if you’re concerned about how much (or how little) you masturbate, how you masturbate, or your level of enjoyment of solo sex, here are some mantras you can adopt.
I want to start with this because during Masturbation Month, which is May, you might be receiving a lot of messaging encouraging you to masturbate, which can feel like a lot of unwanted pressure.
Masturbation is a healthy and safe form of sexual activity, also, it’s not for everyone. It’s possible that you don’t experience spontaneous arousal – basically that you don’t generally get aroused on your own or without intentional stimulants/inspiration. It’s also possible that you don’t experience arousal at all. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, so if it’s not your thing, don’t sweat it!
Also, if you are in the process of healing from sex negative messaging that taught you that masturbation was wrong, take the time you need for that. Healing is a lifelong journey, and you determine the pace!
There is debate in the sexology and clinical psychology world about whether or not one can have an addiction to masturbation or other sex-related behaviors. One thing that many of us do agree with is that negative perceptions of masturbation practices can have tangible negative effects on your mental well-being.
What does this mean?
If you feel shame around how frequently you masturbate, that might translate to you feeling like you are doing so compulsively, even if there is nothing wrong with the number of times you masturbate a month, week, or day.
So, what is the right/wrong number?
There isn’t one! Masturbation is only a problem if it disrupts your ability to do other things in your life. If you are able to balance the things you want and also masturbate 5x/day, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Problems arise when you can’t go to work, school, see friends, take care of dependents, etc. because you feel the need to masturbate instead.
If you are using masturbation as an escape mechanism (like some people use alcohol, drugs, or exercise), think about what you are trying to escape from. It’ll be more supportive and effective for your well-being to identify what you are escaping from and come up with ways to cope with those challenges directly. Eliminating masturbation won’t actually solve the root of the issue.
I remember speaking with someone who has a penis, who was ashamed that they enjoyed rubbing sensations rather than stroking ones. While up and down stroking motions are common for people with penises, the point of masturbation is to enjoy your bodily sensations, which means there is no right or wrong way.
Similarly, many folks born with vaginas discover masturbation through rubbing against, or humping, objects. This discovery can occur in utero and people may not realize or recognize their behaviors as masturbation because they assume it should include toys, penetration, or something else stereotypical.
Here’s your reminder that however your touch your genitals, and the rest of your body, during solo sex IS the right way, as long as you are enjoying it!
Solo sex can lead to easier, faster, and sometimes more powerful orgasms. This might be easier to access if finding a partner is difficult or finding a place to have sex is challenge. It’s also fully under your control and can be less triggering if you’ve experienced sexual violence in your past. These are all hella valid.
If you are interested in having sex with a partner, there are ways to work towards addressing any issues or considerations. However, don’t let people shame you into partnered sex. You get to enjoy you!
Within the sex education world, I hear a lot of people saying things like, ‘you gotta know yourself first in order to know what you want with a partner,’ blah blah blah. If you know yourself, wonderful! That’s fantastic. If you don’t, that’s 100% OK, too.
Real talk, I have learned SO much about my body and its pleasures from my partners. While I do masturbate (and it is way faster than sex), my capacity for pleasure often increases when I’m with a partner and I was definitely having sex before I started masturbating (with no regrets).
Whether intimacy and human connection increases your arousal, or you simply like someone else touching you rather than doing the work or holding a toy, it is OK to prefer partnered sex over solo sex.
It is healthy to have a life apart from your romantic partner(s) and sex is no different. If you are monogamously partnered, then masturbation is a valid activity that is part of your solo life. If you are avoiding sex with your partner and choosing to masturbate as part of that avoidance, then there is separate issue at play. Masturbation within a relationship is definitely not a bad sign on its own.
Whether you enjoy masturbation as part of your alone time, or if you are aroused more frequently because you are partnered, or you and your partner have mismatched libidos, there is nothing wrong with enjoying solo sex.
What affirmations do you need to hear?
If it wasn’t clear, whatever brings you pleasure and peace, is the right answer for you. You do you!
Yael R. Rosenstock GonzalezSex Educator, Researcher, Author, Speaker
Yael has been engaged in workshop development and facilitation since she joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) as a teen peer reproductive rights educator at 15 years old. Since then, she has served as an educator with children ranging from 10 months old to adults in their 70s with different organizations and communities. In her work as first Program Coordinator, then Director of Programming, and finally Associate Director of the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding, Yael developed and led events, workshops, and programs with an intersectionality lens.