Alexandra Fine, Credentialed Sexologist, M. Psych | Written by Dame
Sometimes two people click right away.
There’s mutual interest, followed by sexual attraction.
Or perhaps they skip right to the sexual attraction part.
There are drinks and dinner.
Or perhaps just lots of drinks.
The attraction grows into a relationship, and eventually leads into the bedroom.
Or perhaps no “growth” or “relationship” is even necessary to get there.
There are, of course, other paths into to the bedroom. In today’s hookup culture, sometimes a “swipe right” is all that’s required.
But the one thing all of these heartwarming stories usually have in common: they lead to sex.
The one thing that usually doesn’t factor into the mix when those two people get together?
After all, imagine the reaction if you took Mr./Ms. Right or Mr./Ms. Right Now (pardon the time-honored and dated cliché) back to your place – and suggested “let’s masturbate!”
They probably wouldn’t be either Right – or Right Now – for long.
That’s a shame, because mutual masturbation can be much more than a “first step” for virgins, or a last resort for couples who are permanently or temporarily (Hello, Aunt Flo!) unable to have sex.
Masturbating together is a great way to add a new dimension to a sexual relationship.
The “Shame” of Masturbation?
Throughout history, religions have viewed self-gratification as shameful. Many, including Catholicism and most forms of Islam, still do – although the recent trend in a good number of mainstream religions has been to create “loopholes,” by reinterpreting the scriptural passages which had been used to justify a blanket “ban” on masturbation.
Also throughout history, societies took those supposed religious prohibitions and adopted them into their cultures. Some even went a step further and enacted laws making self-satisfaction illegal (those laws, needless to say, were nearly impossible to enforce).
Sex, of course, is a basic human need. When Maslow detailed his landmark hierarchy of needs, he placed sex right alongside food and air in the first level of the pyramid, physiological needs. Masturbation is one of the first ways that humans discover and explore their sexuality; studies report that more than 90% of penis owners and 50% of vulva-havers masturbate during adolescence.
That created a difficult problem for those proselytizing against masturbation. Overcoming such a basic human drive required more than religion or a baseless claim that it’s just plain “evil.” To bolster the fight against self-satisfaction, societies developed other rationales for their anti-masturbation beliefs:
- It can cause blindness (or hairy palms, or insanity).
- It can desensitize the sexual organs, or have a negative effect on penis size.
- It can cause “female hysteria” in vulva owners. (Some 19th century physicians even began performing surgical procedures to remove the clitoris for that reason, but not long after that, other doctors began administering what were called “massages” – actually medically-administered masturbation – to relieve that same hysteria.)
- It drains necessary energy (sometimes identified as a “vital life force”) from the body.
Over time, all of those myths were debunked, but the guilt and shame attached to masturbation remained (and remains) in many societies. That guilt and shame was amplified by unfortunate – but somewhat predictable – visceral reactions by parents who lectured or punished their children after discovering that they were pleasuring themselves.
There’s one more reason that self-satisfaction can produce feelings of guilt.
History and cultural norms have socialized us to believe that it’s the “duty” of partners to satisfy each other in a relationship. That’s why one partner often feels compelled to apologize to the other if a sexual encounter doesn’t result in the expected orgasmic conclusion.
The natural extension to that assumption: if one partner masturbates, it’s because the other hasn’t been able to satisfy them properly.
That’s not true, of course. Research shows that Americans masturbate regularly, regardless of their relationship status. One recent study found that “singles” satisfy themselves an average of 16 times per month – while those in a relationship still masturbate an average of 11 times per month, no matter how satisfied they are with that relationship.
So there are two general conclusions we can draw.
Here’s the first. Many adults, for understandable reasons, still associate masturbation with feelings of shame – despite their intellectual understanding that the activity is natural, perfectly harmless, and enjoyable. (We’re not even mentioning research that shows that masturbation can help people, particularly prostate owners, maintain their sexual wellness.)
The second conclusion: residual feelings of guilt or shame lead most people to keep their self-love sessions to themselves, so they won’t get “caught.” In other words, it’s something you do in private.
Changing societal norms have made self-pleasuring more acceptable in recent years. But some people still feel they must keep their masturbation a private matter – preventing them from experiencing the many joys of masturbating with a partner.
Overcoming feelings of self-consciousness and shame isn’t easy for some, but the rewards of mutual masturbation are well worth taking what may be a difficult step.
Defining Mutual Masturbation
We’ll get to the “how to” section of this article shortly. First, however, it’s important to clarify exactly what we’re talking about – because the phrase “mutual masturbation” can be used to describe two different activities.
One way to think of masturbating “with” someone else is to visualize two people engaged in solo play. They may be in the same room (or bed), they may be having phone sex, or they may be watching each other on FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. (Be careful masturbating on Zoom, though. It could lead to unanticipated consequences, as writer Jeffrey Toobin learned.)
The other type of mutual masturbation may be more in line with what you’d picture: two people in bed (or anywhere else, for that matter), physically pleasuring each other with fingers, toys or other implements of their choice.
