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#208: My boyfriend doesn’t want me to masturbate.

Dear Captain Awkward,

First, background: I am currently near the end of year two of a fantastic and wonderful relationship with my boyfriend “Jeff”, and we are both 21. I am a junior in college, working towards finishing my pre-med requirements and studying for my MCAT in May. He is taking a year off from his community college in order to try being a working man, and he loves his new job that he got last September.

We’ve wanted to move in together for a while now, practically after the seventh month of dating, but we both agreed that we were going to wait until he was financially secure before signing a lease. Jeff was a temp at his job, but they recently hired him on completely a month ago, so we’ve been looking for apartments. We finally signed the lease on a lovely little place that’s so close to my school. We’re both very happy about our great place and we’re moving in next fall. Money is no problem for me, thankfully I have a hefty scholarship.

I started getting worried about how we would divide up the chores when we lived together, and tried to think about any annoying habits that I have that I should warn him about. Most of it was completely mundane (who’s in charge of dishes, I have a billion shampoo bottles that clutter up the tub that I would be willing to trim down to one or two if it bothers him, etc.), but then we got to one of mine that I breezed over, assuming it wouldn’t be a big deal. Occasionally, when I’m in the mood I like to watch porn and masturbate by myself. I consider it sort of like my alone relaxation time. I would never roll over in bed with him, smile sweetly, and say “Honey, could you please leave? I want to get off and you’re kind of ruining it.” I just wait until he went off to play video games, or I do it while he is sleeping. I’ve done it at least twice while he was over at my apartment (he practically lives here over the weekend), and I just never thought enough of it to mention it before. I consider masturbation and sex to be two completely different things.

While I casually mentioned this, Jeff was floored. He was very hurt that I would do something like that, and was upset that he wasn’t fulfilling my sexual needs completely. I tried to tell him that he was amazing in bed (which he is) and that it wasn’t like that, and he tried to see it from my point of view. However, he admitted that there was no way he could understand where I was coming from. He says that whenever he masturbates, he always wishes that I was there and that if I was around when he wanted sex, he’d come to me first to see if I was up for it. I almost wish that I hadn’t told him, except for the fact that we both really value honesty in our relationship, even hard truths. I asked him if he wanted me to not do it, and he said that he wouldn’t want to control me like that. He just is hurt that I have those feelings in the first place.

Captain, our sex life is fantastic. We have usually do the monster mash at least twice a day (record is five, count ‘em five), and he never pressures me into sex. He is the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen (think Sherlock from the BBC show of the same name, only not an asshole), gives me bushels of satisfying orgasms, and is very adventurous in bed. But sometimes, I just want to be by myself and watch some hot guy-on-guy action. How can I explain to him that while he fulfills my sexual needs completely, an occasional solo performance once every couple of weeks is something that I can’t help but want?

If it helps, I already asked if he would like to join me in mutual masturbation (he’s bisexual, so the whole gay porn thing would not be a problem), and he declined. He says that he doesn’t want to be there if he would be a second wheel, so to speak. Honestly, I kind of agree with him. I really want to be alone, and I’m already embarrassed by the terrible acting in my favorite pornos. But I’m worried that this will exacerbate the insecure feelings that he has admitted that he has sometimes. He occasionally worries about what I see in him, and whether or not I’m attracted to his tall and skinny body type. Captain, sometimes I worry about what he sees in me, and whether he’s attracted to my short and fat body type! I love my adorable, witty, and sweet man to bits, and in my heart I know that he feels the same about me. What can I do to reassure him that he’s the only man for me, and that this once every few weeks porn-watching habit is nothing but a more X-rated version of relaxing in a hot bubble bath and painting my toenails harlot red?

Sincerely,
The gender-flipped version of “Dear Prudence, my husband watches too much porn”

Dear Gender-Flipped:

We’ve covered this topic before around these parts, but I like the question your letter raises, which is: Once you’re in a committed relationship, does your sexuality belong somehow to your partner? Do you have an obligation to give them right of first refusal over your orgasms?

The answer, my friends, is HELL NO.

I mean, isn’t that the whole thesis of the Virginity = “Purity” Brigade? Don’t have sex with other people, you’re ruining something that should be only for your eventual spouse. Don’t touch yourself – that belongs to your eventual spouse! If someone gives you happy pants feelings, how will you ever recognize True-Love-Sacred-Emotionally-Connected pants feelings? (Answer: You just will. It IS different when you love someone. It’s different even at the beginning, when you think “You? I could love. Stick around please so we can find out.“) Insert horrible metaphor about plucked daisies or already-chewed gum here.

