Transformational Pleasure

By Melissa Fritchle LMFT Holistic Sex Therapist and Educator

Masturbation is Great...For Your Partnered Sex!

(previously published in Sexual Health Magazine Spring 19)

It is sad that so many people think of masturbation as something you do when you can’t have partnered sex, as though it is a slightly disappointing consolation prize. In actuality masturbation can be a deeply satisfying, consistent enhancement for your sex life, that not only feeds your sexual relationship with yourself but with your partners as well.

 How does masturbation benefit your partnered sex? Let me count the ways…

 Pleasure generates pleasure. The more yumminess and physical bliss you have in your life, the more you want that. Yes, masturbation can temporarily relieve a powerful hunger for sex, but it also builds a longer term craving. So rather than depleting your libido for partnered sex, it keeps it healthy and on your mind. Plus it reinforces a message that you are deserving of pleasure and self love -and that is a powerful thing.

  1. It takes the pressure off your partner. When you know how to please yourself, you own your orgasms and your pleasure in a positive way. You are empowered to explore the other benefits of partnered sex, besides just simply getting off. With a partner you can take your time without focusing on whether or not they will “make you cum”; you can get yourself there if necessary. Open up to the unknown territories of sex with someone else, no need for performance anxiety on either side.
  2. It clarifies & sweetens your motivations to have sex with someone else. When your sexual relationship with yourself is vital and fun, it creates more space to be clear about your intentions for partnered sex. Does the thought of being sexual with this particular person or persons get you hot? Great! But if you are just desiring a toe-curling orgasm and this person otherwise leaves you cold, you can go home and give yourself what you want. This makes sex with a partner more valuable rather than less, because you are curious and want interaction, co-creation, the dance of sharing your bodies.
  3. Your body builds pathways to orgasm. Like any learned behavior, your body gets more efficient at building to orgasm with practice. Especially for those of us with vulvas, it can take time to learn the processes of your own body and how to ride the tension and relaxation needed for a satiating release. Also the tender tissues of the vulva and vagina will be better prepared for touch and friction when they are consistently being touched. Seriously, it is as though your body thinks, “Oh I know where this is headed! Yahoo, lets do this!”
  4. It helps you pace yourself. Especially for those of you with penises, masturbation can help you build awareness so that you can make some choices about when you orgasm. You will notice changes in how your body’s natural pacing works for you over the course of your life, as the time you need between erections and orgasms shifts. It’s good to know what your body needs for recovery time and what feels pleasurable in between. Also if you are wanting to extend the play time your body can handle before orgasmic release, masturbating before partnered sex (from an hour to 2 days or more depending on your body at this time in your life) can help. The way you masturbate trains your body, so if you go fast and focus on getting it over quickly, you bring that into your partnered sex. If you focus on going slow and varying your touch and sensation, then that carries over into your sex with a partner.
  5. You have options for when your body has limitations. Some days intercourse or any sexual touch may not feel like an option for you or your partner. But if you each are comfortable with self-pleasuring, you can stay together and still have a shared experience while one of you masturbates. Of course, if your bodies simply cannot be in the same room, this also opens up many fun possibilities for mutual gratification. It can be deeply vulnerable and arousing to show someone how you touch yourself and to hear their voice as they encourage you.
  6. You may discover some fun toys and fantasies to share. Your sex-with-yourself drawer doesn’t have to stay private. The more you explore, the more you have to bring to the shared table so to speak (just be sure that table is stable enough to hold your weight, Avoid Sex Injuries 101). Vibrators, dildos, a favorite lube, can all be great additions to partnered sex. Fantasies you draw on to peak your arousal, whether you want to act them out or no, can intensify your sex talk.

 So please enjoy and boost your masturbation by considering it a healthy, fortifying part of your sex life, partnered or not. Fantasize about all the delectable things you can do to pleasure yourself and the things you can do with a partner. Everybody benefits.

Pleasure : Your Mission Should You Choose to Accept It

I believe in transformational pleasure. I believe that when we experience moments of joy, awe, full body laugher, quaking orgasms, subtle sensations that infuse deeply into our tissues, beauty, we are healing ourselves.

I believe that our wounds are to be healed by a radically different experience, one that is grounded in the present moment, in an openness to our body’s buzz, and a knowing that we are deserving of full-on bliss. From a place of security in our right to exist and utilize every aspect of this physical, mental, emotional, spiritual life. Exploring our edges in a way that feels respectful and intriguing and tinged with wonder is medicine.  

