Wanking in a relationship

Picture courtesy of Stuart F Taylor

Wanking while you’re in a relationship: do you do it? Probably. Do you talk about it? Maybe not. There’s an unusual squeamishness about discussing masturbation when you’re going out with someone, most likely based on a hefty dollop of sex shame combined with a misconception about the purpose of wanking itself. Although there are lots of reasons to masturbate, some people still see it as an outlet for sexual frustration. The theory goes that wanking is a substitute for a partner, so if you have a partner there’s no longer any ‘need’ to do it. These people often – though not always – make their partner feel guilty for wanking. In turn, people like me make them feel guilty for doing that, and the cycle of guilt continues until we all have a really big fight.

I wank, on average, twice a day. I actually have a pretty set routine, because I work from home. One quick wank before my mid-morning coffee, then a bit more work, lunch, and another wank before the afternoon caffeine hit. I wouldn’t recommend combining the two – hot coffee will play hell with your genitals.

I’m not sure how often my other half masturbates, but I’d hazard a guess that he’s roughly the same as me, although he has a proper job in an office, so he has to cram in more nighttime wanks, or weekend wanks, in order to match my 2-a-day average.

Does it mean that either (or both) of us are sexually frustrated, or not getting all our needs met? Fuck no. In fact, wanking is the perfect way to make sure we can get our needs met, without always having to rely on someone else to be in the right mood (and the right place) all the time.

Wanking means wanking

Without wanting to sound like Theresa May trying to tell us that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, I’m afraid that tautology might be genuinely useful when it comes to wanking. There are lots of different reasons to masturbate that don’t require some waffling pop-psychology or underlying relationship crisis: boredom, stress relief, curiosity, a way to get to sleep when it’s 2am and all you can think about is what you have to do tomorrow. So if your partner is wanking – whether they tell you about it or not – there’s likely to be a variety of reasons, depending on their mood at the time.

Regardless of reasons, everyone has the right to engage in the odd pleasant, private wank.

But if you don’t know this yet, that doesn’t make you a bad person.

This post was prompted by a couple of things: firstly someone on Twitter asked me to cover it, and very occasionally I do actually take requests. Secondly, someone linked to one of my old blog posts from this Reddit thread, in which a woman walked in on her partner having a wank and nearly melted with lust on the spot. Her intense arousal was exactly what I would have felt too – I’ve been known to have to run off to my bedroom for a lie-down of my own on the few occasions I’ve caught my other half knocking one out.

But the word ‘caught’ here is deeply misleading. ‘Caught’ implies guilt, which implies there’s been wrongdoing. Like me walking in on my partner is the equivalent of a SWAT team storming a drug den. As if I’m going to haul him before a judge, force him to make excuses for having a surreptitious shuffle, and maybe lightly mock him with puns about being caught ‘red-handed.’ But it isn’t like that, and it shouldn’t be. No matter how proud I was of that ‘red-handed’ line, I actually have to be pretty damn careful when I’m talking to my partner about wanking. Not because he should feel guilty, but because he shouldn’t.

Gendered masturbation stigma

My dude has grown up in the same society I have. A society which treats female sexuality as something to be either patronised or denied, and male sexuality as something necessary yet disgusting.

My partner knows I don’t think like this, of course, but it takes time to get rid of this baggage. Nowadays he’s more confident about having a wank in front of me – porn, lube, noise-cancelling headphones and all. And I’m a horny sex blogger, so I can combat some of the stigma he used to feel about wanking by sitting in quiet yet enthusiastic awe in the corner of the room while I watch him beat one out. Yet many people are still nervous about being open with their partner about wanking.

Not just men – there are women who struggle with masturbation in relationships too, whether it’s hiding the fact that they wank, because they’ve been repeatedly told that women don’t tend to do it, or even worried that their partner will get envious of their wanking. Some people have more orgasms when they’re alone than they do during partnered sex. This is a thing which happens – it’s neither uncommon nor the end of the world.

The long and the short of it is that there are plenty of people who are worried about wanking, and for many their primary fear is about how their partner will react. But what do you say to someone who’d react badly in this situation?

Wanking squeamishness

Part of me wants to class wanking as a simple bodily function. A natural thing that most of us do. And when you class it like this, shaming your partner for it seems desperately childish.

When I was younger, I used to read magazines like Bliss and Just Seventeen. In the problem pages there were often questions from nervous young girls about doing gross stuff in front of their boyfriend. I remember one in particular that asked:

“I’m 16 years’ old and the other day my boyfriend kissed the tip of my nose. One of the spots I had on my nose popped in his mouth. Do you think he’ll dump me?”

To which I suspect the agony aunt replied with something along the lines of ‘a good man won’t dump you for having spots,’ but for which I suspect the real answer was ‘probably – he’s 16, and people are twats at the age of 16’ but that’s not the point. This story spawned many conversations between me and my 16-year-old friends about the grossest thing you could do before a boy would absolutely, definitely dump you. Weeing yourself in public, vomiting on his Mum’s best rug, maybe shitting yourself in the middle of a party, that kind of thing.

