What Counts as Masturbation Anyway??

An invitation to reflect on what this touchy subject means to you

Research finds that different people hold different definitions of masturbation. The one that matters most is yours.

What Counts as Masturbation Anyway??

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An invitation to reflect on what this touchy subject means to you

What Counts as Masturbation Anyway??

I recently came across an article by The Kinsey Institute through the University of Indiana. The premise was simply, “what counts as masturbation?” It’s a great question that I find many in the KBH community are asking.

This was particularly intriguing to me because as I have surveyed people in my workshops, online, and in a professional setting, I have come across many different definitions for sex, intimacy, infidelity. pornography, etc. It would only make sense that people would have different definitions of masturbation as well. 

Different Strokes for Different Folks

In a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, they found definitions of masturbation varied widely. Among their 568 participants between the ages of 18-74 there were widely differing ideas of what masturbation is. I won’t bore you with all of the nerdy research information but if you’d like to look at this study you can go here.

In summary, what the research showed was that while there wasn’t agreement on what masturbation was, there was widespread agreement around what behaviors “counted.” And among the behaviors that “counted”, those behaviors that led to orgasm or occurred only when someone was alone had strong agreement.

The following acts, when performed alone for the purpose of pleasure, “counted”:

  • Touching/stroking your own genitals with your hand
  • Using a vibrator on your genitals
  • Using a shower jet on your genitals
  • Rubbing your genitals against a surface
  • Inserting a vibrator into your vagina or anus

What about me? What about you?

Interesting observations also emerged when people were asked about these acts if someone else was included in the moment.

  • 6 out of 10 survey participants considered these behaviors not as masturbation if performed with a partner.
  • 4 out of 10 survey participants said that touching a partner's genitals for their pleasure counted as masturbation regardless of the partner having an orgasm. 
  • 2 out of 10 participants said that having a sexual fantasy without touching genitals or experiencing orgasm counted as masturbation.

The findings also showed that the younger the survey participant was, the more likely they were to label sexual behaviors as masturbation. Women also labeled more acts as masturbation than men. 

Your own definition matters most

If you're here reading this then it's likely you've already got an opinion of your own or your working toward expanding your idea of what masturbation is. Is it repititve touching of genitals? Is it touching your genitals and orgasming? Does it make a difference if you are alone or with a person? How about fantasy or arousing your mind? Because our sexual health and sexual values are a very personal thing, I'd encourage you to take a moment and reflect on what masturbation means to you!

Whatever you find as your own answer, know that by courageously approaching and exploring these touchy topics, you're laying foundational pieces for the sexual well-being of yourself and those you care about.

There's More to Learn!