The Soloist: Self-Pleasuring in the Context of a Relationship

woman opening door to bedroomI sat down with a heterosexual couple who were just beginning their work with me. Since the woman seemed visibly agitated, I turned to her first and asked her why they had made the appointment. “That’s simple. You’re a sexual addiction specialist,” she replied, jerking her thumb toward her partner, “and he is a sex addict!”

When I queried her further, she explained that she knew her diagnosis was correct because, she said, “I caught him masturbating!” He shook his head sadly and explained:  “Yep. I had an especially hard day, so I found some porn and she walked in on me. ‘Oh, hi honey,’ I said. ‘I was just sitting here with my laptop jerking off.’ ”

The woman was “grossed out” because she’d never seen a man masturbate, let alone her boyfriend. And she was convinced that he shouldn’t have to “do himself” anymore because “now he has me!” He was ashamed, and she was upset because she assumed he wasn’t sexually satisfied with her. He must be sexually compulsive, she figured.

Nope, I explained later; sexual addiction causes problems in the sexual relationship between partners, which wasn’t the case with her sweetheart’s occasional solo sex play.

Since this initial session, the three of us have had some enlightening conversations that helped this young woman relax about what I prefer to call “self-pleasuring.” (I think “jerking off” is, well, jerky, and find the words “pleasuring oneself” more friendly and expansive than “doing oneself.”) Plenty of us, I told her, can find it erotic to watch our partners please themselves.

Orgasms from masturbation can be more intense than other kinds; we learn exactly what kind of touch can send us “over the moon.” One fellow told me that he’d always figured (inaccurately, as it turned out) he would stop masturbating when he got into the right relationship. Many women assume that they’ll be parting with their beloved vibrators once they’re happily hitched.

My colleague Paul Joannides, who wrote The Guide to Getting It On, conducted a survey in 2005 asking hundreds of his readers two questions: (1) Is masturbation an important part of your life? And (2) if you have a partner, does she or he know? The vast majority of survey takers who are in sexually satisfying relationships answered “yes” and “yes,” Joannides said.

While there are plenty of times that self-pleasuring is something you prefer to do by yourself, there are other times that sharing it with a partner can be both satisfying and exciting. If your partner can see exactly how you please yourself, it usually helps him or her understand more about how he/she can best please you.

It also can increase the level of intimacy in your relationship if you can ask that she or he hold you while you get yourself off. We often have the unrealistic expectation that our partners should satisfy all of our sexual urges at all times. When you’re in the mood and your partner isn’t, she or he can hold you while you please yourself. In reverse, you can caress your partner or whisper stimulating thoughts while he or she masturbates. The possibilities are endless.

Please remember also that for many women and a few men, self-pleasuring is the only way they can have an orgasm. If you’re one of these people, try asking your partner to hold you while you give yourself an orgasm. Many lovers will find this to be a turn-on, and it will help to make self-pleasuring safe to talk about if you haven’t talked about it already.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jill Denton, LMFT, CSAT, CCS, therapist in Los Osos, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Cathryn

    Cathryn

    November 25th, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    But don’t you get how much this hurts a women to think that she can’t pleasure her man so he has to go off and do it himself? I think that I am pretty open minded but if I thought that I just wasn’t doing it for my husband anymore and he had to take to porn and “alone time” to orgasm then I would just die! I know that you say that this is normal for most men and some women and okay, I can live with that. But if you have a willing partner then why do you need it?

  • tia

    tia

    November 26th, 2013 at 4:51 AM

    This is such a natural part of all of our sexuality- why is it always looked at as such a bad thing?

  • A. Irie

    A. Irie

    November 26th, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    Thank God for good sex therapists and educators. As shared, many people live without knowledge about healthy sexuality and how to communicate with partners. Glad the couple got the help they needed.

  • Jett

    Jett

    November 26th, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    I didn’t know until very recently that this could be a part of a very happy sexual relationship with someone else, that you don’t have to do this in secret and shame.
    I was raised in a home where this was forbidden, told it was dirty and unnatural. So you can imagine being shocked when I found a partner who wanted to experience this together!
    I am glad that a lot of my inhibitions have fallen away and I now look more at what pleases me and my partner instead of always thinking about how the behavior is wrong.

  • pressley

    pressley

    November 27th, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    I thought that being all uptight about sex had gone away a long time ago!

  • Karl

    Karl

    November 27th, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I’m in my 50s,happy married,and I do have the occasional solo session.Wife knows about it because I have admitted in the past.Not that I go out to tell her every time I do,but it is an accepted fact in our marriage.She does at times too.

    I don’t think there should be any concern if your partner masturbates because it certainly does not mean you do not satisfy your partner enough.Different things are always a turn on and if its a solo act why even bother questioning them,better to maybe even be a party to it as has been suggested here.

  • Ben R

    Ben R

    November 29th, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    My wife and I have a bet- she says that way more men self pleasure than do women, that women are more content waiting for sex with a partner than are men.

    Any truth to that? I personally think that just as many women get in on the solo act as men do but they are far more hesitant to talk about it and share the truth.

  • Caleb

    Caleb

    December 2nd, 2013 at 5:00 AM

    Come on!
    This is something that everyone does but no one wants to talk about.
    It’s not as if you are avoiding the partner because you can do it better on your own!

  • Marie

    Marie

    December 25th, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    It’s one thing to occasionally self-pleasure, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if one partner is self-pleasuring to online porn a couple times a week, while the partner repeatedly requests sex more than 10 times a year, something’s wrong…and sad, and lonely.

  • Marie

    Marie

    December 25th, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    That is, desires to have sex more than the 10 times a year that occurring.

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