Throughout most of my life, I haven’t had access to a resource, space or activity that could completely take my mind off of stressful situations or thoughts. I have PTSD and premenstrual exacerbation (meaning the PTSD is worse during menstruation), so finding an outlet to subdue and control my stress was integral to my personal well-being. But that didn’t make it any easier to find.
During my most tumultuous times—whether it was a bad mental health spike, day-to-day problems with housemates or navigating an investigation at work after I reported sexual harassment—I attempted, nay, attacked, every stress management method available to me, to no avail.
I tried exercising (turns out it’s exhausting), reading (who can concentrate when they’re stressed, especially during a pandemic?) and talking with friends and family (ugh, socializing!). I even tried meditating, a process literally designed to relieve and realign. But as I sat on my paisley-painted mat with a patronizing fitness influencer coaching me on the TV screen, it all felt too forced.
Nothing could ever quite offer me enough escapism. No matter what I was distracting myself with, a glimmer of whatever was stressing me out lingered: a comment from an argument I’d had, or a feeling of frustration left over from a bad mental health day. That was, until I bought my first sex toy. The only problem was, I bought the wrong one.
In April 2018, my partner moved back to his hometown. We had both lived in a small Surrey town in Britain (known for being one of the most expensive places to live in the country) where we attended the same art school. But life after graduation was difficult: He hadn’t secured the job opportunities he wanted, and his funds were decreasing—he simply couldn’t afford to be living there any longer. To recover from his financial difficulties and find a good job, he moved back in with his mum while I, still finishing the final year of my degree, stayed behind.
We decided to give long-distance a try and, although I knew we’d do well at it, I was saddened by the prospect of less sex and intimacy.
Growing up, I had a regressive view of masturbation. For me, masturbation was Plan B when you couldn’t get laid; it was my unloved second choice after partnered sex. I’d slept on the real power of touching myself.
After my boyfriend moved, a friend of mine joked about me needing a sex toy to “help me out between visits.”
I’d never taken an interest in sex toys before. I had always (wrongly) considered them to be for single people, or married couples losing their spark and looking to spice things up. But with no partner, I did what I thought was a fair trade for my favourite person: I reluctantly gave in and bought a sex toy.
Since this would be my first sex toy, I wanted something size-appropriate, simple and gentle, that wouldn’t overwhelm me. Searching Lovehoney’s website, I settled on a classic, pocket-size bullet vibrator with a glittery “Good Vibes Only” printed on the front—a tiny, non-intrusive toy that many women opt for when using a sex toy for the first time. At £50 (approximately CAD $85), it seemed royally unfriendly to my bank balance for such a simple toy with few specs, even with a discount code and free shipping. Still, I paid, and nervously waited for my first-ever sex toy to arrive.
The next day, my parcel was delivered. I excitedly opened the box. Instead of the tiny vibe I anticipated, it was a heavy, near 15-inch black magic wand. Confused, I checked the order confirmation email—and realized I had ordered the wrong toy.
I thought I’d bought a rainbow-coated, sparkly bullet with all its “good vibes,” but the toy in my hands looked like your run-of-the-mill matte black sports massaging tool—only with a huge spinning head, an accompanying electrical plug and a giant bum imprinted on the front, twisted to vaguely resemble a heart (Lovehoney’s hypersexual signature).
At first, I was actually quite relieved; that, at least, justified my £50. Once it set in that I had brought a more advanced, complex toy into my bedroom that I perhaps wasn’t prepared for, though, I was intimidated.
But rather than exchanging it for the toy that matched my initial expectations, I thought “fuck it.” And then I did.
The first time I used my magic wand, I was anxious. It felt absurd to have something so large and indiscreet between my legs. It’s also quite noisy, which didn’t ease my apprehension—especially sharing a house with three men living above and next to my room.
The wand comes equipped with a dial to control its speed,though the faster it goes, the louder the noise—like that of a power drill. I kept it on low, and once I—and the toy—got going, my worries quickly dissolved. (Turns out, it’s hard to care about who can hear you and how much your wrist aches from trying to position a heavy toy when you’re orgasming within 15 seconds of turning it on.)
After that day, the size, price and noise of my magic wand was no longer intimidating—it was decadent, a clear-cut sign of self-care and indulgence.
With this weapon in my arsenal, I unlocked an entirely new method of pleasure, and with that, a new perspective on solo sex. Every time I was in the mood, I whacked out my no-longer-intimidating magic wand and went to town. I was surprised by the joy of the experience—and the release. It was different from regular partnered sex, but equally as powerful.
My magic wand became my best friend, with benefits. I used it whenever I had a moment to spare. Every day, when I came home from a long day of work or I made it through a difficult university assignment, I’d just wank the stress away. It was then that I realized that masturbation didn’t have to be about horniness. You can simply crack one out when you’ve had enough.
The attempt at long-distance ultimately worked, and I eventually followed my boyfriend to his hometown. Now living together with plenty of opportunities for partnered sex, I no longer see masturbation as something to replace sex when he’s not around. Instead, it’s a fundamental part of my well-being.
While I am, by no means, complaining about partnered sex (I’m a big fan), masturbation has guided me during difficult times, helping me to reconnect with my mind instead of feeling betrayed by it. I’ve also felt personally empowered by becoming the administrator of my own pleasure.
Masturbation is the most natural “safe space” we have access to. With solo sex, there’s no pressure to perform, no anxiety about whether your moans are sexy-sounding or your face is looking pretty. I admittedly also revel in the fact that I don’t have to think about another person; it’s about what I want and what feels good for me. There’s no better way to release the stresses of the world and reconnect with myself. Another health benefit of wanking: Numerous studies have shown that, in addition to relieving stress, masturbation can act as a natural painkiller and sedative, as well as help improve concentration.
This vibrator, paired with the care I invested in my solo sex life, allowed me to get back in touch with my body and my mind simultaneously. Sure, it’s not the most discreet toy —you’ll have to pull the “Um, it’s a back massager?” classic if you are stopped while going through customs with it. But my magic wand was the best £50 I’ve spent on myself, and it will be the best you spend too.
Heed my warning, though: Anyone who dares come into contact with this holy grail of toys will have all other vibrators ruined for them forever. But they’ll thank the magic wand for its enchanting, life-changing service nonetheless.