Who Masturbates?

Statistics and viewpoints on masturbation in marriage

Woman relaxing on bed, Masturbation
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There's an old joke that says 98 percent of all people masturbate – and the 2 percent who say otherwise are lying. But according to a 2009 study by the University of Chicago, those figures are way off – at least if the respondents were being truthful. The figure was 61 percent for men and 38 percent for women in that survey. Of course, it was conducted in-person and no information was provided as to whether the respondents were married, in a committed relationship or single.

So How Many Married People Masturbate?

The website TheMarriageBed took an informal survey in 2013, asking how often respondents had engaged in "self-stimulation to orgasm while not with one's spouse." About 85 percent of male respondents said they had masturbated under these terms within the previous three months. Only about 15 percent thought that their wives knew about it, while 17 percent or so were pretty sure that their wives were clueless.​​

What's the Harm? 

Is this activity harmful to the marital union? Psychology Today looked into it and found in part that masturbation fills a void when one spouse or the other is unwilling or unable to engage in a mutual sexual activity. Yet the spouses who don't engage in masturbation nonetheless report displeasure when they discover what their partner has been up to. They tend to blame themselves, although not in the way you might expect. Rather than attribute their spouse's masturbation to their own unwillingness or inability to engage in sex, they tend to assume that their spouse or partner is bored or unhappy with them.

Yet Psychology Today nonetheless cites research that indicates that masturbation in a relationship is healthy. It's not a "feeble substitute," but rather a prompt to more mutual sexual activity, at least in marriages where one spouse isn't resistant for one reason or another. WebMD quotes David Schnarch, Ph.D., director of The Marriage and Family Health Center in Evergreen, Colorado, as explaining.

"For some couples, it's a breach. For others, it's not."

What's Good About It?

Prevention Magazine says masturbation eases stress and promotes self-satisfaction, and both can contribute to a happier and more satisfying marriage. The magazine wholly supports the practice, indicating that it doesn't negatively affect libido but rather stimulates it. It can also lead to self-discovery, something that can spill over into mutual sexual encounters. 

So what about those couples who aren't on the same page when it comes to wanting the same frequency of sex? What happens when you take the sense of betrayal out of it? Prevention Magazine says masturbation may be the perfect answer to that sort of dilemma because the masturbating spouse isn't cheating. He or she is keeping it at home, and that's a good thing.

And let's face it, who doesn't feel better after gratifying sex, whether it's solo or mutual? If it removes sexual issues and problems from a marriage, that can be a good thing. Given these conflicting opinions and research, it may be that it all comes down to a personal viewpoint.