Masturbation. It’s one of the words most commonly associated with young men rubbing out their sexual frustrations with one hand full of slickness and a sexy inspirational pictorial in the other. Many men see the value in self-pleasuring, and continue throughout their lives as a go-to sexual act that satisfies every time. But it seems the “M” word is one that many women dare not utter, let alone practice.

I’ve heard many women say that masturbation is only for “the lonely” who can’t find a man to satisfy them. Or even more commonly, that self-pleasuring is a “sin” dammed by God. (I think touching your own body could never be a sin. Isn’t it your birthright to know your sexual self?) Whatever the reason, more women choose to refrain from embracing the art of self-pleasuring than to embrace it.

I’m here to say: this is one of the most common mistakes that anyone (woman or man) could make pertaining to sex education and learning how to become more sexually satisfied.

It never fails. Each week, eager lovers seeking help for increasing their libido, maintaining stamina or reaching orgasm approach me. And the leading question I always have to ask is, “Do you practice masturbation? And if so, how often?” Self-pleasuring is not only the safest form of sex there is, but it’s also a great way to learn your sexual body and the triggers that arouse you to the point of reaching orgasm. (After all, most of us are desperately seeking those few seconds of ecstasy when we get right down to it.)

So how can masturbation help with overall sexual confidence and performance?

For her

The most important benefit of self-pleasuring for a woman is the opportunity to learn the spots that turn her on, and how to use them to reach the orgasm she desires. (Thirty percent of women have difficulty reaching orgasm, and sexual self-knowledge is crucial in learning how to orgasm.)

What’s between a woman’s legs is quite amazing, made of multiple parts that all do different things. The vulva contains the clitoris (known for being sensitive to touch and the main organ of focus during a woman’s arousal period); inner and outer labia (also known to be sensitive yet protective at the same time); urethra (leads from the bladder and aids in waste removal); and the vagina (that leads to the uterus).

The clitoris and the vagina are the two parts of the vulva that take main stage during sexual performance. Through self-pleasuring, a woman can learn how to work these parts to reach her maximum level of pleasure. If you’ve never touched yourself or taken a look at what’s down there, it’s time to whip out a mirror and take a look. Locate all the major parts of the vulva and touch them to get an idea of how they feel when you aren’t aroused.

The genitals are made up of erectile tissue that fills with blood during arousal and causes these parts to become swollen and ultra-sensitive to the touch. By using the fingers, pulsations from a vibrator/personal massager, or water jets from a hand-held showerhead, massage the clitoris in order to arouse the body and generate vaginal secretions that act as a natural lubricant during sex. Controlled breathing helps as well.

The clitoris is filled with 8,000 nerve endings, and is the main player in bringing about the female orgasm. Stimulating this bulb of nerves from the outside and stimulating its “legs” that extend into the vagina from the inside—with your own fingers or a pulsating massager—raises the awareness of how to arouse the body before bringing a partner into the equation. Practice self-pleasure regularly to educate yourself about your sexual organs and to control your orgasms. It can really be that simple.

For Him

When men contact me seeking advice about enhancing their sex lives, the most common complaints about sexual performance are rapid release and difficulty maintaining an erection. Masturbation isn’t a foreign concept to men, so there’s no need to convince a man of its place within sexual expression.

But what must be communicated is how self-pleasuring can be used to solve these issues. For the average man, “rubbing one out” can help with increasing his stamina and elongating the sexual experience. Most men tend to rush through their intimate moments with self to get to the orgasm quickly and back to their daily routines. But by slowing down, relaxing, and practicing controlled breathing, a man can learn to hold back his pending release and please his partner in the way he’s always imagined.

Instead of using quick, fast hand strokes during self-pleasuring, use slower, more concentrated strokes and clinch the penile muscles to keep the release held back as long as possible. Practice makes perfect, so the more this process can be used, the better for learning how prolong an orgasm and last longer during sex with a partner.

Love for self and loving on yourself should never be viewed as embarrassing, lonely or sinful. It’s a beautiful way to embrace personal sexual energy and helps with connecting you to your partner by giving him/her the roadmap needed to help you reach your orgasmic peak. Explore and have fun while discovering your sexual body.