Stephen Snyder, MD., is one of the foremost experts on intimacy. An Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City, he approaches the subject from a holistic view: “intimacy” here is not just defined as intercourse, but as sexual health, wellness, and relationship development. His critically acclaimed book, Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship sums up his ideas.
In a recent Goop interview Dr. Snyder laid out some of his views on women finding their pleasure, by any means necessary. We recap some of the interview highlights below.
Let’s Talk About Sexual Arousal (and vibrators):
Are you uncomfortable talking about arousal, masturbation or vibrators? According to Dr. Snyder, you shouldn’t be. One important reason is that, guided by your own hand, the vibrator is an unerring indicator as to what turns you on. He points out that too many women go through their entire sex lives without having a firm idea of what arousal even means.
The solution, he asserts, is simply to get hands-on (or vibrator-on) with your own body, exploring and finding out what heats you up. Masturbation, particularly if partnered with the power and efficiency of a vibrator, will teach you what arousal truly feels like.
The Role of Fantasy:
Dr. Snyder concedes that orgasm can be achieved through masturbation from the energy of rubbing and friction alone, but nevertheless encourages female minds to roam into fantasies while masturbating. He says that this works particularly well with a vibrator.
Combining fantasy and other mental sources of arousal with the physical element of the vibrator will create a heightened state of arousal and a more intense orgasm. Dr. Snyder describes this as a condition where “arousal builds and builds until it’s like water going over the dam.”
The Vibrator – Your Time and Energy Saver:
The vibrator is a time-saver, not just solo, but with a partner as well. He says that some women—those with a high orgasm threshold—will take a relatively long amount of time and care to reach a climax with a partner, but can reach that peak faster when a vibrator is introduced into the encounter. As Dr. Snyder puts it, “Getting to orgasm shouldn’t feel like climbing Everest without oxygen.”
Doctor’s Orders: Masturbate!
Dr. Snyder actually prescribes female masturbation, particularly for women who have had little experience in being authentically aroused. He notes the broad array of modern toys that can help a woman achieve masturbatory orgasm, and that the pleasure of this or that vibrator or toy will differ from woman to woman.
This is partly because most of a woman’s clitoris is not visible, but is located in her interior. “Women differ in how much they favor their inner versus outer clitoris. It takes practice to develop your own signature moves. And masturbation is by far the best way to practice,” says Dr. Snyder.
Toys and Masturbation – the Misconceptions:
Dr. Snyder cleared up some misconceptions about the role of toys and masturbation. Most importantly, he explained that a solo orgasm (with or without a toy) was in no way inferior to one with a partner. And, contrary to common belief, women who are good with vibrators are not bad with men. The path to female orgasm can include a mix of her hands, his hands, a toy, a penis and whatever else keeps the party going.
This mix also relieves men from having to perform like a sexual Hercules. As Dr. Snyder said, “[Men] think they’re expected to do amazing things to bring women to orgasm. I tell them instead to think of themselves as the rhythm section. Give her a good beat and let her work with it.”
He Loves to Watch You:
Introducing a toy into a sexual relationship can be awkward. Interestingly enough, though, this awkwardness is from the female side, not the male. According to Dr. Snyder, most men actually find female masturbation—again with or without a vibrator—intensely arousing to watch. He therefore encourages women to simply use the toy or vibrator on themselves, in the same way they would if they were alone.
However, if the woman is shy, she can perform with her back to the man, in what he calls the “motorcycle position.” In this position, “you’re semirecumbent and your partner sits behind you, holding on and enjoying the ride. You might work up to facing each other and looking deeply into each other’s eyes as you get off.”
Partner, Meet Toy
As previously mentioned, Dr. Snyder explains that most men are not averse to female masturbation or toys, and so introducing a toy will probably not be as difficult as you imagine. He says that a good way to introduce a toy is to “reveal it as a secret that you want to share.”
This has the added benefit of making him feel special. You can even ask him to join in toy selection. “A great way to introduce your partner to a new sex toy is to take them shopping for it with you. I tell people to think of it as foreplay,” says Dr. Snyder.
The Necessity of Narcissism in the Sexual Self
Dr. Snyder explains that for a woman to reach arousal, she has to let her truest sexual self run free, without the need to compromise, explain, or consider public opinion.
She has to center herself in the act, and unashamedly pursue her own pleasure. “When you’re really sexually aroused, you may feel very close to your partner, but you don’t want to hear all about how their day went. You want them to treat you like the most magnificent thing in the universe,” says Dr. Snyder.
He explains this as a form of mindfulness in that the woman deliberately allows her mind, body and desires to run freely and reach a full state of arousal. In short, a woman has a natural right to pursue sexual pleasure and orgasm, and not be judged (even by herself).
Toys, intimacy and relationships:
Dr. Snyder closed his interview by again referring to the time and energy-saving aspects of toys and vibrators. These can be seen as narcissistic tools, and that is fine, because, as he points out, “passion is selfish.” Indeed, the unalloyed pursuit of sexual gratification can bring both a refreshing honesty and a deeper, more realistic bond.
This doesn’t mean generosity should be absent in bed; it definitely should not be. In his words, “Obviously, you can’t be so ruthless in pursuit of your own pleasure that you ignore your partner completely. But a little bit of ruthlessness can be very sexy if you do it right.”