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Solo sex is still sex, and it’s important

Illustration: Ro Gonzalez @beautifullyflawedbean

I had sex yesterday.

Now, to be clear, I haven’t had in-person sex since February. I haven’t even had Skype sex for ten days, because my partners’ libidos haven’t matched up with mine. I did have sex yesterday though, getting myself off three times before I collapsed in a heap on my tangled sheets, lauding the brilliance of solo sex.

We don’t spend enough time talking about solo sex. However, COVID social distancing restrictions keeping us from having sex with partners we don’t live with, so solo sex is something that many of us have had to focus on over the last few months. Sure, if you’re missing your partner then masturbation might not feel especially fulfilling, but there are so many benefits of solo sex.

Society’s expectations 

Society teaches us that there’s a “right way” for sex to look. Mainstream media tells cis women, in particular, that they should be able to orgasm through penetration, and at the same time as their partner. It shames cis men who can’t get hard or aren’t always up for sex, it often ignores queer and trans people entirely, and it places ridiculous expectations on what sex should mean and what sex should look like.

Because we don’t always talk about sex and most of our education comes from mainstream media (or unethical porn), we often approach sex with these expectations. For me, solo sex is when I learned that these unrealistic expectations don’t need to dictate what my partnered sex looks like.

Solo sex explorations

Solo sex gives you a space free from those expectations to explore. When you’re masturbating, the only person you need to worry about is you. You can put aside the expectations that you need to go down on your partner if they’ve gone down on you. You can put aside the pressure to have no pubic hair or the worry that your dick isn’t big enough. Solo sex is just about you. Solo sex is your time to play and explore.

In a culture where sex is surrounded by shame, it’s incredibly important to invest time in connecting with your body. Solo sex gives you a chance to explore, taking your time and touching yourself until you know yourself better. Explore less common erogenous zones, try sex toys, and work out what feels good. Wank in the shower, and in the bath, and while you’re using one hand to pinch one of your nipples. Fantasise about things. Work out how to make yourself come, or even if orgasms are important to you.

Solo sex and prioritising pleasure 

Maybe you’ve never had an orgasm before. Maybe you’ve never been comfortable with your partner fingering you for as long as you need, in the way that you need, to get off. Maybe you feel like you should enjoy long bouts of oral sex, but you find that hard and fast pressure on your g-spot actually feels better. These things can feel awkward to ask for during partnered sex, but in solo sex then the only person you have to worry about offending is your vibrator.

Partnered sex is all about mutual pleasure and having fun together, but even when we’re getting naked with someone vulnerability and communication are hard. We all know that cis women and other afab people* fake orgasms – but pretending that you’re having a good time during sex when you’re not isn’t limited to one gender. Solo sex is when you can learn what you actually enjoy and how you want your body to be touched.

Better partnered sex

Solo sex will also lead to better partnered sex. There are no downsides to understanding what you enjoy during sex. If you know how to get yourself off on your own, it will be easier for you to have orgasms when you’re having sex with someone else because you can ask them to touch you in the way that gets you off. If you know you always fantasise about getting tied up while masturbating, then it will be easier for you to explain to your partner why you’d find exploring bondage together hot.

Solo sex is also a good test for how sex-positive your partner is. If you’re having sex with someone who doesn’t want you to advocate for your own pleasure or isn’t ok with the fact that you schedule regular sex dates with yourself, I’d ask you to think about whether that’s someone you actually want to be having sex with.

Solo sex is valid sex

While for many of us right now, solo sex may be a substitute for partnered sex, it can be more than that. Solo sex is how we explore our sexuality and learn what we like. Solo sex is how I stopped being scared of my own body. During lockdown, solo sex has reminded myself that I am allowed to engage with my sexuality on my own terms. Solo sex is valid sex, and it’s perfectly ok to want a wank even when you don’t want sex with your partner.

Solo sex might not be for everyone, but it doesn’t deserve to always get left in second place.

*An afab person is someone who was assigned female at birth.

This article was written for the Self & More blog by Quinn Rhodes. Quinn (ze/hir) is a queer, trans and disabled sex blogger and sex nerd with vaginismus, who writes about hir adventures in learning to fuck without fucking up. Check out Quinn's blog, On Queer Street or follow hir on Twitter