and what the characters are going to eat for lunch.) Continue to scroll through Tumblr. (We're getting to heavy fingering and butt plugs.) I hurriedly throw down my Kindle, and start aggressively attacking my body with my left hand as I try to find a good video with my right. Find it quickly, because (duh) it's bookmarked. I turn on my stomach, shoving pillows in my crotch and underneath me to -- fuck it -- emulate a human male with a pillow-edge dick. I hump in tempo with the kind people on-screen, feel silly, then immediately lose myself into clitoral-stimulus bliss. Then it’s over. Sandwich time.
7. I usually lock my bedroom door, turn on MTV jams or other music videos loud (so my roomie doesn't hear my loud vibrator), and play porn on my iPad. The porn ranges from three-ways with two girls and one guy or just a couple. I really enjoy the shots of couples doing it doggie style where you can see the guy’s abs and when the shot is from behind. I've burned out three vibrators in the past six years. On average it takes five to 10 minutes and I always crave chocolate afterwards.
8. OK, let's be honest - it takes a lot longer and specific techniques for a woman to get off. So, I'll take as many of those factors as I can without revealing what's happening to my husband (who would, of course, want to get involved, but if I'm not in the lovemaking mood and just want to get off, I don't want to bring him in on the event). So, typically, it's at night, in the den (while husband sleeps in bedroom), with a wide variety of porn and a vibrator. This gets complicated (and weird) if my cats decide that it’s a good opportunity for cuddle time. When that happens, I rely on the shower -- a good, solid hand-held shower head can go a long way, while really, really ensuring you're clean down there!
9. Lights on, door locked, TV on and headphones in, because I'm terrified my roommates will hear. Only really rough, degrading (often bdsm/gangbang) porn works for me, which I am also terrified of people finding out. I bought a vibrator when my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, but I've found it’s harder for me to finish using it. I'd rather use something hard, like a remote or something, and do the movement myself. Often, right before I finish, I hold back because I like the buildup, and then end up losing it and can't fully finish. Then I waste an absurd amount of time watching more porn to try and turn myself on again, but rarely actually succeed.
10. The peculiarities of my ritual came about because of my paranoia. I kick the cats out and shut the door because of two reasons: I feel uncomfortable when my cat leans over my shoulder to watch whatever depraved film I'm watching, and secondly, because I have a constant terror of accidentally training myself in a Pavlovian way to be aroused by unrelated stimuli, like my cat brushing past my leg, or accidentally catching his vacant gaze as he watches me jill furiously off.
11. As a bisexual kinky girl into dom/sub stuff, I get off to all sorts of porn. I find myself getting especially turned on when I'm relating to someone on camera, the girl or the guy, regardless of genitalia. One struggle I've gone through is sourcing ethical porn. I get turned on by all bodies, and especially trans girls' bodies, because I really do relate to being female and also having a penis that's used during sex. But the very last thing I want to do is type transgender slurs into Bing (surprisingly the best platform to find porn) to find sexy stuff, because that's how the big porn companies market it. So I don't, because I'm going to keep my integrity in every moment, including when I'm masturbating. There's really nothing like thinking about social justice while rubbing your clit.
12. From a bisexual male perspective, it really depends on when the mood strikes me. If I'm up and working at my computer, usually I dig around Reddit. I usually start with stills and end up at /r/nsfw_gifs, but occasionally get hung up on stills. If I'm already in bed, I actually will masturbate there -- usually to a fantasy of someone I know (the person tends to vary based on interactions I've had with people in the past few days). There isn't much of a ritual to it, as far as I can think of, but I think that may be because I am male.
13. For me, masturbation is just like any other bedtime ritual. I imagine my vibrator's entrance into my life was not dissimilar to the experience of someone who begins praying before bed each night; it's a way to connect to a higher power, remember my body, remember what matters, and then allow a sense of calm to settle in before falling asleep. After I take a shower, pretty much every night, I get into bed with just a T-shirt, gather my vibrator and batteries and sit in bed while I read (non-erotic works). Sometimes, I switch to reading slightly erotic poetry, but most of my arousal stems from thinking up various, often non-sexual scenarios -- anything that gets me into a meditative state. After I turn off the lights, I run my hands over various parts of my body, and then I lie down on my vibrator and ... voila! I think masturbating every day is a really lovely way to enrich your life, connect to your body, and make sure you never have trouble getting to sleep.
14. I almost always masturbate after I shower. Basically I dry myself off, lay on my bed, open up PornHub and peruse for a short video that involves something with an older guy. Then it's all about the fingers. I usually skip around the video to get to something juicy (the blow jobs bore me). There have been times when I'm looking for something more penetrative, and, I will not lie, I’ve put condoms on hairbrush handles and used those before. Nothing fancy here.
15. Dimming the lights is a must. Watching porn (either lesbian or S&M) used to always be included, but I'm not turned on anymore by that. A pretty embarrassing guilty pleasure is playing Bruno Mars’ "Gorilla" on repeat (sorry, I'm not sorry). I try to get off by just humping something rather than using my hand or a vibrator; I think it's good practice for trying to figure out how to be on top. But I usually fail because I get too tired and just resort to using the amazing green vibrator my friend got me for my 22nd birthday. Sometimes I'll go in the bathroom in front of a mirror completely naked with lights all on and watch myself. It’s like Ilana from “Broad City”: I turn myself on!