The ability to masturbate is a divine blessing. But as with all things sexual, technique can make all the difference. For those of you with vaginas, I'm going to share a tip that will improve your masturbation game; it's one that lesbian and queer women (like myself) have known for a long time: Cut your damn finger nails.

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Yes, that's it. It sounds obvious, but it's easy to get caught up in the latest nail art trends — stiletto nails complete with piercings look fab AF on the runway. However, jamming adorned, pointy nails up a vagina can feel like masturbating with a cactus.
In fact, many people consider it good queer girl etiquette to keep your nails short so that you don't hurt your partner's vagina during sex. (Though this nail etiquette should definitely apply to straight and queer guys, too.) And yes, I'm aware that, for clitoral stimulation (meaning: when you're not penetrating yourself with your finger), you can angle your finger so that your nail won't hurt you. But that means you have to be conscious of your finger position at all times, which, to me, isn't super relaxing.
For a while, I was the proud owner of stiletto gel nails. I loved them; they made me feel powerful. I was also in a relationship with a cis man at the time who happened to travel for work and was almost never home, so injuring another vagina wasn't an issue. But since he was gone so often, I masturbated a lot. Spending so much time fingering myself made me realize that it didn't have to be painful, and it was the ultimate push to switch to regular gel manicures with shorter nails. Problem solved.
But what if you don't mind (or even like) the pain? Are there any health risks to masturbating with long and/or sharp nails? There are, but they're minor, according to Jessica Shepherd, MD, an Ob/Gyn at the University of Illinois at Chicago. If you cut the inside of your vagina while fingering yourself, and then have sex with someone else, you could increase your risk for STI transmission, Dr. Shepherd says. This is especially true for viral infections, like herpes.
But you don't need to panic — just take a sex break until the cut heals. "I will say that the vagina, in particular, is very forgiving," Dr. Shepherd says. "Small cuts can heal really quickly." Keep in mind that if you're masturbating anally with long fingernails, and then engaging in anal sex with a partner, the risk of STI transmission is higher, as anal tissue tears easier than vaginal tissue. But no matter how vigorous you masturbate, whether it's anally or vaginally, if you're using safer sex practices (like using condoms), you will lessen the chance of STI transmission.
Another health factor to consider is bacteria. Dr. Shepherd says that having longer nails could lead to more bacteria getting trapped under your nail beds, which theoretically increases your risk for yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections if you masturbate with your fingers. But she says that as long as you're washing your hands and practicing good hygiene, there's no need to freak out. The biggest danger of masturbating with long fingernails, she says, is that it might not feel as nice.
If you're a long nail devotee with no interest in giving up your claws, fear not: You can keep your long nails and have your orgasms. Thanks to the magic of vibrators, you don't actually need to use your fingers to masturbate. Whether you're into clitoral stimulation, penetration, or both, there's a vibe out there for you.

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Of course, if you're going to have sex with another vagina-haver, we suggest you remember that aforementioned queer girl etiquette and touch base with your partner before venturing into their underpants.
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