By Taylor Neal
The Pleasure Gap
It is quite common to feel a large gap between the pleasure we experience during sex with ourselves and the pleasure we experience during sex with others.
If we have developed a masturbation practice with ourselves at any point in our lives, no matter what that looks like, it is likely that we have gotten to know our own pleasure in an intimate way. Simply put, if you have spent time connecting to, and developing, your sexual relationship with yourself, it is likely that you know how to make yourself cum.
I’ve been masturbating since I was at least 12, and it is safe to say that I can give myself an orgasm quickly, using one of a handful of techniques that I know my body responds to. Whether I am looking to indulge in a lengthy, sensual masturbation experience, or just get myself off to get out the door, I can pretty much always give myself some sort of pleasure based on my having developed a consistent masturbation practice over many years.
No matter how connective and in-tune I may feel with my own sexual body however, naturally there always remains a gap between the way I can pleasure myself, and the way my partner(s) are able to give me pleasure. Of course there is. They are not in my body, they cannot feel what I feel. They can read my body language and listen to my verbal cues and do their best to come into harmony with my pleasure, but there will always be a divide between our sensations, where my skin begins and theirs ends.
This sometimes left me feeling as though my sexual relationship with myself had to always be kept separate from my sexual relationship with my partner(s), which continued to foster this divide between masturbation and partnered sex.
While there is always large importance to place on maintaining a solo sex practice regardless of whether you have a partner, or partners, or not, there is no reason why masturbation always has to feel like something we do behind closed doors, where no one can see us, only with ourselves, to be hidden from the world.
One of the most intentional ways I have found to bridge the gap between my partnered sex life and my solo sex life, has been to engage in mutual masturbation with my partner(s) as a way of welcoming them into my masturbation practice.
What Does Mutual Masturbation Mean?
Mutual Masturbation refers to the practice of masturbating in the presence of your partner(s) while they engage in their own masturbation practice simultaneously, in the same space. There are many reasons why mutual masturbation can be beneficial both for strengthening solo masturbation, as well as strengthening partnered sexual relationships and pleasure.
- It is a way of welcoming one another into your personal masturbation space, as a way of showing your partner(s) how you pleasure yourself, and witnessing how they access pleasure as well.
- It is a way of engaging in solo sex while remaining connected in a partnered way.
- It is a tool for engaging in partnered sex while also remaining in the safety of your own hands and control. (This one is particularly useful in healing from sexual trauma within a relationship)
- It can be part of foreplay. (Watching a partner masturbate is a large turn-on for many folks)
- It can help regulate differing libidos in relationships.
But I will not lie to you and say that welcoming someone, no matter how close you may feel to them, into your masturbation space is easy. It is in fact extremely vulnerable, and for that reason, extremely scary.
The first thought that crosses many people’s minds when considering mutual masturbation, is whether their partner will think of them differently, or judge them, once they’ve seen their masturbation routine. If you’ve never shown, or expressed, certain parts of your sexuality to your partner(s), it can feel terrifying to open up your solo sex practice to them because they don’t yet know this part of you. What if they don’t like it?
Like with any other aspect of our personalities however, the further you explore intimacy, the more of yourself will be revealed if you are moving toward deeper connection. For this reason, I’d only encourage mutual masturbation with partner(s) that feel safe for you, whatever that looks like and feels like in your body.
If you are endeavoring toward a deeper connection with someone, and feel safe exploring vulnerability with them, then just like if you introduce them to a new interest of yours, or any others of your quirks (we are all weird in some way, let’s just be honest), inviting them into your masturbation space is only allowing them to get to know you better. Your sexual self is part of you, and all parts of you are equally worthy of love.
Where To Start with Mutual Masturbation?
Some ways you can begin to explore mutual masturbation are:
- Watch porn together, and allow yourself to react however you would if you were alone
- Introduce your partner(s) to your sex toys (if you have any) and explain how you use them on yourself, and what you like about them
- Start by letting your partner watch you touch other parts of your body (such as your arms, your legs, your tummy, your breasts), until you feel comfortable moving in a more sexual direction
- Start by masturbating together in the dark, or dim lighting, so it feels less direct having them watch you
- Masturbate back to back, while verbally communicating what you are doing, until you feel comfortable turning around
- Start by just using your hands, and introduce toys (if you usually use them) when it feels comfortable
All of these can be entry points to developing a mutual masturbation practice that feels more natural as you come back to it more often.
We know Mutual Masturbation can feel scary
At first, it may feel quite invasive to have someone else present for your masturbation practice, and you may find it challenging to fully let go and get into your groove. Like with anything growth related, try to welcome the discomfort. Discomfort is not always an enemy, and in many cases choosing to sit with discomfort will only expand your comfort zone. The discomfort may dissolve into comfort over time, and you may surprise yourself with where you are able to go in the presence of your partner(s), while in the safety of your own hands.
At the same time however, I will say that keeping certain things just between you and yourself can be equally rewarding. Just like I practice different types of sex and different dynamics with all of my different partners, I also like to keep certain parts of my sexuality just between me and me. I am my primary partner after all, and my sexual relationship with myself is always my most important.
Where there had always been brick walls between my partnered sex life and my solo sex life; who I am/what roles I occupy in both spaces, how my gender expression looks, where I find most joy, what dynamics I lean toward, what types of sex I want - by welcoming my partner(s) into my masturbation space I was able to slowly let those walls come down, to reveal the more fluid, ever fluctuating sexual self that no longer feels like it has to stay within certain boxes depending whether someone else is present or not.
Taylor Neal (They/She) is a Canadian multidisciplinary artist, writer, yoga and dance instructor and frontline sexual assault response worker, who uses creation and multimedia to gain deeper understandings of authentic human experience. Practically, Taylor combines their background in dance and performance, their passion for the written word, and their curiosity within contemporary visual art and photography, with their studies in Communications, Art History, Feminist Theory and Design for Theatre at Concordia University, and Fashion Design at RMIT University. Their cumulative artistic, somatic, and literary practice comes together as a holistic exploration of identity, movement, sexuality, and how the embodied subject navigates space and the natural world.
Get to know her work here