Guided Solo Practices for Increasing Pleasure
Sometimes sex education starts with yourself, as pleasure teacher Isabella Frappier points out in the third episode of The goop Lab on Netflix: “The Pleasure Is Ours.” Frappier, who is based in Los Angeles, leads workshops and one-on-ones to help people build intimacy and increase sexual pleasure. And pleasure, she says, starts within. When people come to her with questions about their sex lives, she helps them explore their own sensuality through guided practices and uses her own intuitive wisdom to help people discover what satisfies them.
We love the advice she gave us about sexual blocks in part because none of it has anything to do with having a partner.
By Isabella Frappier
What prevents us from experiencing the wonderful realms of pleasure to the fullest? As a sexuality doula, I have intimate conversations with people, predominantly women, about their experiences of pleasure. It has broken my heart over and over to hear about all the ways that people shut pleasure out of their lives. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t completely understand and even relate to them.
Before I came to this beautiful work, I spent most of my life in bodily shame and sexual disconnection. To be honest with you, I hated my body. I developed eating disorders in my youth that took years to recover from. I only ever had sex that was performative and disconnected. Rarely did I ever self-pleasure, and if I did, it was in a hurried manner and filled me with shame afterward. I was immensely disconnected from my body as a source of pleasure and power.
Eventually, I hit a breaking point. I started dating myself. I devoted my time to really learning what I enjoyed both in and out of the bedroom: buying myself fresh flowers and beautiful lingerie, cooking healthy foods, taking sensual self-portraits, spending time in nature, and kicking my self-study into high gear. I began voraciously learning about womb wisdom, sensual sexual power, and intuitive ancient teachings around pleasure. Every word I read nourished my soul. Slowly, I started coming back home to my body.
I’m sharing this because it feels embarrassing and vulnerable to admit that I had these struggles. I understand the pain because I’ve felt it, too.
There are common “pleasure blocks” that I’ve seen over the years while working with others through their healing journey. (Spoiler alert: I’ve suffered from all of these issues.) While the symptoms always presently uniquely to each client, they usually distill down to one of three key blocks or a combination of them. See which resonates with you, and practice the rituals to move through disconnection and into more fulfillment.
The Three Common Pleasure Blocks
Limited Pleasure Presence
Otherwise known as “can’t-get-out-of-my-head.” This pleasure block involves being stuck in your head during pleasure. There is often an issue with feeling undeserving of pleasure, which limits you from being able to fully drop into your body and experience all the beauty within. Symptoms are performative receiving, a disconnected mental space from physical activities, and persistent sex-negative thoughts.
I Come Last
You put everyone and everything ahead of taking care of yourself. You feel like you don’t have enough time for self-care and self-love, and you subconsciously don’t feel that your pleasure deserves to be prioritized. It’s not that you’d actually prefer to vacuum instead of taking a long luxurious bath or having sex, but you find yourself doing it anyway. You literally do “come last,” if at all. When you feel like a giver all day, it can be hard to make the switch into the role of experiencer.
Body Image Challenges
This is a tough one for everyone, and particularly for women, people of color, and anyone who lives in a body that is overly scrutinized by modern Western society. This issue manifests with any type of emotional or mental discomfort around your body. Symptoms are negative self-talk, pushing your body too hard, and not taking up the sensual space you deserve.
Identify and heal your pleasure blocks. It’s a unique and personal experience, and there is no one-size-fits-all for this medicine. Here are tips to help you get started on your journey.
So What’s the Cure?
Spend some time reflecting on the way you view yourself, your life, your body, and your relationship to pleasure. I highly encourage journaling, and you may want to consider some of the following prompts:
• How do I define myself as a sexual being?
• What is my narrative around solo sex? How does this change when another person is involved?
• How do I really feel about my body? How might I like to feel? What are three small steps I could take toward that feeling?
These are just a few to help get you started. My online course, The Pleasure Devotional, has many more, including activities and guided practices that can support you in radically transforming your relationship to pleasure. Let your intuition and inner wisdom guide you into deeper exploration with yourself. You are an apprentice to your pleasure.
It may seem daunting, but sharing your journey can really help. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone. It’s important you do this in a way that feels safe, nonjudgmental, and sex-positive. Ideally, you do this with folks who know how to hold space without projecting. You may want to share over a cup of tea with a close friend, seek one-on-one support with a sex educator or therapist, or even find a safe online space. It’s valuable to have support when processing and releasing old narratives.
While this step happens gradually along the way, it is also a key step on its own. Once you’ve reflected and shared, you may have a clearer sense of your pleasure blocks and unhealed wounds. From this space, consider what specific medicine you may need.
For example, if you are having issues loving and celebrating your body, take sensual self-portraits and share them with close friends, or frame and hang them in your home. If you’re struggling to put yourself first, schedule time every day that is dedicated to your pleasure, even if it’s just five minutes.
