Masturbation: the seeking of sexual pleasure with oneself.

by Catherine Novac
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Article online since August 20th 2009, 12:44
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In the past, this pleasurable practice was associated with feelings of fear, guilt, and misconceptions. These attitudes still exist today. Did you know that most individuals, even when in a sexual relationship, masturbate on occasion?
It is important to note that for some there are many conflicting and ambivalent feelings associated to the thought and knowledge of their partner engaging in masturbation when they are not around. These feelings may include jealousy, revulsion (especially if masturbation is perceived as dirty and immoral), insecurity, anger, as well as the feeling that one’s partner is cheating. Such feelings can affect one’s self-esteem, lead to conflict and even a break-up. Should you have any such feelings and you feel it is having a serious impact on you and your relationship, it would be a good to discuss it with a therapist.

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The age at which we discover that touching certain parts of our body gives us pleasure is different from individual to individual. Many believe that masturbation is a naturally learned behaviour. Not true. Some fall upon it accidentally, through some form of physical activity, rubbing themselves on objects such as stuffed animals… If the person was not prepared and it is unexpected, it can cause surprise and even upset. Others set out to explore and masturbate after hearing others speak about this mysterious phenomenon, or on the advice of a friend. First attempts are often awkward and unproductive.

Masturbation can have several aims, it feels good, it is a sexual release, and understanding what feels good empowers you with self-knowledge, providing you with very intimate facts you can share with your partner. Everyone is distinct in what is sexually arousing, and men and women differ in the general way they masturbate.
Male masturbation:
In general men’s masturbation centres on the penis. They may rub their penis against their body with one hand or two. They may choose to roll it between their palms as they move their hands up and down along the shaft of the penis. Others will thrust their pelvis on something like a pillow.

The actual stroking technique of the penis may differ. It may go from a very gentle caress to a strong hold, from a slow pace to a very quick motion. Most often, as a man gets close to orgasm his movements become more rapid. However, when he actually ejaculates, most will slow down dramatically, or even stop any stimulation of the penis. The gland being very sensitive at orgasm makes further stimulation unpleasant (this is often the case with women as well).

Saliva, soap (in the bath or shower), oil, cream … can be used as a lubricant to permit smooth movement along the shaft. Some enjoy the use of a vibrator, or stimulate their anus and nipples while masturbating (yes, I did say anus and nipples).

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Certain men tend to focus their energy on orgasm when masturbating (this can take as little as 2 to 3 minutes), while others take a slower approach. Quick can be practical when time is limited, however this prepares you little for sex with a partner. Rushing through does not usually lead to mutual sexual gratification. Taking one’s time not only extends the pleasure but may also intensify it.
Female masturbation:
Women on the other hand differ greatly in the ways they choose to masturbate. It may range from stimulation of the clitoral area, the clitoris itself, the entire mons area (region over the pubic bone) rather than the clitoris alone (the clitoris is extremely sensitive, making direct stimulation over a period of time uncomfortable). They may use their hands, an object, or a vibrator… Often direct stimulation of the clitoris involves a circular, up and down or side-to-side movement. Masturbation may also involve pulling on the inner lips, moving a finger in and out of the vagina, stimulating the G-spot or the vaginal entrance without penetration… Rarely is penetration alone used to masturbate.

Women may masturbate by squeezing and contracting the thigh muscles, pelvic thrusts against something, cross their legs and contract their muscles, stimulate their breasts, and fantasize.

Unlike men, many women continue to stimulate their clitoral area during and after orgasm. Also, the female sexual response is usually slower than that of the man’s while masturbating (and even longer during intercourse, possibly due to a lack of direct stimulation).

Masturbation has for a long time been perceived as an individual practice. The reality is that many individuals have a certain level of discomfort associated to the thought of being watched while masturbating, however it is often considered very stimulating to a partner. This knowledge can be shared and use to guide your partner. Also, if birth control is not available, mutual masturbation can go a long way in providing pleasure for both you and your partner. It is a viable alternative to intercourse.

Masturbation, once achieved with comfort and know-how can be a very exciting part of a couples’ sexual interactions.

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There is a negative side to masturbation. It is when it becomes obsessive (recurrent and persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses, or images) or compulsive (repetitive, purposeful, and intentional in response to an obsession) in nature. That is when the behaviour feels out of control. Your life revolves around the when, where and how you are going to masturbate, causing marked distress and leaving little time and room for anything else. If you believe any of this describes you, it would help to discuss it with a professional. There is a way out.

Questions, concerns, column suggestions? Leave a comment here or email sex therapist Catherine Novac at
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