Vaginas, penises, hands, tongues, mouths, brains (big sexy filthy brains!)….don’t wear out with use. There is no finite amount of pleasure to be had in this world; you can have all of it. I don’t know why that’s so terrifying to some people.

Masturbation, for you, is self-care. You’re taking care of your own sexuality. You’re relieving stress. You’re making yourself feel great. You’re reveling in your own fantasies. It’s not something that takes anything away from your partner or how you feel about your partner, because your body belongs to you and your brain belongs to you. You get to be the protagonist of your own sex life.

The awesomeness of masturbation aside, your letter gets at two very interesting issues surrounding communication, honesty, and relationships.

Your partner wants to offer his entire sexuality up to you and make it only about you. Perhaps you should explore that in some kind of kinky manner down the road? But if we take sex out of it for a second, what we have here is one partner offering up something that the other partner never wanted or asked for, and then using that offering to try to extract something in return. “I gave this to you, so you owe me something now.”

It’s an attempt at manipulation. Even with the caveat that he doesn’t want to be That Controlling Guy….he says that because he knows that it’s kind of controlling And you guys, this is so common, and so human. “I want/need something from you, so I’ll give it away to you first and hope/assume that you’ll reciprocate and be hurt when you don’t.” This is primal stuff. This is how we sometimes behave around needs that we don’t even know we have or know how to express.  It makes me think of Holly’s excellent piece on the Geek Social Fallacies of Sex, especially GSFS1: “You can control your emotions around sex.”

“Pretending you can just decide whether you’ll feel any emotions at all is a geek fallacy stemming from the idea that you should be able to optimize your own brain to not do anything unproductive or unintended.  But geeks ought to know better, because come on, you can’t even get a computer to do that.  This stuff comes on you, it gets you by the heart and the gut, and it doesn’t ask you “pardon me, I’m an emotion, are you okay with experiencing me?” first.

What you can and should voluntarily control is how you express your emotions.  It’s okay to feel strong emotions; it’s not okay to attack people or break promises and use “I was emotional” as an excuse.  This is when it’s time to tell your partner “hey, we need to talk, I’m feeling an emotion!”  Solving the problem may involve changing your relationship boundaries, it may just involve talking it out, or it may mean you have to end the relationship.  But the solution is never “that is anincorrect emotion, please stop experiencing it.”

An attempt at manipulation doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you a person. Ever seen a toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed try to get “just one more story?” The kid knows it’s bedtime and knows s/he shouldn’t ask, but can’t help it because s/he just wants one more story, and to be awake and have attention and love from adults, dammit, so it becomes a whole show about drinks of water and crying and being afraid of the dark.

So now that your partner has figured out and expressed this need (and this insecurity) and it’s out there. And you have a choice about how you deal with it, and that choice is about boundaries.

Which is the second big “This Is What Being A Grown-up Is Like” question that shakes out of your letter. You were honest about what you do with your idle hands, and he was honest about how it kind of freaks him out, and now you get to decide what kind of boundaries you want to have in your shared living space. And this is where you might have to slay the fallacy that the two of you can and should share and talk about everything. And this is where you slay the fallacy that you can control your emotions and negotiate what they will be in advance. Living with someone will always be full of surprise things you didn’t realize would affect you but now they do, and full of small negotiations about what’s yours/mine/ours – that’s the adventure of joining up lives with another person.

Your watchwords here are boundaries, privacy, and manners.

You can be a safe place for your partner and do your best to make him feel great. You can show and tell your attraction all the livelong day. But he’s got to handle his feelings about himself for himself, and it’s not fair to make the question of your masturbation about him and his insecurities. That’s a boundary.

You guys can make an agreement that in your house a closed door means “knock and wait for an answer before you open it.”  And you can decide that you get to masturbate when you want to and that it has nothing to do with him. So don’t tell him about it. Wait until he’s out of the house or asleep or busy and settle in for a good session. There gets to be stuff in your life that’s just yours. That’s not being dishonest, it’s being private and having good manners.

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About JenniferP

Chicago filmmaker, teacher, and blogger.