I do believe in make love not war. And by that, I mean when we can connect to the amazing diverse world around us, in a fully embodied way, we will be kinder, more flexible, less afraid. When we turn towards others as our teachers and healers and exploratory playmates, we grow in juicy, vital ways. I believe the true north of pleasure doesn’t thrive on others hurt or fear, but in collaborative curiosity. When we allow ourselves to find happiness – from the deep plethora of options your happiness can reside in daily – we build a better world.

That doesn’t mean we ignore the battles. If we want a world in which we can all be fully embodied, our sexuality and pleasure honored, we have to fight for it. That is clear to those who are paying attention. But the people who are crafting restrictive, discriminatory, yes hateful, laws are not guided by pleasure. Pleasure is decidedly absent from their world view. Pleasure is frightening. And not just queer pleasure, or Latina pleasure, or differently-abled pleasure – but their own pleasure too. They are diminished by their own intolerance.

So I have decided that to fight back – to say I will not stand for a world of diminishment and fear of our full claim to our bodies – I have to put my pleasure out there. I must live a life that celebrates my pleasure and invites others into theirs. I must use all of my senses. I hone my skills in listening to my sensations so that they can guide me. I need to prioritize the care and feeding of my joy, even if the day only allows for a moment of letting a piece of chocolate melt on my tongue. I will take that moment.

I will dance barefoot, and place my belly on the warm dirt, and smell every flower in the display, not just the roses. I will touch my friends and listen to their breath as they tell me about their difficult day. I will let myself cry a full bodied cry, and then rise out of that into laughter. I will taste my own sweat and the heat I can create. I will masturbate often and infuse myself with the energy of my private enjoyment. I will find new creative ways to ravish myself. I will relish my life. I will not let anyone take the one chance for this experience of life away from me.

I believe that pleasure makes us strong rather than weak. That is shows us what is worth our struggle and why we might appreciate being born at this time, into the life we have been given. Delight is not superficial and ecstasy is not an indulgence. They are our life blood pumping though us.

How about you? Will you let your pleasure transform you?

The Pleasures of Winter Sex

Sometimes summer gets all the love when it comes to sexiness. But cold weather sex can have its own enticements. Just think creatively…

What goes on under the blankets…Get into the private shared space underneath a heavy blanket. Enjoy the sensation of being bare under protective cover. Let your hands wander where you cannot see. Maybe you want to increase the cave-like vibe by going under and breathing in your shared smells and heat. Explore.

Oooh, those fuzzy socks… Or leather gloves or silky ties…Let your clothes get in on the act. Textures can be used to add new sensation to normal play. Use them when they are still on your body, stroking, brushing up against a sensitive spot. Then use them after you take them off. Ties and scarves are fun for gentle restraints or blindfolds. Gloves can make a nice little smack when used as a spanking toy. Socks…well, they are soft, just make sure they are clean (unless you are into that)

Make it hot…A sip of hot tea can become a part of sex play when you let it warm your mouth, then take that mouth somewhere sensitive. Gives whole new meaning to tea for two.

The sun is gone, to bed and so go I…dark nights, earlier bedtimes. Just saying.

Cue the soft lighting …Longer nights means more time for candlelight, firelight, twinkly strings of lights; all good choices if you are a bit shy and want to ease in to being seen in all your naked glory. Enjoy the opportunity to adjust the lighting to suit you and play with slow movements that cast shadows on the walls, slowing baring yourself, being illuminated in a pool of warm light.

Baby, it cold outside…which means each piece of skin you reveal to the elements will be very much alive and keenly responsive (so long as you are not in dangerous freezing conditions, of course). Use the variation of covered skin and uncovered skin wisely. Find a private spot where you can bare just enough to feel the shivery chills. Move vigorously to keep warm!


Dear Medical Doctors -

Here are a few ways I wish we could be more in agreement when it comes to sex.

1)The vast majority of your patients are having sex. And it is important to them. At least as important to many of them as their ability to play tennis or go for a jump shot or pick up their grandkids. So, since this is the reality, maybe you could include sexual health and satisfaction as a part of your wellness check? Maybe you could get comfortable talking to people about this aspect of their lives? At least don’t dismiss it or shame your patients for having concerns.

2)Most of the sex people will have in their life is not about procreation. We are having sex for many years of our lives and for many of reasons. Reproducing is a small part of only some of our sex lives. So treating reproductive health as though it is the same a sexual health is severely lacking. Issues such as long term birth control, hormone balance, sexual desire, pleasure and comfort are crucial to address.

