A reader wrote in (edited for spelling and punctuation):
Question for Matt & Jess: I’ve tried masturbating because I’m 14 (and a girl) and NOT ready for sex. But I feel nothing! No pleasure or any thing! And I know all of my parts down there, too. Should I see a doctor?
— 14 year-old female, June 28, 2013
MATT: It never hurts to ask your doctor questions about sex, or you can ask an older woman in your family whom you can trust to keep the discussion private. Definitely bring it up with your doctor at your next check-up. If you don’t feel comfortable with your regular doctor, you can see a gynecologist.
You may not be feeling any response to your masturbation because of perfectly normal psychological elements of your life. You may be nervous or uncomfortable about what you are doing, just because it’s the first time you’ve tried, or possibly because adults have told you that masturbation is wrong. (A lot of adults do say that, usually giving a religious reason.) It’s also possible that your body is not responding because you aren’t thinking about anything that is a sexual turn-on to you. At your age, it’s really okay not to be ready for sex, and so it’s okay not have any turn-ons. When the right time comes that you feel a strong sexual urge (which may be when you’re older), and you are calm and okay with what you are doing, get into a private, comfortable space, physically and mentally, and your body should respond.
JESS: I was actually rather glad to read that you’re “NOT ready for sex” — I was a lot more confused during my teenage years as to whether I was really ready or not!
I think masturbation should be a pleasurable, natural thing to do. Some religions consider masturbation to be a bad activity. To me, I always reasoned that it was a solo activity where no one was being harmed. If you have guilty feelings about masturbation, then it’s probably those feelings that are standing in the way of your enjoyment from solo sexual pleasure (and you might have to spend a bit of time thinking about how much control you wish to have of your own personal sexual development and sexual feelings).
If it’s not guilty feelings that are getting in the way, my guess is that you’re attempting to follow what “should be working” for masturbation. For instance, some women enjoy masturbating only when they’re lying down on their backs and gently stimulating their clitoris with their fingers. Some females don’t experience any pleasure at all when they first insert a finger or some other small object when they’re masturbating.
I don’t think it’s necessary to see a doctor (in terms of your body being “not physically responsive” to masturbation at the moment — as in, I don’t think it’s a medical condition where something is wrong), though you can talk to your doctor about it if it will give you some peace of mind.
Pleasure from masturbation will come about when you feel you want and need sexual urges to be released. I suppose this happens at different speeds for different people — stay relaxed and let your body go at its own pace to discover what you like naturally.
(from December 9, 2012)
* Matt’s answers are featured first — Jess will respond soon.
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MATT: Here are some questions from a female reader in the UK. As per my policy, I don’t respond directly — can’t give personal advice for legal reasons — but I am pleased to offer general responses for all readers. The reader’s words are in bold.
Q. How does sex work?
Matt: I’m sure my buddy Jess would agree that sex involves both body and mind. Your body drives you toward sex for various reasons, but it’s your personality that determines the timing and frequency you are comfortable with as well as the partners you desire. You may want sex (or agree to it when you don’t really want it) because of loneliness, boredom, need for emotional support, or just the influence of your hormones (the body chemicals associated with growth and development and sexuality). As I said in Teen Guide, casual sex is risky because deeper attachments often form when they aren’t intentional, and when the partner isn’t suitable in the long-term. So there is a disconnect between when you want to have sex and when it’s good for you. Be careful! Sex always has consequences (good or bad). It’s pleasurable, but it isn’t just for pleasure.
Q. At what stage in your life do you feel love for the other sex?
Matt: That depends upon your definition of love. In my view, love is the result of a mature, complex interaction between people, but you can believe yourself to be in love when you are very young. Sometimes that works out, but you’re lucky if it does. Usually it doesn’t. Connections that are actually temporary at best often seem permanent because of the intensity of your feelings when you’re younger. Later in life, you’ll decide it wasn’t love after all, and question the decisions you made.
If you are very young now, you won’t believe me, and that’s okay. What you are feeling probably seems like it’s what you were meant to feel for the person you are meant to be with. Chances are it’s not, though. There’s a basis for your feelings, but the rest is because of your stage of life, physical and emotional. We older people would like to be able to feel a young person’s passion and can’t, but we also cherish the kind of love that we can feel, that comes from deep commitment, acceptance, and security.
Q. How do I control my feelings for the opposite sex?
Matt: Write them down. Keep a journal or a diary, and don’t share it with anyone. Also, use a lot of physical energy. Play sports. Get exercise. Volunteer. Get a job. Meet and spend time with a lot of people. This will diminish the power of overly strong attachments.
Q. At what age do the feelings tend to calm at?
Matt: As a male, I was worst between 16-19, I didn’t calm down until my mid-20s, and even in my late 20s, I was still capable of getting emotional in a misguided way. Getting married calmed me down most. Now that someone returns my feelings, I don’t feel so needy, and my wife and I just take care of each other.
Your feelings will probably calm when you have more experience of relationships, and when you outgrow the hormone surges of your teenage years.
Q. How do I know if it’s the right time to have sex? What’s the first time like? How do you know if the feelings aren’t just lust?
Matt: There’s nothing to say here that wasn’t said better in Teen Guide. Here’s a short version of my point of view. Sex goes with strong compatibility and commitment and is best saved for a mature version of yourself. The first time is not usually all it’s expected to be. It’s over quickly and you will probably think or even say, “Was that it?” You know the feelings aren’t just lust if you can talk for hours and accept each other’s weaknesses and private feelings.
I hope this all helps.
— originally posted at Matt’s website