There’s a big difference between the types of mutual masturbation. Two people, each satisfying themselves in front of a partner, may feel somewhat uncomfortable or scared at first. After all, polite society teaches us that the voyeuristic components of “watching” and “being watched” during intimate moments are naughty, forbidden or even illegal.
On the other hand, manually stimulating someone else during conventional sexual activity seems more natural since you’re participating, not watching.
The two forms of mutual masturbation really aren’t as different as you might think, though. Both involve pleasuring your partner, both allow you to learn a great deal about your partner’s body and what makes them feel good – and speaking of feeling good, both methods ideally result in the same type of sexual excitement and satisfaction.
Let’s plunge a little deeper into the subject. (Pun intended.)
Mutual Masturbation: Side-by-Side
A quick explanation before we dig in: we’re using the umbrella phrase “side-by-side mutual masturbation” to describe all of the possibilities we mentioned earlier: in person, on the phone or via video chat.
It’s easy to overlook the many benefits two people can experience when masturbating separately but in the same room.
- If you’ve been trying to achieve simultaneous orgasms during sex without much success, side-by-side masturbation is a much simpler way to be sure that you climax together.
- When you’re each in control of your own stimulation, your sexual pleasure can be maximized – since you know exactly what to do to make yourself feel good.
- In the same vein, when you’re watching your partner masturbate you can learn where and how they like to be touched, and what makes them feel good.
- This type of mutual masturbation really is safe sex. No contact means no STIs and no pregnancy.
- A surprising number of people really do like watching or being watched; they just don’t realize it. (Don’t believe it? Watching online porn videos, whether they focus on MILFs, POV blowjobs, huge cumshots or squirting, is really just another form of voyeurism.) Mutual self-pleasuring can unlock and unleash your hidden voyeur or exhibitionist, with very satisfying results.
- If one partner sees the other masturbating with a favorite vibrator or dildo, it can smooth the way for the introduction of sex toys into a couple’s penetrative sex play.
- Finally – and this is incredibly farfetched and difficult to imagine – if a global pandemic ever interrupted normal life, this form of mutual masturbation is a great way to enjoy sex with a partner while still social distancing.
Most of the same benefits can be realized if you’re playing with an online video partner. But if you’re masturbating together during phone sex, naturally, you’ll have to focus more on dirty talk than visuals.
Incidentally, if you’re concerned about being “on display,” phone sex can be a great way to ease into mutual masturbation (as can doing it with the lights off). You can also try masturbating together while watching porn. That way, your partner’s full attention won’t be completely focused on what your fingers are doing.
There’s no “right” position for this type of mutual masturbation. Sitting side-by-side, though, can minimize your initial embarrassment until the self-consciousness or guilt wears off. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with simultaneous jerkoff sessions, facing each other with legs spread wide open will provide a much hotter experience.
You’d rather get more hands-on with a partner?
Mutual Masturbation: Full Contact
The beauty of this form of mutual masturbation – partners satisfying each other – is that it can work as stand-alone activity, or as a foreplay appetizer to a penetrative main course.
Most sexually-active adults are at least somewhat familiar with this type of sexual play; it’s hard to imagine a “normal” sex life which didn’t initially start with hesitantly fingering a clitoris or giving a quick handjob.
What we’re calling “full contact” mutual masturbation involves that same type of manual play, but takes it to an entirely different level. Once you’re comfortable with your own sexuality and able to engage in mature discussion with a partner about theirs, the real fun can begin.
Almost all of the benefits of side-by-side masturbation still hold true: the greater possibility of simultaneous orgasms, the gradual introduction of sex toys into partner play, the voyeuristic rush of excitement.
But when it comes to learning about what really satisfies your partner, there’s a new dimension that mutual masturbation can contribute. You don’t have to watch carefully as they pleasure themselves – they can tell you exactly what does (or doesn’t) feel good as you do it. And, of course, it works the other way as well; you can help a partner learn the best ways to get you off, in real time.
As the direct-response TV ads always say, “Satisfaction Guaranteed!” Should it be faster? Slower? Should you touch here instead of there? Flick instead of rub? Are there erogenous zones begging to be stimulated? How can sex toys add to the experience? There’s no more guesswork, since manual stimulation isn’t a brief prelude to penetrative sex, or something that happens simultaneously with it. Mutual masturbation can be a master class in fantastic sex with your partner.
There are many different sex positions to try, too. The missionary position without penetration still provides the intimacy of “standard sex” as you touch and finger each other. Variations on “cowgirl” positions, with one partner sitting on the other’s chest, add elements of dominance and submission to the action.
And lying in bed facing each other allows you to look into each others’ eyes, watch facial expressions close up, and intertwine legs during play. It also provides easy access to necks, nipples and other erogenous areas – not to mention the back door, as long as you haven’t forgotten the lube.
Many sexologists and sex educators are advocates of mutual masturbation, since it encourages communication while also providing pleasure. In many respects, it fosters a deeper, more personal connection than penetrative sex, and allows partners to fully explore and understand each others’ bodies.
To put it simply: when mutual masturbation is the main attraction, the action can actually be a lot more interesting, exciting – and satisfying – than just hopping into bed for the five-minute bop.