Get Real! How Do You Masturbate?

Heather Corinna

In honor of Masturbation Month, Heather answers young women's questions about sex for one.

Anonymous asks,

How do you masturbate? I am not ready to have sex yet but I want to get the feeling of it.

Heather answers,

We get
this question a lot, and almost always only from women. Trouble is, there’s
no easy answer, nor one right answer for all women (or all men). I
could answer you by telling you how I masturbate, but a) I think that’d really be TMI and b) that may have nothing at all to do with how you masturbate.

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Here are some of the many ways women masturbate with their genitals:

  • massaging the clitoral shaft or hood, labia or mons with hands
    (either whole hands or with fingers, knuckles or palms with varying
    kinds of speed, pressure or movement) or an object
  • rubbing or rocking the vulva up against objects (like a pillow, the edge of a chair or the edge of the bed)
  • inserting fingers or sex toys into the vagina or anus, often paired with clitorial stimulation
  • using a vibrator or other toys to stimulate the clitoris, labia, thighs, perineum, rectum or other sites
  • using a faucet or showerhead for clitoral stimulation
  • sitting on large vibrating objects, like a washing machine
  • pressing and unpressing the thighs tightly together

If you need some help knowing where those places are on your anatomy, have a look at this: Pink Parts – Female Sexual Anatomy

Some of the many places on the body women will self-stimulate,
including, but not limited to, their genitals, when we masturbate are
breasts, clitoris, anus, neck, vaginal opening, labia (outer
and/or inner), perineum, vagina, hands, mouth, thighs, buttocks, feet,
back, ears and just about anywhere else you can think of.

Women will masturbate in all kinds of positions: lying down, sitting
up, standing up or squatting. Women will also do any variety of things
while masturbating: some might watch movies, videos or television, some
listen to music or read a book, some talk to a partner on the phone,
some look in a mirror, some even eat while doing it.

And just so you know, most women, statistically, do masturbate,
whether they’re 15 or 55, single or married or otherwise partnered. Sex
researchers even have fetal imaging which has shown fetuses
masturbating in utero, so it’s safe to say that many of us probably
started masturbating before we were even born.

You can perhaps see, given those lists and my additional comments, how tough it is to tell someone "how" to masturbate.

And since not only do we all like different things or have more or
less sexual response in different places, but we also all will often
not be in the mood for the exact same things every day, or find the
same techniques get us there from year to year, it gets even more
complicated. What works for any of us tends to be the things we
discover just by experimenting with our own bodies, over a decent
period of time. Often, we’ll find things that work for us quite
accidentally in trying something, and can even surprise ourselves
sometimes. But make sure you’re aware that the idea that our sexuality
and our sexual pleasure is something we discover ALL of in just a few
months or years stands very counter to most peoples’ sexual realities.
Before we hit a home run, we usually have to strike out a few times.

Are there some common themes? Sure.

Julia asks,

Is there something wrong with me? I can feel it when I play with my clit but when I poke or use a dildo I can’t feel anything?

For instance, most women tend to self-stimulate the clitoris far
more often than the vagina, or only stimulate the vagina in conjunction
with clitoral stimulation. Your clitoris has more sensory nerve endings
than any other part of the body, but your vagina — particularly the
back 2/3rds of it — has very few.

Many women — like many men — fantasize while masturbating, to the
idea of a partner, someone else, or various sexual scenarios. Many
women have one or two methods they’ve discovered for themselves which
are ways that — for a substantial period of time — they know will
usually get them off quickly, but will still experiment with other
techniques sometimes for variety, or because their standby methods
aren’t doing the trick on a given day. Many women (and men) can find
that those tried-and-trues sometimes will just stop working, and then
need to experiment to find some new ways.

Do know that masturbation and sex with a partner are different
things. Sure, they can feel similar physically — and with certain
activities, like rubbing your clitoris, which a partner can also do,
almost identical — but what we feel with sex isn’t just physical: it’s
also intellectual, emotional, interpersonal, spiritual…you name it.

