As told to Nicole Audrey Spector
Growing up, sex wasn’t something that was openly discussed in our home. I learned everything about it from movies and television shows. Then there was sex ed class, of course, which taught that unless a man and woman were married and looking to reproduce, sex was bad, bad, bad.
Despite the shame around sex — or maybe even because of it — I started having sex young, at 15 years old. My first time wasn’t a bad experience exactly but it was hardly the stuff of ecstasy and explosions that the media had led me to believe it would be.
A year later, at 16, I got my first sex toy. I remember it so well. The humiliation of it all. The fear of being busted for being curious about my body and my sensuality.
I slipped into the sex shop like a spy, decked out in sunglasses and a hoodie. I recall the exact toy I bought: a classic rabbit, which I thought was what every adult woman used to pleasure herself with. My imagination was quite limited. I was only 16, after all.
I was worried that someone would hear me, so I hid in the attic to use the vibrator. With it, I quickly achieved a full-blown orgasm and was in awe of how wonderful it felt.
Though I enjoyed my experience with the vibrator, there was something about pleasuring myself that made me feel afraid, guilty even. I just wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I felt so embarrassed and like I was doing something I should be ashamed of. After all, what role did masturbation play in sex, which, as I had learned in sex ed, was all about reproduction? All about being with someone else?
The idea of self-intimacy made me cringe. I never let myself think about it for long. As the years went on, my feelings of shame around my sexuality deepened. In the bedroom, I was more of a people pleaser than a self-pleaser. I didn’t know I deserved better. By then I barely used my rickety old vibrator. I felt disconnected from it, and as I began to look more closely at my life I realized I felt disconnected from myself.
It wasn’t until my first truly healthy relationship with a man that I started to do the work of engaging with my sexuality — of really examining what it was that would satisfy and honor it. My partner and I formed a safe, trusting space where I felt comfortable experimenting with new sex toys.
Once we began to try new things, it was as though my world cracked open and out rushed my inner goddess. I learned that there was a whole universe of objects designed to tease and awaken my erotic spirit. Now that I had a partner who helped me to feel secure, I was able to truly blossom into my own sexual being.
Though that partner and I have since parted ways, I have held onto the invaluable wisdom that I achieved with the help of his nurturing love, and I have built upon that wisdom. My life now revolves around it and all the beautiful awakenings that it has rendered. I am now a self-love and manifestation coach devoted to helping others realize the beauty and power in pleasure and self-partnership.
Today, I use sex toys as part of my regular self-intimacy practice. I incorporate traditional vibrators, and I also experiment with a vast array of other tools such as yoni eggs and crystal wands. The vulva and vagina are such multifaceted parts of our anatomies, and there are so many different ways to excite and fulfill them.
I consider self-pleasuring as distinctly different than masturbating, which, in my opinion, is something you do to quickly release a build up of tension. There’s no shame in that — or any of this — but it’s different than the art of self-pleasuring, which I see more as a way of making love to one’s self and of paying tribute to the glorious and sacred temple that is the human body.
When I have sex with myself (toys in tow, typically), I am exceedingly slow and curious with my body. I caress my calves and hips and breasts. I take deep, cleansing breaths and relish every sumptuous moment of the explosive release.
I also put in a special effort to create an experience for myself that is special and intimate. I turn the lights down low and put on some sexy music. I light candles and throw on lingerie. I take in my body with curiosity and admiration.
I take the time to make myself feel treasured and revered, just as I would do with any partner I care about. Because the truth is, I am with a partner — a partner I love very deeply and hold on the highest of pedestals. That partner is me.