May is National Masturbation Month. In support, I’m going to attempt to write something about masturbation and post it every day this month. They may be short. They may be messy. They will most certainly get post-edited. If you enjoy what I have to share (or if you really don’t) I invite you to add comments. Your participation helps me a lot. Join me in celebrating the most common sexual act of our species and add your thoughts to this offering.
For most of my life, I have considered “mutual masturbation” to be a perfectly valid term. After many years of many hundreds of personal experiences with the act, I’ve come to a new understanding, for myself anyway…
To my way of thinking, “masturbation” is an excellent word to describe solosex. Universally, the word (and its many translations in every language) means sexplay of the self-inflicted variety. It’s about touching myself, connecting with myself, stimulating myself, getting to know myself, loving myself.
When two guys touch each other, even if the play is limited to non-penetration, hands only play, calling it “masturbation” doesn’t strike me as accurate. I think that as soon as one person touches another, or even just sees him, we’re talking about… something else.
I should mention that my first impulse is to say “we’re talking about sex,” but I hold that masturbation is sex. This is about how sex happens and the very significant differences inherent in who is enjoying the sex.
I know this seems a little off, heretical even, coming from a guy who runs a jack-off club. I have been employing the term “mutual masturbation” for years now… but in my heart of hearts, I don’t actually think that jacking a guy off qualifies as “masturbation.” What’s missing is the specific inner focus on the self and the lack of inhibition that is so much more available without others in the mix.
I think we can and do bring what we learn from solosex into partner sex and social sex, but each category of sex has a unique set of discrete qualities that are specific to the people involved. There are energies and processes that take place when I am alone with my penis that can not easily be invoked or sustained in a physical interaction with another person. Likewise, there are aspects of partner sex that can not be replicated alone and social sex has its own unique set of qualities.
So yes, I compartmentalize sex into three broad categories (and there are many, many ways to categorize sex but this is the one that matters here): Solo sex, partner sex and social sex. More on those three categories another later…
The actual mechanics of stroking, jacking, caressing, edging, precumming, gooning, etc. can show up in any of those expressions of sex, but the mere act of a lubed hand stroking up and down on a hard penis does not, in itself, constitute masturbation. It’s a technique, not a category of sexual experience.
What is unique to masturbation is the process of self-stimulation, self-awareness and focus that another’s presence interrupts or distracts from. It’s the activity of loving oneself—and the freedom to explore in private one’s own physical response, to be both cause and effect in real time.
Gooning is a good example (gooning is described here and here). When one consciously sinks into a more animalistic mental space and becomes objectively ridiculous, removing any outer observer becomes the factor that frees one to explore ways of experiencing more deeply and intensely aspects of one’s sexual reality without judgement. Yes, one does need to overcome self-judgement, but that is something we have personal control over.
It is the lack of control over any other person’s thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions that makes the mere presence of a partner or a group of playmates both limiting and powerful. To go that deep means becoming genuinely vulnerable, fully exposed to others and while finding one’s way to that level of trust is one of the great gifts of our species, and one of the primary purposes of sex (to connect), it is a struggle against one’s socialization to get there. We each have to overcome a vast array of learned inhibitions and fears to open up fully with another human during sex. That’s part of what makes it so powerful.
So masturbation is an important, almost universal, means of exploring the abandonment of our blocks, recognition of our limitations, variety of effective stimuli, shades of physical/mental/emotional pleasure; all in the safety of our solitude. It’s not an inherently “lonely” practice, but a critical opportunity for self-knowledge. If one regards masturbation as “lonely,” that’s not about the masturbation. That’s about a man’s loneliness. It’s a separate issue.
You may be thinking, what’s the point of saying that buddy-bate, hand jobs, group Jack-off are not “masturbation?” The point is recognition of what makes masturbation unique, defining and embracing its specific power and seizing the opportunity it presents to know oneself better and better. It’s about acknowledging the validity and importance of the relationship I have with myself.
Here are some of my relevant, personal core beliefs:
“Sex” is a very broad term for human activities driven by the hormonal and physical energies associated with our reproductive organs and processes. It is not limited to the physical and does not require actual explicit sexual activities, but must actively engage the process known as the Human Sexual Response Cycle (excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution).
“Masturbation” is solosex, sex with the self.
“Partner Sex” is my term for sex between two individuals only, where the response loop is two-way and the dynamics are specifically developed from the reproductive and partner-bonding behavior of human beings. Those dynamics are specific to partner sex and may be missing from sexplay with more people involved.
“Social Sex” is my term for sexplay involving three or more people.
There are infinite gray areas among these categories too. It is possible to bring the actual solo intimacy of solosex to a partner, to masturbate for or with a partner, but the unique quality of masturbation is the absence of the judgement of another so one must be able to fully detach from that judgement and expose one’s personal sexuality in the presence of another.
I will continue to use the term “mutual masturbation,” because that is what many understand as non-penetrative partner or social sex, what Dr. Marty Klein calls “outercourse.” I always consider this an inaccuracy of terminology, and I think the words we use matter.
“Jacking off” is the physical act of stroking a penis with the hand. It is the most common form of masturbation but is an activity two or three or a hundred or a thousand men can do with each other. It’s just a physical technique, not masturbation in it’s entirety, no more than making oatmeal cookies is the sum total of baking… When I say “jack me off,” I don’t mean “masturbate me.” The only person who can masturbate me is me.
So! That’s a whole lot of personal opinion about masturbation and why I think the word should be reserved for solosex, but I’m not in charge of language, or anybody but myself. If masturbation has taught me anything, it’s that I’m only fully in charge of myself.
If you agree or disagree with any of this, I welcome your comments! Seriously. This can be a conversation, not just me and my opinions. I want your engagement and always respond. What’s your experience? What are your beliefs? Does any of this matter to you? Did it make you think of anything differently? Was it useful? Did it waste your time? Share, dude!