• Sex

Self-Love Is Not Cheating

Memo to the ladies: Your boyfriend jerking off to Perfect 10 or the occasional American Apparel ad is not cheating. Masturbating to a hot message that he got from a new 17-year-old “friend” he met on Facebook is. See the difference there? We hear a lot of complaints, especially from women, about concerns regarding their partners’ insistent masturbation. “Would you consider this cheating?” some ask. While no question is a stupid question, such queries do give me pause. Catholic guilt aside, when did self-love become tantamount to infidelity? Given the long history behind criticizing masturbators — you know, hairy palms, a hell-bound soul, blindness, etc. — haven’t we pathologized the practice enough? Look at the facts: Surveys show that anywhere from 70 to 95 percent of adult men and women get it on alone, and, yes, that includes people involved in monogamous relationships. According to Kinsey research, 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women in relationships masturbate. A survey of Playboy readers found 72 percent of married men masturbate, and a similar Redbook survey found 68 percent of married women do it, too.

While various old-fashioned social constructs might discourage women from being forthcoming about their “private” sexual habits, the vast majority of men have never been ashamed to brag about marathon masturbation sessions. As sex educator and counselor Sue Johanson said famously, “Ninety-nine percent of men of all ages masturbate regularly and the other one percent are liars.” So are we all a bunch of perverts? It depends on your attitudes regarding sexuality. The bottom line, most sexperts claim, is a successful relationship demands a certain amount of space. Sometimes you need a (sexual) moment to yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The average Frisky reader is most assuredly aware of how healthy and normal the practice of masturbation is, but when it comes to our partners’ self-love, the lines can get murky. For example, how much is too much? I had a boyfriend who endlessly trolled online porn sites. And if it didn’t drive me to great consternation, eventually the implications of this behavior did start to irk me, insidiously creeping into my psyche. Did our sex life leave something to be desired? Am I blowing him often enough? Should I invest in some stripper shoes and a hot pink Frederick’s of Hollywood number?

The general rule of thumb for evaluating whether you have a right to bitch and moan about it is how it’s affecting your sex life. If you get the vague sense that he would rather indulge himself privately than get consensual with you — which may have more to do with your own insecurities than reality — that’s one thing. But if you haven’t had sex in weeks, and he’s consistently taking an extra 10 minutes in the shower, you may be feeling pissed off or hurt. The former warrants a “talk,” but the latter may be a side effect of more serious problems within the relationship. However, if that’s not the case, I can’t stress this enough: Let the dude masturbate. And if you’re not taking care of yourself on your own now and then — well, you should be. Now go forth, and diddle your skittle.

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