And why it’s still technically sex…
When I was in high school, I remember the term “heavy petting” being whispered around the hallways. “Oh didn’t you hear, X and Y got caught heavy petting in an empty classroom after school!” The phrase would also show up in the advice columns of the usual teen magazines, “Dear Aunt Aggy, my boyfriend says that we can’t get pregnant through heavy petting – is he telling the truth?”
Sad but true story: I thought “heavy petting” meant the couple would: Literally. Pat. Each. Other.
Like you would pat a pet on the head and say “Good boy!”
Hmmm… ok, I’m not sure what’s so bad about that to warrant the gossip and aunt agony letters but I guess to each their own?
Suffice to say, I had zero sex education in school and was incredibly naive. I was eighteen when I found out that its actual definition was basically rubbing each others genitals for pleasure and reaching climax. It’s also commonly referred to as ‘getting to third base’ or ‘dry humping’ and characterized by the exclusion of Penis-In-Vagina (PIV) penetration.
Yes, it was definitely the forehead slap that could be heard across the world when it dawned on me that petting and patting are two separate concepts!
Thankfully being older and wiser (especially in matters of the bedroom), you can also simply call it ‘mutual masturbation’. You may ask “Well, isn’t it just foreplay?” The ‘fore’ in ‘foreplay’ suggests that it’s a prelude to PIV sex (like an appetizer to the main course) but it’s been established that overall the act of sex isn’t just limited to penetration or needing to end in orgasms. The aim of this article is that if you’ve been skipping mutual masturbation as part of partnered play – well I’m here to guide you so that you’ll avoid slapping yourself on the forehead once you discover what you’ve been missing out…
1. What is Mutual Masturbation
Without the need to go into the textbook definition, masturbation is often thought of as a private and individual act. Unfortunately it’s also been stigmatized as reserved for someone if they’re currently single or feeling unfulfilled in their sexual relationships. The stereotype of the horny teenage boy furiously wanking off in front of his laptop with a gigantic hand lotion bottle right next to him, is one that’s often mocked at in comedies and doesn’t help to dispel the myth. Let’s end the stigma here: there’s a lot more of us masturbating than you think.
According to the Kinsey Institute, in a US survey done in 2010 more than half of women ages 18 to 49 reported masturbating during the previous 90 days with the highest rates for those amongst the 25-29 age range.
Interestingly approximately one-third of women in all relationships in the 60-69 year cohort reported recent masturbation too!
That means you don’t have to feel weird about masturbating and exploring your own body, whether in or out of a relationship, or at whatever age you are. It’s simply having sex with your most trusted and safest partner, you.
When it comes to mutual masturbation, it can come (pun intended) in two different modes:
1. Both parties are involved in actively arousing and pleasuring each other simultaneously (e.g. hand jobs, fingering, using sex toys on each other)
2. Each party pleasures themselves while the other is watching/pleasuring themselves (e.g. long-distance sexting). If both parties are in the same space, mutual masturbation can also be engaged as part of teasing or a sexy game. (e.g. your partner isn’t allowed to touch you while you pleasure yourself)
2. The benefits of Mutual Masturbation
The first question I often get when broaching the subject is “Why mutual masturbation and not just jump right into penetrative sex?” Mutual masturbation shouldn’t be seen as a ‘lesser’ form of pleasure and it isn’t an either-or situation in terms of sexual experience.
Here are some common reasons why you would engage in mutual masturbation with your partner instead:
• Not all sexual relationships involve penetrative sex (e.g. queer relationships, personal preferences especially if casually dating)
• When penetrative sex is difficult or undesirable (e.g. vaginismus, having one’s period – bonus points as orgasms help to relieve painful cramps and migraines!)
• Exploring and learning about each other’s bodies and preferences by being able to observe in the moment (e.g. showing your partner the types of touches you like, watching how your partner stroke themselves )
• To build intimacy and share new sexual experiences together to bond (e.g. playing with toys, discovering new erogenous zones together)
• Time and convenience (e.g. when you have to be in ‘stealth mode’ if you’re home with the kids!)
Need more convincing on why mutual masturbation should be served as a main dish and not just as an appetizer? It’s more likely that you’ll experience an orgasm during a masturbation session than just plain ole PIV.
From the same National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 2010
While men are more likely to orgasm when sex includes vaginal intercourse; women are more likely to orgasm when they engage in a variety of sex acts and when oral sex/vaginal intercourse is included.
Ready to be served (in more ways than one)?
