By ADINA LAKSER
Although Woody Allen calls it “Having sex with someone you love,” most of us don’t have such a positive association with masturbation. Even the word makes us want to giggle. Although masturbation isn’t a comfortable topic, it’s important to embrace self loving as an integral part of our sexuality.
No matter what’s going on in our lives and our sexual or romantic involvements, masturbation can play a healthy and fulfilling role. Unfortunately, because of long standing societal taboos around masturbation, we carry around misinformation and potentially harmful myths about it. Here are some that might be inhibiting you from getting it on … with yourself.
It’s only for single people
You are probably familiar with this ubiquitous movie scene that is a staple in many a rom com. The wife enters the bedroom or bathroom and catches her husband red handed, getting himself off. He flushes and slams the door. She feels angry and hurt. “Why am I not enough?” she complains to a friend in a subsequent scene.
Betty Dodson, in her groundbreaking book Sex for One, calls this the “romantic ideal.” It essentially teaches couples they should derive all their sexual satisfaction from one another. This, she goes on to say, is a destructive mindset that can lead “couples to unwittingly play power games with unstated rules and unwritten agreements.”
Instead, Dodson promotes masturbation for folks in marriages or relationships. That way, they both know they can take care of their sexual needs and come together for play, discovery and egalitarian pleasure. If masturbation could’ve been a condoned part of her failed first marriage, “[she] could’ve had one orgasm every day and one decent fuck a month. ”
Taking into consideration Dodson’s point of view, we can now look at the rom com scene with some critical analysis. Why is the husband ashamed of what he is doing? Why does the wife feel insulted? Why can’t masturbation be seen as a normal and healthy part of a relationship? Unfortunately, this common movie trope and the general social stigma against masturbation, especially for coupled folks, may inhibit us from enjoying self-pleasure along with partner pleasure.
It means you won’t want partner sex anymore
Another typical rom com scenario: the woman gets a complicated vibrator at her wedding shower and her fiancé looks down at his crotch, blushes and says/thinks “No way I can compete.”
“Masturbation actually helps keep your sexual pilot light on,” says Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist. Sexual desire isn’t like food in the fridge or money in the bank: it doesn’t get used up. Sure, we all may go through times of less sexual interest and sometimes you may have more energy for it, but sexual energy begets more sexual energy. This happens on an emotional, spiritual, mental and physical level as the hormones released during orgasm help you desire more sex and closeness with your partner.
When we include masturbation as part of our sexual menu, we get to have more pleasure. And while dildos and vibrators may, unlike human organs, stay erect and powerful for hours (depending on batteries), they don’t replace skin, human touch, energy between people and loving or sexy words. Folks can enjoy the benefits of masturbation and the benefit of partner sex without any comparisons or competition.
Only men masturbate
As a young, masturbating pre-teen in the ’80s, I didn’t even know that was what I was doing. I knew about masturbation, but I thought that’s just what boys did. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, I just knew it felt good.
For many reasons, quite a few of which are directly linked to patriarchal views around women’s sexuality, we recognize and maybe even applaud a man’s desire for masturbation but assume or fear a woman pleasuring herself.
Some studies have shown that worldwide, men masturbate more often than women, especially in countries that strongly uphold traditional gender roles, but no matter what the stats say, women can and do masturbate. In fact, because most women don’t orgasm from penetrative sex alone, it’s important for women to explore their own bodies and sexual responsiveness, especially without outside pressure or timelines.
One of the best things about masturbation is that there is no wrong way to do it. If you want you can draw it out and include all the elements of romance: candlelit dinner, warm bath or healing touch. Or you can have a quickie session to get yourself off and then get back to work. You can use tools and toys or keep it simple with the hands. There are so many options depending on where you are and what you need.
That is the glory of masturbation: it’s all about you and only about you. While connection, sharing and being open to the needs of others is a key part of any relationship, sometimes you need to make it all about you.
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I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, questions, or if you’d like to learn about how working with me can help you to have more pleasure.