This is a uniquely modern sexual concern. Long ago, the medical community told us that masturbation was bad for our health but now masturbation is often promoted as a necessary part of healthy sexuality.
Masturbation is the most common kind of sex on the planet and people who don’t masturbate are in the minority. But this doesn’t make it wrong; as long as you are making informed sexual choices you feel good about.
According to a study, conducted by the University of Chicago based on a representative sample of American adults, only 38 percent of women said they’d masturbated at all during the past year. The figure for men was 61 percent.
The study analyzed data from more than 3000 people (1,769 women and 1,347 men).
So, should you be worried if you never masturbate? The answer depends on your answer to several other questions, including:
- When you say “never” does that mean “not very often”? Does it mean that you have never masturbated, or you don’t anymore (and if you used to, why did you stop?)
- Why don’t you masturbate? Is it because it doesn’t do anything for you or because you think it’s “bad”?
- Why are you asking the question in the first place? Do you want to masturbate? Are you feeling pressure from people who say you should masturbate?
If you don’t masturbate because you tried it many times, you aren’t that interested and you have enough satisfying sexual outlets; you’ve got nothing to worry about. There are lots of positive effects of masturbation, but these effects also come with regular partner sex.
But there are many more of us who don’t masturbate but want to. If you fall into this latter category, you may want to think again about masturbation. Here are my responses to some of the common reasons people tell me they don’t masturbate.
I don’t masturbate because I tried it a long time ago but it never worked for me.
‘Difficulty in having an orgasm is actually really common and something I see lots of clients for in psychosexual therapy,’ says Krystal Woodbridge, a psychosexual and relationship therapist at the College of Sexual Relationship Therapists (COSRT). ‘For many women, it isn’t a problem at all and for some women it is.’
If your only experience driving a car was accidentally taking the parking brake off when you were eleven years old and feeling your stomach drop as the car started rolling slowly out of the driveway, you might never want to get behind a wheel again. Masturbation is a lot like driving a car (but it is better for the environment). The way you masturbate now, including the kinds of sexual fantasies you have, might be very different from when you were an adolescent.
Also, hopefully, you have a greater understanding of your sexual anatomy and comfort with your body than you did when you were younger. It’s also possible that masturbation isn’t “working” for you because of other issues unrelated to technique.
There may be something physical getting in the way of your ability to masturbate for pleasure. It’s also common for people who have had negative sexual experiences in the past to turn off sexually, even with themselves. If you think these might be the case, it’s probably worth checking it out with a trusted health care professional.
I don’t masturbate because masturbation is for single people/people who can’t have “real sex”/the morally weak/etc…
I can’t make this any clearer; there is no one type of person who masturbates. Regardless of age, race, class, gender, political and religious affiliation, every kind of person you can imagine is a person who masturbates.
This doesn’t mean we all do it, or we all have to, but if you’re denying yourself the most common form of sexual pleasure because you don’t think you fit into that box rest easy, the whole planet fits into this particular masturbation box.
While talking about masturbation with your significant other may be more uncomfortable than that last set of burpees, there’s no reason for the topic to be taboo. In fact, relationship pros say solo-time can help make sex with your partner even better.
I don’t masturbate for religious or cultural reasons.
My first response to this is to ask whether or not you fully understand the various positions your religion takes on masturbation. Within all religions there is diversity of opinion, and you may want to research how different members of your community or faith interpret teachings about sexuality and masturbation (the Moral Compass is a good place to start). If you don’t masturbate because of cultural pressure, I would ask whether there are other things you do that give you pleasure but are frowned on by your culture, and if so why masturbation doesn’t qualify as one of those kinds of behaviors.
Masturbating and feeling guilty about it is not the answer here, but many people who are deeply religious and come from anti-masturbation backgrounds manage to fulfill both their sexual desires and their religious convictions. It’s not impossible, even if it requires more consideration than others have to give it.
I keep trying to masturbate, but it doesn’t work, so I’ve given up.
There are plenty of people who aren’t able to masturbate for pleasure. The reasons for this are varied, and they are worth thinking about. There may be a physical issue or condition that’s getting in the way of you enjoying masturbation; affecting either the way your body responds to stimulation or your desire and interest for sex in the first place.
There could be psychological and emotional obstacles; pressure to perform, negative sexual experiences in the past, early messages about masturbation that you can’t seem to ignore.
Often the reasons are a combination of mind and body issues. On a simpler level, you might be physically and psychologically ready for it, but you lack technique. Both women and men sometimes need to learn how to masturbate before they get any enjoyment from it.
If you think that the obstacles could be physical, psychological, or emotional it may be worth talking to a professional about your concerns. That might be a family doctor you trust and feel comfortable with, visiting a sexual health clinic, or seeing a sex therapist.
Anorgasmia is another reason for the lack of orgasms. The condition is often referred to as orgasmic dysfunction, is a type of sexual dysfunction where a woman can’t orgasm – even with the help of adequate stimulation. There are several types of anorgasmia, as outlined by Woodbridge:
- Primary anorgasmia: when you’ve never had an orgasm.
- Secondary anorgasmia: when you used to orgasm, but stopped having the ability.
- Situational anorgasmia: where you can orgasm in some situations, but not others.
I don’t masturbate because I’m just never interested in having sex and I don’t really enjoy it when I do have it. How can I increase my libido or make it more pleasurable?
It’s perfectly natural for sexual desire and interest to wax and wane and our libido is easily affected by things like stress and fatigue, not to mention our overall health.
But if you’re experiencing prolonged periods where you aren’t interested in sex, and you wish you were, or if your lack of desire is causing you distress, it’s probably worth speaking to a health care professional.
If your low desire is tied to any kind of sexual dysfunction (e.g. erectile difficulties, lack of vaginal lubrication, feeling pain during sex) the sexual problems might be an indicator of larger health issues you need to address. Also it’s common for people who have had negative or coercive sexual experiences in the past to find it difficult to connect sexually with anyone, even themselves.
There are an infinite number of reasons why someone may not be interested in sexual activity, whether this has always been the case or is a new development.
- Misinformation or lack of information about a healthy sexual relationship
- Negative experiences related to sex in the past
- Dissatisfaction or difficulty within partnered relationships
- Underlying or untreated health conditions, such as depression
- Change in medication or medication side effects
- Periods of increased stress or hormonal fluctuations
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