Obviously now that I’m 32, all of these markers have been met and crossed – either by me personally, or by people I love. And these things are proportionately shocking – embarrassing lapses of judgment or the result of serious illness – far beyond the simple pleasure of having a cheeky wank at lunchtime. It’s not a direct comparison between shitting oneself and wanking, but it strikes me that often the stigma around masturbation – and specifically ‘catching’ one’s partner doing it – is partly down to a squeamishness that wouldn’t be out of place on one of these problem pages. An assumption that wanking is a grotesque, embarrassing thing that no one should ever know about – akin to squeezing a zit in the mirror or letting out a massive fart. In this way, those who’d be disgusted by a partner’s masturbation end up looking like the 16-year-old who’d dump his girlfriend for having an inappropriately squishy pimple.

On top of that, there’s a toddler-level of selfishness in demanding that every ounce of someone’s sexual energy is focused on you and you alone. In interpreting a wank as a violation of some mythical ‘right’ that you have over all your other half’s arousal, just because they happen to be married/going out with/shagging you too.

Making better arguments

The above section is what I would have said five years ago. In fact, I wrote a pretty angry blog post back when I started blogging, ripping apart people who get angry when they ‘catch’ their partner and think that watching porn counts as ‘cheating.’

Now, though, my answer would be different. Oh I’ll still tell you that watching porn isn’t cheating, and that wanking is perfectly healthy whether you’re in a relationship or not. But one of the things I’ve learned over the last five years of blogging is that things are always more complicated than I initially thought. Yes, it’s shitty to shame your partner for wanking. No, wanking while you’re in a relationship shouldn’t be something you have to hide. But are those who hate it necessarily childish/selfish/bad people? Nope. The boring answer – which comes with fewer jokes and snarky asides – is that they’re probably struggling with a lot of stuff themselves. Their reactions, while childish-seeming to a wanker like me, are actually perfectly rational if you accept the principles they’re working on.

They don’t want to cause their partner misery; they’re reacting to the fact that their partner is causing them misery. They don’t want to stop their partner doing something healthy, they genuinely don’t realise it is healthy. The problem isn’t caused by wanking itself, but by the false belief that wanking is harmful or bad for your relationship.

When the guy on Twitter initially asked me about wanking in a relationship, my immediate instinct was to respond with a one-liner (“Of course I do it – it’s fine, what’s the problem?”), but that – like so many of the other shit I write – assumes that everyone’s had the same info I have. What seems plain to me isn’t going to be plain to someone who’s grown up in a different environment, being taught different things about sex, and what counts as a ‘healthy’ thing to do.

We don’t disagree on the principles (be nice to your partner, make them feel wanted, and so on), we simply disagree on the facts (wanking is good/bad/a betrayal/a healthy way to spend an afternoon/etc). They’re still obviously wrong, of course. But in this context even if I’m right, I’m nasty. And hypocritical. I’ve accepted that there’s a lot of sex shame, and that the sex shame is bad and has a huge impact on the way people I love behave – my partner taking time to get used to wanking in front of me, for instance – but I often don’t recognise when other people have internalised that shame. I’m too focused on the ‘right’ answer that I don’t take time to bring people along on the journey. Not just ‘you should believe this’ but ‘here’s why I believe this.’

I still believe that wanking in a relationship is essentially a good thing, and I know I always will. But given the opportunity to revisit the question, I wanted to tackle it again, hopefully a little bit better this time. With more understanding, a touch more compassion, and fewer occasions where I call my opponent a dick.

 

10 Comments

  • Greg says:

    Brilliant post, thank you for your thoughts!

  • oodles says:

    This is a great post, GOTN. I wonder how much of those reactions are rooted in the way sex is generally presented to us in films, TV, etc. You just don’t see people wanking if they’re in relationships. You see them leaping on each other at every given opportunity, being totally in lust, being unable to keep their hands off each other… It’s this idea that sex between the two of you should consume both of you and everything you do, and naturally why would there be room for self-pleasure in that situation? To me it is perfectly understandable that women in particular might react in a negative way, because deep down we’ve absorbed all of society’s messages that we should be drop-dead gorgeous, always up for sex (but not with too many people obv), totally able to keep a guy’s attention no matter what, and if he’s wanking instead of fucking you, well, there must be something wrong with you, rather than right with him! It’s sometimes just so hard to see past the BS to look at things more objectively and understand that, actually, probably, he is just chilling out or having some time to himself or whatever. And wanking, even now, is portrayed as something a bit seedy and snigger-worthy, isn’t it?

  • Lola says:

    As anyone who’s read our blog knows, I, Lola, love jillin’ it and luckily my man, HH, loves that about me. Nothing gets me more riled up than knowing others are wanking to me. Maybe even you – GOTN!

