To coincide with Masturbation May (yes, that’s an actual thing), the results of a major survey into the masturbation habits of men and women around the world have been revealed.
Sexual pleasure brand TENGA, in conjunction with pollsters PSB, surveyed 13,000 men and women, aged 18-74, in 18 countries. This included the US, India, UK, Australia, Japan, Russia and Germany.
It identified a handful of differences between gay/bisexual people and straight people. These include gay/bi people saying they started masturbating, on average, when aged 13, compared with 15 for heterosexuals.
Gay and bisexual people are also 23% more likely to masturbate weekly than straight people.
Key findings of the survey include:
- On average, globally, 78% of people masturbate. This figure tends to be higher for men than women. For example, in the UK, 96% of men said they masturbated compared to 78% of women.
- Globally, gay and bisexual individuals are 23 percent more likely to masturbate weekly than heterosexual individuals.
- Those who identify as gay or bisexual are also more likely to have tried masturbation. For example, in the UK, 97% of gay/lesbian and bisexual respondents said they had tried masturbation, compared to 86% of heterosexual respondents.
- On average, adults reported that they began masturbating when they were around 15 years old. However, this was 13 years olds for gay and bisexual respondents.
- Where’s the most popular place to masturbate? Seventy-nine per cent say they choose to masturbate in their bedroom, while 15% prefer the shower. Less frequent responses included ‘in the Jacuzzi’, ‘in the office’ or just ‘outside’.
- The top three reasons given for masturbation are: To achieve pleasure; to relieve sexual tensions; and to de-stress. Other reasons included: To aid sleep, boredom, to help improve sexual performance, to explore their bodies and desires, or because their partner is uninterested or unavailable.
Talking about it
- Fifty percent of global respondents felt society would benefit from discussing sexuality and masturbation more openly. Gay and bisexual people are significantly more likely to have talked about masturbation with a friend or significant other: In the UK, 71% of gay/bi people talked about it with someone else, compared to just 42% of heterosexual people.
- 72% of gay and bisexual individuals believe society would benefit if people were more open in discussing sexual topics like masturbation compared with only 44% of heterosexuals.
- Masturbation is something many find difficult to talk about: 30% of respondents said they had lied about masturbation in the past. In the US, 55% said they never talked about masturbation.
- Women are more likely than men to entertain the idea of buying a sex toy. For example, only 46% of UK men are open to buying a sex toy compared to 59% of UK women.
- Wondering if you masturbate too much? In the UK, 45% of those aged 18-34 said they masturbate weekly, and out of those, the average was 4.6 times a week. The remaining 55% were either a few times a month or year or less. Moving up an age bracket, 41% of those aged 35-54 masturbated weekly, knocking out an average 4.1 times a week. In the 55+ age bracket, just over one in four said they masturbated weekly – and those who did so managed it around three times a week.
The survey took place in February-March 2018.
Benefits of masturbation
Many health experts recognize that masturbation can help you decide what you enjoy sexually, or how to best achieve orgasm.
Besides the sey toy questions specific to this survey, its results are not greatly dissimilar to other surveys on masturbation.
A US study in 2009 of over 5,000 adults found that 78% of respondents said they had masturbated at some stage in their life (again, more men than women). A 2016 Swedish study of young Swedes (aged 18-22) found that 1 in seven women said they had never masturbated, against just 1% of men.
A spokesperson for TENGA says it undertook the study to open up conversations around mastubation.
‘The health benefits of masturbation are well known,’ said Eddie Marklew, Global Marketing Manager.
‘What is less known are the emotional benefits that masturbation and discussing sexual topics can bring to a relationship. By encouraging people to be more open with their emotions, and sexual preferences, TENGA hopes to elevate the conversation around masturbation to create more fun and beneficial sexual experience.’
‘LGBT people are generally more experimental’
Dominic Davies, a psychologist and founder of Pink Therapy in the UK, said he was surprised by age-difference results. He said masturbation tends to coincide with the onset of puberty unless there are strong cultural injunctions against it, although for many gay people, ‘opportunities for partnered sex in one’s early teens are greatly reduced – so this might account for solo sexual experimentation.’
He agreed that LGBT people can be more experimental when it comes to exploring sexual pleasure.
‘I think LGBT people are generally more experimental as we’re not relying on the heteronormative ‘gold standard’ of penis-in-vagina sex.’
Jacking off for stress-relief
Michael Dale Kimmel is a gay psychologist based in San Diego. He too thinks that gay people may be more experimental.
‘Masturbation as a form of sexual pleasure may be more a form of sexual experimentation for us LGBT’ers than for straight folks. Example: GBT men, who may find anal stimulation a popular and enjoyable part of masturbation. I don’t think too many straight men are open to that … yet.’
LGBT people are more prone to depression and anxiety. This might tie in with masturbation providing a form of stress relief.
‘Certainly, when we’re closeted, and more prone to depression and anxiety, masturbation can be a nice stress reliever,’ says Kimmel. ‘I’d be interested if there is data that shows a difference in masturbating frequency of closeted LGBTers versus those of us who have come out. I bet closeted folks masturbate more – but I have no data to back that up.’
Dr Tony Ortega is a New York based psychologist and the writer of the recent self-help book, #IsHeHereYet: Being the Person You Want to be With. He suggests other factors might be at play.
‘Masturbation is something that one can do in the privacy of their own home. It is something we can control and that no one needs to know about. When sexual feelings for our same gender emerge, there may be a sense of self-wrongness associated with these feelings. However, by engaging in masturbation, we can ease these feelings.
‘Other psychological factors may also come into play such as dating/sex phobia. If someone fears these activities, masturbation is a safer option and provide at least some satisfaction. In essence, from a psychological perspective, masturbation can be a control strategy to manage emotions.’
‘Bringing all this stuff out in the open is definitely a boon to our mental health’
UK-based psychotherapist Jane Czyzselska wonders if straight people are more prone to thinking of masturbation as wrong or sinful.
‘I wonder if there’s something about a certain kind of conservative heteronormativity that attaches shameful narratives to masturbation? I’m thinking of patriarchal religions that consider it sinful … or that to self-pleasure whilst in a monogamous relationship suggests that something is missing?
‘If this were so, perhaps then the gay, bi and lesbian folk who are less likely to pay heed to such conservative belief systems, enjoying masturbation whether in or outside of relationships, alone or with other sexual partners?’
Kimmel suggests any survey by a sex toy brand should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. However, he welcomes the conversation.
‘While I have doubts about the objectivity of a study done by a company that has obvious biases towards the results (i.e.TENGA wanting to sell their products), I like the idea of talking more about masturbation and sexual health.
‘Bringing all this stuff out in the open is definitely a boon to our mental health. Shame, guilt and secrecy about sexual activities makes us more unhappy and troubled.’