Is This Normal? I Prefer Masturbation Over Having Sex
"I thought sex was supposed to be this amazing thing...but I definitely prefer to get off on my own."
You’ve got embarrassing, tricky, and otherwise unusual life questions. We’ve got answers. Welcome to Is This Normal?, a no-nonsense, no-judgment advice column from HelloGiggles, in which we tap experts to find out exactly how typical (or not) your situation is.
Dear Is This Normal,
I’m 25, single, and living in a large city. Hookup culture is a huge part of where I live (less so because of the pandemic, but still), and I’m not really into it. I like having sex, but in my experience, none of the guys that I’ve hooked up with have made me feel as good as I can make myself feel by masturbating.
I’m kind of bummed about this because I thought sex was supposed to be this amazing thing, and I definitely prefer to get off on my own. I’m wondering if there is something wrong with me. In the past, I’ve liked having sex with my boyfriends, but still, I rarely (if ever) orgasm. I really want to like sex, but I’m not sure how to find a partner who can change this.
Dear Playing Solo,
There are so many myths out there associated with sex. One of them is that sex is supposed to be amazing all the time. Another is that we’re supposed to intuitively know how to make it amazing all the time. And a third is that our partners are supposed to intuitively know how to make it amazing all the time. I don’t think any of these things are true.
While Samantha Jones’s escapades in Sex and the City may have made us believe that sex is supposed to be nothing short of adventurous satisfaction, that isn’t always the case. Sex can be confusing and messy and difficult, and hookup culture is definitely exhausting, especially when we’re young.
Not that young people are universally bad at having sex. But the more I grow and come into my sexuality, I’m realizing just how much about sex comes from experience. Many women or vulva owners are ashamed of masturbation, or they don’t know how to do it. I remember hearing the boys I went to school with jokingly talking about jerking off, but my friends and I would never talk about masturbating. So you’re already ahead of the game for being comfortable and brave enough to write in and talk about masturbation.
Another thing I want to say is that, yes, you are normal! It’s fine that you don’t want to participate in hookup culture right now. Masturbation is amazing, and it’s not surprising that you’re the best one at pleasing your body. After all, you’re the one with the most experience exploring it.
“It’s extremely normal to prefer masturbation to sex,” says Javay Frye, sexologist and sex educator. “Especially since self-pleasure doesn’t require explaining what you like to enjoy to someone else. It also doesn’t require the added piece of providing someone else with pleasure, which can also create anxiety.”
In other words, when you subtract a partner from the sexual equation, you get to be and feel yourself.
You can focus on what you like and not worry about what you look like or if you’re actually going to orgasm. “Performative receiving,” a term often used in the sexual education sectors, is defined by the act of performing your pleasure during sex—for example, acting your moans or faking orgasms. When you’re masturbating, you don’t have to worry about any of that.
Still, it’s frustrating when sex doesn’t feel the way we want it to. For some people, especially those who don’t have vulvas or vaginas, pleasuring one can feel like a bit of a mystery. Maybe the people you’ve hooked up with haven’t yet learned how to please your body. Maybe they think they’re doing a good job because of what they learned in porn or are using a past partner as an example.
That said, amazing sex is definitely possible—it’s just not as automatic as we may have grown up to think. Having good sex takes communicating your needs and desires to your partner or showing them what you like. Don’t be afraid to guide a future partner in the right direction. If they’re turned off by you expressing your needs, then they’re probably not the right person for you.
“You can also start by having your partner do to you what you do when you masturbate,” says Frye. “Whether that’s toys or them stimulating you with their fingers or hand.”
Another idea is to masturbate in the same room as your partner, aka mutual masturbation. While mutual masturbation may seem sort of lame, I assure you that it is not. Whether you’re laying side by side or looking at each other from across the bed, playing with yourself in front of a partner can feel incredibly erotic. Your partner will start to learn what you like—and hopefully repeat.
When you’re actually in the act of sex, don’t be afraid to provide gentle instruction or feedback to your partner. Be empathetic of their feelings, as sex is an extremely vulnerable act and you don’t want to blame or criticize. Rather, let them know what feels good, or redirect them if something they’re doing isn’t working for you. Positive reinforcement can go a long way.
If you simply aren’t in the mood or are uninterested in having sex with another person right now, that’s also totally fine. It’s awesome that you’re enjoying your independence and alone time. Keep doing you, and the rest will fall into place.