3)Most medical concerns and their treatments have some effect on people’s sex lives. The diseases you diagnose take their toll on people’s sexual expression and can create real limitations. The drugs you prescribe can have significant sexual side effects that your patients’ may struggle with. The sexual aspects of Self are not separate from the medical concerns a person has or the journey they may need to take for healing. Please consider these aspects of your patients when you talk to us about treatment.

4)A large percentage of your patients are not heterosexual or monogamously married with children or clearly placed in some simplistic gender binary. For example, consistently statistics suggest that approximately 10% of the population is bisexual, lesbian or gay. I suspect that this number is low and reflects both a narrow categorization of sexual identity and also a long history of repression and fear of discrimination. But even if it was only 10%, denying the unique needs or rights of this group of people in our communities is discrimination plain and simple. And it is medically irresponsible. Get yourself informed.

5)You have blindspots and biases like the rest of us. We don’t expect you to be perfect so please don’t expect that of yourself. You most likely grew up with the same cultural models and mythologies as we did. You probably had very little accurate sex education. You probably have been hurt, betrayed, embarrassed, and confused about things, like the rest of us. So let’s agree that your years of medical school did not erase the limitations to your sexual perspective or understanding. That’s ok. You are allowed to not have all the answers, just acknowledge that and we can work with you from there.

6)Your job is to give us information so that we can make informed choices, not to make choices for us. No matter how much medical experience or training you have, you cannot know more than your patient does about the potential consequences and benefits of a decision in their life. Help us to understand our options, then honor that the personal factors at play on our lives are hugely relevant and frankly, outside of your scope. Respect what we know about our life.

Sincere thanks for all you do. Let’s grow in sexual health together.

Is it No? Is it Maybe?

Have you gotten a sexual invitation or proposal that doesn’t work for you? Here’s some ways to say No:


Red. (or other safe word)

No, thanks I am not interested in that.

That doesn’t sound fun/appealing/exciting/comfortable/etc to me. So No.

That’s not my thing.

I love you but I am not going to do that.

You are going to have to enjoy that without me.

No. But I would love to do ______.

But what if you are kind of intrigued. Not sure yet? Here’s some ways to say Maybe:

I’m not sure, let me think about it.

Let’s talk about this more; I have questions.

Hmm…I might want to. But something is still holding me back. Let’s talk about it more.

Something about that makes me uncomfortable. Tell me what excites you about it and maybe that will change my perspective.

Slow down; I might want to stop. I will let you know.

That might be ok if we avoided ____.

I don’t feel ready for that now but I am willing to revisit it in a few months.

I can’t consider that until we know each other better/until we have our STD results/until we are monogamous/until _____

Not right now, but let’s see how I feel after we …..

Let’s start by watching some porn or reading some erotica like that and I can see how it affects me.

I don’t want to do that physically, but let’s talk about it as a fantasy and see how that feels.

Uncontrolled versus Out of Control

In dance class recently, my teacher invited us to move in a way that was uncontrolled, NOT out of control. This felt like a really important differentiation to me, and one I hadn’t really considered before. To LET our self be uncontrolled is very different from an experience of being out of control.

Being out of control can hurt us. We have no ability to gauge our own limitations and sensations or to do anything to mediate them. We have no choice. Being out of control, for good reason, is scary. Many of us have had experiences of this and want to avoid it. So we try to be in control at all times, moderating our responses and playing it cool.

But choosing to be uncontrolled - Well, that is a beautiful thing. Letting go of control, temporarily, means we have assessed that we are safe. That we can trust the environment, our body, our own capacity to feel and respond. Being uncontrolled means we can see what happens, without needing to shape it or prescreen the ending. We open our self to sensation; we allow our response.

In this state our body can let the involuntary impulses come through, shudders and twitches and slowly rolling undulations and sighs. We shake it all out. Or more accurately, we let it all shake out because we are not doing it, we are letting it happen. There is a moment, now and then, that you can reach in dance or sport or sex or breathing that it feels effortless, like the movement is arising, simply taking you along with it. But you are there, awake to it, saying “Yes”. Uncontrolled. Not out of control.

