Do you indulge in sensual masturbation?

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

I’ve wanted to write about sensual masturbation for a really, really long time. This rant has taken about three months to percolate in my mind, and eventually boil over – I estimate that’s roughly 2.5 months longer than the total time I’ve spent wanking in my entire adult life.

When people talk about female masturbation, it’s often described in the same language as you’d use to talk about a nice hot bath at the end of the day.Women who wank the way I do – vigorously, functionally, and above all swiftly – have probably noticed this. Much of our cultural narrative paints female masturbation as sensual. Soft. Gentle. It’s often exploratory – as if we wake up each day not quite sure what to make of our genitals, and have to dedicate a few hours and a couple of scented candles to finding out.

Sensual masturbation isn’t the only way

The other day Girly Juice asked for suggestions of things that make sex bloggers angry.

I don’t think her post is live on her site yet, but keep an eye out or subscribe to her blog here. When I spotted her tweet the first thing that sprung to mind was this narrative oddity – the way in which female masturbation is often framed as a ‘sensual’ treat.

First thing’s first: if you’re a sensual wanker (that title alone makes you sound infinitely cooler than me) you need to know that I am not dissing your frigging technique. While I’d prefer to be done in 60 seconds, I appreciate that speed wanking isn’t to everyone’s taste, and moreover that some people physically need much more build up. Do what works for you – you’ll hear no critique from me unless you happen to be doing it in my living room. Even then I’d probably just ask you not to get quim on the carpet.

However, looking at a lot of the discussion around female masturbation, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was the only way women ever wank.

Sensual masturbation: him versus me

“Did you have a good night in?” I asked him, as I came home and took up my customary ‘drunk’ position – face down on the living room carpet.

“Yeah, it was awesome. Played Xbox, got some wanking done. You know.”

“How many wanks?”

“Oh, just one. But you know the ones where you really take your time, and stop occasionally for a bowl of cereal, then resume later? Then stop again briefly, then resume?”


He does this quite a lot – he is an expert in the languid, sensual evening wank. One which starts at 7 pm and doesn’t come till midnight, and has room for a varied and interesting tour of the porn library, and a broad selection of interesting toys.

I have never ever done this. I have tried many times. But, like a child trying desperately not to eat the sweeties even though they’re sitting in a bowl labelled ‘EAT ME I AM A PILE OF DELICIOUS SWEETIES’, I cannot hold back for more than a couple of minutes before I think ‘fuck it’ and rub myself to a quick, grunting climax.

I have tried edging, and I get why people do it. But when I do it I’ll get to the ‘edge’ three or four times before hurling myself over it like a base jumper who’s had too much RedBull.

What’s more, wanking has rarely felt like a ‘treat’. It is not ‘sensual’ – that word which conjures up soft focus and candles and rose petals strewn over the bed. Sensual masturbation is the kind of masturbation I imagine people have in the bath. With the door locked and a glass of red wine to hand that they can sip classily when they’ve finished.

Why is masturbation ‘sensual’ when women do it?

It’s not the word ‘sensual’ in particular I object to, nor even the way it’s combined with masturbation – of course lots of people indulge in sensual masturbation (‘Indulge’? See? Like wanking is a box of Ferrero Rocher and the Ambassador’s just popped round). What bothers me is that the way in which people – and by ‘people’ I am mostly laying the blame at the feet of media outlets, and the odd sex toy company or two – use coded language like this to imply that masturbation for women is a luxury. We ‘treat ourselves’ to a bit of ‘me-time’. What do men do? Oh yeah, they jerk off. Whack it. Beat the bishop. Crack one out. Wank. And so the converse of the ‘sensual masturbation’ problem is that male masturbation is relegated to a grubby corner somewhere – treated as if it’s a necessary yet vulgar act – somewhere between having a piss and sniffing your housemate’s panties without asking. That, in turn, feeds into gross articles that imply men who use sex toys are somehow shameful, when in fact using a male masturbator should be exactly as useful, sensual, delightful – acceptable – as me getting off with a glass dildo.

I’ve definitely been guilty of this kind of writing before – not least because I’ve done copywriting, which often requires you to echo the tone of the brand you’re writing as. Besides, I suspect that my use of more functional terms for masturbation – which focus on aggressive need – may well turn people off if they prefer something softer. What’s more, our narrative also feeds into the things that people seek out – so there are plenty of copywriters frustrated with being pushed to use blunt instruments like ‘sex toys for women’, or ‘male masturbators’ which ignore the existence of trans and non-binary people. Likewise this narrative, given that it’s so biology-focused, implies that the shape of your genitals dictate the style in which you want to get off – hard or soft, fast or slow, ‘sensual’ or ‘functional.’

