mutual masturbation
Because masturbating alone can get lonely.
Rinee Shah for InsideHook
By Kayla Kibbe / July 17, 2020 9:02 am

We tend to think of masturbation as a solo act, perhaps the most private thing a person can do, and the last one you’d want someone to walk in on. Most of the time, this is the best thing about masturbating — all the fun of sex without actually having to interact with another person.

But contrary to popular belief, masturbation is not, inherently, something that has to be done alone. Mutual masturbation, also known as partnered masturbation, is the act of masturbating in the presence of a partner, and it was basically a socially distanced sex act before anyone was talking about socially distanced anything.

Of course, as with any sex act, there are many different variations of mutual masturbation, some of which may involve making physical contact with your partner. (Mutual manual stimulation — i.e., giving each other handjobs — is also often considered a form of mutual masturbation.) But as people grow increasingly weary of long-distance, virtual sex and begin to move back into the bedroom with their partners, mutual masturbation is one way couples can enjoy pandemic sex together in the same room while keeping their distance.

“Mutual masturbation is perfect for those looking to avoid close contact right now. It can be done in real life, together but apart,” says Amy Weissfeld, certified sex coach and somatic sex educator.

That said, while social-distancing guidelines may have created the perfect environment to start exploring this oft-underrated sex act, mutual masturbation has always been hot.

“I think mutual masturbation is one of the most underappreciated and underutilized partnered sex acts out there,” says Zhana Vrangalova, PhD., professor of human sexuality at New York University and a sexpert for adult toy company LELO. “There is something incredibly sexy about watching your partner masturbate, and being watched by them. We all have some voyeuristic and exhibitionistic tendencies in us, and this is the safest, most consensual way to practice them.”

So whether you’re seeking a coronavirus-safe(r) alternative to intercourse or you’re just looking to try something new after months of quarantine sex with your partner, I encourage you to try masturbating in front of them. Really, just hear me out.

It’s actually super hot


Masturbation tends to get a bad rap as a sad, lonely alternative to partnered sex. But masturbating can actually be a very hot sex act in its own right — especially when you have an audience.

For one thing, we love what we can’t have, and masturbating with a partner you can’t touch can help replicate that desire.

“There’s something very arousing about not being allowed to reach over and touch your partner,” says Vrangalova. “Having the ‘forbidden fruit’ so close, so within reach, can be a very fun game of tease and denial.”

Sex counselor and psychotherapist Ian Kerner, PhD., says that many of his clients recall mutual masturbation as “a very erotically memorable experience,” adding that the act “can often get coded in the brain as extremely hot sex.”

This is perhaps due to the fact that masturbating with a partner has a tendency to trend into pretty kinky territory. “It plays on erotic themes of voyeurism and exhibitionism, which are extremely popular categories of fantasy,” says Kerner. “So that idea of submitting to someone’s gaze can be a real turn-on, or the idea of somebody submitting to our gaze can be really powerful.”

Many couples intentionally lean into these themes of submission and domination, adds Kerner. Mutual masturbation can be incorporated into BDSM play, with one partner instructing the other to masturbate and/or stop, withholding the release of orgasm.

As a sex act, mutual masturbation “lends itself to a variety of kinky play options,” says Vrangalova, who recommends incorporating toys and other erotic accessories like nipple clamps or floggers, as well as experimenting with kinkier positions and locations, such as taking turns tying each other up while the other puts on a show, or even taking your activities outside, provided you have sufficient privacy.

But it can also be extremely intimate


If this is all starting to seem a little kinky for your tastes, this surprisingly versatile sex act also has the makings of a very intense, very intimate encounter between loving partners.

“It’s actually a pretty intimate act,” says Vrangalova. “A lot of people can feel a bit self-conscious about masturbating in general, or how they masturbate in particular, and it’s something usually no one gets to see. So when you decide to do it with someone, it can really contribute to a sense of bonding and trust.”

Kerner says he often encourages couples he works with to try mutual masturbation as an exercise, explaining that being open about something as private as masturbation can help partners connect on many levels. “It takes something that may have been undiscussed, ignored, sort of relegated to shame, and opens it up,” says Kerner. “It helps you to achieve a kind of emotional safety, a kind of a relationship deepening just from talking about a taboo topic.”