This step helps you connect with your own wisdom and inner healing. I truly believe that each person has all the tools and wisdom they need within, and I just help them see that more clearly.
Once you’ve gotten this far, you’ll probably experience the most classic challenge of all: being human. You’ll schedule a self-pleasure date, then cancel it. You want to buy yourself that beautiful new sex toy, but you chicken out and save the money instead.
It’s all okay, dear one. We are human beings just doing our best. In my opinion, this is the most important step of all. It’s where we are self-aware and, most of all, self-compassionate. We should be understanding when we let ourselves down, and instead of falling all the way off the self-love horse, we just hop back on the next day.
Make a personal commitment to loving and celebrating yourself as an erotic creature. This is big, important work. It’s not as if we can snap our fingers and suddenly love ourselves and feel deserving of pleasure. Figure out what works for you and commit to it. Schedule it. Make it as important as everything else in your calendar. Try my self-care guidebook for more structured support.
Engage in present pleasure. I encourage my clients to feel more pleasure in the tasks they are already doing. This means no extra time in your day and a lot more pleasure. Here are a few of my favorite ways to do this:
• Need to do household chores? Drop into your body and engage in the senses. Notice how warm and silky the washing-up water is, how coarse the sponge is, how warm and soft the laundry is. Not enough? Pop in a butt plug or a wearable vibrator and try again.
• Stuck in traffic? Play your favorite sensual music. Dance in your car by grinding and swiveling your hips. Here’s a sexy playlist to help you get started. Breathe into your pelvis. Practice your Kegels. Play some audio erotica. Make it a beautiful moment of sensual time for yourself.
• Having a meal? Eat it as slowly as you can. Chew mindfully, savoring every taste and texture. Think about how incredible this gift of food is to nurture your body.
The Magic of Ritual
While all the tools above can nourish and support your pleasure landscape into full bloom, there is something to be said for the beauty of ritual. I use rituals as a way to deeply connect with myself and unlock bodily knowledge that just thinking about it cannot access.
Preparing for Your Ritual
It is a good idea to clear the energy of your home, yourself, and any items you’ll be using for your ritual. This can be done with sacred smoke such as cinnamon sticks, rosemary, lavender, bay leaves, or my personal favorite, cedar. Bear in mind that all plants, but particularly sage and palo santo, should be mindfully, ethically, and sustainably sourced. You can also clean your home in preparation for the ritual with a cinnamon broom, Florida water, or even a flower essence. A ritual bath beforehand can also be a beautiful way to cleanse, ground, and energetically connect with yourself.
You can also cleanse through visualization. You might imagine a white, gold, or rainbow light flowing over you. If you’d like to incorporate crystals, selenite is a wonderful crystal to use for cleansing.
You might like to change your sheets, scatter some rose petals over your bed, and wear fancy lingerie or the sweats you feel the most comfortable in. Perhaps you’d like to light a candle to mark the beginning of your ritual and blow it out once it’s complete. You might like to set a specific time container for your ritual or just go with the flow—it’s up to you. Set the scene for your experience in the ways that feel the most authentic to you. This is your practice, and it should feel personal to you. There is no right or wrong way to do this.
Pleasure-Immersion Ritual: For Those with Limited Pleasure Presence
• Sight: Tidy up your space, change your sheets, turn on soft lighting, and adorn your space with candles, fresh flowers, or any decorative items you love looking at.
• Smell: Add candles, fresh flowers, essential oils, or incense.
• Hearing: Make a sensual playlist for yourself. Open the windows to listen to nature sounds.
• Taste: Make a platter of tastes you love, such as chocolate, fruits, honey, etc.
• Touch: Arrange different textured fabrics in your ritual space, from fluffy to silky, even items like hairbrushes and feathers and Wartenberg wheels are delightful additions.
Once you have everything ready, take your place among your sensory items. Then explore each item in any way that feels good. See how many different senses you can use per item. For example, a fresh rose can be smelled but also kissed, nibbled, stroked along your skin, visually admired, and the petals rustled and listened to.
Be sure to engage your breath at all times. Mindfully breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, inhaling the overwhelming pleasure and exhaling old narratives and energy that no longer serve you. This ritual can include genital stimulation or not—do whatever is calling to you.
“I Come First” Erotic Archetype Ritual: For Those Who Put Themselves Last
I love working with erotic archetypes with my clients, and I use these tools in my own life. When people first explore this work, sometimes they feel concerned this feels like “acting” or “pretending,” but that is not at all what I want you to do. With archetype work, you’ll be tapping into an aspect of who you are—one you may have repressed—and then embodying that side of yourself in full expression.
