Male masturbation: What’s with the stigma?

We’ve finally gotten to the point in society where female masturbation is celebrated in mass market magazines and literature, but men are still shamed – jerking off has a reputation for being attached to porn addiction, perversion, even cheating. What is the double standard about, and how can we get past it?

“I’m grateful that female masturbation is finally being celebrated, because people with vulvas still carry quite a bit more shame around their sexuality than penis owners,” says August McLaughlin, a health and sexuality writer, host and creator of Girl Boner and Girl Boner Radio and author of Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment (Amberjack Publishing, 2018).

Women are a lot less likely to admit to masturbating, and girls are still often taught that the practice is shameful or sinful, but that “boys will be boys” and can’t help but partake. “I’ve learned a great deal about this personally, both in my work in the sexual empowerment field and speaking to hundreds of people about the topic and from personal experience that inspired my work to begin with,” says McLaughlin.  At the same time, I hear from people of all genders who worry that a partner’s masturbation habits somehow means the person is cheating or less sexually satisfied through partner sex. I think this is largely due to mixed messages and myths around that carry on around sex and masturbation,” says McLaughlin.

Masturbation is not something that’s limited to single or lonely people. It’s the most common form of sexual activity among all genders, and a beautiful way to connect with ourselves, learn more about our bodies and sexuality and even experience more pleasure with a partner if and when we so choose. “It paves the way to better sleep, body-confidence and stress relief. It can also be helpful for partners with hectic schedules that make routine partner sex difficult, or for partners with vastly different libidos,” says McLaughlin.

We really have to do away with the notion that masturbation is somehow gross. “Many women experience shame around it, while others feel ashamed that they don’t masturbate enough—it’s the whole we’re either a “slut” or a “prude” idea that continues to thrive in our culture,” says McLaughlin. “For guys, masturbation is associated with ‘being a dude,’ but it’s also the brunt of many shame-inducing jokes. “Catching a guy masturbating shouldn’t be this horrible thing, as though he robbed a bank or hurt someone. He’s experiencing pleasure,” says McLaughlin. Is that really so awful? 

When women shame their men for masturbating it can stem from a feeling of insecurity. She might fear that during his moments of pleasure, she is far from his mind. “When we don’t understand things, we make up stories to help clarify, rationalize, or understand,” says Laurel House, Resident Sex Expert at My First Blush. Generally those made-up stories are the worst possible scenario: That when he’s pleasuring himself, he’s fantasizing that he’s getting off with two other women, strippers with huge breasts, his ex-girlfriend, her best friend, or simply a slideshow of porn.

If you want her to be understanding, help her to understand by explaining how you’re feeling, maybe even walk her through to process. Better yet, bring her into the process. “By showing her, you are demystifying this secret among men,” says House.

More than demystifying, you are turning it into something sexy that you both can share. And let’s be honest, you will love watching her get herself off too. Soon, you can incorporate the act into your sex life. “Add in some sex toys to intensify the pleasure. You can help her climax faster, harder, and deeper with clitoral stimulators. And what about you? Have you even allowed your nipples to be squeezed or clamped?” says House. You just might feel more aroused that even she could have imagined.

If you catch your partner masturbating, consider celebrating that fact. Chances are, you want your partner to experience pleasure—like other pleasurable experiences, it doesn’t have to involve you 100 percent of the time. “If you grapple with these feelings, dig deeper into them. What underlies those emotions for you? Insecurities fueled by what you’ve learned about sex and sexuality?” says McLaughlin. Shame is not something we’re both feeling. We learn it. Some introspection and even vulnerable talks with your partner can go a long way. 

It’s also just good for your health, and that is a point that can’t be ignored. Masturbation has many health benefits, like reducing chances of prostate cancer, but it can also be utilized to make a man a better lover. “Getting to know your arousal cycles is an important skill for preventing premature ejaculation. Through masturbation, a guy can learn to become multi-orgasmic,” says Antonia Hall a psychologist, relationship expert and sexpert and the award-winning author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. You may know that ejaculation and orgasm are two different functions in the body. “By learning to get in touch with what it feels like to raise your sexual energy, without allowing yourself to pass the point of no return, you can orgasm without ejaculating, then keep going. These techniques have been around for thousands of years, and it’s a skill that any man can learn,” says Hall.

Everyone has a right to define their own relationship boundaries. “If you and your partner agree that monogamy means not masturbating, you’ll ideally both respect that. But I personally think that solo play can add so much to our individual lives and relationships,” says McLaughlin.

If you want to better embrace your partner’s masturbation habits but aren’t quite there yet, consider partner masturbation. “Play with your sexy parts side-by-side or in front of one another. It’s extremely hot and a beautiful way to start shifting perspectives,” says McLaughlin.

If your partner seems to have unhealthy compulsions involving masturbation, that’s another thing —but it’s still not shameful. Seek support from a qualified professional, such as a clinical sex therapist.