New research provides insight into how women and men’s masturbation frequency is linked to their sexual satisfaction. The findings, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, indicate that masturbation often serves a complementary function for women but plays a compensatory role among men.
“One reason I became so interested in the topic of masturbation is because of it’s huge potential and its many advantages,” said study author Nantje Fischer, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Oslo. “Masturbation is perhaps one of the simplest sexual activities.”
“You can engage in it alone. This means you do not have to find a sexual partner or negotiate your likes and dislikes. As such, it is a free and effortless way of dealing with your sexual desires. Another huge advantage of masturbation is that it is a safe sex alternative without any risks of contracting sexually transmitted infection or unwanted pregnancy.”
“Of all sexual behaviors, masturbation seems most often motivated by pleasure, or at least, release of tension,” Fischer told PsyPost. “Masturbation is important for the sexual development in that it gives the opportunity to learn about one’s own body and sexual response which in turn help to negotiate more rewarding sexual practice with partners.”
“Masturbation can be a way of satisfying sexual needs in later life when people have widowed and may experience difficulty finding a new sexual partner or if your partner has become ill. Due to its many advantages, it has been argued that promotion of masturbation is a way to promote sexual health.”
For their study, the researchers surveyed a sample of 4,160 Norwegians aged 18–89 years. They found that 66% of women and 84% of men reported masturbation in the past month. Most women reported that they had masturbated two or three times per month. Most men, on the other hand, reported that they had masturbated two or three times per week. “It is very common to engage in sexual self-pleasure,” Fischer noted.
The researchers conducted a cluster analysis to identify subgroups of individuals. The largest cluster, comprising 33.1% of the sample, was characterized by both high masturbation frequency and high sexual satisfaction. The second largest cluster, comprising 31.5% of the sample, was characterized by low masturbation frequency but high sexual satisfaction.
The third cluster, comprising 18.7% of the sample, was characterized by a high masturbation frequency but low sexual satisfaction. The smallest cluster, comprising 16.7% of the sample, was characterized by both low masturbation frequency and low sexual satisfaction.
Both women and men with frequent pornography use were more likely to fall into the cluster characterized by high masturbation frequency and high sexual satisfaction. Women with greater sexual variety and higher intercourse frequency were also more likely to report high masturbation frequency and high sexual satisfaction.
The “findings support a complementary pattern for women, as it implies that frequent solo sex enhances partnered sex and is more widespread among adults with a sexualized personality pattern,” the researchers said.
However, among men in the two high masturbation clusters, frequent pornography use was associated with being sexually dissatisfied. Among men high in sexual satisfaction, those who reported more frequent partnered sex were less likely to be in the cluster characterized by high masturbation.
“This finding supports a compensatory pattern in men, as it suggests that masturbation is regarded as unnecessary if one has highly satisfying and frequent sex with a partner,” the researchers explained.
Unsurprisingly, the researchers also found that sexual distress, negative body image, and negative genital self-image strongly were linked to sexual dissatisfaction. Interestingly, however, the relationship between negative genital self-image and sexual dissatisfaction was only observed among male participants.
“The fact that men’s genitalia play an important role in defining masculinity in terms of appearance (e.g., penis size) and performance (e.g., erection) might explain the influences of men’s genital self-image on their sexual satisfaction,” the researchers said.
“Despite all advantages solo sex has largely been overlooked as a relevant sexual behavior, and we still know surprisingly little about how solo sex is associated with sexual satisfaction, well-being, and pain release,” Fischer said.
The study, “A Seemingly Paradoxical Relationship Between Masturbation Frequency and Sexual Satisfaction“, was authored by Nantje Fischer and Bente Træen.