Ways of masturbating common to members of both sexes include pressing or rubbing the genital area, either with the fingers or against an object such as a pillow; inserting fingers or an object into the anus (see anal masturbation); and stimulating the penis or vulva/clitoris with electric vibrators, which may also be inserted into the vagina or anus. Members of both sexes may also enjoy touching, rubbing, or pinching the nipples or other erogenous zones while masturbating. Both sexes sometimes use lubricating substances to intensify sensation.
Reading or viewing pornography, or sexual fantasy, are often common adjuncts to masturbation. Masturbation activities are often ritualised. Various fetishes and paraphilias can also play a part in the masturbation ritual. Some potentially harmful or fatal activities include autoerotic asphyxiation and self-bondage.
Some people get sexual pleasure by inserting objects into the urethra. (The urethra is the tube through which urine and, in men, semen, flows.) If these objects are urethral sounds, the practice is known as "sounding." Other objects such as ball point pens and thermometers may be used. This practice can cause injury and infection.
Some people masturbate by using machines that simulate intercourse.
Some people may masturbate until they are close to orgasm, stop for a while to reduce excitement, and then resume masturbating. They may repeat this cycle multiple times. This "stop and go" method is practiced in order to achieve even stronger orgasms.
Female masturbation techniques are quite numerous and much more varied than those of males. Techniques include stroking or rubbing of the vulva, especially the clitoris, with the index and/or middle fingers. Sometimes one or more fingers may be inserted into the vagina to repeatedly stroke the frontal wall of the vagina where the g-spot is located.
Masturbation aids such as a vibrator, dildo or Ben Wa balls can also be used to stimulate the vagina and clitoris. Many women caress their breasts or stimulate a nipple with the free hand, if these are receptive areas for sexual stimulation. Anal stimulation is also enjoyed by some.
Lubrication is sometimes used during masturbation, especially when penetration is involved, but this is by no means universal and many women find their natural lubrication sufficient — some even produce more lubricant alone than with a partner, though the reasons for this seem to be primarily psychological.
Common positions include lying on back or face down, sitting, squatting, or even standing. Lying face down, one may straddle a pillow, the corner or edge of the bed, a partner's leg or some scrunched-up clothing and "hump" the vulva and clitoris against it. Standing up, the corner of an item of furniture, or even a washing machine, can be used to stimulate the clitoris through the labia and clothing. Havelock Ellis reported that turn-of-the-century seamstresses using treadle-operated sewing machines could achieve orgasm by sitting near the edge of their chairs.
Some can reach orgasm merely by crossing their legs tightly and clenching the muscles in their legs, which creates pressure on the genitals. This can potentially be done in public without observers noticing. Some prefer to use only pressure, applied to the clitoris without direct contact, for example by pressing the palm or ball of the hand against underwear or other clothing.
A few women can orgasm spontaneously, after experiencing prior sexual arousal, due to intellectual stimulation alone, for instance listening to certain pieces of music. Often, these mental triggers have associations with previous instances of arousal and orgasm. Some women even claim to be able to orgasm spontaneously by force of will alone, but that ability, if it exists at all, may not strictly qualify as masturbation as no physical stimulus is involved.
Sex therapists will sometimes recommend that female patients take time to masturbate to orgasm, especially if they have not done so before.
Male masturbation techniques are also influenced by a number of factors and personal preferences. Techniques may also differ between circumcised and uncircumcised males, as some techniques which may work for one can often be quite painful for the other.
The most common male masturbation technique is simply to hold the penis with a loose fist and then to move the hand up and down the shaft until orgasm and ejaculation take place. The speed of the hand motion will vary from male to male, although it is not uncommon for the speed to increase as ejaculation nears and for it to decrease during the ejaculation itself. When uncircumcised, stimulation of the penis in this way comes from the "pumping" of the foreskin. This gliding motion of the foreskin reduces friction. When circumcised, there is more direct contact between the hand and the glans, thus a personal lubricant is sometimes used to reduce friction.
