Lazarus Long, a character of sci-fi maestro Robert A. Heinlein, once remarked that masturbation is great, except for one problem—it’s lonely. Mr. Long, despite his prodigious age, had obviously never experienced the pleasures of masturbating together with a partner, or he wouldn’t have said that. Derided as the most isolating form of sex, sharing masturbation is a pleasure garden where we can pull back the veils of shame and guilt and reveal ourselves as we truly are.
Masturbation as a form of communication? Exactly.
In my long quest to discover why masturbation is still taboo, I’ve observed that this mostly involves its fantasy content. No matter what bonds another seeks to impose on you, no matter what social contract you have volunteered or fallen for, your mind is free to exceed your boundaries. No matter how inappropriate it is to think about your boss, your brother or your student, eventually you get your moment alone. And in that moment, you are free, propelled by the psychological and emotional momentum of imminent orgasm.
The most hateful 18th century tracts warning about “self-pollution” declared that it corrupted the mind as well as the body. The most supposedly monogamous people will tell you that fantasy about anyone or anything during masturbation is fair game. If you consider that in masturbation, the most important aspect of who we are—your mind—is free, it becomes obvious why just every anti-sex campaign includes, begins with or is focused on the supposed evils of masturbation.
I propose we take the clue, and let masturbation guide us to freedom from secrecy, pretense and denial. Personally, I view masturbation as an essential ingredient of any erotic relationship. It’s a bellwether of how comfortable we are with ourselves, and how open we feel being with a potential partner. It’s a fine way to test the waters of eroticism with a new person, to peer into their experience and finally to assess their hang-ups (these things, we need to do more of before getting fully involved).
Sharing masturbation (self-given sex, not exchanging hand-jobs) is an excellent substitute for a one-night stand, with no risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. If we give up something by not fucking or going down on one another, we make up quite a bit of that with the elimination of these genuine physical risks. Not bad, given how many people describe sharing masturbation as the hottest sex they’ve ever had. What we may lose in certain kinds of physical pleasure we more than compensate for in expanded emotional vulnerability.
And then there is experimenting with a sense of individuality that is so often lost in partnersex and the relationships where it happens.
For most people, this is going to be the place they stop short. Sharing masturbation is more intimate than sex. The experience reveals more about us. We have little choice but to be authentic, honest and (because this experience involves the negotiation of boundaries) sober enough to talk about what we want. This is perhaps the most interesting thing about it: with partnersex, you can just fuck and not say a word. Some would say that’s the fun. But partnersex almost always includes dishonesty. The necessary conversations almost never happen.
Masturbating together opens up a realm of intimacy with many possibilities for pleasure, growth and emotional healing, especially within the context of one-to-one relationships. Instead of diving into another person and losing yourself in them, you pull back, exist as an individual, and can potentially find yourself in the presence of another.
Here’s a game that anyone can play, but it’s designed for one-on-one couples. First, you agree to amnesty. That is, you agree verbally and emotionally not to use anything the other person says against them.
Then, one partner masturbates out loud, stating their fantasies, including names and specifics, while the other listens and encourages their partner’s truth. The idea is to connect with your partner’s holistic sexuality, not just the little part of it that you usually see; and to do the same for them: to reveal your entire erotic identity, not merely the slice you reserve for them.
This is likely to get you pretty hot, and the hotter you get, the more truthful you can be . . . the more you can say that might have embarrassed you otherwise . . . the more you can go toward shame and embarrassment and burn it like erotic fuel. Show your partner the porn or erotica you get off to. Get out your sex toys. Reveal the secret silk scarf of your old girlfriend’s panties. Go for it.
What do you do with the truths that come out? One radical thing you can do is experiment with is enjoying your partner knowing exactly what they feel, what they want and who they are. If both partners are honest, this will work in both directions, and you’ll get to find out how erotic the truth really is.