I say that because it’s sound to have realistic expectations with
both masturbation and partnered sex. For instance, it’s common for many
people, especially when with a new sexual partner, not to feel the kind
of pleasure they do alone with masturbation. After all, that person
hasn’t had all that time to practice with your body that you have. So,
after a while of masturbating, you’re probably going to get to be quite
the expert on your own pleasure, and in doing that, you’ll also have a
place for sexual expression where you’ll probably feel pretty
comfortable, given you’re alone. When you engage in partnered sex, you
might not feel as comfortable, especially at first. You also might not
experience the same kind of pleasure. You might find you’re better
doing some things to yourself than your partner is, or vice-versa.

I also say that because even when you are ready for sex with a
partner, both you and they may well still want to masturbate and choose
to masturbate. Again, they’re different things which tend to feel
different in a variety of ways, and sharing pleasure with someone else
and exploring it by ourselves are different needs for many people, not
replacements or substitutions for the other. One reasons many couples
who are sexually active will still masturbate is that the desires for
masturbation and partnered sex have some things in common, but really
are different, and sometimes we’re in the mood for one and not the
other. As well, when all we really want to do is just physically get
off, it makes more sense to tend to those very self-centered needs when
we by ourselves. Sex with someone else has to account for both of our
needs and desires — and the desire to really share something with
someone — not just those of one.

juiicy28 asks,

I’m 17 years old and haven’t experienced anything sexual
at all other then kissing. I get very curious sometimes but I never
have enough guts to pursue my curiosity. I’ve tried touching myself to
see where I can go but usually not too far. I am very afraid of losing
my virginity because I am afraid it will hurt so bad. I’m not really
too worried about losing my virginity but more focused on pleasing
myself. My main goal is to give myself an orgasm… but being I don’t
want to experience penetration how is that possible?

Women can and frequently do have orgasm without vaginal entry or
penetration. In fact, it’s more likely for most women to have orgasm without penetrative or vaginal sexual activities than it is for them to reach orgasm through vaginal entry or penetration alone.

Even for the minority of women who do reach orgasm through vaginal
intercourse, most of them are not getting there just through
intercourse, but because intercourse is paired with activities like
manual clitoral stimulation. For more information on that, check this out.

Whatever you do with masturbation shouldn’t be painful or hurt. It
should feel good. If you’re sexually excited when you get started and
just let your fingers to the walking to what places or kinds of
stimulation feel good, that shouldn’t be painful. In the case where you
do experience any pain or discomfort — such as, let’s say, pushing
fingers into the vaginal opening too roughly or deeply for you, or not
using a lubricant when you need to — then you know to just pull back
and go back to what did feel good, add lube or just take a break that night.

Sex also really shouldn’t be scary. I understand why it can be, or
how it can seem that way, but it just doesn’t have to be. You get to
keep yourself emotionally and physically safe with masturbation
(including just not doing it if you don’t want to or don’t feel right
about it): you have all the control there. And if and when it comes
time for you to have a sexual partner, you get to take the time with
that person before sex starts, and as you gradually start some sexual
activities, to be sure they are a partner who cares for you, and who is
responsive to you when you communicate what does and doesn’t feel good.

While some sexual activities can hurt sometimes, that shouldn’t
happen often. Sure, now and then we might do something that was feeling
good, but then shift something and have it not feel so good. That
shouldn’t be a big deal, because a brief moment of discomfort isn’t a
big deal. If that happens, we just shift back to find what did feel
pleasurable and doesn’t feel painful. Too, particularly with
intercourse or other vaginal entry, sometimes women may still have a
partial hymen, in which case that being worn away some more (it erodes
on its own over time, but sex is one things that is part of that
process) can create pain or discomfort. But for someone going gradually
with vaginal entry — not all at one time, but over time — using
lubricant as needed (the hymen is a thin, stretchy membrane, so when
it’s lubricated, it’s less of an issue), and who has a conscientious
and patient partner, if there is discomfort or pain, it should NOT be
anything horrendous.

