I’m a 19-year-old male college student. I just started to masturbate, but I don’t know how other people will react if I get into a relationship with them and tell them about this. I would like to know how to be fully comfortable with pleasuring myself as well as see how to bring up masturbation in a relationship. Thank you!
— Seeking Masturbation without Hesitation
I’m reading your question in two different ways: the first is “How do I tell my partners that I just started masturbating at the later-than-average age of 19?” and the second interpretation is “How do I tell my partners that I’m into masturbating, generally?” So, I’m going to answer both.
First: Nothing is more varied than a person’s sexual timeline. The “typical” sexual timeline is dictated by a lot of assumptions — the biggest one being that you have or want to have penis-in-vagina penetrative sex. Others include how and where you were brought up, the kind of sex education you had access to, your moral or religious upbringing, and the health and ability of your physical body. All of these factors and more contribute to the freedom we feel to sexually explore ourselves and others.
This isn’t to say that the most free of us masturbate the earliest, but it is to say that not all sexual timelines suit all people. Part of keeping it consensual is also a self-practice: masturbating when it just doesn’t feel good mentally, physically, or both is not an enthusiastically-yes experience.
Part of your question seems to wonder how to get to an enthusiastic-yes solo-sex experience. The first step is to give yourself permission to head that way: this could mean undoing some negative messages from your sexual upbringing — reading some sex-positive books like The Multi-Orgasmic Man or The New Male Sexuality is a good start — or finding masturbatory materials that feel positive to you like ethical porn (see past columns on “Feminist Porn” and “Grass-Fed Porn”) or pleasure-positive erotica. Cleis Press publishes a great collection.
If it’s greater physical comfort you seek, try a nice, thick jacking-off lube like Boy Butter — not compatible for penetrative sex or latex — or Gun Oil, which is silicone-based. Or you could try a fun masturbation sleeve such as Tenga Eggs, which are cheap and disposable, or a Fleshlight, the notorious self-lovin’ toy for a heftier price tag.
Second: People love telling other people how to have their orgasms. And, very specifically, with whom to have them. And even more specifically, still, to have them in good company.
But you don’t need to be in good company — or any company at all — to enjoy a few Ohs, Seeking. In fact, striking a balance between the two sounds like a great plan to me. Maintaining a healthy self-lovin’ practice whether or not a person is partnered can have great benefits, like increasing frequency and strength of orgasms, stress-relief, discovering new ways to feel pleasure, and/or exploring new fantasies. Staying in touch, quite literally, with your own sexuality is an important part of holistic sexual health and good relationships.
Now, how to bring all of this up? Helping your partner feel comfortable with your sexual needs, desires, and tendencies is largely about feeling comfortable about them yourself and presenting it to our partners as such. To bring it up to a partner — whether you’re hesitant about a reaction to your masturbatory fun, your age of starting it, or both — state why you like it and what you’d like to keep exploring. Do this in a straightforward way as part of a two-way conversation about each of your sexual desires.
It’s possible that you and a partner will have a values clash: some people consider watching porn or masturbation “cheating” and others don’t. Still, this is a worthwhile conversation to have even if it might not be able to be resolved: neither person is wrong in this debate and you might have to agree to disagree.
But no matter differences of Oh-pinion, you’re entitled to your own sexuality. So, anyone that’s just a plain jerk about you jerking off can go screw themselves … oh wait, they’re not into that.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive sex writer and educator living in the Pioneer Valley. She has a website bursting with sexual advice, resources, and workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.