May is National Masturbation Month! In years past we’ve talked about the benefits of masturbation, switching up your routine, and how to get comfortable with masturbation. This year, we wanted to cover masturbation myths.
We all know by now that masturbation isn’t going to give you hairy palms or cause blindness, but there are still myths out there that are harder to shake. Here are 8 of the most common masturbation myths we’ve heard — and why they aren’t true.
1. Masturbation is a substitute for sex with another person. Aspartame is a substitute sweetener for folks who can’t have or don’t want real sugar, and many people out there think of masturbation in the same way as aspartame — a substitute for when someone “can’t get the real deal.”
Masturbation isn’t a temporary stand-in or a step down from “real” sexual activity, though. It is a normal and healthy part of sexuality and sexual expression, and plenty of people who regularly have sex with others still choose to masturbate. Just because it is often a solo act doesn’t mean it isn’t a type of real sex. In fact, masturbation has many of the same benefits partnered sex offers (stress relief, mood boosting, fighting insomnia, feeling good about your body, etc.) but also allows you to take your sex life into your own hands — literally! Masturbation is 100% the real deal and can be just as sexually satisfying as sex with partners — sometimes even more so.
2. Masturbation doesn’t deserve as much attention as your partnered sex life. Many people, especially those socialized as women, are taught that anything we do that centers ourselves is considered selfish. That kind of thinking often leaves us as the last person we take care of in our own lives, which means many people learn how to please partners but have little to no idea what works for their own bodies. Not only can that feel disempowering, but it can also make it harder to communicate with sexual partners who want to help us feel good or reach orgasm. If we devote energy to our solo sex lives and set aside time for self-pleasure, we feel more empowered all around and we also have better partnered sex because we can let other people know what we want or how we prefer to be touched.
3. There is a wrong way to masturbate. While asking around about masturbation myths, one thing that kept coming up was that a lot of people grew up thinking there was only one “correct” way of masturbating. For people with vulvas, they often thought that anything outside of lying on their backs and masturbating with their fingers was “wrong,” and for people with penises, they thought that jerking off with one hand while sitting or standing were the only “normal” ways to touch themselves.
However, people masturbate in all sorts of ways — humping pillows, using sex toys, playing with their butts, masturbating on their stomachs, rubbing everyday objects on their genitals, cutting holes into foam mattresses and going to town — and they’re all normal! The only wrong way to masturbate is if you’re doing it in a way that violates another person’s consent (such as masturbating on a crowded bus). Beyond that, explore, have fun, and if you’re sticking anything in your ass, make sure it has a flared base or loop for easy retrieval!
4. Masturbation with fingers/hands only is “more pure” than with sex toys. Nonsense! When it comes to masturbation, it’s all about discovering what feels good and works for you personally. While many people love using their hands and fingers, billions of people all over the world, past and present, have used sex toys. For as long as humans have been humans, we’ve used objects to give ourselves and others pleasure, and there is nothing unnatural or impure about it. Some people can’t use hands/fingers to touch themselves and have a much easier time using toys, while others may simply prefer the texture, shape, or vibration that toys offer, and tons of people love having the option to choose based on their mood. However you decide to play is all good if it’s working for you.
5. If you use vibrators too much, you won’t be able to orgasm without them anymore. Firstly, using a vibrator can help many people orgasm who have difficulty reaching orgasm otherwise. Some of those people may continue to use a vibrator every time they want to have an orgasm and others are able to train their bodies and get off manually after toys have helped them become more easily orgasmic. Both are fine!
For those who were climaxing on their own without the help of toys and then started using vibrators, most report that they generally like to switch things up and sometimes get off with vibrators and sometimes get off in other ways. They choose what works best for them in the moment, and many people are into having a variety of options. Then again, many people are also into efficiency, and vibrators can be very efficient! So, some people will choose to grab their vibrator nearly every time, but it doesn’t mean they can’t reach orgasm without them anymore. It just means they might be favoring how easily orgasms come to them with vibration.
If you’re nervous that you’ve been relying on your vibrator too much, try taking a break from vibes for a few days and using your hands. It might take a little while to retrain your body to respond to sensations that aren’t vibration, but if you were able to come before without vibration, you should be able to come again without it.
6. If you have a partner, masturbation is cheating. Taking care of yourself and being in touch with your own body is important. Masturbating alone, even if you’re viewing porn, is not cheating. If your partner feels threatened by your masturbation habits, have a conversation about why. Perhaps they are worried that you will not have desire left for them if you masturbate (which is another myth – the great majority of masturbators still like having sex with their partners even when they masturbate often) or perhaps they feel insecure because the porn you watch leaves them wondering if you are desiring someone or something else.
If masturbation is causing issues in your relationship, communicate openly and compassionately with each other about concerns and insecurities and find a way to make sure you’re sharing physical intimacy with each other regularly.
7. Masturbation is just “a means to an end” and should be over with quickly rather than indulging in it. The great thing about masturbation is that you’re in charge, so it can last as long as you want it to last! That may mean getting off in under two minutes with a Womanizer before heading to work, or it may mean a weekend getaway where you spend most of it naked and touching yourself in as many ways as possible. Just like partnered sex, masturbation can be anything from a quickie to a full weekend of romance and savoring sensations.
If you’re a person who is often goal-oriented (i.e orgasm focused) when you masturbate, try switching it up every once in a while by slowing down and taking some extra time to explore your body in new ways and treat it as an act of self-love and self-care.
8. Masturbation can only be done alone. While most people think of masturbation as something to do alone, it absolutely doesn’t have to be a solo act! Mutual masturbation, where two (or more) people are masturbating together, can be incredibly hot and has tons of benefits. Besides being very sexy to watch/hear, it can be a wonderful way to learn how someone else likes to be touched and a way of showing off your own preferences. Mutual masturbation is also great because it offers an alternative to penetrative play and is a low risk activity in terms of pregnancy and STI transmission. If you’ve never tried it before, consider giving it a chance. You may find that masturbating with or for someone else is one of your new favorite ways to enjoy sex!
Have you heard of any other masturbation myths that we didn’t cover? Feel free to leave them in the comments. Happy Masturbation Month, everyone!