I have a longer (and very different) post at some point about use of language in copywriting – particularly when you’re selling sex toys – because there are lots of hurdles to overcome. To a certain extent you have to play a game you don’t want to play just to get the right people to find you and learn about something new. This narrative is the same.

That’s why I’m not going to give any specific examples here, although I know I should. But I’m wary of picking out any one publication or company (although I have written before about my frustration with the word ‘klittra’ – a term coined in Sweden to refer to female masturbation, which combined their words for ‘clit’ and ‘glitter’. Because all women adore glitter). But I hope now I’ve pointed it out you’ll start seeing it in a few places, and questioning whether the same language would be used if the genders were flipped. And ask: why is masturbation for men seen as a ‘necessity’ while for women it’s a ‘luxury’? What message is this giving to people who haven’t yet masturbated, and don’t know what their own style is?

I don’t think anyone should feel bad if they’ve been presenting it this way – it’s really hard to break out of it, because it’s all around us. We then feed into it, and the cycle continues. But I think it’s important to be aware of it, and hopefully question it where it arises. For all the girls like me, who feel like we’re a bit weird or broken or wrong because the way we wank feels greedier than the ‘sensual masturbation’ we should apparently be ‘indulging in’. And for the men who enjoy a three hour ‘treat wank’ evening, or an hour long exploratory session in the bath.

Where there is sadness, let us bring joy. Where there’s despair, let us bring hope. And where there’s a suggestion that women all wank gently, let us bring an anecdote about this one person we know who frigs herself like she’s gobbling sweeties.


  • Ian says:

    My brain read that last sentence as “an anecdote about this one person we know who frigs herself WHILE she’s gobbling sweeties” and I’m giving you an imaginary high-five for “snack-wanking” right there! (or possibly that’s wank-snacking)

  • Sadie says:

    Slightly tangentially, it pisses me off beyond all reason that no matter what issue it is that a woman is dealing with in her life, the suggestion always always features having a hot bath as the answer. Partner not helping with childcare? Depression? Trauma? Break up? Bad day at work? Bereavement? Feeling unloved? Systemic sexism due to patriarchy? Have a bloody hot bath if you’re a woman.

    Light a scented candle if it’s really bad and have six almonds or a fat free yoghurt dressed up as a dessert if you’re pushing the boat out. Sod changing your life or the system that minimises women’s issues or providing things like affordable mental health care or childcare. Just throw some capitalism and Radox at the problem and don’t make a fuss. Nevermind if you don’t live in a flat big enough to have a bath of CBA to clean it or prefer showers. Here is the cure all.

    And it doesn’t even make sense to me with the whole wanking thing. Few things would render me less likely to be wet in the right way than judicious amounts of hot water and bath foam and surely you can’t use anything battery or mains operated either? so it’s actually quite limiting aside from my irrational irritation at people suggesting hot baths all the time.

    This is not to judge people who genuinely enjoy hot baths and/or leisurely wanking. I get that to many people both are something they choose and enjoy for many reasons. Hell, I often lace myself into a corset to make myself come. Nothing wrong with pleasing yourself in many ways. My issue is with what GOTN says when only one scenario is portrayed like if you do anything else you are breaking the social roles.

    And now I’m going to go and take pity on my bath and clean it. Might work off some rage…

    • Girl on the net says:

      “Partner not helping with childcare? Depression? Trauma? Break up? Bad day at work? Bereavement? Feeling unloved? Systemic sexism due to patriarchy? Have a bloody hot bath if you’re a woman.”

      OH MY GOD YES I LOVE YOU. <3<3<3

    • The quiet one says:

      Quite glad I’m not the only one who does this with corsets :)

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Yup, this is another of those silly gender stereotypes that needs to be done away with. Even if it does make it easier to sell sex toys to women, it’s not really helpful.

