(previously published in Sexual Health Magazine Spring 19)
It is sad that so many people think of masturbation as something you do when you can’t have partnered sex, as though it is a slightly disappointing consolation prize. In actuality masturbation can be a deeply satisfying, consistent enhancement for your sex life, that not only feeds your sexual relationship with yourself but with your partners as well.
How does masturbation benefit your partnered sex? Let me count the ways…
Pleasure generates pleasure. The more yumminess and physical bliss you have in your life, the more you want that. Yes, masturbation can temporarily relieve a powerful hunger for sex, but it also builds a longer term craving. So rather than depleting your libido for partnered sex, it keeps it healthy and on your mind. Plus it reinforces a message that you are deserving of pleasure and self love -and that is a powerful thing.
- It takes the pressure off your partner. When you know how to please yourself, you own your orgasms and your pleasure in a positive way. You are empowered to explore the other benefits of partnered sex, besides just simply getting off. With a partner you can take your time without focusing on whether or not they will “make you cum”; you can get yourself there if necessary. Open up to the unknown territories of sex with someone else, no need for performance anxiety on either side.
- It clarifies & sweetens your motivations to have sex with someone else. When your sexual relationship with yourself is vital and fun, it creates more space to be clear about your intentions for partnered sex. Does the thought of being sexual with this particular person or persons get you hot? Great! But if you are just desiring a toe-curling orgasm and this person otherwise leaves you cold, you can go home and give yourself what you want. This makes sex with a partner more valuable rather than less, because you are curious and want interaction, co-creation, the dance of sharing your bodies.
- Your body builds pathways to orgasm. Like any learned behavior, your body gets more efficient at building to orgasm with practice. Especially for those of us with vulvas, it can take time to learn the processes of your own body and how to ride the tension and relaxation needed for a satiating release. Also the tender tissues of the vulva and vagina will be better prepared for touch and friction when they are consistently being touched. Seriously, it is as though your body thinks, “Oh I know where this is headed! Yahoo, lets do this!”
- It helps you pace yourself. Especially for those of you with penises, masturbation can help you build awareness so that you can make some choices about when you orgasm. You will notice changes in how your body’s natural pacing works for you over the course of your life, as the time you need between erections and orgasms shifts. It’s good to know what your body needs for recovery time and what feels pleasurable in between. Also if you are wanting to extend the play time your body can handle before orgasmic release, masturbating before partnered sex (from an hour to 2 days or more depending on your body at this time in your life) can help. The way you masturbate trains your body, so if you go fast and focus on getting it over quickly, you bring that into your partnered sex. If you focus on going slow and varying your touch and sensation, then that carries over into your sex with a partner.
- You have options for when your body has limitations. Some days intercourse or any sexual touch may not feel like an option for you or your partner. But if you each are comfortable with self-pleasuring, you can stay together and still have a shared experience while one of you masturbates. Of course, if your bodies simply cannot be in the same room, this also opens up many fun possibilities for mutual gratification. It can be deeply vulnerable and arousing to show someone how you touch yourself and to hear their voice as they encourage you.
- You may discover some fun toys and fantasies to share. Your sex-with-yourself drawer doesn’t have to stay private. The more you explore, the more you have to bring to the shared table so to speak (just be sure that table is stable enough to hold your weight, Avoid Sex Injuries 101). Vibrators, dildos, a favorite lube, can all be great additions to partnered sex. Fantasies you draw on to peak your arousal, whether you want to act them out or no, can intensify your sex talk.
So please enjoy and boost your masturbation by considering it a healthy, fortifying part of your sex life, partnered or not. Fantasize about all the delectable things you can do to pleasure yourself and the things you can do with a partner. Everybody benefits.