The most common reasons women experience pain with sex, though, are
things like a person not being sexually aroused before that sex,
someone feeling rushed, stressed, fearful or pressured, or partners
being overeager, too rough, or inattentive to what their partners need.
You don’t have all the control with that since there is another person
involved, but you do still have a good deal of it, because you get to
choose that person and only say yes to sex with them when you have a
pretty good idea that they’re someone who is going to care about
seeking out your pleasure and avoiding pain.

For more on concerns with pain in terms of vaginal intercourse, see here: From OW! to WOW! Demystifying Painful Intercourse.

Nina asks,

Is it normal to bleed after masturbation? I usually use
the "rubbing" method, instead of penetration, like many women do.
However, during the beginning, I usually penetrate myself every so
often, which is when I bleed. Using my finger, I don’t bleed. Yet using
an object, I do end up bleeding eventually after. I always stop once I
begin to bleed, but it doesn’t hurt. I have heard that it is normal to
bleed, but I wanted to get my answer from a more reliable source, such
as yourself.

Actually, as I mentioned above, most women don’t masturbate by
vaginally penetrating. The way you masturbate — by rubbing your
clitoris or your vulva as a whole, is much more common.

If you’re bleeding with vaginal entry, that may be for a couple of
reasons. You may, for instance, still have a partial hymen which
masturbation is playing a part in wearing away (the hymen wears away
over time due to many things, but sex or masturbation are often one),
and that can cause bleeding. Or, you may need to use a lubricant when
masturbating, or watch what objects you’re using: anything not intended
for vaginal use may have rough edges which are causing abrasions.

For the most part, as with anything else, if we are bleeding, we
want to find out why. If it is because you’re using an object that
shouldn’t be in your vagina, aren’t using lubricant, or are just being
too rough or hasty, you want to remedy that, as bleeding from those
means we are talking about injury. But if you’re already using lube,
not putting anything in your vagina that shouldn’t be (or, with safe
objects just not designed for that use, are covering them with a
condom), and being gentle and gradual, it’s probably safe to assume
that bleeding is from hymenal erosion, which is normal and should cease
in time.

Jessica asks,

I am a 15 year old girl and I feel stupid asking this
question but I recently tried masturbating and I don’t know how to make
myself orgasm but I really want to experience it. I have tried touching
different places and none of them bring me pleasure. What do I do?

What sex therapists usually advise for preorgasmic people (those who
have not yet ever experienced orgasm) is masturbation…but over a
considerable period of time.

In other words, if you’ve tried it a few times and nothing has
worked for you, that’s likely because you’ve only tried it a few times.
What’s generally recommended is a daily masturbation session, over at
least several weeks. It’s also usually suggested — and I’d concur —
to leave plenty of time for that: around an hour or so each time. I
know that it can often be tough to find that much time for privacy in
your house when you’re younger, but if and when you can, you really do
want to take your time.

It tends to take a bit of time to increase our desire and arousal,
and to get the chance to really explore our bodies and go with the flow
with the things we are feeling. For some people, being able to really
"set the stage" — to be in an environment that feels comfortable and
arousing, to slowly get undressed, to be able to work up to genital
stimulation by first paying mind to other parts of the body — makes a
big difference, and if you’re one of those folks, a few hurried minutes
probably won’t result in much. As well, just because one area of your
genitals doesn’t respond to a given touch doesn’t mean that it’s not a
pleasurable place. Often, it’s how you touch that’s the real
issue: we will generally have to experiment with various speeds,
rhythms, levels of pressure and other ways we touch to find what feels

Any time you’re coming TO masturbation, you want to be sure you’re
doing so when you’re earnestly feeling sexual and aroused. Those
feelings of desire and arousal almost always have to come before orgasm
can come close to happening. So, if you’re coming to your masturbation
just curious, but not feeling particularly aroused, or with a level of
frustration, then again, you can’t really expect that to be a great
session. And if and when we’re not aroused, touching places which are
or can be very pleasurable when we ARE aroused, certainly can feel
ho-hum. Arousal makes our sensitive areas a lot more sensitive.

