We all do it for the same reasons — sexual tension, lack of recent sexual attention, sheer boredom or even just the need for a brief study break. Masturbation is a less than celebrated, but clearly central part of our sexuality.
p. But while we might all turn to masturbation for the same reasons, we definitely go about it in many different ways, especially between guys and girls. And I don’t mean the obvious anatomical differences that we’ve all known since health class. Instead, the circumstances and situations surrounding masturbation reveal some interesting differences between the sexes and their sexuality.
p. Usually, I hate discussing the stereotypical male versus the stereotypical female, because it is usually not true. But, when it comes to masturbation, the differences are very real. For guys, who usually rely on visual stimulation to get aroused, looking at a porno is central to masturbation. Some online photos, maybe a video clip or even just a magazine get him thinking about sex and turned on. For girls, on the other hand, masturbating rarely involves a visual aid like porn. Instead girls rely simply on thoughts and imagination, or in some cases, just focus on the act itself without any extra layers.
p. What we all have in common is that masturbation is an easy routine. For all the new and exotic ways we crave to have sex — new positions, new rhythms, new places — flying solo we’re usually content with the same old techniques. Few girls own an expansive collection of vibrators so as to keep trying new things. And as much as they might joke about it, few guys try positions like “the stranger” technique for variety. Part of the appeal of masturbation is its simplicity — no complicated decisions to make or even much of a need to think at all. It might just be one of the few times in our busy lives when we stop thinking and just go with what feels good.
p. Another commonality between the sexes when it comes to masturbation is that we can all benefit from enjoying a little alone time before going out for the night. For guys, the obvious advantage is that getting off once increases their endurance if they find themselves with the opportunity to go for a second with a companion later. For girls, on the other hand, one orgasm encourages a second, so a little warm-up is a great way to feel sexy and confident as you head out the door, maybe setting the tone for the rest of the night to come.
p. The similarities might end there. For guys, masturbating is considered an obvious occurrence, casually joked about with a nearly endless supply of euphemisms. For women, however, masturbation is still frequently a taboo topic. Plenty of girls who do are embarrassed to discuss it, and still more don’t even attempt it. Why the differing social stigmas? Is it because women aren’t expected to have the rampant sex drive that men do, in need of the constant release? There are plenty of women out there who claim that they don’t need to masturbate because when they aren’t participating in a sexual relationship with someone, they don’t have much of a sex drive. While sexually-charged in the context of a relationship, masturbation is less of an issue because you’ve got a partner around to help you out.
p. However, it’s important to remember that masturbation isn’t something that should only be done alone. In fact, sometimes it can be a lot of fun with your sex partner. For practical reasons, sometimes, if they haven’t been able to get you off, it’s totally reasonable to take matters into your own hands — rather literally, I suppose. For a voyeuristic approach, women can let their partners watch them touch themselves. It’s a great learning experience for many guys who still don’t really understand how to use the clitoris, and it can be pretty damn hot to watch. To be fair, the sexes could easily reverse the situation; I’m sure girls could learn a lot of technical pointers from watching a professional do the job himself.
p. While it might not be as exciting as an orgasm with a companion or two, masturbation is without question a central part of most people’s sex lives — in dry spells or wet ones, once a month or twice a day. It’s a crucial step to understanding your own body and sexuality. And seriously, it makes for a great study break; although if you’re at Swem, I recommend heading to the single bathrooms in the basement instead of just going at it on the second floor.
p. __Kate Prengaman is the Flat Hat sex columnist. She may or may not be monitored by Swem employees.__