The Mutual Benefits of Mutual Masturbation
I was one of many kids who grew up in a strictly conservative and sex-negative society. From a young age, I was told by the people around me that only men and women were meant to be together and that the sole purpose of having sex was to procreate. This was a heteronormative society that encouraged only one type of sex—penetrative vaginal sex between cis men and women.
So much of what we know about sex is deeply rooted in heteronormativity, to the point where when we say "sex," a majority of people will think only of penetrative sex. Regardless of where a person grew up, this was generally the prevailing messaging in media, home and schools.
But if we're going to continue to create a more sex-positive world, it's important we embrace the other methods people can use to achieve sexual pleasure. Of course, there are countless ways to have sex, but one particular non-penetrative method we don't talk about enough? Mutual masturbation.
Centering you and your body
Mutual masturbation is a way for people to experience sexual pleasure through the act of stimulating each other's genitals, and is a great way for people to connect with each other, according to sex educator Ericka Hart.
Hart noted that understanding our often-wrong assumption that everyone who has sex wants penetration is the first step toward moving away from these lingering heteronormative ideas.
"If you start there, [there are] so many creative ways to enjoy sex and intimacy can become available," she said. "Mutual masturbation is a great way to have sex, as it's a way to center you and your body while encouraging your partner to do the same."
Who is mutual masturbation for?
Mutual masturbation is a great way for couples to switch things up, especially ones dealing with medical ailments such as vaginismus.
Jennifer Lincoln, M.D., a board-certified gynecologist, described the sensation of vaginismus as "hitting a wall," especially upon penetration.
"For many people, they usually find out they have vaginismus when they go to the gyno for the first time and the speculum doesn't go in," she said.
'Mutual masturbation is a great way to have sex, as it's a way to center you and your body while encouraging your partner to do the same.'
For some people, penetration is not even an option when it comes to sex. There are two types of vaginismus: Primary, which can be lifelong, and secondary or acquired, which can be from having a baby, endometriosis, trauma, or other injuries and disorders, such as lichen sclerosus.
Since so much of sex revolves around the concept of penetration, this can cause couples distress. People who can't engage in penetrative vaginal sex often feel like they are missing out. However, mutual masturbation offers a valid alternative. Try a different definition: Alone or with a partner, sex should be about achieving personal goals important to you.
Techniques you can use
As an activity for two (or more!) people, there are many different techniques to try, including:
- Mutually stimulating each other's genitals, which you can do by stroking with your fingers or hands. This should not necessarily need to include penetration.
- Stimulating your own genitals while the other person watches.
- Using sex toys, such as vibrators, dildos or penis rings.
- Beyond genital stimulation, mutual masturbation can also involve stimulation of the nipples and other erogenous zones.
- Making eye contact, holding hands, caressing parts of their body and kissing can also be a great pastime.
- You can also completely avoid touch altogether to start, read erotic literature to one another and enjoy what happens next.
If it feels good, do it
There are many benefits of mutual masturbation, which include reducing stress, improved sleep, body image and self-esteem. It can all lead to a profound effect on a relationship.
- If you're away from your partner—as happened a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic—mutual masturbation can be a great way for long-distance couples to engage in cybersex.
- Mutual masturbation can be a great way for people to learn more about their partner's bodies. Don't just sit there: Demonstrate to your partner the ways you like to be touched and for how long, and praise them when they're successful.
- Touching and mutual masturbation encourage creativity and allow for more versatility and exploration.
- It's a great way to test out what works and what doesn't.
- Mutual masturbation helps develop a spiritual and deeper connection with your partner.
At the end of the day, no matter what method of sex tickles your fancy, it's important to do it safely. There are many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can be passed through bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid and blood. It's vital you use external contraception such as condoms, dental dams and other methods to minimize infection.
If you're nervous to broach the subject of mutual masturbation, consider talking to a therapist or sex counselor for their advice.