What Does Self-Love Actually Mean? On Pleasuring Myself and Learning to Be More in Tune with my Body

BY SHEMS ROCHA

Last night I experienced something I never thought was humanly possible. I had not one, not two, not three, but six orgasms in the span of over an hour of self-pleasure.

It might sound a bit surreal for some, or just a normal Friday night for others, but it got me thinking. How had I never known my body could do this? Was my body even able to experience this when it was younger, or am I just more in tune with it now?

But most of all, I wondered: am I normal?

As a 30-something single sexually active cis woman living in a busy city, I’ve learned a lot about sexuality and self-pleasure on my own over the years. As a teenager, I stayed up late at night to listen to radio shows talking about sex; I read blog posts online about blow jobs, masturbation, sex positions, and more; but I also talked extensively about the deed with my friends.

I’ve grown up in a home with conservative ideas about love and relationships. Sex just wasn’t a topic you could bring up, but I am lucky enough to have had, over the years, a strong group of friends with whom I could always talk about it. Most times playfully, but other times, much more seriously. I believe sex is meant to be part of a whole conversation - whether it’s to have a laugh with your friends, to discuss a sensitive topic with a professional, or discuss your likes, dislikes, fantasies and no-gos with a partner.

I’m not the most chatty person, but talking about sex with my friends gets me out of my shell. It’s freeing and fun. We learn so much from each other, even when the discussions can be awkward or seem gross. It’s a topic we never get tired of talking about, or shy away from. We can talk about it for hours, whether to discuss our latest sexual adventure, our hilarious sex fails, recent discoveries about our own bodies, or newly tried positions — the list is endless.

All these talks have made me more comfortable with my own body over time, and have given me the confidence to open up to my partners in the bedroom. I have learned to know and love my body despite its imperfections - which nobody else notices but me - and discover what makes it click. It’s a continuously beautiful experience.

So last night, as I laid in bed, I felt like ‘loving myself’ before a good night’s sleep, so I pulled my bullet vibrator from its secret spot in my bedside table, changed the batteries to avoid an infuriating power cut half-way, and got myself in the mood. I put some music on and thought about my current partner, about their touch and how it made me feel, and started enjoying myself. After about 10 minutes of play, my first orgasm came - a satisfactory one based on previous experiences.

I had recently realised that if I carried on, I would get a deeper orgasm, closely followed by another. So I did. It was hard work and at times uncomfortable because my clitoris and my vulva as a whole were still a bit shaken by the first orgasm, but I knew that perseverance would get me to that more intense and pleasurable place. I didn’t have to rush: I was in charge, I was alone, and I knew what my body wanted.

The second and third orgasms greeted me after about 45 minutes. Something happens to you when you get to that stage, or at least for me: your body and your vulva sync up somehow. You end up in this state of craving, as if you were on drugs and needed another hit. It seems impossible to stop from pleasuring yourself. You want more and more, and so you carry on — I carried on. That night, with a grand total of 6 orgasms, I pushed the limits of my body and had to cut myself off, for several reasons. For one, I wasn’t sure whether my vibrator could hold the distance, but I was also really getting tired. I was also worried that if I went any further, I would end up hurting myself.

That night, I remembered enlightening words I once read on the Afrosexology Instagram account: “When we talk about self-love we sometimes think of it as just an idea. But really, self-love is a practice, and it requires action because learning to love yourself is one of the hardest things to do.”

As I stopped myself from pursuing further pleasure, half of me in a trance-like state and the other half laughing at the situation, one lucid thought popped into my head: do people actually realise how much power vaginas have? People with vaginas would certainly feel more powerful and confident if they were educated on pleasure without shame or stigma. Are our vulvas, in all their almighty glory and power, the reason why cis-men are so afraid of us?

I have worked hard on my self-love in recent years, on appreciating my body for what it is, and this combined with better communication with my partners has really boosted my confidence, not just in bed but in the outside world too. I owe these 6 orgasms to this work, to the literal practice of offering more love to myself.

That same post from Afrosexology said that “social media, structural oppression, and unhealthy relationships are just a few examples of things that send us daily messages that we are not beautiful, worthy, or lovable. The world is capitalising on our lack of self-worth. We’re conditioned to think more about what people think of us, and taught to seek external validation instead of validating and affirming ourselves.” They were spot on. The moment I liberated myself from external approval or validation was the moment I set foot into a whole new world of pleasure.

There is no shame in seeking pleasure - alone or with others. In fact, pleasure is a quest where you can find unimaginable treasures. Your body can surprise you in many beautiful ways, and it’s up to you to find it. To seek and receive it. That is true self-love, and I’m surely going to keep exploring.