Lastly, it just takes some people longer than other to become
orgasmic, or to really feel sexual. Not everyone has the same pace with
those things in life, and that’s okay. So, if you’re just not feeling
any sexual desire yet — but rather, just intellectual curiosity —
then just know that when you will, things will feel different. And if
you are feeling that desire, but orgasm isn’t looming on the horizon,
try and be patient with yourself there, too. It may just take you a
while longer to get there in your sex life.

If any of you want more in-depth information on women and
masturbation, I’d strongly encourage you to take a look at Betty
Dodson’s revolutionary book, Sex for One. You might also want to check out For Yourself, by Lonnie Barbach or Getting Off, by Jayme Waxman.

Meg asks,

Hey. I started masturbating when I was 14 (I’m 16 now)
and recently, we thought that I had a bladder infection because I’d
been having bladder control problems and constantly feeling like I had
to urinate even when I just got off the toilet. My doctor told me that
I should stop using tampons and having sex (I’m a virgin but she was
just using an example) because she says it irritates the urethra by
rubbing against it so much. Is this true? If so, does this mean I have
to stop masturbating?

It’s not exactly that the urethra gets irritated by rubbing —
though it can, particularly if you’re really rubbing right on it — so
much as, from the vantage point of a UTI, that that rubbing with
another person’s body or something that isn’t clean can rub bacteria
into the urethra, and as well, if we have irritated tissue, it’s more
prone to infection.

With the tampons, that advice is more often given for women dealing
with bacterial infections, because the string of a tampon can hold some
bacteria. However, not only is a tampon not in your urethra, the string
doesn’t go there, so I’d personally discount that directive,
particularly if you find tampons to be your best menstrual option (and
because a girl’s gotta manage her flow somehow). Given, anything that
irritates the vulva can factor into UTIs, and you certainly want to
avoid deoderant tampons, but a pad can irritate the vulva just as much
as a tampon can when it comes to UTIs, and a girl’s gotta use
something. You could try using a menstrual cup and see if that helps,
or try switching to pads and see if you see a difference, but tampon
use should not be a big factor with UTIs, and it certainly is going to
have nothing to do with bladder control.

I’d also consider that your doctor may have a bias or isn’t
comfortable talking about sex and masturbation. I have a hard time
imagining your doctor choosing to just not have sex solely to avoid
UTIs, or giving that same advice to older women in partnerships or
marriages. Even if he or she does, that strikes me as very lazy advice.

There are things one can do WITH sex or masturbation to make UITs
less likely. Since you’re only masturbating right now, in your case
that’d just mean being sure your hands and any toys or objects you are
using are freshly cleaned or covered with a latex barrier. Being sure
you’re using sufficient lubrication with masturbation, and not
something like a body oil or Vaseline which can trap bacteria.
Urinating both before and just after masturbation is also a help, as is
trying not to focus a lot on your urinary opening or right around it —
if you do — when masturbating.

But sex or masturbation also isn’t going to be a likely factor when
it comes to what is causing a bladder control problem. Chronic UTIs are
one common cause, and so are issues like weakness of the bladder
muscles, the side effects of certain medications, a blocked urethra,
obesity, stress or having an overactive bladder (which can usually be
treated with medication and some other therapies). Sounds to me like it
might be time to switch your doctor if you can, especially since it may
be more likely to really get the problem treated by someone more
willing to look at it thoroughly.

Here are some additional pieces on or related to masturbation:


Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.

Analysis Law and Policy

After ‘Whole Woman’s Health’ Decision, Advocates Should Fight Ultrasound Laws With Science

Imani Gandy

A return to data should aid in dismantling other laws ungrounded in any real facts, such as Texas’s onerous "informed consent” law—HB 15—which forces women to get an ultrasound that they may neither need nor afford, and which imposes a 24-hour waiting period.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down two provisions of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, has changed the reproductive rights landscape in ways that will reverberate in courts around the country for years to come. It is no longer acceptable—at least in theory—for a state to announce that a particular restriction advances an interest in women’s health and to expect courts and the public to take them at their word.

