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Should Couples Have a Masturbation Policy?

Article By Michael Stahl

~ MAY 2022 ~

In the almost-never-dull Reddit forum devoted to sex, a 23-year-old woman recently asked if it would be hot to initiate sex by masturbating in front of her partner.

“100%,” commented male user u/Aussurf90 in the post’s most-upvoted comment, while Redditor u/curiousfemale68 wrote that her husband gets excited watching her touch herself. “So yes it’s hot,” she said. Another man straightforwardly responded: “Yes. Yes. Yes. I can’t think of anything sexier.”

An answer to the poster’s question might seem obvious to some, but masturbating while in a couple is unknown territory for many others. The behavior can also open up a cache of logistical questions.

“Do any of you couples masturbate next to each other totally independently?” a female user once inquired in the forum. “If so, do you watch different porn on your phones or play it out loud and masturbate to the same video? Or do you watch your SO [significant other] masturbating and that’s enough to turn you on?”

The phenomenon of the refractory period must also be considered when masturbating within a couple. The refractory period is a stretch of time when the body — regardless of gender — does not respond to sexual stimuli after orgasm. What happens when one person gets themselves off and moments later their significant other shows up seeking sex? While their partner is in their refractory period, might they be left unsatisfied, feel slighted or, worse, incapable of pleasing them?

A 27-year-old man, Reddit user u/1Chrisp, might have the answer to all these questions. He recently revealed a masturbation-in-couples’ playbook that he and his live-in girlfriend utilize, apparently with outstanding outcomes.

“Something my gf and I [have] been doing lately that’s a ton of fun is an open masturbation policy,” he wrote in a Reddit post of his own. If one of them is “feeling horny,” he continued, “they have the green light to start going at it wherever.” It doesn’t matter if one of them is in the middle of work or cooking a meal.

The activity has led to “some fun situations,” he wrote, “where one of us walks into a room to find the other half way to orgasm.” When they’re watching TV, sometimes his partner “just stands up, drops her panties, and starts going to town.”

Random masturbation “often leads to the non-horny partner becoming horny and joining in or at least watching,” he wrote. It has also proven “a nice non-verbal way of communicating when we are in the mood.”

He asked in his post if others engage in the behavior themselves, adding: “Most people I know hide masturbation from their partners.”

The racy outline prompted viral viewership to the tune of 8,500-plus upvotes and more than 450 comments, easily ranking it as one of the most popular contributions to r/sex in recent history. In an email to InsideHook, u/1Chrisp, who says his first name is Dave, says it was “crazy how much that post blew up.”

Then again, maybe not so much.

“We approach sexuality from what I believe to be a very codependent lens,” says Reba C. Thomas, a certified sex educator and CEO of the Sexpert Consultants, an organization that runs various sex-focused workshops, events and trainings. “If we’re having orgasms, they have to be ‘with our partners,’ or else our partners are not doing what they’re ‘supposed to be doing.’”

Such a relationship model leaves no room for independent pleasure, like what Dave and his girlfriend, “Mary,” get to experience. Throw in the somehow still-pervasive, shame-inducing stigma against masturbation — particularly for women, heavily informed by religion — and we’re left with real barriers to a behavior that Thomas says is not only healthy but beneficial, to the individual as well as the couple’s sexual health.

“In order to know your pleasure, you really gotta know yourself, and that means knowing how to please yourself,” says Thomas. “A masturbation routine with oneself really does equate to really good sex and the ability to communicate [what pleases you] over time.”

Dave says he was “conditioned” to masturbate in private, and did so earlier in his relationship with Mary, his high school sweetheart. For the first nine years they were together, Dave says they had a satisfying sex life, albeit a “vanilla” one. Sex frequency slowed down a bit between them as the years went on, so they introduced some different flavors to their palate. While they were both half asleep one evening, Dave began rubbing Mary’s clitoris. It felt good and she told Dave to keep going. She thought she might orgasm — for the very first time in her life. Eventually, she did, which excited them both.

The next night Mary woke Dave up and said to him, “I’ve been really bad. I’ve been masturbating and I just orgasmed again.” But it was a report that “led to us having very passionate sex,” Dave writes.

Since then, he says, “our sex life has been kicked into high gear.” In light of their discovery that, like many women, clitoral stimulation rather than intercourse drives Mary to climax, she and Dave have experimented with toys, both of them working to give Mary almost daily orgasms. She even occasionally squirts.

There’s no pressure associated with their “open masturbation policy.” When one of them gets the ball rolling, Dave writes, “Many times one of us would say, ‘Nah I’m not in the mood,’ and the other would say, ‘OK!’” However, he continues, “as soon as one person had their pants off and was masturbating, the other would almost always suddenly find themselves in the mood.”

Sometimes the act leads to sex; sometimes it leads to them orgasming on their own. But, he says, it’s “always a great time.”

Couples who openly masturbate like Dave and Mary can take advantage of the many dialogues it can produce, Thomas says, not only about what each person desires in their pleasure-seeking, but also in regards to boundaries. “We have to meet our partners where they are,” she says. “Some partners have not unpacked the guilt and shame they might have experienced around masturbation. Maybe that’s why they’re not comfortable doing it in front of other people.”

Partners should have these conversations with each other early and often, Thomas adds. Watching pornography can also be a portal into the world of individual fantasy and pleasure, though, like masturbation, it should be enjoyed to some degree of moderation, so as not to negatively affect the sexual relationship with their partner.

“If I’m looking at porn 24/7 and I’m not going to be with my partner, that’s a problem,” Thomas says.

As for certain logistical challenges that may arise, if one partner is in a refractory period because they just got themselves off, and the other asks for sex they can’t deliver, the couple can engage in another conversation about alternative ways they can provide one another pleasure. Orgasm does not always have to be the goal, Thomas says. These talks may enter a vulnerable state, to be sure, she adds, but such openness will only lead to better understanding and probably enhanced exploration.

That’s definitely been the case for Dave and Mary.

“Basically, we have broken down our sex life into a much less linear ordeal,” Dave says. “It is no longer just get horny → foreplay → have sex → be done. It is now this sort of casual encounter where we both just relax in a sexually charged state and casually do things to each other and ourselves for many hours,” he says. “It’s like instead of sex being a drink we both like, it’s now an entire swimming pool that we engulf ourselves in.”

What couple wouldn’t sign up for that?

A version of this article originally appeared here on

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