50 comments on “#208: My boyfriend doesn’t want me to masturbate.

  1. “And this is where you might have to slay the fallacy that the two of you can and should share and talk about everything.”

    Right on. Communication is important in a relationship, but it’s not everything. If you want two different things, there’s no way to fix it just by talking about – you have to compromise and come up with a solution that works. In a case like this one where your partner is essentially (though certainly not maliciously) trying to curtail your human rights, the compromise is “I’ll keep this to myself, and it will be none of your business.”

    Be ever so careful with that word “ours.” If your partner wants to apply it to something that’s yours alone (and I can’t think of anything that more clearly is yours alone than your relationship with your own junk,) that word “ours” will turn out to be a very heavy burden to bear.

    The beauty of human relationships is in both exclusion and exclusion. There is a reason your spouse is not your car mechanic. He is no more qualified to be your sex coach.

  2. Hm. I like this post on the whole, but I have a couple quibbles here:

    And you can decide that you get to masturbate when you want to and that it has nothing to do with him. So don’t tell him about it. Wait until he’s out of the house or asleep or busy and settle in for a good session. There gets to be stuff in your life that’s just yours. That’s not being dishonest, it’s being private and having good manners.

    Quibble 1: What if she gets “caught” at some point? It’s not fair that she should have to play the Bad Repentant Partner Who Screwed Up over doing something totally private and natural. Especially because this magnifies the issue from “you were masturbating and I don’t like that” to “you were hiding things frpm me.”

    Quibble 2: This lets him think that he got away with ordering her not to masturbate. Which I think sets a bad precedent.

    I’d just go for the Blunt And Mean approach–”Jeff, I won’t masturbate much, and you won’t ever witness it or hear about it, but it’s gonna happen. I’m sorry you feel bad about that. I’d feel bad about not wanking so it sucks either way, and since it sucks either way I might as well get some orgasms out of it.”

    …I wouldn’t really phrase it exactly like that, I guess. But that’s what I’m thinking.

    • I like your points, and wish I’d carved that out better in the post with a script. “Sorry, Jeff, that’s not really up for negotiation because it’s not really about you. If it bugs you I’ll do my best to keep it quiet out of consideration.”

  3. LW, I see a red flag here in that your BF seems to expect you to not fantasize about anyone else but him. I would feel badly for him if you were always using porn and masturbating to the point that your sex life with him dropped off, but this isn’t the case. You have every right to have your alone time and do this if you choose.

    Also, it’s no reflection on anyone if their partner gets themselves off. Sheesh. I agree with the Captain–your boyfriend has to deal with his own insecurities himself. You aren’t ogling other guys openly (which is rude) or making comments about your BF body (or if you are, it sounds like, “Hey, you look HAWT”). It sounds like this is his insecurity and that he shouldn’t be making it your problem.

    Also? I’d be worried if I had a partner who never got themselves off. WTF? How will you know what you like and what will get you off if you don’t do it yourself?

    • I think I agree with the Captain. It’s not a “red flag,” and it doesn’t indicate that he’s a bad person. He just has some incorrectly universal ideas about what sexuality in a relationship is like. He’s overgeneralizing from his own experience. It only gets into red flag territory if, after LW explains her feelings and says this isn’t something she’s willing to give up, he makes it into a running battle, tries to catch her at it, or something along those lines. But expressing the insecurity in and of itself does not indicate anything bad about the boyfriend.

      • I’m not saying he’s a bad person, Anon. I’m saying that the LW should feel okay to not have her BF fill every need she has–no one is up to that job, anyway. The reason why I said it’s a red flag is because it could veer into bad territory if this isn’t nipped in the bud now. But veering into bad territory does not equal “ZOMG YOUR BOYFRIEND IS A BAD PERSON.”

    • Also? I’d be worried if I had a partner who never got themselves off. WTF? How will you know what you like and what will get you off if you don’t do it yourself?

      I don’t masturbate pretty much at all, but nonetheless I am pretty sure I know what I like sexually and what gets me off, since I have enjoyable sex and get off. Nor is my partner worried about my masturbation or lack thereof, since that is my business alone.

      Masturbation is great, and I 100% agree w/ Capt. Awk that the LW should continue to enjoy herself and that the BF should 800% back the fuck off. But not masturbating in and of itself is not a problem, and it’s not a “WTF?” sign. It’s just a part of my sexuality.