In an opinion driven by science and data, Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority in Whole Woman’s Health, weighed the costs and benefits of the two provisions of HB 2 at issue—the admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirements—and found them wanting. Texas had breezed through the Fifth Circuit without facing any real pushback on its manufactured claims that the two provisions advanced women’s health. Finally, Justice Breyer whipped out his figurative calculator and determined that those claims didn’t add up. For starters, Texas admitted that it didn’t know of a single instance where the admitting privileges requirement would have helped a woman get better treatment. And as for Texas’ claim that abortion should be performed in an ASC, Breyer pointed out that the state did not require the same of its midwifery clinics, and that childbirth is 14 times more likely to result in death.

So now, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in the case’s concurring opinion, laws that “‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion’ cannot survive judicial inspection.” In other words, if a state says a restriction promotes women’s health and safety, that state will now have to prove it to the courts.

With this success under our belts, a similar return to science and data should aid in dismantling other laws ungrounded in any real facts, such as Texas’s onerous “informed consent” law—HB 15—which forces women to get an ultrasound that they may neither need nor afford, and which imposes a 24-hour waiting period.

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In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld parts of Pennsylvania’s “informed consent” law requiring abortion patients to receive a pamphlet developed by the state department of health, finding that it did not constitute an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to abortion. The basis? Protecting women’s mental health: “[I]n an attempt to ensure that a woman apprehends the full consequences of her decision, the State furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.”

Texas took up Casey’s informed consent mantle and ran with it. In 2011, the legislature passed a law that forces patients to undergo a medical exam, whether or not their doctor thinks they need it, and that forces them to listen to information that the state wants them to hear, whether or not their doctor thinks that they need to hear it. The purpose of this law—at least in theory—is, again, to protect patients’ “mental health” by dissuading those who may be unsure about procedure.

The ultra-conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in 2012, in Texas Medical Providers v. Lakey.

And make no mistake: The exam the law requires is invasive, and in some cases, cruelly so. As Beverly McPhail pointed out in the Houston Chronicle in 2011, transvaginal probes will often be necessary to comply with the law up to 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy—which is when, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 91 percent of abortions take place. “Because the fetus is so small at this stage, traditional ultrasounds performed through the abdominal wall, ‘jelly on the belly,’ often cannot produce a clear image,” McPhail noted.

Instead, a “probe is inserted into the vagina, sending sound waves to reflect off body structures to produce an image of the fetus. Under this new law, a woman’s vagina will be penetrated without an opportunity for her to refuse due to coercion from the so-called ‘public servants’ who passed and signed this bill into law,” McPhail concluded.

There’s a reason why abortion advocates began decrying these laws as “rape by the state.”

If Texas legislators are concerned about the mental health of their citizens, particularly those who may have been the victims of sexual assault—or any woman who does not want a wand forcibly shoved into her body for no medical reason—they have a funny way of showing it.

They don’t seem terribly concerned about the well-being of the woman who wants desperately to be a mother but who decides to terminate a pregnancy that doctors tell her is not viable. Certainly, forcing that woman to undergo the painful experience of having an ultrasound image described to her—which the law mandates for the vast majority of patients—could be psychologically devastating.

But maybe Texas legislators don’t care that forcing a foreign object into a person’s body is the ultimate undue burden.

After all, if foisting ultrasounds onto women who have decided to terminate a pregnancy saves even one woman from a lifetime of “devastating psychologically damaging consequences,” then it will all have been worth it, right? Liberty and bodily autonomy be damned.

But what if there’s very little risk that a woman who gets an abortion experiences those “devastating psychological consequences”?

What if the information often provided by states in connection with their “informed consent” protocol does not actually lead to consent that is more informed, either because the information offered is outdated, biased, false, or flatly unnecessary given a particular pregnant person’s circumstance? Texas’ latest edition of its “Woman’s Right to Know” pamphlet, for example, contains even more false information than prior versions, including the medically disproven claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation.