For this ritual, consider what aspect of yourself would “come first” in life and in bed. Is there a persona within you that would put themselves first? What would that version of yourself dress like? How might they move? The invitation with this one is to get specific. When I’m trying to access a new erotic archetype, I love journaling about what a day in their life would look like. I consider what they eat, how they adorn themselves, what types of sexual expressions they have, and how they speak. Allow yourself to explore them without judgment.
Once you have a sense of this archetype, see if you can name them. You might go very specific, like Quinn or Alex, or perhaps more general, such as spiritual god or goddess, naughty minx, queen or king, etc. Next consider what items you have at home, or purchase some new ones, so you can adorn yourself in a way that resonates with the archetype.
When you’re feeling ready, explore solo or partnered sex while embodying your erotic archetype. This is a powerful practice, so explore it with an open mind. Some of my clients have shocked themselves when discovering what some of their archetypes enjoy sexually. This is a judgment-free space, one that is devoted only to exploring and experiencing pleasure.
Play with embodying your new erotic archetype throughout the next week, exploring and witnessing all you notice without any judgment. As the week draws to a close, go back to your journal and write down what you learned about them. Did anything surprise you? How can you bring more of their energy into your everyday life?
“I Am Pleasure” Ritual: For Those with Body-Image Challenges
If I had to pick one single thing I’ve done that most profoundly improved my body image and boosted my self-love, it would be this ritual. Gather all the tools you’d like to use to take a portrait of yourself. You might use a high-quality camera on a tripod, prop your phone up on selfie mode with a timer, take Polaroids, or even use the camera function of a laptop works well. Pick what resonates with you.
Next adorn yourself in a way that makes you feel authentically you and as sensual as you feel comfortable accessing. You might want to go nude, wear beautiful lingerie, rock your most comfy undies, or even put on workout clothes or pajamas—whatever makes you feel good. I love using props for these portraits. Here are some I’ve worked with over the years:
• Plants, fresh flowers, fake flowers, dried flowers
• Jewelry, body glitter, body jewels, body chains
• Fresh fruits, candles, sex toys, and any sensual items you connect with, such as shibari ropes
• Different fabrics to drape and play with
Consider your setting. Where will you be most comfortable? On your bed, in your bath, in the backyard, or at the beach perhaps? Keep it legal but pick what works best for you. Lighting is another factor. You might want to work with dramatic shadows, so you’ll pick the sunset. Perhaps you want to be bathed in golden light, so the afternoon is your best bet. If you want a gritty look, find fluorescent lighting (this looks particularly good with a lower-quality camera).
Now put on a sensual playlist you enjoy, close your eyes, and move your body in any way that feels good. Don’t worry about how it might look; just enjoy the delightful experience of having a body. Feel into your body and move in ways that feel sensual to you. When you’re ready, begin your self-portrait session. You may even want to use a timer and keep dancing with your eyes closed. You can get some beautifully raw and evocative images this way.
Take all the time you need. Don’t judge the photos, but do take as many as you want. It’s okay if it takes 200 to find one you love. However, try to notice all the beautiful things about yourself in each, even if there’s one aspect you don’t like. Maybe my facial expression in one is a little silly, but I like the gentle curve of my lower back or my sweet knobby knees.
Close the ritual whenever you feel ready. It can include genital stimulation or not, it’s entirely up to you. Repeat this ritual as often as you’d like. There was a point in my life where I did this daily. That’s right—there’s no shame in my self-love game. Take the time to celebrate the beautiful erotic being that you are. Be gentle and kind to yourself when looking at the images. Look for at least one thing you love about each photo before you delete it. If you’re really struggling to find anything, imagine it was a friend showing you the image. What would you say to them? You have already earned the right to love your body and feel good in it simply by existing.
Ending Your Ritual
Your exploration doesn’t have to include genital stimulation or end in orgasms, and it also doesn’t have to end because of an orgasm. Conclude your ritual when you feel the energy starting to naturally wind down and you feel you’ve fully explored your intentions for that session. Allow yourself all the time and space you need to come down from the experience. I recommend snuggling under soft blankets and journaling your reflections.
Once you feel ready, enjoy drinking fresh water to rehydrate, and perhaps eating some fresh fruit or dates to get a little spike as you gradually adjust to the transition.
Once the ritual feels complete to you, you can thank the universe for lending you its divine energy, and then visualize your energy gently returning to within your heart space. It can be helpful to imagine any excess energy flowing down your spine and back into the ground, both nourishing and expressing gratitude to the earth.
Isabella Frappier is a pleasure teacher and sexuality liberator focused on body literacy and sexual sovereignty. Frappier works with clients in one-on-one video sessions and in group workshops to help them embrace their sexuality, incorporating aspects of astrology, sex magic, and feminist BDSM into her work. She is also a host of the Sex Magic Podcast.