Another technique is to place just the index finger and thumb around the penis about halfway along the shaft and move the skin up and down. A variation on this is to place the fingers and thumb on the penis as if playing a flute, and then shuttle them back and forth. A less common technique is to lie face down on a comfortable surface such as a mattress or pillow and rub the penis against it until orgasm is achieved. This technique may include the use of an artificial vagina or simulacrum.
There are many other variations on male masturbation techniques. Some men place both hands directly on their penis during masturbation, while others use their free hand to fondle their testicles, nipples, or other parts of their body. Some may keep their hand stationary while pumping into it with pelvic thrusts in order to simulate the motions of sexual intercourse. Others may also use vibrators and other sexual devices more commonly associated with female masturbation. A few extremely flexible males can reach and stimulate their penis with their tongue or lips, and so perform autofellatio.
The prostate gland is one of the organs that contributes fluid to semen. As the prostate is touch-sensitive, some directly stimulate it using a well-lubricated finger or dildo inserted through the anus into the rectum. Stimulating the prostate from outside, via pressure on the perineum, can be pleasurable as well.
Ejaculation of semen is sometimes controlled by wearing a condom or by ejaculating onto a tissue or some other item. A somewhat controversial ejaculation control technique is to put pressure on the perineum, about halfway between the scrotum and the anus, just before ejaculating. This can, however, redirect semen into the bladder (referred to as retrograde ejaculation). It may also cause long term damage due to the pressure put on the nerves and blood vessels in the perineum. A dry orgasm is one that is reached while withholding ejaculation. Proponents of dry orgasm say that this is a learnable skill that can shorten the refractory period.
Masturbation frequency, age and sex
Frequency of masturbation is determined by many factors, e.g. one's resistance to transient sexual tension, hormone levels influencing sexual arousal (Physiology & Behavior, 2005 Oct 15; Vol. 86 (3), pp. 356-68), and one's attitude to masturbation formed by culture. (E. Heiby and J. Becker examined the latter. "Forty-eight female college students were asked to complete a sexual attitudes questionnaire in which a frequency of masturbation scale was embedded. Twenty-four of the women (the experimental group) then individually viewed an explicit modeling film involving female masturbation. One month later, all subjects again completed the same questionnaire. Subjects in the experimental group also completed a questionnaire evaluating aspects of the film. Results indicated that the experimental group reported a significant increase in the average monthly frequency of masturbation, as compared to the control group. This same group, however, reported that the film had no effect on sexual attitudes or behavior."
It is thought that most people begin masturbating when reaching adolescence. Many scholarly and clinical studies have been done on the matter, and many informal surveys have asked the question. A 2004 survey by Toronto magazine NOW was answered by an unspecified number of thousands. The results show that an overwhelming majority of the males — 81% — began masturbating between the ages of 10 and 15. Among females, the same figure was a more modest majority of 55%. (Note that surveys on sexual practices are prone to self-selection bias.) It is not uncommon however to begin much earlier, and this is more frequent among females: 18% had begun by the time they turned 10, and 6% already by the time they turned 6. Being the main outlet of child sexuality, masturbation has been observed in very young children. In the book Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America, by Strong, Devault and Sayad, the authors point out, "A baby boy may laugh in his crib while playing with his erect penis (although he does not ejaculate). Baby girls sometimes move their bodies rhythmically, almost violently, appearing to experience orgasm."
According to a Canadian survey of Now magazine readers cited above, the frequency of masturbation declines after the age of 17. However, most males masturbate daily or even more frequently well into their 20s and sometimes far beyond. This decline is more drastic among females, and more gradual among males. While females aged 13–17 masturbated almost once a day on average (and almost as often as their male peers), adult women only masturbated 8–9 times a month, compared to the 18–22 among men. It is also apparent that masturbation frequency declines with age. Adolescent youths report being able to masturbate to ejaculation six or more times per day, while men in middle age report being hard pressed to ejaculate even once per day. The survey does not give a full demographic breakdown of respondents, however, and the sexual history of respondents to this poll, who are readers of an urban Toronto lifestyle magazine, may not extend to the general population.
