I figure people who are reading a sex column pretty much want to know the secret to having good sex. All the time, consistently, every time. Granted, bad sex happens and it’s part of the process of learning to have good sex, but we all want that extra little tip that’s going to make the difference during our adventures in the sack.

Well, I’ve got it for you. I have sussed out the single most important have-good-sex tip I could find, and it’s surprisingly simple. The answer is: masturbate.

What, you might ask, does masturbation have to do with good sex? Well, frankly, everything. A lot of us discovered masturbation as children; I know at least five people who thought they had invented it and were going to become rich from the discovery. It’s the first thing we do to be sexual and the best time to explore our bodies and what turns us on.

Taking the time to feel yourself, to learn which buttons to push and what thoughts to encourage to get yourself off are the first step to a fulfilling sex life. Before you climb into bed with someone else, whether for the first time or the 500th, it’s best to know what you want them to do.

Nobody is telepathic and you can’t expect someone to be able to show you a good time, to give you orgasms, unless you know what you want and can tell them what it is.

Now, I know that many of you already masturbate. This is college, after all. There’s porn all over the Internet, and sometimes our roommates leave us alone with our hands and maybe a bottle of lube. I also know that some of you don’t. You think it’s gross or that it takes some of the fun and mystery out of sex. I understand that, but it’s definitely worth a shot. Think of it as having sex with yourself, as getting it on in private, as your own special time with yourself.

Whether you make a habit of getting down with yourself or not, take some time to explore your own body and what turns you on.

Try touching yourself in different ways; it’s not necessarily all about the genitals. See what parts of your body are sensitive, which ones make you feel sexy.

Maybe try a toy or sex accessory to add to the experience. Some people like to watch porn, and because there’s such a variety of it out there, porn can be a great way to explore what does and doesn’t turn you on.

Some people like to read about sex or watch Hollywood movies with hot scenes in them. Some people simply prefer to fantasize about past, current or imaginary sexual encounters.

Whatever it is that you do to get off, take your time with it and pay attention to what you’re thinking and feeling. Then, when you do decide to have sex with someone else, you’ll know how you want them to touch you. You’ll know in which kinds of sex acts you want to participate.

If you didn’t like watching the cum shots or gang bangs in porn, then that might not be something you’ll want to try in real life. Maybe you’ll want to try a threesome or the reverse cowgirl position because you read about it in an erotic story and it turned you on.

Even aside from its benefits for sex, masturbation is a great stress reliever. Orgasms release tons of endorphins, and nothing is better for relieving finals-time stress than a good load of naturally produced happy chemicals. Also, masturbation is a completely safe way to experience sexual pleasure. If you don’t yet feel ready for sex with another person or want to avoid the risk of sexually transmitted infections, masturbation could be the answer – you can’t get an STI from your own hand.

There’s a lot you can do to have good sex, like communicating with your partner, setting boundaries and feeling emotionally secure. Masturbation, though, is a prerequisite to many of those things. Try getting off on your own and see where it takes you.

Waddill is a member of the class of 2009.

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