Page last updated April 2021
How to finger yourself, for people with vulvas
If you’ve seen the Netflix show Sex Education, you’ll have watched seventeen-year-old Amy discover the pleasure of fingering. “I’ve been wanking all night,” she says, delirious, to her friend at school the next day. “I ate four packets of crumpets and I think my clit might drop off.”
Amy isn’t alone in enjoying fingering – according to one study, 91% of women have fingered themselves.1 Simply put, fingering is when the fingers are used to stimulate the genitals, and is something that many people enjoy as part of masturbation. For people with vulvas, fingering could involve stimulation of the clitoris, the g-spot, and the anus.
Fingering is a great way to learn about your body and what arouses you, and some people even do it to help them sleep,2 relax, and dispel stress.3 Not everyone enjoys fingering, and sometimes it’s not a possibility: those with physical conditions like vaginismus or vulvodynia, or those who have experienced sexual trauma, may feel pain when they try it. Those experiencing mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may not feel pleasure at all. Whether you want to try fingering is entirely up to you, and it’s possible to have a perfectly satisfying sex life without it.
For those of us who do want to give it a try, The Femedic asked two sex experts for their advice on how to finger yourself and what techniques they’d recommend to explore different types of pleasure.
What to do beforehand
Washing your hands before fingering yourself isn’t always necessary, says Alex White, a counsellor and coach who specialises in sexual issues. Instead, she suggests treating your genitals as a bodily opening like your mouth or eyes: would you wash your hands before touching those?
You can still finger yourself if you have long fingernails, but stick to external areas like your clitoris. Avoid inserting long fingernails into the vagina and anus and use a sex toy instead, as there’s a risk of cutting or scratching the inside which could then increase the risk of STI transmission.4
For clitoral and g-spot fingering, sitting up and leaning back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor or the bed, is a good position to begin with
Whilst you don’t need a detailed knowledge of your anatomy to finger yourself, it helps to know what’s what and what’s where. You can use a hand-held mirror to look at your vulva and work out what you’ll be touching — our guides to the vulva and the vagina can help here, too. Most likely, you’ll be wanting to stimulate the clitoris, a highly sensitive sexual organ with over 8,000 nerve endings,5 and the g-spot — a cluster of nerve cells in the front-facing wall of your vagina.
Before you start fingering, it’s important to manage your expectations. Having a goal to reach a certain level of arousal or orgasm can trigger feelings of self-consciousness and judgement, which can detract from your experiences in the moment, says White. Instead, you might like to get in the mood by watching or listening to porn or doing a sensual activity, like taking a bubble bath.
You should only try fingering — whether it be clitoral, vaginal, or anal — if and when you feel comfortable.
How to get started
If you’re touching yourself for the first time, it’s best to take a cautious approach. “If people aren’t sure what they’re going to respond to, I would start slowly and gently”, White says. “Keep in mind that our genitals are sensitive. There’s always potential for more speed, depth, and pressure to explore.”
For clitoral and g-spot fingering, sitting up and leaning back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor or the bed, is a good position to begin with. Sex and intimacy coach Libby Sheppard suggests working through a list of motions if you’re unsure how to proceed with fingering: using your middle finger, tap or stroke a part of your genitalia, draw circles around it, and rub it in “up-and-down” and “side-to-side” motions. Try these actions on your clitoris first. As you begin to feel aroused, your vagina will become wet by producing thick, white fluids, and your clitoris will swell as blood rushes to it.
For g-spot fingering, touch around the external area of your vagina first to “wake up” its sensory nerves. When you’re ready, insert two fingers. Sheppard suggests working on the interior, front-facing wall of the vagina (the g-spot) and using a “windscreen wiper” technique to stimulate the nerve endings there: “Hold your fingers on the inside of your vagina, with your palms facing upwards and the tips of your fingers resting on the top wall, close to the pubic bone.”
“A lot of people when they’re masturbating are very restricted in their breath, but this actually reduces the amount of sensation and relaxation you can feel in your body”
Then, move your fingers in a U shape so they reach the “valleys”, or the vaginal walls on either side. Bear in mind that not everyone with a vulva will find g-spot stimulation pleasurable.
You can also finger yourself to experience anal pleasure. Some use anal fingering to reach the “a spot”: a pleasure point located at the top of the vagina, internally quite close to the anus. An easy way to reach your anus is by lying on your side, bending your top-side knee and reaching your hand across your back. To wake up the sensory nerves there, Sheppard suggests using a “doorbell technique” (pressing and holding your finger on the opening) and drawing circles around it.
Try to keep your breathing relaxed whilst fingering, says Sheppard: “A lot of people when they’re masturbating are very restricted in their breath, but this actually reduces the amount of sensation and relaxation you can feel in your body.”
Try out different techniques
As you become familiar with what you like, you can experiment and try to improve your technique a little. You could finger different parts of the genitals at once, for example, or rub other pleasure-stimulating zones (erogenous zones) like the nipples or inner thighs whilst fingering yourself.
Mixing it up with different positions and body movements can create new sensations, too. Try fingering whilst on your hands and knees or in a yoga puppy pose, Sheppard says. You can clench and unclench parts of your genitals, circle the hips, or rock the pelvis back and forward — all of which will wake up the muscles in and around the vulva.
Fingering isn’t a case of finding your “moves” and sticking with them. As our bodies and interests change, what arouses us changes, too
A great way to try out different sensations is to use a sex toy. They come in different shapes, sizes, vibration settings, noise level, and vary a lot in price. Happily, many are versatile: this one we reviewed is designed to bend and move with your body, for example. Read the reviews before purchasing one online, as people tend to specify what arouses them and whether the sex toy satisfied that.
Lube can be useful for fingering if your genitals are on the drier side, as a touch more moisture can reduce the friction between your fingers and genitals to a level that feels pleasurable. You should definitely use lube if you plan on fingering your anus, which isn’t self-lubricating like the vagina is. If using lube, add a few drops to your fingers or a toy. Different types of lubes can cause different sensations, while there are some that are unsuitable for certain types of sex toys. Be sure to read the label before you buy.
The irony of this “how to” guide to fingering is that there is no one way to do it: fingering isn’t a case of finding your “moves” and sticking with them. As our bodies and interests change, what arouses us changes, too. Fingering is a continuous process of experimentation and surprise — enjoy the ride.
Featured image is an illustration of three hands doing an exaggerated “tapping” fingering motion. Each hand is at a different stage in the motion, with the first stage at the left and final to the right
Page last updated April 2021
- Carvalheira, A., and Leal, I., Masturbation Among Women: Associated Factors and Sexual Response in a Portugese Community Sample, Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, no. 4, 2013, pp. 347-367
- Laumann, E. O., et. al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practises in the United States, Chicago, University of Chicago, 1994, p. 85
- Rowland, D.L., Why and How Women Masturbate, and the Relationship to Orgasmic Response, Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, no. 4, 2020, pp. 361-376
- NHS, Sex activities and risk, NHS website, November 2018 [online] [accessed 21 April 2021]
- Nguyen, J., and Duong, H., Anatomy, abdomen, and pelvic, female external genitalis, in: StatPearls, Treasure Island, Florida, StatPearls Publishing, January 2020 [online] [accessed 21 April 2021]