A few months ago, I was playing Never Have I Ever with a large group of friends. The game began with several predictable statements—never have I ever been arrested, had a threesome, and so on. But then one girl said, “Never have I ever had an orgasm.”

I was surprised, but I put a finger down without saying anything. Then I noticed that three other women were nodding in solidarity. Their fingers stayed up. I couldn’t contain myself. “Really? None of you have had an orgasm?”

Female masturbation is a topic that usually stays under the covers. I get it—the patriarchy silences female sexuality when it’s not accompanied by male pleasure. It’s ridiculous, but predictable.

However, it upset me to find that internalized shame and systematic ignorance had prevented these women from trying to reach orgasm altogether. And these weren’t isolated incidents, either. Since deciding to write this article, I’ve spoken with more than a few female friends who also told me they’ve never had an orgasm. What’s up with that?

Some women truly cannot orgasm. In some cases, this is a physical limitation, while in others it’s the result of trauma. But the likelihood of a woman being incapable of orgasm is disproportionately small when compared to the total number of women who haven’t had—or think they can’t have—an orgasm. Let’s set the record straight: If you think you can’t have an orgasm, chances are, you can.

So, why haven’t you? Female sexual pleasure is complicated. When combined with the guilt, either implicit or explicit, that is forced on women for having desires and wanting to act on them, masturbation can be difficult if not impossible. Plus, many women don’t know how to masturbate. And since no one ever talks about it, the idea of learning how to masturbate seems at best awkward and at worse terrifying.

I used to be disgusted by the idea of masturbation. I grew up under the impression that masturbation was sinful, so I felt that if I ever spoke about it, I would be subject to eternal mortification. Clearly, I don’t feel that way anymore. So how did I—and how can you—brush off that aversion and satisfy your sensuality? I have a few suggestions.

(Disclaimer: This may not represent the experience of all women, specifically of trans women, who are subject to a very different kind of sexual shame. In addition, it’s worth noting that not everyone wants to masturbate—for example, some asexual people are completely disinterested in it. But if you want to masturbate, your gender and anatomy don’t have to matter. My hope is that these tips will be helpful regardless.)

1.  Accept that what you’re doing is natural. If you’ve never orgasmed before, and especially if you’ve never masturbated before, it’s natural to feel a little strange about it. You may feel embarrassed, scared, or even repulsed by the idea of exploring your body. But here’s the thing: It’s your body. Why should you have to feel anything but completely comfortable making it feel good?

The clitoris literally has 8,000 nerve endings in it. You are designed to feel pleasure, so you might as well take your biology up on that offer.

2.  Research. There are countless masturbation techniques you can find online. Some are more popular than others, but there’s no wrong way to masturbate. The female body is frustrating in that there isn’t one method that works for everyone, but because of that, you can also explore a variety of sensations and degrees of pleasure. I masturbated in exactly the same way for nearly a decade until I realized there might be other routes to satisfaction. And damn, had I been missing out. “Different strokes for different folks” has never been a more appropriate aphorism. One caveat, though: Stay away from porn. Or at least sites like PornHub, which will show you gloriously unrealistic depictions of what the female orgasm should look like. Male fantasies of female masturbation are rarely accurate.

3.  Practice. Masturbation is a skill like any other. If your body has never experienced the coveted climax before, it’ll probably take a fair amount of trial-and-error to get there. Don’t give up if some of the things you try aren’t landslides. Over time, as your body becomes more comfortable with these kinds of sensations, it’ll be easier to figure out what you like. Pro-tip: Only 18 percent of women can orgasm through penetration alone. Clitoral stimulation is where it’s at.

4.  Have fun! Masturbation is labeled a form of sexual pleasure for a reason—it’s supposed to be enjoyable. Masturbation has been proven to reduce stress, help you sleep better, and even improve your self-esteem. You don’t need to touch yourself in a bathtub surrounded by candles to feel sexy, nor do you necessarily need to feel sexy to masturbate. Wherever, whenever, and however you do it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re enjoying yourself. You do you, literally.

Congratulations, you can have an orgasm! Or maybe you can’t—and that’s totally okay. For one, you’re not alone. You shouldn’t criticize your body for the way it naturally reacts. All you can do is accept yourself entirely, and hopefully that means choosing to indulge in your sexuality once in a while. Just because you don’t orgasm doesn’t mean it won’t feel great. 

Rebecca Torrence is a Trinity sophomore. Her column usually runs on alternate Fridays.