3. How to start mutual masturbation
While you might be all set to try out something new, it’s never as easy as grabbing your partner, stripping your clothes off, and jumping in bed to do the dirty – and if it is, lucky you! So for those who are new and wish to incorporate mutual masturbation into the menu, let’s break down the main elements involved:
ALL IN THE MIND
The first step in any sexual experience, solo or partnered, starts with you and your mental state of being. Being mindful is a term that’s popular in mental health awareness these days and mindful sex is no exception. As mentioned earlier, most of us were conditioned to feel guilty about the act of masturbation itself or there’s something inherently wrong about touching yourself, let alone wanting to do that in front of your partner. And that’s ok, don’t feel bad about feeling bad when you’re starting out. It took years of formative conditioning to be ashamed of exploring your own pleasure, so there’s no magic switch to unlearn the shame overnight.
Apart from knowing the general statistics that masturbation is normal, here are some baby steps towards embracing sexual pleasure:
• Create time for masturbation: We avoided using the phrase ‘find time’ because knowing our busy schedules and tendency to put everyone’s needs before ours, we’ll never get around to it if we don’t deliberately make that space! It may sound counter-intuitive and unsexy to schedule but it can be as simple as early in the mornings while the household is asleep or right before bed in the shower. The key is having uninterrupted time to discover your own hotspots.
• Ignore the to-do list: Trust us, we’ve been there. You’ve carved out some solo time, you have your favourite sexy playlist on, the vibrator is charged. You’re starting to feel that familiar buzz and shiver when an intrusive thought pops in your head “Mmm don’t take too long, you have that 6pm Zoom call later. Wait a minute, what was that thing you were suppose to do again before the call?” If your libido didn’t just deflate like a sad balloon, you might just end up spiraling down the rabbit hole. “Ok, stop thinking about it. Let’s just finish up. Mmm that feels good, oh no I lost it… argghhhh come on let’s just climax already, I’ve work to do!” So when you find your mind wandering off in the middle of the session, take a break. You can pause and ground yourself by taking deep breaths and imagining those intrusive thoughts dispersing with each breath. There’s no finish line to your session, and pausing can actually be used on purpose to slow your arousal down, then building up to it again for a more intensive climax. This deliberate denial of orgasms is also known as edging.
INTRODUCING YOUR PARTNER
Chances are very slim that your partner wouldn’t be delighted if you bring up the idea of adding something new to the sexy menu in the bedroom. Unless of course your partner has similar mental programming that masturbation is a private affair and they’re ashamed to reveal their habits. Remember that horny teenage boy stereotype? Most men have also been taught that revealing to their partners on how often they masturbate (if they admit they do) might cause an emotional consequence where their partners feel like their sexual life isn’t fulfilling enough (e.g. “Am I not enough that you’re getting off to these random porn stars??”)
So before you get defensive (and we know you won’t be mad at your partner if you’re already taking the first step of reading this article!), what we’re suggesting is that approach your partner with empathy. You can bring up the idea that you’ll like to watch each other pleasure yourselves next time in the bedroom, but don’t take it personally if they dismiss the idea at first or feel hesitant. Have an open and honest conversation on why you’ll like to explore this together with them and keep it safe and non-judgmental.
If it feels awkward to jump straight in from a conversation of “Hey, let’s just make out and feel each other up” to the actual deed, take baby steps again. Start by sharing what types of touches, sensations and intensities you like (e.g. “It feels really good when I lightly tap my clit here… but it gets too intense for me if I move down and go stronger”). You can also make your partner feel safe to share by stating an observation about themselves and getting them to confirm or elaborate (e.g. “I notice that during sex, you seem to like it when I touch you here. It really turns me on when I see how much you’re enjoying it… is this your favourite part?”) We know it may sound like you’re reading from a script so feel free to adjust it so that it’s your own mindful voice without judgement!
LET’S GET IT ON
Great – you’re in a sexy headspace, you’ve had the talk with your partner and they’re onboard, now let’s jump into the real fun!
• Set the mood:
This is an iteration of the above points when it comes to creating the space to explore pleasure but we’ll repeat it as it’s worth the reminder. Mutual masturbation is still sex so prepare for it like you would a regular PIV session. Do whatever that turns you both on and helps to relax and set the mood – whether it’s candles, dim lighting, sexy playlist, wine etc. Even if you’ve been with your partner for years and seen each other at your lows, it doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate being seduced by their partner. Send an unexpected sexy selfie while they’re at work or type out a naughty text like ‘The hours seem so long and hard when I’m waiting for you 😈….’ Remember that flirting is not a dirty word!
• Find your erogenous zones:
Have you heard of the mysterious Bermuda Triangle? Well don’t get sucked into the body version of it (a.k.a heading straight for the Boobs and Genitals)!