      (PS – Sorry for the anon, I don’t like discussing my sex life under my real name.)

      • Hey nonny nonny, no worries, and good point. You don’t HAVE to masturbate or do any sex act whatsoever to be healthy, normal, etc.. “Jeff” does masturbate, I think? He just thinks tenderly of the LW when he does it, which is sweet and great – always nice to have the person you fantasize about correlate to the person you’re actually fucking.

      • Fair enough. Didn’t mean to make you feel judged.

  4. His response is super telling to me. He says that when he wants sex, he comes to you. That response tells you that he thinks you playing solo means that you want sex and there are times you just aren’t getting it/wanting it from him. But that’s not what’s going on. You don’t want sex, you want some solo time. And while he views the latter as the thing you settle for when you can’t get the former, you see them as two totally different things. He needs to understand that sometimes it’s not about him.

    I know Dan Savage is not always great on all issues, but this is an area I think he’s pretty good with. If you’ve tried to explain things and your boyfriend just doesn’t get it, maybe you could point him in the direction of a few Savage Love columns that tackle this subject? Given the kinds of messages men get from society, it probably couldn’t hurt to hear from a dude that it’s not a personal failing when your partner wants to spend some time alone.

    • “That response tells you that he thinks you playing solo means that you want sex and there are times you just aren’t getting it/wanting it from him. But that’s not what’s going on. You don’t want sex, you want some solo time.”

      This is really important. I know that some people see sexual activity as fundamentally different from other kinds of activity, but I would compare it to going for a walk or watching a movie or having a bubble bath. I love going for walks. Sometimes I like walking with a friend because it means I get to hang out with a friend while also going for a walk. However, I also really like going for walks by myself, because that’s time I get to spend with myself, and it’s a very different experience from going for a walk with someone else. If a friend or a partner got offended that I sometimes went for walks by myself because they only wanted to walk if they could do it with me and thought I should only have to walk by myself when they were unavailable, I would think they were being unreasonable and probably tell them so. The same applies for your masturbating, LW. Having sexytimes by yourself seems to be a very different experience for you from having sex with another person, even if the same isn’t true for Jeff. I think you need to frame this as something you enjoy doing for yourself in addition to the sex you enjoy having with him, rather than instead of it. He might have a hard time seeing it that way, but if I were in your position, I would not be willing to negotiate on this.

  5. Full agreement with the Captain: Your personal sexytimes are not a threat to your relationship unless Jeff MAKES them a threat. Nip that business in the bud.

    Potential TMI:

    I also enjoy some personal sexytimes, and it is not even remotely about how often/good the sex with HusbandLogic is. It’s about the fact that he does not vibrate, and that when I bring a toy to mutual sexytimes, I often get too distracted to use it. Or I’m too distracted to play out my favorite inside-brain fantasies.

    Dudes do not vibrate, and they can’t read your mind. But then, vibrators (which also can’t read your mind, but are controlled by your hand which is nearly as good) can’t do any of the myriad other things that people with their people parts CAN do. They can’t talk dirty to you, or kiss you, or strategically withhold kissing, or… well, your people parts doings are your business.

    Just that, sometimes, the flavor of sex I want is the alone-with-my-brain type, and that’s okay.

    There’s a reason we tend to equate sexual desire with hunger; the base need is there and it sometimes sends off a ‘craving’ for a specific version of the thing. There are people satisfied with chicken and waffles every meal every day and people who need WAY more variety. There are people who are satisfied with missionary sex once a week and people who would go crazy at those limits whether of frequency or of form. Suffice it to say, if I want an ice cream cone, having a steak isn’t going to cut it. That is not steak’s fault, steak is great, and satisfies the underlying hunger, but it isn’t the ice cream that I craved. It would be weird to beat myself up for craving ice cream.

    Dammit, now I want non-euphemistic ice cream.

  6. And communication doesn’t mean constantly sharing EVERY. SINGLE. THOUGHT. AND. EMOTION. One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn in my quest to adulthood, with my ADD and extrovert nature, is that communication is all about figuring out what to say, and what not to say, as well as how to say it. We’ve all had those moments of horror when someone we love (significant other, best friend, favorite teacher ect) reveals that they HATE with a passion something we adore or vice versa. Figuring out how to react (freak out, say “that’s interesting”, or whatever) is part and parcel with being an adult type person.

