The legendary sexologist Betty Dodson reveals everything you ever needed to know about female masturbation… and then some.

Posted by: on Oct 25, 2013 | 4 Comments

Betty Dodson writes: Over the years, one frequently asked question comes from women and a few men who are unable to incorporate their current method of masturbation into partnersex.

Many have carried the same pattern of childhood masturbation over into adulthood and it’s now the only way they can get off. Some are stimulating their genitals with one or both hands pressed between legs that are tightly squeezed together while lying face down on their tummies- not conducive to sharing orgasms with another person. Others are humping folded blankets, wooden floors, riding the arm of an overstuffed chair or pressing against hard counter tops.

As kids, the idea was to come fast to avoid getting caught. If we were lying face down, mom, siblings or the baby sitter couldn’t see what are naughty little hands were doing.

While Pressure and Tension orgasms are probably the most prevalent kind for a majority of people, they are limited in terms of bodily sensations- similar to a quick blip on the pleasure scale. The other problem is that they rarely translate into sharing orgasms with a partner. The solution is simple! It’s time to upgrade your masturbation technique.

First let me emphasize, there are a gazillion ways to get off and there’s no such thing as having a “wrong” kind of orgasm.

After years of observing my own orgasms plus all the women I’ve known personally and have worked with professionally, I’ve observed four basic categories: Pressure, Tension, Relaxation and the Combination that I call a “Rock and Roll Orgasm.” This one combines elements of the first three. While breathing fully during a buildup, we are squeezing and releasing our muscles rhythmically with direct or indirect clitoral contact. Pressure or Tension orgasms are most often reached by holding our breath and gasping occasionally. Total relaxation orgasms or what I’ve also termed “Sleeping Beauty” are most rare. To remain totally relaxed while breathing deeply, someone else must do genital stimulation in a manner that is nearly perfect. Ha! If you find that person capture them quick!

While no two orgasms from self-stimulation are precisely the same, most women use some form of direct or indirect clitoral stimulation with or without penetration. The body responds with movement, no movement, along with varied breathing patterns from holding the breath to panting. Other women remain utterly silent while others make a variety of sounds. The mind can be paying attention to what the body is feeling, focused on sexual thoughts, or conjuring up a sex fantasy. Just as long as you’re not planning a dinner menu or running the laundry list.

Pressure Orgasms: (No hands). One workshop woman said she pressed her clitoris against overstuffed furniture. Another pressed against the hard nose on her teddy bear. Some little girls squeeze their legs together to get those good feelings. Other’s say wearing tight jeans got them off and more than a few were very fond of their bicycle seats. As a preteen, I was crazy about riding horses before I got interested in boys. Some women who grew up with a strong prohibition about touching themselves directly made a transition to stronger orgasms by letting water run on their clitoris from a bathtub faucet. I began rocking on a pillow pulled up tight between my legs until the “tickle” went away. At some point I just naturally segued over to my fingers and assumed everyone did the same. Not true.

Tension Orgasms: Direct genital rubbing combined with muscle tension gets most of us through puberty, into young adulthood, and for some, throughout the rest of their lives. Tension Orgasms rely on leg and buttock muscles being squeezed tight with the rest of the body held fairly rigid. While holding the breath, a fast motion is used on the clitoris or penis until orgasm explodes in a quick burst. These fast tension climaxes are silent and many of us grew up masturbating this way to avoid getting caught by our parents or siblings. These quick tension orgasms often carry over into many men ejaculating prematurely during partnersex.
A few women have orgasms with muscle tension only without any direct genital contact.

One woman climaxed by hanging from the top of a door to create tension in her entire body while squeezing her vaginal muscle tight. Another woman had orgasms from climbing a rope in gym class. In contrast to coming fast, a friend of mine developed tension orgasms without any clitoral contact into an art form. Now in her early fifties, she is in great shape with the isometric exercises she gets from straining against some form of erotic bondage by keeping her body rigid during elaborate scenes of suspension.

Most people claim to be too busy to spend any quality time enjoying sex. So it will come as no surprise when I say Tension Orgasms are the most common for the largest number of people. While there is no such thing as having a “wrong” kind of orgasm- some are definitely better than others. When a person spends more time building up sexual arousal by breathing, moving, and allowing the body to express a little joy with sounds of pleasure, it creates a more joyful and satisfying experience with orgasm. Fast sex is like fast food- it takes the edge off hunger but it’s not all that nourishing.

