Q. I have a goal: I would like to masturbate in front of my boyfriend. But whenever I try to, I end up chickening out because I get so nervous. My boyfriend, my considerate and patient lover, was the one to encourage me to masturbate in front of him so that he could form a better understanding of what gets me off. Strangely enough, I have no problems physically manipulating myself to my own orgasm during sex or when I’m by myself. This is common knowledge to my boyfriend as well. However, playing with myself solo in front of him is intimidating because I feel like I’m in the spotlight, putting on a performance. Please help me get through this mental obstacle! I really want to be able to fulfill this for myself and him.
A. “Performance anxiety is an elephant-in-the-room sized issue for everyone who spends time on any kind of a stage,” says Jennifer Hamady, in her Psychology Today piece, “Finding Your Voice.” “Its management is the subject of a thousand books, workshops and programs that teach how to deal with and mitigate its effects… how to ride its wave rather than have it come crashing down upon you.” This description of performance is an excellent analogy for the stage fright you may be feeling regarding the performance of masturbation. So, what is it that stirs the fright with so many women who are asked to masturbate in front of a partner? In theory, there is something innately erotic about it. The idea of someone pleasuring themselves in front of you, and yet, you just get to sit there and watch (or be the one pleasuring yourself).
Part of me feels that because women’s sexuality is always out for consumption in public, it it is almost an act of rebellion and freedom to masturbate by oneself, for oneself, and away from the prying eyes that demand what women’s sexuality looks like and sounds like. It is quite literally the ultimate act of self love. Does this mean that masturbating in front of a partner is bad for the cause or invasive? Of course not. In fact, if you can get to a point where you feel comfortable enough, it can really be one of the more fantastic things to do with your partner.
But, what of performance anxiety? Yes, well it would be easier to get rid of the performance element of this, wouldn’t it? But, my instincts tell me that part of the appeal of this whole activity, once you get the swing of it, is the whole performance as personal pleasure, with a built in box seat audience in between. Perhaps the reason it feels like such a mental obstacle is because it is one – you are fighting something head on, literally swimming against the tide of what the bigger, more over-arching element of this act is about. The more you fight, the more self-conscious you get about not winning that fight, the more frustrated you get about it not working the way you want, and on and on from there. But for a second, think of it not as, “How can I get over the performance aspect of this?” but more, ” How can I milk my time in the spotlight?” Yes my love, think of this as performance. Why? Let’s go back to Hamady’s point:
In our culture’s current understanding of performance, however, the opposite is true. As we make our way to the stage, the wall of separation rises, and the opportunity for communion and connection instantly transforms into a profound sense of self-absorbed isolation. Standing opposite and apart, the fear in our belly rises as we wonder about and focus on one thing: “Will they like me?” To break away from this conditioned response and indeed, overcome the dual barriers that are performance and anxiety, we must move closer to those we’ve walked away from…. You might be the one on stage, but it’s not about you. When you begin to get this – that a “performance” is actually an invitation to and participation with another rather than an offering of the self, the grip of anxiety begins to unravel and fade. Why? Because when you’re listening deeply to another in this way – both on and off of the stage – it is almost impossible to be concerned with how you sound.
So, maybe it isn’t the idea of masturbation as performance, but the idea of what that performance could mean for you and your partner who is watching. Sitting there and masturbating as an act of having the spotlight on you can be deeply anxiety provoking. But what if instead of feeling like you were trying to give a performance, you made it about trying to connect with your audience, who is really there to root and cheer for you? Your audience wants you to succeed. Your audience wants to look at you with rapt attention not because they want to judge you, but they want you to embody all the things they want as well.
Okay, so all fancy talk aside, what can you practically do? It’s great to theorize, but let’s get practical.