This may be that females are less likely to masturbate while in a sexual relationship than men. Both sexes occasionally engage in this activity, however, even when in sexually active relationships. In general it is believed that individuals of either sex who are not in sexually active relationships tend to masturbate more frequently than those who are; however, much of the time this is not true as masturbation alone or with a partner is often a feature of a relationship. For both males and females, masturbation is a way to relieve stress, anxiety and even boredom.
It is held in many mental health circles that masturbation can relieve depression, stress and lead to a higher sense of self-worth (Hurlbert & Whittaker, 1991). Masturbation can also be particularly useful in relationships where one partner wants more sex than the other — in which case masturbation provides a balancing effect and thus a more harmonious relationship.
On July 16, 2003, an Australian research team led by Graham Giles of The Cancer Council Australia published a medical study  which concluded that frequent masturbation by males may help prevent the development of prostate cancer. The study also indicated that this would be more helpful than ejaculation through sexual intercourse because intercourse can transmit diseases that may increase the risk of cancer instead.
Masturbation is also seen as a sexual technique that protects individuals from the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS. Support for such a view, and for making it part of the American sex education curriculum led to the dismissal of US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders during the Clinton administration.
Some people actually consider masturbation as a cardiovascular workout. And while doctors have no proof of this actually being true, those suffering from cardiovascular disorders (particularly those recovering from myocardial infarction, or heart attacks) should resume physical activity (including sexual intercourse and masturbation) gradually and with the frequency and rigor in which their physical status will allow. Some doctors will advise those recovering from heart attacks to resume sexual activity (solitary or with a partner) when one is able to climb two flights of stairs without experiencing shortness of breath or chest pain. [Citation needed]
A study has shown that a test group which only had intercourse had, as a whole, lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those who had intercourse but also had masturbated for one or more days (Brody, 2006).
Objects inserted into the vagina or anus should be clean and of a kind that will not scratch or break. Care should be taken not to fully insert anything into the anus — any object used should have a flared or flanged base; otherwise retrieval can require a visit to the emergency room. Modern dildos and anal plugs are designed with this feature.
Masturbation involving both a man and a woman (see mutual masturbation) can result in pregnancy only if semen contacts the vulva. Masturbation with a partner can also theoretically result in transmission of sexually transmitted diseases by contact with bodily fluids.
Masturbating frequently presents no physical, mental or emotional risk in itself, but it can be that masturbation is being used to relieve either boredom or stress. In either case, as with any "nervous habit", it is more helpful to consider the causes of the boredom or of the stress, rather than try to repress the masturbation itself.
There is some discussion between professionals and other interested parties as to the existence or validity of sexual addictions. Nonetheless there are lists of warning signs such as when sexual activity is reducing a person's ability to function in every day life, or is placing them at risk, for example, of pursuing illegal or destructive activities. Very frequent and compulsive masturbation may be seen as one of the signs of a sexual addiction.
Because masturbation is often an uncomfortable topic among peers, a huge variety of euphemisms have been invented to describe it.
- beat off
- choke the chicken
- jerk off
- knock one off
- pocket pool
- punch the clown
- spank the monkey
- wank off
- jerking it
- spanking it
- working the wood
- beat the monkey
- rubbing one out
- beat the bishop
- manual relief
- buffin' the muffin
- churn the butter
- finger-fuck oneself
- the two-finger panty shuffle
- Masturbating may protect against prostate cancer, New Scientist, July 16, 2003.
- Masturbation Guide Masturbation articles by sexologists
- The-Clitoris.com About females only
- Male Sex Toys List and descriptions of sex toys for male masturbation.
- JackinWorldEducational male masturbation website
- Advanced Male Masturbation Techniques Illustrations and written descriptions.
- Based on "masturbation" in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003