HELP!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Question

I am involved in a sexually and emotionally satisfying hetero relationship with a very sweet man. The only problem is that I am having difficulty dealing with the fact that his sexual life extends beyond me. In other words, the fact that he masturbates, watches porn, and looks at other women upsets me, insults me, and makes me jealous and insecure. I want to be realistic about our sexual life together and be happy. What can I expect and what should I do?

Answer

Think back to your personal journey of learning about sexuality. What were some of the things that you were told (or not told) about masturbation, men's sexuality, women's sexuality, pornography, and relationships? What does monogamy mean to you? Is masturbation a part of your life? How about pornography? Do you have sexual fantasies? If so, are they all about your boyfriend?

You certainly aren't the only woman who has written to me feeling hurt and upset about a male partner who masturbates or looks at porn. To my surprise, many heterosexual women seem to feel that this is a form of infidelity. I proceed from a whole different set of assumptions. To begin with, I don't believe that masturbation should stop once you find a good sexual relationship with a partner. Masturbation meets a different set of needs. It's about loving and soothing yourself, and tending your own garden of sexual images. The things you learn during masturbation can be brought back to partnered sex to make it better. It should be viewed as an asset or a supplement to the relationship, not competition. A partner who masturbates is not telling you that you aren't giving him enough sex or even that he wants to have sex with another woman. He just needs to touch base with his own body, to be grounded in his own flesh, and feel the different sensation of his own hand on his cock.

Another thing I don't believe is that looking at pornography constitutes infidelity. Couples can look at pornography together, and use the resulting excitement to enhance their lovemaking. I acknowledge, however, that it can be difficult to find a variety of porn or erotica that the female partner enjoys. Venus Envy can certainly help you with that issue. The shops feature good erotic entertainment written or produced by women, for female audiences.

Masturbation is not always separate from partnered sex. Watching how your partner touches themselves can be quite instructive and hot. Especially if you get to tell him when to start and when to stop. Or if you feel excited enough to join in. It's a pleasant alternative to intercourse or oral sex, just one more way to relax and find intimacy and release. Allow yourself to consider a variety of ways to be intimate. If you plan on being monogamous for the rest of your life, you'll need that variety as much as he does.

Do you feel that you've abdicated the job of taking good care of yourself just because you are in a relationship? That all orgasms ought to come from his touch? I think that's a mistake. There are going to be times when he is too tired and you don't want to wait to come. Or he might get off before you do, and there's no reason why you should just lay there fuming. Knowing that you can come any time you need to takes some pressure off of intercourse, and makes it more open-ended and free flowing. Sometimes when you try a new sexual technique, like cunnilingus, perhaps, it can take a while to have reliable orgasms with it. Sex therapists frequently recommend masturbation as a reinforcing activity. Enjoy oral sex as long as you can, then when you need to come, let yourself go. This associates orgasm with the oral sex, and eventually, you won't need masturbation as a stopgap measure.

The same can be said for learning how to have orgasms during intercourse. Few women can come just from the feeling of a penis inside of the vagina. They often need direct clitoral stimulation as well. That can be provided by you as well as your partner. It's like putting on a little show for him, and allowing him into your private world. He will probably be turned on, watching you stroke yourself, and he can concentrate fully on stroking you in a different area.

Being monogamous doesn't automatically turn off all interest in other sexual beings. That would take some of the specialness out of it, I believe. The point is that he is a fully alive, healthy, attentive man who sees all of the other sexual possibilities that exist out there—and still chooses to be with you. If you start punishing him for "infidelity" that doesn't involve an affair with another woman, you'll simply push him away and confuse him. He might start hiding his porn or jerking off in secret, but I doubt he'll stop 100%. He's a testosterone-based life form, after all. Both men and women usually continue to masturbate throughout the life cycle, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death parts us from our marvelous bodies.

Maybe the right question to ask here is not, "Why does he masturbate?" but, "Why don't you?"

If the picture I've painted above seems bizarre to you, and you can't imagine yourself living this way, perhaps you could compromise with your lover. Tell him that it upsets you to know he is masturbating and looking at porn, so you'd prefer you didn't know when that was taking place. But then you have to give him a private place to keep his stash of erotica, and not snoop when he has some time alone. Don't expose yourself to information that is definitely going to make you feel jealous and insecure. Keep reminding yourself that he chose you. He isn't chasing porn stars or having affairs with your friends; he just wants to be with you. You won the competition hands-down, if you'll pardon the expression.