Recently I received several questions about masturbation that reflected what I think is the wide range of issues in this most basic of sexual lessons about learning to love ourselves. I offer them here with some ideas to think about and look forward to hearing your responses.
I feel the need to masturbate frequently and the other day my partner caught me in the act and was surprised. She thought our intimacy was frequent and satisfying enough for both of us. I am not sure if this is just a normal male response or if I am overly sexual. How can you gauge if your private sexual practices are over the top?
A friend of mine told me that I should learn how to find my own orgasm when I complained to her that it is hit or miss with my boyfriend. I am not sure what he even does right when I have an orgasm and I can’t explain to him what to do, because I don’t know how it worked the last time. I have never masturbated though and every time I try it I feel a little ashamed and stupid. Any recommendations?
Just for the record, masturbation is the most common sexual practice on the planet. It is not just for lonely people either. Survey research shows that people of all ages masturbate both in and out of relationships. Kinsey’s survey found that almost 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women in relationships masturbated. A study of Playboy readers found that 72 percent of married men masturbated, and a study of Redbook readers found that 68 percent of married women masturbated. Even given those statistics, many people feel they have to hide this behavior from their partner.
Sex drives and need for orgasm is as individual as finger prints. It fluctuates like appetite and is just one reflection of who we are as human and sexual animals. There are so many health benefits associated with a regular and satisfying sexual life, both individually and partnered that it is high time that we take this behavior out of the closet and treat it like the healthy normal human response that it is. However, like any behavior we engage in, if the behavior becomes an addiction, which is to say that it disrupts our lifestyle (think basic needs- sleep, eating, relating) or our ability to perform in our jobs or home life than it might be time to think about seeing a certified sex therapist to discuss your issues.
Sigmund Freud once said “The only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly.” And I might add to that not at all… The number of people for whom sexual pleasure is unavailable is one of history’s modern crimes. Many sex therapists and physicians believe that feeling comfortable touching and exploring one’s own body is the cornerstone for building any kind of intimate life with a partner.
And yet its no wonder that we are all a bit self-conscious about our own practices of masturbation,back in 1995, Clinton appointed U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders was fired when she responded to questions regarding safe sex by saying that “Masturbation is something that perhaps should be taught.” Getting over our discomfort with masturbation and healthy sexuality is not just important for ourselves, but even more for the next generation. Opening the dialogue with the young people in your life and normalizing the language of sexuality is one of the most important steps you can take to build sexual health into your family’s future.
Perhaps the best reason to let go of all the judgment and history surrounding masturbation is because having access to your own pleasure and orgasm teaches a profound inner lesson, which is that the ability to orgasm is your own. No one else gives it to you or has power over you having it. Having the knowledge and confidence to know what feels good to you allows you the space and courage to share that most intimate information about yourself with someone else. Accepting the full responsibility of our own sexual nature, needs and preferences is the gift you bring to a healthy sexual relationship with someone else.
For some basic how to information on masturbation techniques for both men and women I often turn to a trusted sexual adviser, Corey Silverberg for his informed and easy to read overview on all things sexual at About.com. Another great resource which outlines the history of vibrators and women’s orgasm in a video we sell called Passion and Power, which portrays a amazing chapter in the history of women’s sexuality and search for a relationship to their own right to pleasure.
Wendy Strgar is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love and family. Wendy helps couples tackle the questions and concerns of intimacy and relationships, providing honest answers and innovative advice. “I feel like I am inventing a language to give intimacy back to the people, take the fear away and open a space for physical love to serve as the glue that holds relationships together.” Wendy lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, a psychiatrist, and their four children ages 11-20.