“The only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly.” -Sigmund Freud

It’s been over 20 years since May was named National Masturbation Month by a group of hip sex stores in response to the firing of then Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders for suggesting that masturbation would be a healthy addition to educational curriculum. It was a reasonable suggestion given the cloak of shame and secrecy that masturbation has long carried, being derided and not considered “real sex”.  And yet, solo sex is, without question, the most common of all sexual acts on the planet and arguably one of the safest. Masturbation has long been referred to as the cornerstone of partnered sexual capacity. Yet oddly, even among many sexual partners, the act of masturbation is one that is kept hidden.

Some of the reasons we don’t talk about masturbating with our partner undoubtedly comes from the remains of the shame and guilt most of us grew up with about masturbating. For some, the privacy of masturbatory pleasure feels just too vulnerable to share. I remember early in my marriage feeling afraid that masturbating was somehow selfish, and that doing it would use up my sexual desire. Too bad it took me years to realize that the reality was just the opposite… The more I grew my relationship to my own pleasure points, the better coupled sex became. In my earliest sexual relationships, I remember an insecure boyfriend or two who felt insulted that I would want to touch myself, as if they weren’t enough. I will never forget the day when a middle-aged man came into my travelling Good Clean Love booth, close to tears, to tell me that he couldn’t even say the word ‘masturbation’ aloud in his marriage.

Sadly, what we suppress takes on a life of its own, and nowhere more powerfully than in our sexual lives. The wife who refused to even hear the word ‘masturbate’ lost much more than that in the sexual exchanges with her silenced husband. When there is no room to become comfortable with our own sexual experience, we not only lose the ability to connect to our own orgasmic potential, but we also lose the building blocks to making love to someone else.

Becoming curious about your partner’s self-pleasuring is profoundly sexy. Not only does it provide a safety valve for differing sexual drives in relationships, but also offers front row seats to what turns your partner on. Even if you can’t do it in front of each other, eyes open, just having the courage to guide someone else’s hand across the familiar terrain of your own pleasure is a surprisingly erotic experience. It also functions as a trust building exercise that, given ample time and shared pleasure, will blossom into entirely new range of sexual exploration together.

By replacing shame about touching ourselves with an invitation to learn about what turns us on, our abilities to respond to the touch of others is also expanded. So, if sharing masturbation is new to you, begin with a list of questions. Learning about pleasure through words may feel awkward initially, so try and take the seriousness out of it and seek humor as an ally. Find out what you may have never known about your partner and yourself and share your discoveries.

Next edition we will dive deeper into the unexpected pleasures of mutual masturbation. Homework: have pleasure without the side dishes of guilt and shame.

Leave your anonymous comments below: Do you have instilled values surrounding the act of masturbation? Have they clashed with your partner’s? How so?