  7. Your sexuality, and the use of your sexy parts, belongs to you. You are free to limit or rechannel them as part of an agreement with a partner. But there has to be an agreement, in which you both commit to a shared vision of your togetherness and its implications for sex. The right way for Jeff to approach things, if he really wants a no-masturbation rule, would be to say “honey, now that we’ve been together for a while, I want to deepen our relationship by agreeing to direct all of our sexual energy toward each other.” Then you could explain why you don’t like that style of relationship, and the discussion could proceed from there. What he’s done instead is to make assumptions about what should just automatically happen to your sexual desires given his presumed competence as a lover. And since he assumes that the no-masturbation scenario will just automatically happen without having to be agreed upon, since it happened that way for him, he feels betrayed by the fact that it didn’t happen for you. But you’re not bound by his amateur psychological theories.

    I’m not sure that you can get him to *understand* your take on it. It seems more important that he be willing to *trust* you. After all, even if you did tell him you’d masturbate again, he’d still have to trust that you weren’t going at it any time he was out of the room. He has to trust your sincerity in your words and actions that show he’s a good lover, and trust — even if he can’t understand — that your desire to masturbate is not coming out of a feeling of dissatisfaction with him. If he can’t trust you on this, that’s a bad sign.

  8. First , I just want to say I’m 100% on board with ‘your partner doesn’t own your sexuality’, and Holly’s script for ‘Love you, but I’m going to wank, so deal with it,’ is spot on, BUT aren’t there two separate issues here: the masturbating and the porn?

    If my partner were using porn I’d be hurt and upset, and I actually DO think it’s ok to say ‘I don’t want you to watch porn, boyfriend.’ He’d be totally free to say ‘Fine, then we aren’t going out,’ but I don’t think it’s at all controlling, or unfair, to say it makes you unhappy that your partner gets off watching videos of other people fucking.

    Masturbating is about you, and it’s your own business. I do it, my boyfriend does, sometimes I’m there and sometimes I’m not – and I have no idea what he’s thinking about. I’m not the thought police! I just think it’s hurtful and insensitive to wank to videos of other people when you’re in a monogamous relationship with a particular person. It’s just not…kind. Tactful? Sensitive? What does anyone else think? It’s not totally clear from the letter, but since the LW does mention hir partner’s body insecurity, doesn’t he deserve not to have his feelings hurt like this?

    • Oh dear, bright24, I am confused.

      You are not the thought police, but you want to police the material to which your boyfriend wanks when he’s alone?

      Now, if he was bringing porn that you really didn’t like to your mutual sexytimes, then you’d have a beef to run with, but in my book, watching porn isn’t cheating, nor is it insensitive to your monogamous partner if you watch it without them. The brain is a strange thing, and just because we want to watch or read or think about something doesn’t mean we want to DO it.

      There are problems if a partner replaces sex with porn and masturbation, but I don’t believe that’s a problem of porn, that’s a problem of miscommunication.

      Porn seems to make you uncomfortable, but if you don’t have to watch it, where does your discomfort lie?

    • Hey, Bright24: This is pretty much what I think about porn. Is porn sometimes icky and/or problematic? Do porn tropes, especially the way most porn is constructed for the male gaze, have an effect on the kind of sex we have and how we feel about bodies? I am not blond, thin, or hairless below the neck and I don’t like being pounded endlessly by comically large penises without any connection or foreplay or having semen shoot all over my face, so any attempts to replicate that stuff with me would get shut down with a brusque “Clearly we’ve made a mistake here and you should leave now.”

      But is it “cheating” on a partner to look at porn and fantasize, even about bodies different from your partner’s? No, not really, which is where privacy comes in. I don’t think all sexual feelings are born in the same place or that having a ladyboner for someone I read about in a story or saw in a movie diminishes the feelings I have for my partner. I don’t read or look at porn AT my partner and don’t assume he’s doing that AT me….It’s his own private sexuality that he gets to have in his own brain and body.

      If you have different needs, obviously negotiate those with your partner and see where you end up. The problem isn’t feelings, it’s assumptions that your feelings are shared without actually discussing them.

