Men masturbate – it's a fact of life. Most of the modern women we interviewed take it in stride.
By Linda Kirkham
[Linda Kirkham is a freelance writer and Internet consultant in western Canada. Her areas of expertise include music, literature, and how the arts reflect society.]
IT'S every man's best-kept secret. Or is it? Those long trips to the bathroom, those evening showers alone...we women know what they're doing in there. Single or married, in a relationship or alone, gay or straight – women know men masturbate. (Catchy, isn't it?)
So, if we are so sure our male friends, husbands, co-workers, and companions are "doing it," what do we think? What should we think? No matter what our opinions are, however, we definitely *do* think about it.
"I go on a lot of business trips and am away sometimes for weeks at a time," says Martha, a 35-year-old executive. "My boyfriend is alone for that period, and although we never really talk about it, I figure it's only natural that he does something with his pent-up sexual feelings." And her opinion? "Why should I care? Better to wank off in the shower than to go to a bar, pick someone up, and cheat on me."
Martha's feelings seem to represent women who are married or in long-term, usually live-in, relationships where fidelity is expected. Due to circumstances beyond anyone's control – business trips, family emergencies, health problems – one of the partners is sometimes left by him or herself. "When my mother got sick I had to go overseas to visit, and Lee simply could not get time off work to go with me," says Jill, a 55-year-old former high-school teacher. "I can relate to the fact that being away from the person you love is difficult in more ways than one. If masturbating makes that loneliness a little easier to bear, I don't know what the problem is. It's harmless, I guess."
But what about in times when you aren't away, busy, or otherwise indisposed? What would your reaction be if you accidentally walked into the bathroom or bedroom while your partner was masturbating? It happened to Jennifer, a 23-year-old student. "I was watching television one evening and went to the bathroom during a commercial. I didn't know Derrick was already in there – I just walked in and literally screamed with embarrassment when I saw what he was doing. At first I was just a little shocked, but then I started getting angry. I didn't understand why he would feel he has to satisfy himself when I am there. When I talked to him about it, he said it had nothing to do with the way he feels about me, and he left it at that."
At the time Jennifer did not know there are several reasons why a man would choose to masturbate even if he has a regular sex partner. Most males start masturbating in childhood. A feeling of safety and security often associated with those early years sometimes carries over into adulthood through certain acts, people, or things. For example, a man who "clings" to his mother is in a way clinging to his childhood. Second, for some men – especially those who grew up in households with rigid religious beliefs or other strict principles – masturbation may simply be a form of rebellion, or a way of acting out a particular sexual fantasy mentally but not physically: The mind thinks one thing while the hand does another. Finally, and probably most common, a lot of men just like to do it for no other reason than some of us women enjoy the euphoric high associated with eating chocolate.
However, Allison, a 40-year-old Internet consultant, remembers feeling disbelief when she discovered male masturbation. "When I was learning about sex and the changes the body goes through when growing up, I learned about masturbation. I read somewhere – it was probably that Kinsey report we've all seen – that over 95% of men masturbate. It just blew my mind! My brother, my teachers, my friends...my dad! For a while, every time I looked at a man, on television or in the street, I would think to myself, I wonder if he does it too?"
"I think it's wonderful someone can be sexually active
whether they have a partner or not."
Fortunately, with time Allison came to realize masturbation is a normal, healthy part of a man's sex life. "Yeah, I got over it," she laughs. "I think it's wonderful someone can be sexually active whether they have a partner or not. It's a safe way of venting sexual frustration, or even treating yourself to a little fun. I'm single, and in my age group it's difficult to meet men who are not 'walking wounded' in some way – in a perpetual state of pain because of past mistakes. That includes men who have done a good deal of bed hopping, for no reason other than to gratify their own urges. They hurt themselves, they hurt those women they slept with and used, and then they end up hurting me with emotional baggage and possibly even diseases. Much more selfless and caring is the man who limits himself to being intimate only with women he feels deeply about, doing the rest himself. I'd love to meet someone like that."
"Personally, I think it's sort of a turn-on," says Sheila, a single mother of a 3-year-old. "Guys have this whole other life behind closed doors. I think it would be the most wild thing if a boyfriend let me see him masturbate."
Indeed, for some women, the discovery of their partner's masturbation is not only welcome but greatly enjoyed. "I saw my husband masturbating one evening after he supposedly went to bed early," says Daisy, 37. "I had to go into our bedroom to get something and walked in on him, totally by accident. He froze and turned beet red. After a few seconds, when I realized what was going on, I sort of laughingly told him it was all right. Then, while he was still lying there in bed, I went over to him, took his penis in my hands, and said, 'Here, let me finish that for you.' I think he had one of the most violent orgasms of his life. And ever since then, we've incorporated masturbation into our lovemaking – and it's great!"
Male masturbation appears to be something most women take for granted as part of a man's life. When we asked a random selection of women what they thought of masturbation in males, most gave very short, terse answers – sort of the verbal equivalent of a shoulder shrug. Some of the responses included: "Boys will be boys." "That's what they do." "Who cares?" "I masturbate – why shouldn't they?"
"If I met a man who said he didn't masturbate, I'd know either there was something wrong with him or he's lying," says Suzy, 25.
and not doing something about it."
"Men live in a state of constant sexual stimulation," says Donna, 60. "It's always right there in front of them – it rubs against their pants, it moves around when they run, they have to touch it when they go to the bathroom, the water hits it when they shower...I can't imagine living with that tension building up and up and up and not doing something about it."
The "it" Donna refers to, is, of course, the penis. It's true that the male member is a very obvious part of a man's life. "Women don't have to deal with their sex organ on a constant, daily basis the way a man has to deal with his," says Lucy, a medical student. "So for some women, it's hard to appreciate the very real fact that it doesn't take much for a man to get sexually excited."
From a medical perspective, Lucy adds, "Many women – and probably some men as well – don't know the health benefits of masturbation. Besides the issue of emotional well-being, men produce a large amount of sperm every day. It builds up and gets to a point where it's going to come out one way or the other. That's why many boys going through adolescence have nocturnal emissions – what most people know as "wet-dreams" – because the body is producing more seminal material than the body can handle at that time, in addition to the hormones that are surging through the boy's body. Well, it's the same thing for an adult male. There's nowhere for some of that stuff to go but out – so why not enjoy it?"
Good question. After all, it's not like men are ever going to stop masturbating, just like women are never going to stop having opinions. Those are definitely two things in life that can be taken for granted – part of the unique dimensions of being men and women.