In Hump Day, award-winning psychotherapist and TV host Dr. Jenn Mann answers your sexiest questions—unjudged and unfiltered.
DEAR DR. JENN,
The guy I’m dating recently asked me to masturbate in front of him. I’ve never gotten myself off in front of a partner, and it’s not something my friends talk about. Is this just him being … lazy? Or should I give it a go? I thought relationships mean less, not more, masturbation. — DIY
When it comes to that last bit, you’re dead wrong. Solo action is nearly universally enjoyed. As you are reading this 797,151 Americans are masturbating (probably). Whether your friends are talking about it or not, the stats show that 89 percent of women reported masturbating and 95 percent of men did. And those are just the ones who fessed up.
That goes for people who single and people who are in relationships. Research shows that 70 percent of married couple masturbate, and I say all of them should. Masturbation is an important part of a healthy sex life. You can’t have great sex together if you don’t know what you enjoy. And how can you really know what you enjoy if you don’t investigate?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received calls on my radio show from people, usually women, who are not satisfied in bed because of one common problem: They want their partners to understand what they want—but they themselves don’t know! In an interview a friend of mine once did with with sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Dr. Ruth said that women are responsible for their own orgasms and for telling their partners how to give them what they need in order to have them. Listen, a partner’s gotta put in the work, but I whole-heartedly agree. We can be the directors of our own O’s.
So if masturbating teaches you about what you want in bed, imagine the educational opportunities that lie before you if pull up a chair for bae. Masturbating solo lets you collect data and pass it along to your lover. But if he’s able to see the nuances of what you do and what works for you, he’ll be able to pick up on your handiwork. With a different perspective, he may even be able to pick up on something about your pleasure that you yourself didn’t notice. Take turns being the performer and the audience, and you’ll probably learn something about his body that surprises you or that he couldn’t articulate before too.
Beyond education, there are a number of other reasons why mutual masturbation can take your DIY routine, sex life, and relationship to the next level. The obvious one: For many people, it’s a turn on—and I’m always an advocate of expanding your joint sexual repertoire. It also allows you to both explore voyeuristic and exhibitionist tendencies. And it builds trust. There’s something vulnerable—which may seem like an obstacle at first—about letting your partner see something that you’ve always done in total privacy. It can become an intimate shared experience for just that reason. And it can help you take your show on the road: try it during intercourse, during phone sex, on video chat, and in other fun situations.
Of course, this shouldn’t replace other sex acts. If it does then yes, he’s just being lazy. But if it’s another course on the menu, it’ll only enhance the sex you have together.
Now that you’ve turned your solo performance into a team sport, don’t stop masturbating on your own altogether, though. There’s still a level of patient exploration that we can best achieve alone, and sometimes, in front of a partner, there’s a subconscious pressure to be performative in our pleasure. You know how everyone says that self-care becomes most important when you’re juggling a lot in your life? Same sort of thing. Always make time for “self-care.”