    • For me, the “I don’t want you to watch porn” is getting in to thought police territory. Like was touched by others above, I know that there are things that my brain finds amazingly hot that a, I don’t want to do in real life, and/or b, my spouse isn’t going to do with me for whatever reason. And same for him – there are definitely things that he thinks are suuuuuper hot that I’m like “yeah no that’s fine I’ll pass thx” or that he wouldn’t actually want to enact in meatspace.

      Sometimes I can imagine these things! They often don’t involve my partner. Sometimes it’s nicer to see other people doing them! For me, there’s really not too much of a leap from “imagining this in my head with other people” to “seeing other people do it thanks to the internet”. If I’m okay with one, it makes sense to me to be okay with the other. Especially because it’s really not about me in the first place (well it is with what I watch, but you know what I mean).

      Basically I think it comes down to “there is no way my one partner can meet every single one of my needs, and there is no way I can meet every single one of their needs, so we can agree that some needs will be met by people and things that are not each other, and that’s okay.” And, even when you’re in a monogamous relationship, other people don’t magically stop being attractive and sexy.

      Body issues suck – believe me, I know – but pretending that other people don’t exist or can’t possibly turn you on is a lie and I think ultimately unhelpful.

    • I think “no porn” is a reasonable thing to request, but also a reasonable thing to decline. The trick, I think, is that you should present it as “I want our relationship to have X, Y, and Z qualities, and here’s why you watching porn conflicts with those.” Then your partner can reply with their vision of the relationship and how porn does or does not fit into it. Like anything else, “no porn” has to be an agreement based on what porn means to you and your partner, not an assumption based on the alleged intrinsic insensitivity of porn use and supposed inherent corollaries of monogamy.

      • Yes exactly! Porn isn’t inconsiderate or cheating or something, it is something you could request your particular partner refrain from. Thank you Stentor, I was having trouble expressing that.

  9. Yeah, this. It’s okay to have a “no porn” agreement; it’s not okay to impose one.

    I think it can also be good to have a “what does porn mean to you” talk. Whether they say “I imagine myself having sex with the women” versus “I just get turned on watching people fuck” may make a difference in how you feel about your partner using porn.

    But I’ve gotta admit that my knee-jerk reaction is that it’s none of your business. Maybe he watches movies and gets crushes on the female characters–you can’t tell him not to watch movies! Maybe he goes outside and fantasizes about women he sees–you can’t tell him not to go outside! A person’s brain is their own, and that includes their sexybrain.

    • Maybe he watches movies and gets crushes on the female characters–you can’t tell him not to watch movies! Maybe he goes outside and fantasizes about women he sees–you can’t tell him not to go outside!

      This is exactly the point I was about to make. If you start by saying that watching porn is “hurtful and insensitive”, where do you draw the line? Movies or TV shows with that actress he thinks is hot? Non-porn movies with love scenes? Attractive women he passes on the street? I realize that’s kind of a slippery slope argument, which I normally hate, but the whole “thought police” aspect of this is a bit troubling for me.

  10. Wow, thanks for the rapid response. All the comments have also been really helpful.

    I’d like to clarify: Jeff is definitely not asking me to stop masturbating. He also feels really guilty about feeling this way, and he knows that it’s problematic. I’m more concerned about how to talk it out with him and help him understand that my alone time has no reflection on him. I don’t feel guilty for wanting to masturbate, I just wish that Jeff wouldn’t feel rejected. I don’t want to fall into Holly Pervocracy’s “bad emotion” theory and tell him that he’s experiencing a stupid or bad feeling, but I do want to help him with his insecurities.

    Captain, you’re right, I think that we do have a habit of oversharing and overthinking it. Thank you for pointing this out to me. This is the first long-term relationship for both of us, and we were both virgins coming into it. I think that that situation makes us extra-sensitive about doing the best “communication” that a couple should do. I realize now that I might have been a little too open about a private matter of mine, but now that it’s out there, I want to deal with it the right way.

    Also, he masturbates too, just only when I am not around. He has no problem with my porn-watching intrinsically, just that I would want to do it when I could instead have sex with him. He is not worried that I would watch porn with big muscle men that look nothing like him. In fact, he’s been flattered before that I would like something specifically because it had a guy that looked somewhat like him. I feel that it’s more of a why-watch-porn-when-you-have-me-around than a why-watch-porn-at-all.

    • You both sound very nice and considerate of each others feelings. It helps to know that you were both virgins because when everything is new things get blown out of proportion.

