How your masturbation habits are impacting your sex life

  • As many as 40% of women experience difficulty reaching orgasm during heterosexual partnered sex. A 2019 study explores the potential links between female masturbation habits and partnered sex satisfaction.
  • The frequency in which women masturbated did not correlate to their orgasm experiences with their partner. However, researchers did note that the greater the overlap between masturbation activities and partnered sex, the more women were to overcome orgasm difficulties.
  • In general, women who were more satisfied with their relationship had lower orgasmic difficulty.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine explored the link between female masturbation habits and their effect on partnered sex. The researchers on this project suggest the relationship between masturbation and partnered sex is understudied, and went into this experiment hoping to clarify if masturbation improves or decreases the sexual satisfaction of partnered sex.

"Many women, perhaps as high as 30-40%, experience some-to-great difficulty reaching orgasm during heterosexual partnered sex, particularly if the primary form of stimulation occurs through penile-vaginal intercourse," said study author David L. Rowland, a psychology professor at Valparaiso University. "The issue is relevant because sometimes masturbation by women is 'prescribed' as a way of improving orgasmic probability during partnered sex. But masturbation has also been hypothesized to interfere with orgasmic response during partnered sex."

woman smiling in bed

Over 2,000 women were polled to determine how masturbation impacting their partnered sex life.

Credit: Drobot Dean on Adobe Stock

Over 2,000 women living within the United States and Hungary completed an online survey about activities and reasons for orgasmic difficulty during masturbation, as well as activities and reasons for orgasmic difficulties during partnered sex.

The average number of times these women masturbated was once every two weeks, and the average number of times per week they reported having sex with their partner was twice. The majority of women reported using clitoral stimulation during masturbation while significantly fewer women (about half) reported using clitoral stimulation during partnered sex.

Nearly all women who reported using clitoral stimulation during masturbation also included it during partnered sex.

Favorite positions translated from partnered sex to masturbation for the majority of women.

53 percent of women who used a particular body position (and 48 percent who engaged in anal stimulation during masturbation) also regularly used the respective activities during partnered sex. Additionally, 38 percent of women who engaged in sexual fantasy (and 36 percent of women who used sex toys such as vibrators) during masturbation included such activities when having sex with their partner.

Masturbation frequency was not related to orgasm experiences with partners.

The frequency in which women masturbated did not correlate to their orgasm experiences with their partner. However, researchers did note that the greater the overlap between masturbation activities and partnered sex, the more likely women were to overcome orgasm difficulties. Additionally, women with lower alignment between their masturbatory activities and partnered sex activities were more likely to report preferring masturbation to sex with their partner.

"In and of itself, women who masturbate experience no particular advantage or disadvantage insofar as reaching orgasm during partnered sex. However, women who show greater similarity between the behaviors/techniques they use for stimulation during masturbation and the type of stimulation that occurs during partnered sex report lower orgasmic difficulty than women who report disparate stimulation techniques during these types of activities," Rowland told PsyPost.

Does relationship satisfaction lead to better sex?

Another interesting takeaway from this particular study is that relationship satisfaction is a key variable in understanding just how satisfied women were in both their partnered and solo sex activities. In general, women who are more satisfied with their relationship with their partner had lower orgasmic difficulty.

"This relationship is likely bi-directional," Rowland explained. "Women who have greater sexual satisfaction during partnered sex enjoy the intimacy with their partner, thus enhancing their relationship. At the same time, women who have a better relationship with their partner are likely better at communicating their sexual needs to them, thus increasing their potential for arousal and orgasm."

How to communicate with your partner about masturbation and sexual desires

couple under sheets in bed

How do you talk to your partner about your sexual needs and desires?

Credit: Sasin Tipchai on Pixabay

Talking to your partner about sex is key to having better sex. Kate McCombs, a sex and relationships educator, spoke with HealthLine about this very topic: "When you avoid those vital conversations, you might avoid some awkwardness, but you're also settling for suboptimal sex."

These conversations don't just center around desire and pleasure.

Talking about sex, according to Healthline, should include things such as sexual health, how frequently you'd like to be having sex, the things you would like to explore with your partner, and how to deal with times when you and your partner want and need different things during sex.

Reading erotica (or talking about an erotic story you've read) can help.

According to the World Literacy Foundation, reading has been found to decrease blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and reduce stress. In fact, as little as six minutes of reading can slow your heart rate and improve your overall health. Reading erotica can not only help get you in the mood, but research suggests it can also help you discover more about your sexuality and communicate your needs with your partner.

Start with simple questions to get to know your partner more intimately.

Megwyn White, Director of Education for Satisfyer (a leading sexual wellness brand based in Germany), explained in this previous article how to ask your partner non-confrontational and fun questions that can help bring you closer together and provide a good base for communicating about sexual desires.

This can include questions such as:

  • "Are there things I'm not doing [during sex] that you wish I would?"
  • "What is your favorite sexy memory of us?"
  • "Is there any moment of our sex life in the past that you'd like to recreate?"
Asking your partner these kinds of questions is a good starting point for communication about sex, consent, and desires.


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