Relaxation Orgasms: These are difficult to achieve alone because it’s nearly impossible to be totally relaxed while doing some form of genital self-stimulation. My relaxed orgasms first happened in my teens with manual sex from a boyfriend’s delicate touch. During long sessions of kissing and genital fondling, I was the classic Sleeping Beauty. To avoid exhibiting “animal-like” behavior, I kept releasing the build-up of sexual tension by consciously relaxing my muscles. This took concentration but I felt my reputation was at stake. At one point when I could hold back no longer, the orgasm would come and get me. As long as I did nothing to make this happen and he didn’t put his penis inside my vagina, I was still considered a virgin.

The best way to experience Relaxation Orgasms is with a partner. A few teachers of Eastern sex practices have their students take turns giving and receiving manual genital sex with explicit verbal guidance telling one another exactly how to vary the stimulation. They are taught to slow down, relax the pelvic floor muscles, breathe deeply and allow their sexual energy to build gradually. Rajneesh, a Tantra teacher from India, called this a “valley orgasm”- sinking down into the sensation instead of building up as in a “peak orgasm,” which is what I call a Tension Orgasm. Rajneesh believed that sex in the future would involve more fun, joy, friendship, and play than the serious affair it is now. I totally support this image. Both Rajneesh and Wilhelm Reich ended up in jail- an indication of how different ideas about sexual pleasure threatens insecure American men.

Combination Orgasms: These are my favorite so this is my bias. This style of orgasm uses tension and relaxation as well as some form of direct clitoral stimulation with either fingers or a vibrator along with vaginal penetration. The Combination Orgasm is what I ended up teaching in the masturbation workshops. Once I realized I could jump-start sexual arousal for women who had never had an orgasm by using the electric vibrator, I began teaching them how to harness all that power for pleasure. Even women who were already orgasmic with their hands could take their orgasms to the next level by masturbating much longer than the usual few minutes. The key to enjoying any electric vibrator is to manage the intensity of the vibrations. Mystic Wand with 5 different speeds which automatically controls the intensity. The idea is to build up slowly not to slam a strong vibe directly onto a cold clit- eek!

After getting in touch with the PC muscle by practicing Kegel exercises, begin slow penetration with a dildo while squeezing and releasing the pelvic floor muscle. Then add clitoral stimulation with a vibrator. While hips rock forward (inhale and flex the PC) and back (exhale and release the PC). The muscles are engaged similar to an athlete in motion. Combining these five elements- clitoral stimulation, vaginal penetration, PC muscle contractions, pelvic thrusting and breathing out loud makes the combination orgasm the one that translates most easily into partnersex. During intercourse, the woman or her partner simply adds her preferred kind of clitoral contact. In my opinion, the best approach is when a woman controls her clitoral stimulation the same as a man does with the angle and speed of vaginal thrusting. Sharing mutual orgasms combines the best of both her and his worlds creating more harmony between the sexes.


Betty Dodson (born August 24, 1929) is an American sex educator, author, and artist who is widely known as a pioneer in women’s sexual liberation. Her book ‘Sex for One’ sold more than a million copies but she is probably most famous for the masturbation workshops she runs for groups of women. She continues her private practice as a sex coach in New York City (click here for details). She also runs the website Dodson and Ross with sex educator Carlin Ross.


  1. Clair
    February 25, 2020

    I’m 27. Ive masturbated from very young in the same way. Porn, facedown, legs crossed hands clutching around the ribs.
    I can orgasm up to 4 times like this. Obviously the problem is I’ve never orgasmed with a boyfriend. Nothing gets me there. I enjoy penetration or clitoris stimulation but my mind wonders. I cant orgasm

    I’m committed to my partner now but I’ve been faking for over a year. I dont want to be like this forever, is there a way of retraining my brain?

    Please help

  2. lyla
    May 8, 2020

    Clair i think you should tell him about it and if he really loves you he will help you figure something out.and if he leaves you for it ,then he was never good enough to begin with.i dont know much bout this im only 19 but i do know that if you truly love someone youll accept even their good luck

  3. Sam
    May 24, 2020

    Hi! I have the same question as Clair, who also commented on this page. I’ve been masturbating by clenching my legs together ever since I was little and I’m not sure how to move myself out of that style. I’ve never orgasmed with my boyfriends or any other guy, no matter if it was oral or penetrative. I could use a little help on this too

  4. Alexis
    March 24, 2021

    Hello, I see that I’m not alone, I’m 30 and have the same problem.
    Since I was a child, I’ve been masturbating by sqeezing my thighs together, only that way I’m able to feel bit of pleasure. Unfortunately I don’t feel anything „special” during normal penetration, or clitoris stimulation…
    How can I change that?
    (The popular methods in style „know better your body, touch more yourself…” etc. Doesn’t work either… 🙁

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