Q: I have an active sex life with my partner, but I still like to masturbate. I know this makes my partner uncomfortable and feel like she is not meeting my needs, but I just like to do it. She has suggested that it is not good for the relationship or for my health. Is self pleasuring wrong in the context of a healthy sexual relationship? She says she doesn’t need it, but I think it would be good for her. What do you think?
A: This is a timely question, as May was declared National Masturbation Month in 1995 when Good Vibrations launched the idea to protest the firing of Clinton-appointed U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders. Conservative members of the administration blasted Elders when she responded to questions regarding safe sex by saying that, “Masturbation is something that perhaps should be taught.” This was a remarkably bold statement at the time and although masturbation is considered one of the most common sexual acts on the planet, the silence and shame that shadow masturbation have long and deep roots.
Beyond the religious condemnation that has long been associated with self pleasure, the practice was not long ago considered an affliction for which medical doctors used the cruelest of instruments and techniques to control young boys from experiencing any pleasure at all.
So it is not surprising that the self reporting of this behavior still hovers between 30-70 percent depending on gender and age. Even with all of the benefits that this practice can bring to a couple’s sex life, this is still a behavior that many people are not comfortable sharing with their partners.
Next: 6 benefits of going solo
There are many benefits to a healthy dose of solo sexual practices:
- It helps teach both sexes about their own sexual response and can be useful in explaining to their partners what feels good and doesn’t. Learning how to touch yourself in ways that are pleasurable is key to sharing that experience with a partner.
- It is helpful for men who may have issues with premature ejaculation, as it can familiarize them with the moment of inevitability, so that they can better master their sense of control.
- Also, it is a great equalizer for couples who may have a disparity in sex drive frequency.
- Solo orgasm, just as with a partner is a great stress reliever and sleep aid.
- A 2007 study in Sexual and Relationship Therapy found that male masturbation may also improve immune system functioning and the health of the prostate.
- For women, it builds pelvic floor muscles and sensitivity and has been associated with less back pain and cramping around menses as it increases blood flow and stimulates relaxation of the area after orgasm.
But your partner is also correct in her concerns as some men can become so obsessed with solo sex play and lose interest in partner sex. There are also some forms of masturbation that can make partner sex less appealing because the form of self stimulation is so different from what happens in the paired experience. If you are experiencing less desire or ability to respond to your partner then you should ask yourself what you can do to make the experience compatible with your partner’s ability to stimulate you.
Sigmund Freud once said “The only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly.” Indeed masturbation is one of the healthiest behaviors we can add to life. It can help to keep our genito-urinary tracts healthy into old age, and teaches us to become and remain responsive sexual partners. Learning how to experience pleasure alone can have a meaningful impact on a number of sexual problems between couples.