To increase intimacy with your partner, Weissfeld recommends positions with lots of “unobstructed views and eye gazing,” whether standing, sitting or lying down face-to-face.

“Another super hot position is for one person to stand while the other is lying down. You could stand over the person’s chest, providing an unobstructed view, or even sit or squat down a little over the other person,” Weissfeld suggests. “There’s something very intimate about looking into your lover’s eyes while touching yourself.”

That said, if you’re not super into the idea of staring lovingly into your partner’s eyes while you go to town on yourself, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to a side-by-side position.

“For couples who are a little shy, or just a little private about this, beginning in a side-by-side manner makes more sense,” says Kerner, who also suggests sliding under the covers for a little more privacy. “More importantly,” he adds, “side-by-side also offers the opportunity to take in some kind of erotic media and masturbate to it together,” which can also help enhance the experience and/or alleviate any awkwardness.

It’s easy


Sex is hard. Masturbating is easy. Masturbating with your partner can help take some of the pressure off both of you while still allowing you to connect sexually.

“Sex can sometimes be complicated,” says Kerner. “We’re worried: ‘Is my partner enjoying it? Am I going to come too soon? Am I going to come too late?’” This kind of performance anxiety that often accompanies partnered sex may be less prominent during masturbation, says Kerner, which can make mutual masturbation the perfect solution for people looking to enjoy sex with a partner without all the pressures of intercourse.

“Mutual masturbation allows you to have a partnered experience, allows you to have that feeling of being connected, but also be in more control of your own pleasure and the kind of touch that you like to receive,” he adds.

Moreover, no one knows how you want to be touched quite like you do, and the same goes for your partner. “Mutual pleasure is guaranteed, since you both know exactly what you like and how to get yourselves off,” says Vranglova.

And while society has a troubling (read: homophobic, transphobic and ableist) tendency to discount sex that doesnt involve penetration, mutual masturbation is one of many forms of (perfectly valid) non-penetrative sex that can be enoyed by people who can’t or prefer not to include penetration in their sexual experience. “If you’re unable to have penetrative sex, due to COVID-19, an STI, pain, PE problems, etc., mutual masturbation can be very satisfying,” says Weissfeld.

You might learn a thing or two


The best way to learn what your partner likes is to watch them touch themselves, and vice versa. While the New York City Health Department has burned the phrase “you are your safest sex partner” into our brains, it’s important to remember that we are also our own best sex partners, which makes us the best teachers for our competitors.

Masturbating together with a partner “provides an excellent teaching opportunity,” says Vrangalova. “You get to observe and learn what the other person likes, how they like to be touched, with which speed, angle, etc. Trying to explain or describe in words what you like can only go so far sometimes; seeing it in action can really make it sink in.”

And no matter how well you know your partner, you may still find yourself surprised by what you learn. “I often hear men say, ‘Wow, her fingers were really moving. That was a blur. I didn’t realize that there can be that much speed involved or that much intensity,’” says Kerner. “And I’ll sometimes hear women say, ‘Wow, the way he grabbed his penis, there was a lot of pressure happening there, or a lot of friction.’”

Mutual masturbation is also a great opportunity to start bringing toys into the bedroom, which, in case you haven’t heard, you should definitely be doing.

“Some folks, especially men in male-female couples, feel a bit uncomfortable or threatened by the idea of introducing sex toys into their play,” says Vrangalova. “A mutual masturbation session where you bring out your favorite toy can break the ice, and also show your partner how you like to use the toy.”

Like sex itself, mutual masturbation contains multitudes. “It can be extremely novel, extremely hot, extremely kinky, extremely connecting, extremely present,” says Kerner. “It can be a lot of different things, so I wouldn’t look at it in any way like a poor cousin to intercourse.”

But whatever direction you choose to take it, be sure to remember the golden rule of all sexual encounters: “Don’t forget the lube!” says Weissfeld. “The more lube, the better.”