I think we have been taught to equate the two states as the same. We have been invited to fear the feeling of being uncontrolled, to avoid it and see it as a state of weakness. But really, the ability to choose to step in and out of being uncontrolled is a source of so much strength. It is a way we learn to trust our self and to know that we can be flexible enough to move in the way that calls us in the moment. The more I dance that way, the more I know my body has an innate ability to take care of me. The more I open to that impulse or orgasm, when I have created safe space to do so, the more I understand the powerful energy that is available to me, inside of me.

You don’t have to be afraid of your ability to let yourself be uncontrolled. You can be proud of it. You are not losing control in those moments, you are learning about the dimensions of it. You are releasing the burden of constant control. It’s significant when you understand the difference. Feel it in your body. Let it take you there.

My Breasts Are Not Telling You Anything About Me

The first time I was called a slut I was 11 years old. I had never been kissed, never made out with anyone, never even considered having intercourse. I had never held hands with anyone. But I had C cup breasts in sixth grade. So I was a slut.

Having large breasts makes people see you and think “Breasts”. It is as simple as that. I learned early on that my body would always have a sexual connotation for other people. That I would be seen as showing my breasts off, even when wearing a simple T.shirt like the rest of my friends. And by the way, women are just as guilty of this judgement as men, in some ways even more so. I recently had a very intelligent adult friend admit that  as a teenager he had unconsciously told himself, if she didn’t want attention for her breasts then why did she grow them so big? Irrational, yep. Maybe you are scoffing at this. But I invite you to look a bit deeper at your own irrational mind and question who you might have labeled “slutty” in your mind and why.

Of course the reality of breast implants does allow for people to imagine I picked my breasts out of a catalog. But I didn’t. I actually had no say in the matter. And that certainly should be clear with a young girl with large breasts. So we can’t dismiss the judgments based on that fact that some women do choose to have very large breasts for their own reasons, some of whom may imagine it will be fun to have people constantly looking at their breasts.

There are also theories that float out there, usually where there is little understanding of biology, that women with big breasts must be more sexual because their body is full of extra estrogen or something. (Same sorts of theories have been floating around recently regarding big butts.) I am not even going to address this. My breasts did not and do not predispose me to any sort of sexuality. Period.

Then there is the “you could just dress to hide them if you weren’t so slutty” camp. For them, I propose some logic. My breasts are the biggest point on my body, so fabric drapes from them. The only way to really hide them is to craft clothing with internal structures to hold the clothing away from my body, like a hoop skirt but around my chest. Not very practical. I can hide my waist, thereby diminishing the impact of my breasts a bit, by dressing like Mrs. Doubtfire, that is true. Less sexy, but here’s the thing – WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO?!

Maybe we could begin talking about these things in a practical way. Maybe we could finally understand that just because someone’s body or look makes you think about sex, doesn’t necessarily mean they want you to be thinking about sex. Your sexual thoughts and responses are yours. The bodies you label sexual are a cultural construct and about the beholder, not the person in the body.

My body does not tell you all you need to know about me, not even close. It is not sending you a silent message about my availability or interest. But your response to my body does tell you some things about you. Be careful about the leaps your mind can make. That girl over there is not a slut. She is a unique girl who was born into a body with its own attributes and deficits, just like you.

May All Beings Have Pleasure

Last night in my yoga class, we were led in Metta or Loving-Kindness prayer practice. For those of you not familiar with this, overly-simplified, it involves repeating short statements of blessings for oneself, then for another, then for all beings. This allows you to mindfully cultivate loving kindness towards yourself and others. The statements themselves can vary a lot from traditional to more personal. For example, “May I be happy. May I be free from suffering. May I be at peace.”

Last night our teacher encouraged us to design our own blessings, for something we wish for ourselves and others. I immediately thought, “May I have pleasure.” Yes, pleasure! Imagine that as a sacred wish for ourselves and others. At once I felt the rightness of this blessing, but I was also aware of the many ways that pleasure has been pushed out of our sacred spaces.

I believe that pleasure is healing and transformative. I know our bodies are masterful systems that are clearly build for pleasures of many kinds. Pleasure can bring awe and compassion and transpersonal awareness and deep peace. It soothes us and inspires us. Pleasure can feel like a gift from god/spirit/universe/goddess/all that is. It is a message to our bodies and souls that we are going to be ok, that life is full and rich, and that we are capable of astounding feeling. Good stuff.

But generation after generation, people were afraid of pleasure. Afraid that it would distract, distort, create selfishness and laziness and gluttony and immorality. Those who were spiritual were supposed to be above such things, removed from the petty satisfactions and pleasures of this life. How sad this has been for us to turn away from this gift, which comes freely with our body and our senses, available to all regardless of social station or luck. And so we lose our chances for pleasure, just as we lose our chances for peace or happiness or release from suffering.