1. Masturbate in the way that feels good, not in the way that looks good: How many times have you ever caught yourself doing something, whether in photos or sex or masturbation – pick your poison – that you thought looked good? I can’t tell you how many times I have craned my neck back and made the duck face in all the scenarios above because that is what I thought pleasure looked like. Now, it might for some. But for the most part, it is the representation of pleasure through what people perceive it to be that looks a certain sexy way. What feels sexy and pleasurable may not look like that. Real pleasure has the tendency to get your body all contorted or your face all wonky. That is okay. There is a reason that porn and ads are successful, it’s because they cater in fantasy. The pleasure is scripted, down to the very last eyelash, perfectly put in place. As ladies, we end up replicating a lot of what we have been exposed to as “pleasure” and not acting on what feels good and how that makes our body move or sound. Don’t worry about looking good, seriously. There is a person in front of you that is sexually attracted to you, for one. But really, if you feel good and sensual, your body will reflect that.
2. Bring out the toys: There are magical people out there that can masturbate with their hands and it’s like, ta-dah! Orgasms. If you are one of those people, I salute you, madame. But, most people need a little more stimulation other than fingers, which is why we love sex toys. Not only will sex toys actually stimulate you in the areas you need, but its also a real experience. Sure, it might seem like fingers look sexier, but a toy might actually feel better. Plus, if you know a toy is going to get you to an orgasm, use the toy. If your partner is the mature, supportive person that they damn well better be, then they won’t be so threatened by a toy, and instead see it as a vehicle for your pleasure and a learning experience of where it is that you require stimulation, at what speed you need it, and how much foreplay you want. Plus, toys are hot. If you want to get your partner to even masturbate you with your toy, I’m certain you will both have a wonderful time.
3. I’m your private cam girl: Consider this an expiremental suggestion. If it is the idea of someone directly in front of you watching you masturbate that seems anxiety provoking, try taking the voyeurism aspect one step back. Live broadcast your masturbation to your partner – Skype that shit, even if your partner is in the next room. You can record a video if – and it is a big if – you feel comfortable. In a day and age where revenge porn and leaking sex tapes is a real thing that can majorly fuck your life up, it’s a choice that only you can weigh. It’s unfortunate that in something so intimate and private that it is the woman who will end up taking the biggest hit (thanks, sexism!). But this is the reality we are unfortunately living in. Finding a way to live stream you masturbating as a step one is a good option, but again, only if you feel comfortable and feel that the trust is there.
4. Mutual Love: Okay, so all things aside, still the idea of just starting to masturbate in front of someone just sitting there and watching seems slightly terrifying or anxiety provoking. Instead of going solo, ask for audience participation. Have you ever been to any sort of themed show and seen audience members participate? They go nuts! Your audience wants to be a part of what you are doing; after all, that’s why they are there in the first place. When in moments of what seems like to be the ship going down, bring out your partner’s participation.
5. When all else fails, hit the lights: What’s the old saying? That which is done in darkness eventually comes into light? Okay, I’m certain that whoever coined the term was talking about misdeeds and not masturbation, but figuratively speaking, it is much easier to do things without a light directly blasting on you. The dark conceals all, but mainly, the bug-eyed face of someone watching you masturbate or the parts of your body that might otherwise give you anxiety while trying to have a good time. Seriously, have you ever been having sex and unfortunately looked at yourself and thought, “Oh my god, my [X body part] looks awful.” Overcoming those feelings is a whole other issue, but the idea is that it can be hard to stay in the moment if you are feeling overly self-conscious about body hang-ups or being watched, whatever it is that might take you away from just feeling good. Freedom exists in the dark, however much of a cliche it may seem. If you are feeling like it’s working well, try turning on a bit more light each time. If more light works, fantastic, if the darkness is where you feel most comfortable, stay there. It might be masturbation for someone watching, but it’s also about you feeling good.
In the end, the thing that will come rushing forth is, in any type of performance, you will learn what works and what doesn’t, very, very quickly. Like performance, you will have a bit of stage fright until you get used to performing solo or at the very least accept your position in the spotlight. Performance, if anything, is the simple act of moving forward, of doing what you can to feel good, and letting the show go on. Your stage just happens to be you.
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