Masturbation is a widespread practice and normal, healthy part of any sex life. Many of us started masturbating early in life, even if we didn’t know what it was; it’s a very popular and safe way to get to know your body, release stress, and show ourselves love & pleasure.
Put simply, we masturbate because it feels good, and have throughout human history – relics of items for self-pleasure (and lesbian sex) have been found from societies as old as we have any record of. Aside from that reason (which on its own is more than enough) masturbation is a key way for many people to connect to their sexual selves even when single, learn more about their own bodies to explain to future partners, and try out new sex acts or sensations in a safe container.
How Do We Masturbate?
There are almost as many ways to masturbate as there are people on earth – almost no one does it the same way. Here are just a few of the popular ways people get off alone:
- Stimulating the clitoris with hands or a toy
- Penetrating themselves with a hand or a toy
- Stimulating other parts of the body, like nipples, especially if touching the clit directly feels too intense
- Using water pressure from a shower or bath faucet on your clit
- Grinding, rubbing or humping on a pillow or toy
- Squeezing legs together to create enough pressure and sensation for orgasm
There are even endless variations within these options – some people only masturbate lying on their stomach, some only in the shower… the list goes on. However you’ve gotten into the habit of masturbating, you are not the only one; at the same time, however you (or a partner, or a friend) masturbate is definitely not the only “normal” way to do it. If you don’t masturbate right now or never have, you’re also in good company, not late or left behind – a 2013 survey indicated that 43 to 85 percent of American women have masturbated before.
How Does Masturbation Fit Into Your Life?
Similarly, there are countless “routines” people have around masturbation, and none of them are more “normal” than any others. It can depend on your sex drive, but also plenty of other factors like your energy level; how much privacy you have in your space; and maybe even how much sex you’re having with others. It may ebb and flow, much like your sex life with a partner might.
For some people, masturbation is characterized by engaging in a rich set of detailed fantasies that they visualize to get off; some people may watch porn, read explicit fanfiction or erotica, or something similar like erotic audio stories. For some people, masturbation may be a strictly physical experience that doesn’t overlap with their sex life much at all; it could be a physical relief like getting a massage or cracking your back. On the other end of the spectrum, masturbation can form a cornerstone of your sex life as part of a luxurious self-care ritual: setting aside an entire evening or weekend afternoon to take a bath, put on perfume, put fresh sheets on your bed and spend hours devoted to pleasure and exploration.
If you feel like you aren’t sure what role masturbation plays in your life right now or haven’t devoted time or energy to it, it may be time to work on a new masturbation routine: committing to pleasure more frequently or treating yourself to trying something new.
Is Masturbation Incompatible With a Relationship?
Not at all – it’s totally normal and healthy to masturbate while in a happy relationship (and for your partner to do so too). Some people might change their masturbation habits (especially if you usually masturbate in bed, and you share one with your partner), but you aren’t cheating or implying that your partner is sexually inadequate if you masturbate solo (yes, even with toys).
The reality is that for many of us masturbation is a private comfort, and while we can learn about sensations and sex acts we want to try with partners, that doesn’t mean masturbation is always and only a practice run for partnered sex. Much like how there’s a time and a place for fancy five-star restaurant meals and also for plain grilled cheese sandwiches you make at home at 11 pm, you can be having incredible sex with your partner and still like your solo masturbation routine in your time alone.
That said, masturbation is also something you and your partner absolutely can share – mutual masturbation is a really hot and really underrated sex act. It’s also very hot to masturbate for your partner while they watch (or ask them to), especially if you’re long-distance; you can also flirt or sext by telling your girlfriend when you masturbate thinking about her, and detailing what you were fantasizing about.
Masturbation Myths, Busted
Masturbation makes it harder to orgasm with partners.
Nope! You can’t ‘use up’ orgasms, and masturbation doesn’t change anything about your body – it won’t make your body react differently during partnered sex, and in fact may make it easier to orgasm with partners as you can explain what you like and what you don’t if you know from experience. Even if you use vibrators or toys, it shouldn’t ‘desensitize’ you to anything your partner does (although some people find that they have a hard time orgasming without toys, no matter who’s using them). Anecdotally, some people say that if they masturbate the exact same way every time they have a harder time orgasming with a different technique, but again, this may also be something specific to how a person’s body reacts to sensation.
You have to be careful not to masturbate too much.
Also not true. As long as you aren’t experiencing pain, chafing, or soreness, and it’s not impacting your lifestyle negatively, there’s no reason you can’t masturbate as much and as often as your heart desires (as mentioned above, you don’t need to worry about it “desensitizing” you).
Masturbation is related to mental health problems or sex addiction.
Also no! While some people may feel guilt about masturbation because of their moral or religious upbringing or their attitudes about sex or pleasure, it poses no actual risk to you, your health, or your mental wellness – in fact, masturbation has a range of documented health benefits, from better sleep to decreased stress to less vaginal dryness and pain with sex, especially for older women.