I’ve had the pleasure (pun intended) of attending an insightful workshop by 360 Experience last month about erogenous zones and discovering them on both you and your partner. 360 Experience is headed by a lovely group of sex educators and advocates who don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk as well. Their mission is to present love, sex and intimacy in a clear and relatable manner to people from all walks of life.
I love how they don’t just create awareness, but encourage couples and individuals to communicate openly, learn about each others boundaries and sexual expectations, and more importantly how to practice in every day life in their sexuality and relationships. In other words, they’re our new favourite people!
Without giving away too many details of the sensual appreciation workshop, I came in wondering if it’s be more of an anatomy lesson but ended up discovering more about myself and my partner in our sexual discovery. While we all know the assumed erogenous zones (e.g. breasts, vulva, penis) which 360 Experience has lovingly termed the ‘Bermuda Triangle’, I learned so much about the other parts of my body that I wasn’t aware was just as sensitive to stimulation.
Another myth that I was so astounded and happy to unlearn is that erogenous zones don’t necessarily equate to sex. Definition-wise, they’re simply areas that have heightened sensitivity to stimulation which translates to yes, arousal and sex but also encourages relaxation and even deep sleep at times! You know the blissful feeling you get when getting your hair washed at the salon? Your scalp is an erogenous zone!
Likewise for mutual masturbation, take the time to explore interesting zones and combinations of sensations that you usually neglect on both you and your partner. I was surprised when I realized that as much my personal erogenous zones were my neck, ears and scalp, how very little time is actually spent on them because we both go straight for the kill!
It also explains particular sensations I’d enjoyed which now makes sense and also feels less shameful to explore (hint: I like getting my hair pulled) When it came to my partner, I also realized I wasn’t spending any time exploring the rest of his body like his back, shoulders and arms where a lot of tension and aches lie. Instead I was getting the lost in his Bermuda Triangle too….
Moral of the story: Don’t go for the kill and head straight to the obvious sexy spots. Take the time to tease, savour and explore each others bodies. Also we recommend laughing a lot during this session – after all it’s a version of play and sex doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. What you’ll find out about each other might surprise you!
• Sensations taking us over
When it comes to mutual masturbation, don’t just leave it as a rub and tug, or fingering and jilling off. It’s a fuller sensory experience that is immensely more pleasurable when you’re being mindful and aware of the different sensations being activated.
Smell the perfume on your partner’s skin as you lick their necks. Feel the warm breath in your ear as they ask you if you’re enjoying this touch. Notice how the groans and moans they make when they’re stroking different parts of their penis. Do you like it when they use their nails to lightly scratch as they circle around your nipples? Or do you prefer when they’re softly caressing you instead?
Now that we’ve gotten you hot under the collar, it’s also a good time to introduce sex toys and accessories into the mix – especially if you haven’t used it during PIV sex! As in any sensual experience, please ask if they’re comfortable with it and don’t spring it in as a last minute surprise. You can use your favourite toy on yourself and tease your partner as a sexy ‘show and tell’.
Tell them that for 2 minutes, they’re not allowed to touch you but instead watch how you pleasure yourself with your vibrator. Then pass over the toy and ask “Do you want to try this on me?” It definitely brings new meaning to the sexy teacher role-play!
Need some help on what toys to use in this session? Your partner might not be ready to meet your realistic dildo yet so we like the simplicity of Good Vibes toys! They’re a local brand founded by the wonderful Meryl who’s created three non-intimidating and beautifully designed toys to fit your basic needs. There’s a palm vibrator, clit sucker and G-spot vibrator that’s great for beginners and stay tune to the end for a special treat for our readers 😉
Don’t be afraid to also introduce toys for penis-owners during your session with your partners. You can use your palm vibrator at a low setting while stroking your partner. For most guys, this will be a new and possibly intense experience so remember to keep checking in with their comfort level and also notice their expressions and non-verbal cues. There’s also affordable and easy toys for men like Tenga eggs that you can use during a blowjob so that they can also feel a different sensation while you don’t overwork your mouth too much!
If you’re too shy to bring out your play toys in your first session, start small and playful like using sexy dice as an icebreaker game.
We hope this guide has been helpful in planting that seed in your naughty thoughts about spicing up your bedroom. As always, don’t forget about the importance of aftercare after each session for both you and your partner. After all, one can argue that mutual masturbation can feel even more intimate than PIV sex as you’re not just physically exploring each other but also revealing your private thoughts and pleasures with your partner. So take it as an opportunity to bond and forge closer ties with each other, especially with the current restricted COVID-19 climate. Hey, so if you can’t eat out… why not eat in?
(And we promise that’s the last sex menu pun you’ll read from us in a long time!)