    As for the question in the title… sort of? I think I’ve said before, I come pretty quickly from manual stimulation, so I can’t really stretch a wank out over hours like your guy; but I do like to try to make it something special when I have the time. So what I try to do is try to hold off the actual wank as long as possible, spending some time (up to several hours) viewing porn I like, getting increasingly horny, but holding back from the point where I’ve gone so far I just have to grab my dick and release. Like ‘edging’ but without the physical stimulation side to it. And yeah, when it goes well, I’d say it’s pretty ‘sensual’.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ooooh, OK, I think that ‘getting increasingly horny’ thing may be something I am able to get behind. I might give that a go next time I have a night in alone. I enjoy doing it A LOT on trains. Like, if I have an hour and a half train journey (especially if I’m hungover) then I like to paint a few good fantasies in my head about the people on the train, combined with the bumping/rocking of the train it gets me massively horny. Then I pop to the toilets or what have you. It is FUN, and possibly the only time I enjoy build up, because part of it is the knowing that wanking in train toilets is probably not on.

  • John M says:

    Have to say I’m on your team with this. I tend to be naked around the house, so I’ll absent-mindedly fondle myself fairly often, but once I actually find myself horny getting it done will be a five or ten minute affair at most. The closest I think I come to sensual wanking is if I’m having a dirty chat with someone, then it will be quite a length of time of on and off.

    I think these are only two sides of a triangle though, with that third side being those power-wanks. I hope you know the ones I mean, where it doesn’t matter how hard you go or how good it feels, you can’t bring yourself over the edge until an hour or two after you start. I can understand that those ones are probably frustrating for a lot of people, but I absolutely LOVE them, especially when it’s warm and still enough that you’re soaked in sweat by the time you’re halfway. I’ve only ever had them happen by accident though, I’ve got no idea how to induce that kind of insatiable boner.

  • Mardi says:

    Ugh. It’s just so patronising. Let’s give women a socially acceptable possibility to safely explore their feminine sexuality in a non-threatening way, involving baths and candles and empowerment. There’s this necessity to add some meaning to ‘female masturbation’, like loving yourself! getting to know your body! in order to be better in bed when eventually landing there with the default male partner! or to be a better feminist! whatever appeals to you, as long as there is something extra, because it is simply absurd that a woman might just need a wank for the sake of getting off.

    (There is the same sort of discourse surrounding porn. Men watching porn? Eye roll because it’s gross but well “all men do it”. Women watching porn? It’s presented either as open-minded and cool; or like it’s nothing more than a whim because there is no way women would actually watch hardcore porn to get off to.)

    I can’t save sweets for later, I’ll keep eating until the last one is gone, and apparently the same is true about my wanking and orgasms. I’ve alwasy thought it would be fun to be able to have those sensual wanking sessions. Alas, I have no idea what is sensual in desperately rubbing my clit raw.

  • I’ve not thought about it… the difference. But you are right, if a guy is doing it it’s dirty. If a woman, then music starts to play. All it is is making yourself feel good, unless you are fortunate enough to be masturbating someone else then it leads to to other types of fun. It’s a part of daily life, or almost daily, no, pretty much daily. And I have a nice collection of cock rings, strokers and glass. My latest toy is a penis pump… fun. I just wrote a story on masturbating you might like…

    Always enjoy your observations, Girl. Again, a great illustration by Stuart.

  • Lucy S says:

    love this piece, v well written. personally, i’m on the quick side – and I wank to warm my feet up, to switch myself into sleep mode, to transition from day to night, to move my mind away from work etc etc. & find the difference in attitude towards male and female masturbation bizarre.

  • Brittany says:

    Great blog!! I wish men knew what the guy in the comments section of this post knows. Still trying to find him before someone else does.

  • Banquo says:

    I have two categories of wank. Home wanks and hotel wanks. Of necessity, when I’m at home, wanking has to be done surreptitiously and as quickly as possible, but this is rarely faster than around 5 minutes because ….. because I can’t come faster than that any more. I’m in my early sixties, so it takes me a while to get a decent stiffy, I need some good porn to get me going and if I have to stop for fear of getting interrupted it can be tricky to get it up again.

    My work takes me away from home a couple of times per month, so when I’m staying in a hotel for three or four days, I can enjoy a slow, sensuous wank every night without the worry of anyone walking in on me. I sometimes realise that I’ve spent a couple of hours finding new and stimulating porn and I like to get into bed with the duvet resting just under my balls, so each stroke gives really nice friction against them so when I finally blow my load I get much more volume and a considerably longer orgasm than I can get at home. I’ll edge several times, and get quite a lot of pre-cum leakage that I don’t usually get at home. Which is nice. It’s a treat I look forward to, as wanking is now the only sexual activity I get, as my wife’s libido disappeared around 20 years ago, but mine didn’t and I’ll be buffered if I’m going to give up on the best bit of pleasure I get while I’m still capable.