So last might I reclaimed pleasure as a blessing, for myself and for all beings. “May I have pleasure. May all beings have pleasure”. Try it out yourself. How does it feel to bring pleasure into your prayers or intentions? Do you feel guilty asking for this? Does it feel indulgent? Why is this? What if this was a beautiful blessing that we all deserved?

May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you find peace. May you have pleasure.

Rock That Muumuu!

Recently I was at a friend’s house for brunch and there, on the TV, was a Love Boat marathon. This was very compelling. (Hey, don’t judge) Not only because of the nostalgia factor and memories of elementary school sleep overs, but because of the striking contrast to what we see on TV today.

There were elderly people with fully developed romantic story lines! Not played for laughs! And not played by actors who looked like they could still do 5 hours of step aerobics (My mind is in the 80s, stay with me here). On episode after episode, there were senior citizens enjoying love, flirtation, and sexy storylines with multiple suitors vying for their affection.

Now sure, The Love Boat format was largely about the guest stars who were famous years ago. But seeing it again made me realize how much our media has changed and the images of people we see have changed. Remember TV used to be primarily targeted towards adults, including adults in their elder years. This has changed as our marketing focus has slide younger and younger. And of course we are meant to look younger and younger as well. It’s all about anti-aging these days.

It is one thing to see more older actors being celebrated as sexy now. Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren – super inspiring and SEXY as hell. And that is good to see. But it is also intimidating and has attached to it the additional message that we have to look like a 40 year old to be an attractive 70 year old. It is something else entirely to see someone who actually looks like my grandma, strutting her stuff in a fluffy turquoise muumuu with attached cape that gently flows over her noticeably large belly and hips, having someone be hit with love at first sight of her. That sends a different message about who is worthy of a love story, doesn’t it?

Now I am not claiming that The Love Boat did great things for my developing mind or sense of what love had in store. But I do think that seeing storylines involving people my grandparents age hooking up for some vacation love and for some spontaneous weddings was probably good for me, setting a foundation I was unaware of that romance stays with us throughout our entire life.

What I think is important to remember is the insidious way our image of the world gets edited by who is not represented. We should always take time to ask ourselves - who is missing from this crafted-for-my-entertainment world? For all the vastness of available media at this point in time, the people we see are in some ways more edited than ever. We need to see people of all colors, ages, sizes, gender representations, orientations, physical capacities, … and we need to see just plain old average looking people, living their lives and loving one another. We need to see ourselves represented. All aboard!

What is Passion?

Sex therapists are often asked to comment on how to increase passion or how to keep passion going. But today, I am thinking about - What is passion exactly? What makes someone passionate about something? What is this state like for us?

The dictionary says simply that passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm.  I think most of us would say that feels like an understated definition of a deeply motivating intensity of feeling.

Passion can feel like a deep well, where other interests are shallow. Passion feeds itself instead of quickly burning out. Passion is felt in the body, whether it is for a person or sex or a calling or an artistic endeavor, it is felt. Some people describe a quickening of pulse or breath, or a fluttering in the belly, or a rush of energy or heat in the core.

Something you are passionate about awakens you in some way. I read a quote suggesting that passion comes from things that bring us closer to our true selves and I think this is true. We are passionate in the now, we want to be there, we want to experience. We are called to show up. Passion stirs something in us that must feel real, that must invite a part of our self that is authentic and wants to come out to play. Passion invites us into our life.

Passion often feels new and edgy. There has to be something to learn there, something to remain curious about. Passion pulls us to dig deeper, go further, to create and keep creating. If we feel we have it all figured out, no surprises, I doubt passion will remain. Passion provokes us and stimulates risk.

Passion can scare us. In fact, the second dictionary statement on passion reads, “a strong feeling that causes you to act in a dangerous way.” And when talking to a friend about this, his first response was to question the difference between passion and obsession. Interesting. Passion grabs hold of us and feels outside of reason. Passion is not entirely a choice. But to me, passion is kind. It motivates us and channels us but doesn’t own us. Passion is a flow fed by our elation.

Passion says “it is worth it” and reflectively I think we create passion by saying “this is worth it”. We want to give to that which draws our passion. And in giving, we receive more, and this feels good. When we are unwilling to give or invest or risk, we will be without passion. So making space for this driving force in our life means first believing we have the energy to give. Do you?