I recently received an email from a woman who was very concerned about her partner’s masturbation habits. She explained that they have been together just under a year, and that he would sneak out of the bedroom at night, while he thought she was asleep, and masturbate in another room. She told me of their cultural differences and how talking about sex is taboo in hers. She told me that she desired him and would be a very willing partner if he wanted to have sex with her instead of him “taking care of himself” and she wondered if he was bored with her and/or desiring other women.
While their differences and her willingness were important for her to share, what she really wanted to know from me as a man was “why is he doing this and what is wrong with me?”
I told her that in my expert opinion, and as a man, I have no idea why he chooses to masturbate. Ok, the truth is, I have lots of ideas, I mean LOTS of ideas and experience; but my point, and what I then asked her was, “Have you asked him?”
Understandably, she was afraid to ask him and even had her cultural (religious) background to support her in not talking about these things.
The truth is, sex has been considered to be a taboo subject in most of our cultures, up until this point. But now, because sex and sexuality are being discussed more openly than ever before, we happen to be in a position, and have the resources, to truly explore our desires, and seek out much more fulfilling experiences than our parents and grandparents did.
So, we have the choice to either blame our cultures, our educational system, and the households we grew up in, or we stand for ourselves and our relationships and make the changes we wish to experience in our lives.
The change starts with us. If I want to know why my partner does something or feels a certain way about something, I need to ask her. No amount of speculation about a person is equal to an actual conversation with the person.
I invited the woman who reached out to me via email to have this conversation with her partner, and I encouraged her to be in a place of curiosity and partnership—seeking to understand—and not coming from a place of blame and shame; really standing in “there is nothing wrong with either of us.” As I thought about it more, I offered her this: “Why not invite him to let you watch?” Invitations can be very disarming, and sexy as heck! In fact, perhaps they could even discuss their fantasies and find other ways to participate together.
There are many reasons why men masturbate. While they could have something to do with our partners, often, they do not. Solo practices can sometimes be preferred as a quick stress-release, and because there is no pressure to perform; sometimes we just want to get off, and for many of us who have been raised inside the “sex is taboo” world, we have fears of burdening our partners and/or being judged. For other men, masturbation is an exploration into what is pleasurable, an opportunity to discover and push our limits, and practice our control for when we are with our partners. The only way to know why your partner does what they do is to ask them—ideally, from a place of partnership.
My deepest desire is that we all start having these talks, loving each other and ourselves, and pushing the boundaries of what we believe is possible in terms of pleasure and connection.
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