What if studies show—as they have since the American Psychological Association first conducted one to that effect in 1989—that abortion doesn’t increase the risk of mental health issues?

If the purpose of informed consent laws is to weed out women who have been coerced or who haven’t thought it through, then that purpose collapses if women who get abortions are, by and large, perfectly happy with their decision.

And that’s exactly what research has shown.

Scientific studies indicate that the vast majority of women don’t regret their abortions, and therefore are not devastated psychologically. They don’t fall into drug and alcohol addiction or attempt to kill themselves. But that hasn’t kept anti-choice activists from claiming otherwise.

It’s simply not true that abortion sends mentally healthy patients over the edge. In a study report released in 2008, the APA found that the strongest predictor of post-abortion mental health was prior mental health. In other words, if you’re already suffering from mental health issues before getting an abortion, you’re likely to suffer mental health issues afterward. But the studies most frequently cited in courts around the country prove, at best, an association between mental illness and abortion. When the studies controlled for “prior mental health and violence experience,” “no significant relation was found between abortion history and anxiety disorders.”

But what about forced ultrasound laws, specifically?

Science has its part to play in dismantling those, too.

If Whole Woman’s Health requires the weighing of costs and benefits to ensure that there’s a connection between the claimed purpose of an abortion restriction and the law’s effect, then laws that require a woman to get an ultrasound and to hear a description of it certainly fail that cost-benefit analysis. Science tells us forcing patients to view ultrasound images (as opposed to simply offering the opportunity for a woman to view ultrasound images) in order to give them “information” doesn’t dissuade them from having abortions.

Dr. Jen Gunter made this point in a blog post years ago: One 2009 study found that when given the option to view an ultrasound, nearly 73 percent of women chose to view the ultrasound image, and of those who chose to view it, 85 percent of women felt that it was a positive experience. And here’s the kicker: Not a single woman changed her mind about having an abortion.

Again, if women who choose to see ultrasounds don’t change their minds about getting an abortion, a law mandating that ultrasound in order to dissuade at least some women is, at best, useless. At worst, it’s yet another hurdle patients must leap to get care.

And what of the mandatory waiting period? Texas law requires a 24-hour waiting period—and the Court in Casey upheld a 24-hour waiting period—but states like Louisiana and Florida are increasing the waiting period to 72 hours.

There’s no evidence that forcing women into longer waiting periods has a measurable effect on a woman’s decision to get an abortion. One study conducted in Utah found that 86 percent of women had chosen to get the abortion after the waiting period was over. Eight percent of women chose not to get the abortion, but the most common reason given was that they were already conflicted about abortion in the first place. The author of that study recommended that clinics explore options with women seeking abortion and offer additional counseling to the small percentage of women who are conflicted about it, rather than states imposing a burdensome waiting period.

The bottom line is that the majority of women who choose abortion make up their minds and go through with it, irrespective of the many roadblocks placed in their way by overzealous state governments. And we know that those who cannot overcome those roadblocks—for financial or other reasons—are the ones who experience actual negative effects. As we saw in Whole Woman’s Health, those kinds of studies, when admitted as evidence in the court record, can be critical in striking restrictions down.

Of course, the Supreme Court has not always expressed an affinity for scientific data, as Justice Anthony Kennedy demonstrated in Gonzales v. Carhart, when he announced that “some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” even though he admitted there was “no reliable data to measure the phenomenon.” It was under Gonzales that so many legislators felt equipped to pass laws backed up by no legitimate scientific evidence in the first place.

Whole Woman’s Health offers reproductive rights advocates an opportunity to revisit a host of anti-choice restrictions that states claim are intended to advance one interest or another—whether it’s the state’s interest in fetal life or the state’s purported interest in the psychological well-being of its citizens. But if the laws don’t have their intended effects, and if they simply throw up obstacles in front of people seeking abortion, then perhaps, Whole Woman’s Health and its focus on scientific data will be the death knell of these laws too.