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I don't enjoy masturbation, but my partner is going out of town.

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Dee asks:

I've been sexually active for a while now (I'm 20, sexually active for almost four years now) and have no interest in masturbation. All my girlfriends rave about it. I do it sometimes, mostly when my boyfriend and I have phone sex. But honestly, it really doesn't do anything for me. Plus, when I do masturbate, I can never achieve the type of orgasm I do when my boyfriend touches me. It's never as intense. My boyfriend's leaving for college again soon, and I think I'm going to go crazy without him being here to pleasure me. Any suggestions as to toot my own horn?

Heather Corinna replies:

Since sex is more than just physical -- it's also psychological, emotional, intellectual, and when you add another person into the mix, social -- it's normal to experience partnered sex and masturbation differently. They're different things! And certainly, upping the emotional intensity of things tends to up the ante.

Some folks still experience an emotional intensity with masturbation, even though there isn't another person there. Some don't, or don't sometimes: it's important to remember that our experiences with any given sexual activity often vary at different times and phases in our lives.

But in many ways, it's all about what you bring to the table. One way plenty of people feel that emotional and intellectual intensity with masturbation, for instance, is via sexual fantasy while masturbating: if you haven't really explored taking yourself to a different place that way, you might want to consider trying more of that. For some, that can happen right in your head: others use books, magazines or visual imagery to drive that bus.

No matter what -- even when a partner is present-- relying solely on another person for sexual satisfaction isn't such a great idea.

Not only is that an awful lot to make someone else responsible for, it also can limit you in your own sexuality. You won't go crazy without a partner, really. Just sounds to me like, if you want to be able to engage in sex when your partner isn't present, you might need to invest some real quality time in exploring masturbation, and if you have it very firmly in your head that it just won't do, work on getting that idea out of your head: sex of any type is strongly influenced by what we think about it, and what we're thinking as it's going on. If you think of masturbation as useless, or as some sort of second-rate sex, you're likely to experience it that same way.

One barrier a lot of women, in particular, have with masturbation is the mindset that partnered sex is the only "real" sex, and/or that masturbating is something you only do when there's no one else available to have partnered sex with. But masturbation is just as real as partnered sex, and as a bonus, getting to know your own body and sexual responses through masturbation is not only beneficial for you alone, it often enhances people's experiences with partnered sex.

One thing I'd suggest is starting with a good book, odd as it sounds. Betty Dodson's "Sex For One," would be a great place to start. Then, if you want to explore masturbation, you'll want to just experiment with different kinds/areas of touch to figure out what works for you: sometimes people have the idea that there is one way to masturbate, but how people masturbate is very varied, depending on our own individual bodies and minds. You say the way your partner brings you to orgasm is the best thing, so you might want to examine what activities are making that happen, and start by replicating them yourself with your own hands or with a sex toy that comes as close as it gets. From there, you'll likely branch out to find things you do via masturbation which are pretty unique to masturbating and do get you there.

Also, you say that masturbation via phone sex is something that has worked out for you, so if you know that's great, by all means, you can schedule some phone dates for that, as well: your partner may enjoy that, too.

One last thing you may want to consider before your partner leaves in engaging in some mutual masturbation together a few times: not only do a lot of people find that exciting and enjoyable, it could leave you with some very nice memories to call upon in sexual fantasy if you're going it alone.

Suffice it to say, you don't have to masturbate: you don't have to have sex with a partner, either.

There's nothing unhealthy about not having sex or not masturbating. So, when your partner is out of town, if you don't want to masturbate or it just leaves you flat, you can also use that extra time to do other things in your life entirely, like spending that extra time with friends or family, or on personal projects or life goals.

written 09 Jul 2007 . updated 17 Jan 2014

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