      I agree with you and Holly about the “bad emotion” thing. It is much more helpful to talk to him about what is going on than to try to make him feel bad. Maybe it would help him to know that many many people in wonderful sexual relationships masturbate not because they feel deprived in any way but because they actively like solo time. Nearly everyone I have talked to about it wants solo sexytime when they are in fabulous relationships and having great sex. If he knew that that is just the way that people often work maybe he wouldn’t think it was a reflection on him.

      • Holly has some great posts on this, search ‘masturbate’ on Pervocracy. I really like the bit about the quick wank to go to sleep by, because I do that too, but she has tons of other posts about it as well.

    • In essence, “why are you using the stand-in when you have the real thing–does that mean the real thing isn’t good enough”?

      But to you it’s not that you’re replacing him or don’t find him good enough. In my mind, the comparisons you used about it being a thing you do to unwind, akin to bubble baths, is pretty accurate in conveying that. Still, considering he’s basing his own model on his own experience, I do wonder if it wouldn’t help for him to get out of his own head a little. If there are any good books on the viewpoints of masturbating and the like, I wonder if that would provide a bit more perspective?

      • Still, considering he’s basing his own model on his own experience, I do wonder if it wouldn’t help for him to get out of his own head a little

        Also, and I hope this doesn’t come off as essentializing because I totally don’t mean it that way, but pleasure and orgasm feel different for people with ladyparts than for people with dudeparts. Not in some “this means something significant about LIFE” way, but in a “my experience with masturbation is honestly completely separate from yours” way.

    • I was once in a very similar situation: first long-term relationship for both of us, both virgins, planning on moving in together. He also expressed a lot of insecurity over what I saw in him and if I was attracted to his body type. He got hurt over the same masturbation issue, and I, too, didn’t feel guilty about my actions but worried about him feeling rejected. I fretted over it using a lot of the exact same terminology you’re using here about the importance of openness and communication in a relationship.

      In retrospect, it WAS a red flag. He ended up being really emotionally manipulative (and a pathological liar, but hopefully that’s something our situations don’t have in common). Around the same time, he started saying things like, “Who are YOU dressing up for?” (answer: him, but I guess I wasn’t supposed to look good in public) and implying he’d commit suicide if I didn’t see him more often. I could go on, but you get the point.

      I sincerely hope your situation ends up being different from mine, but please do be on the lookout for emotionally manipulative behavior. In the end, I only wish I’d seen it for what it was and left that guy sooner.

      • I’m so sorry that that happened to you, it sounds like it was pretty terrible. Thank you for warning me, and your concern is very touching. I usually talk with my best friend and my mom to get perspective on things that my love-struck eyes might dismiss out of hand, but I definitely keep a look out for red flags myself.

    • “I don’t feel guilty for wanting to masturbate, I just wish that Jeff wouldn’t feel rejected.”

      Have you tried sharing the hot bath and nail polish metaphor with him? Did it work? If not, why not try a different metaphor? Let’s say you’re living with an amazing chef. They cook mind blowing meals for you two or three times a day and you love it. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop watching Food Network and making yourself an amazing grilled cheese or occasionally indulging in a bowl of ramen when the mood hits- even if you know he’s going to be making a 20 course extravaganza of molecular gastronomy or whatever later that night. Obviously sex has a deeper level of intimacy than food, but it might help him feel less rejected if there’s some other metaphor he can identify with.

  11. I was expecting “DTMFA.”

  12. I tried to talk to a now-ex of mine about porn. I was using his computer, typed “the” into the URL bar, and got a holy shitton of porn sites (seriously. THE). I was curious about the sheer number of them. Mostly, I wanted to have a “hey, so you watch porn. cool. whatevs. what does porn mean to you? what kinds of porn are you watching? would you ever want to watch something together?” kind of conversation, but I got shut down there. I also got shut down with the “do you have any fantasies?” convo and with the “if you were directing this sexytimes scene that’s about to start right now, what would happen?”

    See, verbal foreplay is HOT to me, and I am more than willing to walk a partner through it, but s/he has to play along. It isn’t the reason he’s an ex, but it definitely made it easier to get over him. It wasn’t the fact that he had trouble with that. It was his unwillingness to try. And not only in that area.

