Question: Hi, I’m a somewhat older undergraduate student (late 20s) and I still masturbate. Is that normal? Do men ever stop? I feel guilty about it.
Though not everybody chooses to masturbate, sex researchers have generally found that most men and women have masturbated at least once in their lives.
Furthermore, many men and women masturbate with different frequencies at different times throughout their lives – not just in their teens or twenties, but even into their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. It is also, of course, fine to not masturbate. Sexual behavior is a personal choice that should be respected.
Different Feelings About Masturbation
People have different feelings about masturbation which may have been shaped by their experiences with their families, religious institutions, education, or relationships with romantic partners. I’m sorry to hear that you are feeling guilty about masturbating.
You might find it helpful to know that not only do many women and men masturbate, but it is also a common behavior regardless of age, sexual orientation, and even relationship status. Findings from the US probability study, the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, show that masturbation is particularly common (and frequent) among men and women in their twenties. This is consistent with earlier findings, for example from an earlier US probability survey of Sex in America, as well as with data in other countries (such as the British NATSAL; they found that nearly three-quarters of adult men had masturbated in the month prior to the survey).
Common Even In Committed Relationships
Some people mistakenly believe that masturbation is only for men or women who are single, who can’t get dates, whose partners won’t have sex with them or who are otherwise “desperate” for sex.
In fact, researchers often find that masturbation is common among men and women who are in committed relationships or who are married, and is often part of a very healthy, fun, active, exciting and pleasurable sex life. Some partners even masturbate in front of each other.
Sex therapists often recommend masturbation to women who would like to learn to have an orgasm or to increase their own sexual pleasure. After all, touching yourself is a great way to learn about your body and what feels good to you.
Similarly, sex therapists often recommend masturbation exercises to men who would like to learn to delay their ejaculation (“last longer”).
Furthermore, some research suggests that for men, frequent ejaculation at younger ages (e.g., 20s, 30s) whether through masturbation or partner sex is associated with better prostate health as men age, as the prostate gland makes up a large amount of the fluid in men’s ejaculate (semen).
You can learn more about masturbation by reading The Big Book of Masturbation by Martha Conog and you can learn more about male sexuality, including masturbation, from The New Male Sexuality by Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld.
If you would like to talk to someone about your experiences, feelings or guilt related to masturbation, you might find it helpful to meet with a certified sex therapist (find one near you through the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists – www.aasect.org).
Reviewed and updated on May 7, 2017, with links to newer research than was available in 2007 (e.g., NSSHB and NATSAL).