Aunt Vadge: I don’t know how to finger myself – help!

Hi Aunt Vadge.

I’m 17, and I don’t know how to navigate fingering myself.

I’ve never inserted anything in my vagina until very recently. I used to be too nervous to penetrate so I would always stick to the outside and it worked.

But I want to be able to have penetrative sex with my boyfriend, so I’m trying to work up to it by starting off with getting used to the feeling of my fingers first.

The problem is, I have no idea what to do. I insert a small portion of my finger, and I’m not sure where to go and it doesn’t feel good. It feels so tight, and when I go farther it only gets tighter.

I use lube and try to make sure I’m aroused enough beforehand but it feels like I’m too nervous to completely be aroused and ready.

I thought I may have vaginismus but I’m not sure.

Do you have any way to help?

Thank you!

Scaredy Cat
Age 17
San Francisco, USA


Dear Scaredy Cat,

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of fingering!

There is no reason for you to think something is ‘wrong’ with you (i.e. vaginismus) because your vagina feels tight. There is a lot going on when we start ‘entering’ our bodies with fingers, objects and boyfriends.

It can be scary and frankly pretty weird, especially when you’re not extremely turned on. So this is where we’re going to start. Your letter gives us so much information to work with, so let’s get started.

What it means to be turned on. But like, actually.

When you’re turned on, your clitoral tissue swells up with blood, your vagina becomes wetter due to increased blood flow, and everything feels different – including previously boring or uncomfortable penetration.

In your case, being properly turned on is likely the missing link to you enjoying penetration. Once you get the ingredients right, your vagina will naturally open up to invite visitors.

The role of nerves and nervousness in sex

First, you have a goal in mind – penetrative sex with your boyfriend. You’ve been too nervous to even finger yourself before, and so now you’re trying to get yourself ready for your boyfriend’s comparatively enormous penis.

Scary, not sexy. Penises are much bigger than your teensy fingers and you are not in control of it going into your body – he is. Double scary. It’s like you’re training to climb Mt Everest.

The way you’re thinking about this means that there is a problem to solve, which isn’t exactly hot. “If only my vagina wasn’t so tight, I’d be able to have sex with my boyfriend.” That adds a layer of stress.

Then you’ve leapt to vaginismus, to try to explain why it’s not working. (You’ve done good sleuthing, but you almost certainly do not have vaginismus.)

Your pelvic fairy lights and how to turn them on

You mention practising by yourself to get used to the feeling of your fingers, but that you’re also nervous then. Your task is to first, give yourself a break, you’re new to this, and second, to understand what being turned on really means for your body – physically.

If you imagine a tangled set of fairy lights in your pelvis. Consider that for these fairy lights to stay on and get brighter, you have to work out the closest wire to touch through the skin i.e. through your vaginal walls.

Each of us has a different arrangement of the bundle of fairy lights, nerves in our pelvis, that dictate what feels good and what doesn’t feel like anything much. Each person is unique, which is why what works on one person doesn’t work on another.

Importantly, the fairy lights have to be on before you try to keep them on and make them brighter! If the fairy lights are off – like when you’re nervous – you’re not going to feel what you are seeking. Pleasure. It’ll just feel strange or sore or boring and then you’ll psyche yourself out thinking something is wrong with you.

Imagine that making out with your boyfriend gets you turned on. The fairy lights are on, even if they are faint. It’s important to get the fairy lights to a good level of brightness before you try to find the wires to push on to keep them going and make them brighter.

The surge of blood required to turn the fairy lights on in the first place completely changes your vaginal environment. Your clitoris, which is huge and has internal structures you can’t see from the outside, swells up like an erect penis does. The fairy lights are on when you have what you might like to call a lady boner.

The MRI of the Clitoris
Clitoral structures are the yellow bit, purple bit is your vagina and cervix

If you don’t have a lady boner, you won’t be able to feel anything. If you are nervous, the wrong part of your nervous system is turned on and it shuts down your ability to become aroused, to turn the fairy lights on, to get a lady boner.

No lady boner means no pleasure. Importantly, feeling nervous shuts off your fairy lights at the switch and pulls out the plug. So learning to do this on your own and feeling comfortable with the process is key to your relaxing and being able to enjoy penetration.

What to do next – the experimenting

When you’re due to ovulate next (use a period tracker) make a date with yourself and put some time aside for masturbating. (If you try at other times of your cycle, you may find it more difficult to muster up the enthusiasm for this experiment. At ovulation, you become more responsive and easy to turn on.)

Or, if you fancy it another time, that’s good too. Just make sure you’re not completely cold trying to do this – you’ll have a much harder time.

Consider that you’d like to turn yourself on, give yourself a lady boner, and then if you feel like it, to try some light finger action. The goal here is to get as turned on as you can before you try to put anything into your vagina.

‘Round the outside, ‘Round the outside

When you are touching your clitoris, wet or lube your fingers and without penetrating, gently rub the tips of your fingers around the opening to your vagina for a little while. There are so many nerve endings just in and around the entrance, it’s amazing, but not that many in the vaginal canal itself. Spend some time exploring the entrance to your vagina. Don’t go any further than that unless you feel like you want to.

Diving in when the time is right

Then, if you want to (wanting is key), start slowly inserting one finger into your vagina and gently rotate it around and feel the insides of your vaginal walls. The bottom wall isn’t that exciting, but the top wall is the other side of your huge incredible clitoral structures, and if you’ve got a lady boner, the front wall will feel completely different than it did before when your fairy lights weren’t on.

Slide your finger slowly in and out a little and get some friction happening, and experiment with how the different walls feel. Keep your clitoral stimulation going during this time – the two together make this good. Vaginal penetration without the clitoris doesn’t usually work well.

That’s deep, baby

Additionally, deeper inside near your cervix can feel awesome, but you might need something a little bigger than a finger to reach your cervix. That’s for another day though, when you have felt the difference in your vagina between when you have a lady boner – when your fairy lights are on – and when they’re not.

You can do it!

Being properly turned on is the key to enjoying sex and is how to take something scary and turn it into a lifetime of great sex. You sound like you’re very close to having a great time, so go forth and feel absolutely confident that you’ll work it out – and that will take some fiddling.

Aunt Vadge