Solo sex: Stereotypes and unrealistic expectations problematise masturbation

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
  • A woman is crying. Not because she’s sad, but because she’s angry. She found out that her boyfriend of four years is masturbating - sometimes to porn.
  • They finally moved in together after a long-distance set-up and now this. Is it compulsive, this masturbation and porn watching, I ask? 
  • No, she says. But the problem is just that he does it. She feels he’s cheating on her and it’s disgusting. Now he hides it from her. Isn’t she good enough, she asks, what is wrong with the relationship?


Problems, cheating, disgust, hiding, shame. A relationship issue. 

All because an average guy wants to do something about his erection. 

As much as ‘solo love as a singleton’ gets praised these days, when it comes to relationships, masturbation is still a dirty word. 

And this isn’t gendered. Many women suffer the stink eye from their partners if they take themselves in hand – by themselves, without a penis and, heaven forbid, with a toy.

When lovers ‘find out’ that their partners ‘still’ masturbate ‘even though’ they’re in a committed relationship, egos need to be stroked, explanations need to be made, hurts need to be soothed, and unrealistic promises are sometimes made.

READ MORE | 'I accidentally said my ex's name during sex and my partner is no longer speaking to me'

If only more people would see this as a good thing, not only for individual satisfaction but for the health of the relationship.

And for what? Of all the complexities relationships demand us to face, the lush enjoyment of rubbing one out in your own sweet damn time isn’t one of them – and shouldn’t be made into one of them.

So why all the drama?

I reckon it’s because masturbation in relationships is the unholy melting pot of stereotypes and misguided beliefs about body, relationships and sex. 

In the story of the good normal, if penetrative sex is the act that binds us in holy coupledom and connects us in togetherness foreverness, then solo masturbation in this context is the act against ‘us-ness’, a rebellion against the enmeshment so many people crave.

It challenges ideas of ownership and claim to each other’s sexual self. 

It confirms that there are sometimes needs and sensations that can’t – and don’t have to be – satisfied by another person, even if that person is your 'One True Love' yadda yadda.

READ MORE | Intimacy coach on how to choose a vibrator: 'Keep in mind what kind of sensations you like'

If only more people would see this as a good thing, not only for individual satisfaction but for the health of the relationship.  

You see, for myself at least, I’m not always going to be ‘up for it’ when my partner is and being used as a masturbatory toy isn’t a vibe for me. 

But what is also not my vibe, is denying my partner their right to pleasure and orgasm.

One solution? ‘Masturbate, babe, I’m going to sleep/make breakfast/whatever.’ 

READ MORE | When healthy relationships become sexless - Experts share tips on how to rekindle the fire

Of course, there are other ways of managing the conversation, there may be more to discuss – porn use and general sexual and relationship satisfaction among them. But whatever the permutations of your particular situation, a conversation is the absolute bottom-line requirement. 

And no conversation can happen when unrealistic relationship expectations problematise a simple matter of masturbation with words like ‘cheating’ and ‘disgust’.

If dipping into the Jill till or spanking the monkey is causing emotional upset in your life, it’s time to shine a light on the real problem undermining your relationship: stereotypes, misguided beliefs, unrealistic expectations. 

Now those are things to angry cry about. 

Do you have a healthy sex life? Tell us here.

Follow Dorothy Black on her blog and on Twitter.

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