  • Frank says:

    On the one hand, even in a committed relationship, no one owns your body and you are completely free to do as you choose.

    On the other hand, there may be some differences here based on your sex and perhaps age. Women can generally cum as often as they want, so no harm in a little daytime wank. And orgasm isn’t even necessarily the only goal in sex. Men, on the other hand, have a more limited ability to cum. And let’s face it, for men sex without orgasm is a letdown. So while I will certainly have a wank if I need or want to, it is impacted by how it’s going in my relationship. If she’s always up for it, not only is my need to wank reduced, but I do start to feel guilty “wasting it” and I’d much rather do it together, so there’s really rarely a need to wank. Frankly, I’d much rather cum inside her :)

  • Frank says:

    Oh, and I meant to add: But I’d never feel bad if she had a wank while I was gone or busy, in fact I’d encourage her to do that if it made her happy and especially if it made her want me more!

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Of course I agree in principle that wanking in a relationship should be fine, and isn’t ‘cheating’ or something to be ashamed about. It’s not something someone should have to hide from their lover – if you’re not comfortable with them seeing you wank, how could you be comfortable having sex with them?

    But on the other hand, I have to say: if two consenting adults want to mutually agree that neither of them should wank while in the relationship, I don’t think that’s inherently wrong. Or even that just *one* of them shouldn’t wank: plenty of successful BDSM relationships are built on that basis. That ‘toddler-level of selfishness in demanding that every ounce of someone’s sexual energy is focused on you and you alone’ – well, some people find that incredibly hot. I realise there’s a line somewhere where controlling your partner’s sexual behaviour can be unethical and abusive, but if it’s genuinely consensual, more power to them.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Of course! Tbh all of this stuff can be negotiated, but there’s a big difference between consensual chastity and wank shaming. I should write a thing about chastity at some point – have done wank-breaks/chastity stuff with an ex and it was hot. But yeah, is v different from one person deciding ‘you can’t’ and the other feeling miserable about it.

  • Secret Fiddler says:

    love this, I was a fervent wanker by the time I lost my virginity. I loved fantasizing about my girlfriend and as we progressed in real life it enhanced my experienced having purposely dreamt of her body. I guess there is this wank memory bank we all have. I always feel bad about continuing my habit and how it may affect my performance and stamina when actually having sex. Also the dirty old man stigma. I was a dirty young man and now I’m much older it remains a secret that a few gossip about as they know about my habit. Only two relationships resulted in me wanking openly in front of my partner. Only one of those reciprocated the act. My partner thinks I should wank to keep the prostrate healthy but I no longer feel comfortable being open about it to her due to my age and feeling being a dirty old man. perhaps as the kids get older we will share my dirty secret again.

  • My housemates, Six and Seven, argue a lot. Six has a very loud shouting voice and this means that, although we can hear them having sex, we can also hear nearly every word of her side of the arguments.

    One of the main bones of contention seems to be that Seven likes to watch porn and masturbate and, for whatever reason, Six doesn’t like him doing that. I wondered why and tried to place myself in their situation – if I were Seven, I’d be working long hours in order to afford the studio flat (and replace all the things that Six keeps breaking, like the TV or the kettle, in her anger); I’d try to find social activities to take part in, I’d ask friends round for some rounds of Super Smash Bros. and, if I found some spare time, I’d have the occasional wank – all of which Seven does… only Six objects to the last one.

    From my point of view, I don’t comprehend her outrage for all the points you outline in your blog post above, GOTN. (I just asked my girlfriend whether she minds me masturbating while she’s not here, and she said she didn’t.) My assumptions, based on her shouts, are:

    (i) Six doesn’t approve of porn
    (ii) Six and Seven don’t have a lot of sex and she’s upset about him achieving orgasm without involving her
    (iii) Seven cheated on Six and she may see watching porn as an extension of cheating
    (iv) Seven is a lazy person and only ever sits in his room wanking (this one isn’t true; he goes to work a lot, I hardly ever see him)
    (v) There are a number of further underlying problems and Six is using this one as an excuse to get angry

    In any case, I can see that people – like Six – have a problem with this but, unless they’ve never masturbated in their life (and I’m assuming very few haven’t), and it doesn’t contravene any promises they’ve made each other, it’s difficult to see why. As an attempt to understand, though, I tried to imagine myself as Six… and found the whole concept of my partner exploring themself sexually pretty hot!

  • Mr Cockles says:

    I masturbate regularly, I also work from home and my current schedule seems to also be around twice a day.

    I’m a married, middle aged man and we have a good sex life but I couldn’t live on three to four orgasms a week and be a pleasure to live with in. It is necessary for the good of our relationship, I am doing it FOR US :D

    My wife knows, I’m pretty honest about it. Recently she has been taking a bit more of an interest in what it is that I either wank to or think about while wanking, I like this course of events.

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