The on going battle between the sexes is masturbation…the new “leaving the seat up or down” fight. Many clients schedule appointments over “sex addiction.” Once in my office, the couple reveals one partner’s desire for self-pleasure and the other partner’s dissatisfaction with this behavior.
To Masturbate or Not to Masturbate
Well, ladies and gents, I’m here to help relieve the anxiety and fighting. First, masturbation is a healthy and normal behavior for both men and women. It is unclear at exactly what age masturbation begins. However, reports show male babies touching their genitals in the womb and all babies showing interest with “what’s down there” while infants and toddlers. Although our genitals main function is for reproduction, stimulation of the genital areas (including the anus) can create a soothing or calming sensation. Some cultures rub babies genitals in order to calm them while other cultures rub a baby’s butt to calm them. Therefore, we learn from an early age that “what’s down there” feels good. However, as we grow and show more interest in our genitals, we are often scolded. Many times, we begin to associate our genitals with shame or stigma.
At what age does one begin to masturbate? Very few studies report on infancy and early childhood sexual development and behaviors. However, The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) studied males and females from ages 14-70+ regarding a range of sexual behaviors including solo masturbation and
masturbation with a partner. In this study, 62% of males ages 14-15 reported masturbating. Male masturbation rate increased until age 40 when the rate began to decrease again…though not by much compared to females. The study also revealed that 40% of females ages 14-15 reported masturbating with slight increases until age 30-39. Female masturbation rate begins to decrease after age 39. This study also shows that males are more likely to masturbate with a partner than females and the percentages are much lower than solo masturbation.
Why Masturbation becomes the Enemy
Many societies create negative connotations around masturbation. We learn it is a “dirty” activity for “horny boys.” Girls receive messages that masturbation or touching their genitals is “not lady like,” and sexual play is for marriage or only with a partner. Therefore, our brains are embedded with messages that men can masturbate until they have a partner, and women have no need for masturbation or sexual pleasure without a partner. Once two people couple up, there is this expectation that the male will completely cease masturbation, only masturbate seldom, or masturbate when his partner is not available. Many women will also internalize a sense of worthlessness if her partner masturbates instead of seeks her out for sex. However, masturbation and intercourse are two different activities just like fried chicken is different from sushi. I enjoy both fried chicken and sushi and would hate if a new partner told me I couldn’t eat either or both anymore.
Jokes aside, it is acceptable for women to feel disappointment if her mate pleasures himself and she was hoping for playtime with him. This is not masturbation’s fault though a lack of communication about each other’s needs. Going back to my food analogy, remember that your partner engaged in activities (including masturbation) prior to your relationship. Just like you both probably ate fried chicken and sushi before the relationship. Instead of asking your partner to completely eliminate an enjoyable activity, let’s look at how masturbation can benefit your health and relationship.
Benefits of Masturbation
1. Stress relief: One of the biggest benefits of masturbation is alleviating stress through the release of endorphins or the “happy” chemical.” This applies to both men and women.
2. Self-exploration: Masturbation also always men and women to explore their bodies and learn new erogenous zones. Erogenous zones are areas of our body that increase sexual arousal. Since all bodies are not alike, what stimulates one person may not even affect another person. Therefore, I encourage clients to use masturbation as a time to learn about their own bodies in order to teach your partner. Just like women are encouraged to perform at home breast exams, masturbation can also help you find possible medical concerns such as a new lump or tender spot.
3. Improve erectile dysfunction (ED): Like many other body parts, the penis can atrophy if not used. Many men seek therapy reporting difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection. More times than not, they report lack of sexual intercourse and minimal masturbation. Once we discuss the function of the penis, I encourage increasing masturbation and men report a significant difference in ability to obtain and maintain an erection. Masturbation also helps with premature ejaculation. The longer a man goes without sex, the quicker he may ejaculate due to the renewal of stimulation and pleasure with arousal. He may also feel a
loss of control with less frequent orgasms whether with masturbation or intercourse. Although this could be a one-time instance, anxiety could arise exacerbating further sexual encounters. Therefore, masturbation allows a man to maintain a sense of control and prolong ejaculation.
4. More Exciting Sex: Masturbation is a form of sexual behavior and activity. Although many people associate it with an “alone time” activity, partner masturbation can be extremely fun and erotic. Partner masturbation could be oral sex on your partner or stimulating yourself with your partner watching. Couples can also introduce sex toys for added fun and to help prolong your playtime session together. Sex toys can do the work while you rest and get ready for the next round. Many clients complain about either their sex life entering a rut or not being aroused before intercourse. Partner masturbation not only spices things up but can help prepare both partners for intercourse. Orgasms are beneficial for women as it can relax the vaginal muscles to prevent tightness upon entry. Masturbation can also help the penis become fully erect by helping pull blood into the penis.
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