Q Without A Clue Asks:
I'm transgender (FtM) and my hormone therapy seems to be messing up my sexual function. I've never had a partner, but I used to masturbate very regularly and successfully, both before I started testosterone and early on in the treatment. My dosage was cut after a while and some time after that I found that while I still wanted to wank a lot, it wasn't satisfying. I find myself trying for what feels like a very long time and then giving up. I think everything's more or less in working order physically and it's just that I need to change my approach, but I don't know how.
I've thought about getting some toys (I've never had any) but I don't know where to start. I know I still don't like being penetrated, porn doesn't do anything for me, and I'm not into pain, but I don't know what I *do* like any more. Can you give me any advice for how to get back on track?
Dear Q Without a Clue:
Thank you for your question! It sounds like your hormone therapy has had some unexpected, and unwanted, effects on your sexual desire and arousal.
Right off the bat I just want to say that it is totally normal during hormone therapy and gender transition to have to relearn how your body works, how to masturbate, and how to orgasm. The way your body responds is changing and your genitals may not be sensitive in the same way they were before, due to the increase in testosterone. Getting “back on track” will likely require some shifts in thinking as well as some new techniques.
At first, the best thing you can do is set aside some time just to explore your body and its sensations without having orgasm as the goal. This “agenda-free” touch can help you pay attention both to your body itself and to the thoughts and emotions you are experiencing during masturbation. Really slow down to explore what your body likes, just for pleasure’s own sake.
We have a saying that “The brain is the biggest sex organ.” This can be a benefit or a problem! If you are feeling discouraged, anxious, or stressed in the moment it can be incredibly distracting. Distraction—thinking about other things besides pleasure itself—can be a huge turn-off. If you are masturbating for longer than usual, you may be getting side-tracked by thoughts that throw you off your game. Once you are more aware of the thoughts and emotions you’re having, you can start to try to stop unwanted or distracting thoughts by re-focusing your attention back on your genital sensations.
One huge distraction may be thinking about how you compare to other guys (or to yourself before hormone therapy). There is a perception out there that transgender guys will be more easily aroused and hornier than ever before, but everybody is different. If you were expecting one thing and are experiencing another, the surprise, disappointment or anxiety could be upsetting and distracting in the moment. If you can try to remember that you are unique, and that your transition will happen at your own pace in your own way, this might help you relax and enjoy your masturbation more.
Another major distraction experienced in the bedroom (by men and women!) is feelings of discomfort or dissatisfaction with the body. Negative thoughts about the body can draw a person’s attention away from pleasure and physical sensations. This may not be an issue for you, but for some transgender people feeling uncomfortable in one’s skin can greatly contribute to sexual issues. Sex researchers have pretty consistently found that how folks feel about their bodies in general, and their genitals in particular, is related to their sexual desire and arousal. So beyond patiently re-learning how you like to be stimulated—you may find that seeking out pastimes that help you feel more at home in your body in general will actually enhance your sexual well-being. It may sound a bit corny—but yoga and meditation are two things that could help you get more in-tune with your bodily sensations.
That said, using sex toys can be a new and exciting way to explore your body and push your sensations and arousal to places you have never been before. Getting a new toy might help you feel like stimulating yourself is less of a chore and more fun, so I would enthusiastically recommend it. At Pure Pleasure we sell a wide variety of vibrating toys that can be used to stimulate the external genitalia. They come in different sizes and shapes and many can change speeds and patterns of pulsing-vibrations. If you come to the shop you can explore our display models of all of the toys so you can feel the texture and vibrations on your hands before buying. You could start with something basic like the Breeze Power Bullet, or something more powerful such as the Mystic Wand.
Whether you decide to buy a toy or not, another thing you might like to try is adding lubrication to your masturbation routine. Even if you aren’t doing any penetration, adding lubrication such as Sliquid H20 to your fingers or a toy during masturbation can change the sensations you feel. Feeling the additional moisture may also “trick” your brain into believing you are getting aroused, which could actually help you to feel more relaxed and aroused.
In sum, toys are a great idea! Toys, along with tuning in to your thoughts and emotions during this major life-change, can help keep masturbation fun and interesting rather than having it feel like work. Finally, I would also encourage you to talk to your doctor about your sexual concerns. Only a medical professional can tell you if there are physical aspects to what you are experiencing and they may have further recommendations based on their expertise working with transgender folks.
About Rose: Rose has a BA in psychology and women's studies, and a Master's in social psychology. She is working toward a PhD at UC Santa Cruz, focusing on social justice, gender and sexuality, sexual empowerment, and sexual rights as human rights. Rose has been a teaching assistant for sexuality-focused college classes, presented research to academic groups like the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, and worked with non-profit organizations across the country on grant-writing and event planning. Her goal is to use social psychological research and teaching to contribute to community-based organizations' efforts and policy-level changes that promote sexual well-being.