    I think if you guys over-talk everything out, then you’ll do that here, too. It sounds like you’re both young, and he’s a bit more hidebound over sex and “how it should be in a relationship.” It sounds like he feels a little excluded right now, but keep jumping him twice a day, and I imagine it will be less important as time goes on. Give him reasons to feel secure, but let him own that emotion and that reaction and work with it some himself. It’s sometimes easy to “help” to the point that you absorb and then absolve.

    • I’ve totally tried to be GGG for the whole “Let’s look at porn together” thing in relationships, but it usually has me a) laughing b) squirming uncomfortably and/or c) critiquing camerawork, lighting, and overall production values, like, OMG, why is that enormous bowl of potato chips on the coffee table while Nina Hartley seduces that nice neighbor boy? Is that her “nice neighbor boy” bait? Is that the craft services for the crew? I’ve never seen that many potato chips in one place at one time before.

      No one should know another person’s Google search terms.

      • Chrome/Firefox both have private browsing, now. I’m just saying.

      • This is where any combination of 1) the private browsing feature mentioned above 2) a guest account (I know it’s an easy thing to set up on Macs, apologies for being illiterate enough in the newer versions of Windows to know if it’s true there as well) 3) that browser you don’t normally use but have installed anyway, can go a long way to maintaining your digital privacy and sanity.

      • The few times I saw the pr0nz with a BF, the following things came up:

        1) I wonder if they cuddle after? It would be weird for me if there was no cuddling after. (BF)
        2) I wonder if they make small talk about their families and kids beforehand? Or if they’re like, hey, everyone’s getting Chinese food after, you coming out with us? (me)
        3) Just FYI, I’m not going to moan and make lots of noise when I’m giving you orals. (me)
        4) Holy shit, I’ve really gotta start doing some yoga. (BF)
        5) I wonder what the DVD extras would be like? (me)
        6) I would HOPE there would be cuddling on them. (BF)

  13. I’m sure all of you are on pins and needles waiting for the incredibly exciting conclusion of this, so I’d like to inform you that Jeff and I talked it out tonight. It went very well, and ended in cuddles. He’s acknowledged that he has some problems with body insecurity, and he says that he trusts me when I say that my solo time is different than his solo time. We had a big laugh when I pointed out that we both simultaneously worry that the other partner is settling for us.

    I had terrible body image issues in high school, and always feared that no one would ever love me because I was so fat and ugly. I got over that depressing part of my life and learned to see myself as beautiful, but it was very difficult. It’s ironic that now I’m with a handsome guy who worries sometimes that he’s too ugly to be loved.

    Thank you all for commenting, particularly because I stole certain phrases right off of this comment thread for use in our talk.

    • 1) Everyone has issues. EVERYONE. 2) Pick up a copy of Jaclyn Friedman’s What You Really, Really Want if you get a chance. I think you’ll like it. 3) Good news and good job.

    • Yay! Red flag possibility switched to green light! I’m so happy to hear this.

    • Great to hear. I should have read it before I offered my advice. It sounds like he’s interested in becoming a grown-up, and so that’s good. If he wasn’t, I’d seriously suggest kicking him out. With men, especially, there’s often no outside pressure to act right and thus it can be really hard to explain that being a grown-up is minimum. I’m happy to hear this.

    • I’m so glad to hear this story worked out and this is such a great thing to discuss in regards to owning your orgasms and your body. Once you guys move in together and have your own routine, I think you’ll find that this is a non-issue. There will be times where he is playing games and you’re in the bedroom relaxing and you spend some time alone with your computer and your pocket rocket. And you will not discuss it any more than you would if you gave yourself a pedicure because it’s just something you do with your body that has nothing to do with him. At least that’s how it works in my house. I do recommend, if possible, having your own laptop or computer. I find it helps with privacy. Good luck!

  14. From the headline, me too! Glad it turned out to be more nuanced, because at first blush I was like “who are these men and why do poor awesome people end up with them?”

  15. I wouldn’t move in with a man who isn’t an adult. Just a piece of advice from someone who’s made that mistake. Adults don’t tell each other they can’t masturbate. Adults get over it.

  16. I often have (quiet) personal sexy-times at night, right next to my husband while he sleeps. It helps me relax. It’s not about wanting sex right then (we’re too tired for it at 10 or 11 pm), it’s just “me time.” I once told him about it, and he was like, “Oh hai. That’s kinda hot.” And that’s it. It’s my time, my body. That’s the mature reaction.

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