Fingering is a ubiquitous sex move, but not one that's often discussed. At least, that's surely the case in American sex education classes. Some states don't require sex ed to be medically accurate, while others don't require sex ed at all. Given this lack, it's understandable if you have questions about fingering. Here are tips on how to finger your partner, according to two sex experts.
How to communicate when fingering
First and foremost: Talk to your partner, said Gigi Engle — ACS, certified sex educator who specializes in gender, sexuality, and relationship diversity — no matter if you're giving or receiving the sexual act.
Certified sex therapist Casey Tanner suggested the receiver use the "show and tell" method. You can show your partner how you masturbate, so they can visually learn how you like to be touched. Additionally — or alternatively — you can tell your partner.
"When communicating how you like to be touched, think of using descriptors that specify speed, pressure, and rhythm," Tanner advised. "You might also want to give guidance to your partner on whether you prefer clitoral stimulation, vaginal penetration, or both simultaneously."
I'm new to this, but I'm interested in learning it with you.
If you're the giver, don't oversell your experience. You don't need to proclaim you're a "finger virgin," Engle joked, but you can say something like, "I'm new to this, but I'm interested in learning it with you."
Let your partner know they don't need to feel pressured, or pretend they like something they don't. You can say something like, "I really want you to enjoy this experience," she recommended. Ask questions, like "Does this feel good?"
Your partner may have feedback — that's okay. Take feedback graciously, said Engle. If they give you instructions, listen to them. Don't just listen to words, either. Pay attention to body language, the sounds they're making, and their breathing.
You don't have to learn how to finger alone
Despite the dearth of formal sex ed, there's thankfully an abundance of online resources to learn more about anatomy and pleasure. Engle recommends Climax, and both Engle and Tanner recommend OMGYES. These websites feature educational videos about pleasuring the vulva, based on scientific studies of thousands of people (in Climax's case, third-party studies). They cost between $29 - $99, and between $49 - $119, respectively.
Keep in mind, however, that no amount of studying resources will make you a "master fingerer," Tanner said. That's because each person's body and preferences are different. Communication is still a necessity, regardless of how many videos you've consumed.
Do not rely on porn to learn how to finger, either, said Engle. Porn isn't a realistic reflection of "real world" sex; it's entertainment for the viewer.
Once you've talked with your partner — and maybe watched some videos — it's time to try some digital sex.
Fingering tips for vulvas
While the vagina is usually self-lubricating, both Engle and Tanner advise using lube around that area anyway. Without it, Tanner said, there can be unpleasant friction during fingering. If you're going to be using toys at any point, use a water-based lubricant as silicone-based will degrade silicone toys.
Make sure your hands are clean and your nails are well-manicured. A tip Tanner has for people with really long nails is to stuff cotton balls at the end of latex gloves for a safe and comfortable experience.
The vagina can be fun for penetration, but the clitoris is where it's at for pleasure, said Engle. In a 2017 study, around 1 out of 3 women orgasmed with clit stimulation alone, while only 18% orgasmed from penetration alone.
The clit has around 8,000 nerve-endings, more than anywhere else on the vulva, so it's super sensitive to touch. Meanwhile, 90% of the vagina's nerve endings are close to the entrance — which dispels the myth that deep penetration is essential for pleasurable sex.
Experiment with different clit movements, or ask your partner to show or tell you what they like. Some people like rubbing in circles, up and down, or from side to side. Some like to be touched on the clit itself, but others get pleasure from indirect touch, for instance, using the clitoral hood as a barrier while touching the clit. Usually, with these moves, consistency is imperative, said Engle. If something is working, keep doing it. If you stop getting a good reaction, then you can pause and switch it up.
When it comes to digitally penetrate the vagina, again, talk with your partner and see what they're into. One technique is the "come hither," where the giver inserts one or more fingers and then curls them up to stimulate the clitoris internally. Jackhammering your fingers, on the other hand, may be painful, especially if you don't warm up properly. Sex shouldn't hurt, so if it does, stop. If you continue to have painful sex despite adequate foreplay and lube, you may have pelvic pain, which has numerous causes but thankfully numerous treatments as well.
(a toy) is not a personal attack on you, and it does not mean you're bad at sex
Play around with different angles, too. The receiver can be on top to guide movements from above, for example, or you can both lay on your side for romantic mutual masturbation. Don't be afraid to use props, either, like a sex pillow.
Furthermore, toys are an aid during sex. If fingers aren't doing it for your partner — or if your forearm is getting tired — ask to switch to your partner's favourite vibrator or clit sucker.
A partner requesting a toy "is not a personal attack on you, and it does not mean you're bad at sex," Engle said. It means that your partner needs a different type of stimulation, and is communicating that with you.
Fingering tips for butts
While lube is recommended for vulva fingering, it's an absolute must-have for anal. Warm up slowly, and use lube — more than you probably think you need.
Contrary to what we see in porn and online discussion, anal is not supposed to be painful, said Engle. If it hurts, stop. Take a beat, warm up more, and again — use more lube.
There's this misconception that the deeper you go, the better it's going to be and that's just not correct.
Just as vulva fingering doesn't have to be penetrative, neither does anal fingering. In fact, similar to the vagina, the majority of nerves are in the opening within two inches of the anus, said Engle. It can be pleasurable to rim the outside of the anus with a finger, she said, or using a toy around the outside without any penetration at all.
"There's this misconception that the deeper you go, the better it's going to be," Engle explained, "and that's just not correct."
Mindfulness for any experience
Staying present is important for both partners said Tanner. You may have distracting thoughts about your appearance, how long it's taking to orgasm, or whether your partner is actually experiencing pleasure. This is called "spectatoring," or getting in your own head during sex. If you find yourself spectatoring, you can redirect yourself away from the distracting thoughts by practising mindfulness.
"Ease these anxieties by focusing on your senses, checking in with each other, and providing guidance when necessary," Tanner said. These are some elements of mindful sex, which not only can help you stay in the moment but can also heighten the experience.
It's about learning. We're all just learning. Sex is practice.
Ultimately, know that this is time for you and your partner. You're not porn performers trying to get an excellent take — you're people exploring each other's bodies. Give yourself space to not be perfect during sex.
"You're not going to get it right every time, and that's okay," said Engle. "It's about learning. We're all just learning. Sex is practice."