    In my teens, it was usually fast and furious, and no need for porn to get it up. But with maturity I’ve learned that if I have the time my wanking is better quality, more enjoyable and just as satisfying.

  • Banquo says:

    Buggered, not buffered. Bastard autocorrect!

  • Zack says:

    As a male, love having a good sensual anal wank. The planned a week or two in advance kind. Instead of playing with myself, I spend that time finding and making the perfect playlist. And just getting myself worked up so that when the day of comes around I’m constantly half cocked and my heart’s in my throat.
    And that’s nothing compared to the actual buildup of showering and getting clean while listening to really vocal porn.
    Then what’s left to do but to hold on to that feeling as long as possible? Like you said, severals of hours and ice cream breaks, later covered in lube and precum and regular cum, i get in the shower the moment my knees will bear me and just enjoy the the warm water until the glow fades and the water waste guilt gets to me.
    Doesn’t get much better.

  • zany_zigzag says:

    I love this post! First, it made me realise that this is the sort of wanking I do, fast and functional. Second, I realised that I have often felt somehow inadequate or unfeminine for being greedy and impatient and not doing the whole long, sensual thing. But now I have absolutely no reason to feel ashamed of my masturbation style. Thank you so much for writing this! <3

  • Oxyfromsg says:

    Im all for people just wanking how they feel like they need to.

    Sometimes i need a good hard wank just to get off.
    Other times i want a nice long 4-6 hour edging session that makes me bliss out when i cum.

    Either to there own

  • Pinkgilly15 says:

    This post is so necessary. Why indeed soft sensual it’s like girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice vs boys are mode of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails. What the hell is actually wrong with women being horny, getting off fast and frantically, being the bad guy, even in a film but the bad guy with all the cool lines (this never ever happens)
    Echos when you wrote your partner spends from 7-12 edging etc so can mine. Where I’m more likely to grab the doxy try hard to edge and come like a steam train in 30 seconds flat. Then do it again…like why the hell not. And just to say everyone is different so we all get off on different things. It struck me the other day men are often trying so hard not to orgasm to last longer, women are trying to orgasm often with in the wrong sort of situation eg PIV with works for few women. So this plays it’s part in guys possibly edging for a whole night…whilst I just check out can still cum fast with what works for me. I may have a blog post to write now myself.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yes! I think that’s a really good point re: when we are expected to orgasm and how that might feed into edging etc. There’s a big marketing push for sex toys which give men ‘stamina’ (i.e. training them to last longer) whereas toys for me tend to be marketed like ‘get there quickly/guaranteed etc). Thanks for contributing Gilly – and for adding your blog link too! I have edited this comment in the blog backend so your link shows up on this comment as well xxx

  • Pinkgilly15 says:

    Love your writing and forgot to add my site on my post above nn

  • Boggle Eyes says:

    I was thinking of joining the discussion to say I (male) also occasionally enjoy the long, slow, sensuous wank, when I realised I have three “settings”.
    The instant relief speedy wank, get a stiffy, wank, ejaculate; instant gratification, like having a cigarette. Then I also enjoy the long slow build up, bath, stay naked, watch a sexy movie or read erotic stories, then porn – sometimes I’ll have a theme night, perhaps a CFNM night, sometimes I’ll have a porn mix going from lesbian shower scene, to schoolgirl seduction, to gang bangs, to cum-shot compilations, etc, gently stroking myself to maintain a semi, until finally the need to ejaculate forces me to finish off, usually with spectacular results, especially if I’ve held off for a couple of days. A habit started whenever I was single for a few weeks or months (between wives) and occasionally either when I have a “hotel evening” away on business or when my wife is away on a girly weekend.
    Then I realised I have another setting, the 15/20 minute wank. Sometimes as I watch my wife doing her hair & make up, usually she will be naked, I will start to coax a semi to a stiffy, then as she starts to dress she will tease me and I will either wank myself or she will come over and finish me off. Or sometimes when I’m on my own I will do a quick porn selection or close my eyes and bring up a fantasy, and tease myself for 15/20 minutes then bring myself off.

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