Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 87–98 | Cite as

Gender differences in masturbation and the relation of masturbation experience in preadolescence and/or early adolescence to sexual behavior and sexual adjustment in young adulthood

  • Harold Leitenberg
  • Mark J. Detzer
  • Debra Srebnik


A comparison of male and female masturbation practices was undertaken in a sample of university students to determine if the long-standing finding that young adult men in this country masturbate more than young adult women was still evident in the 1980s. Despite the efforts in the past quarter century to encourage women in our society to take greater responsibility for their own bodies and their own sexuality and to engage in more sexual self-exploration and self-stimulation, results show that women continue to masturbate much less than men. Twice as many men as women had ever masturbated and the men who masturbated did so three times more frequently during early adolescence and young adulthood than the women who masturbated during these same age periods. A second purpose of this study was to determine whether having masturbation experience during preadolescence and/or early adolescence was related to intercourse experience, sexual satisfaction, sexual arousal, or sexual difficulties in relationships during young adulthood. No such linkage was observed, suggesting that early masturbation experience is neither beneficial nor harmful to sexual adjustment in young adulthood.

Key words

masturbation sex difference gender adolescence young adulthood 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alzate, H. (1989). Sexual behavior of unmarried Columbian university students: A follow-up.Arch. Sex. Behav. 18: 239–250.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Arafat, I. S., and Cotton, W. L. (1974). Masturbation practices of males and females.J. Sex Res. 10: 293–307.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Atwood, J. D., and Gagnon, J. (1987). Masturbatory behavior in college youth.J. Sex Educ. Ther. 13: 35–42.Google Scholar
  4. Barbach, L. G. (1975).For Yourself: The Fulfillment of Female Sexuality, Doubleday, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Chambless, D. L., and Lifshitz, J. L. (1984). Self-reported sexual anxiety and sexual arousal: The expanded Sexual Arousability Inventory.J. Sex Res. 20: 241–254.Google Scholar
  6. Chan, D. W. (1990). Sex knowledge, attitudes, and experiences of Chinese medical students in Hong Kong.Arch. Sex Behav. 19: 73–93.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Clement, U. (1990). Surveys of heterosexual behavior.Ann. Rev. Sex. Res. 1: 45–73.Google Scholar
  8. Clement, U., Schmidt, G., and Kruse, M. (1984). Changes in sex differences in sexual behavior: A replication of a study on West German students (1966–1981): A summary report.Arch. Sex. Behav. 13: 99–120.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Clifford, R. (1978). Development of masturbation in college women.Arch. Sex. Behav. 7: 559–573.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cowart, D. A., and Pollack, R. H. (1979). A Guttman scale of sexual experience.J. Sex. Educ. Ther. 5: 3–7.Google Scholar
  11. Darling, C. A., and Davidson, J. K. (1986). Coitally active university students, sexual behaviors, concerns and challenges.Adolescence 21: 403–419.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Derogatis, L. R., and Melisaratos, N. (1979). The DSFI: A multidimensional measure of sexual functioning.J. Sex. Marital Ther. 5: 244–281.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Fisher, S. (1973).The Female Orgasm, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Ford, C., and Beach, F. (1951).Patterns of Sexual Behavior, Harper & Row, New York.Google Scholar
  15. Gagnon, J. H. (1985). Attitudes and responses of parents to pre-adolescent masturbation.Arch. Sex. Behav. 14: 451–466.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Gagnon, J. H., and Simon, W. (1973).Sexual Conduct: The Social Sources of Human Sexuality, Aldine, Chicago.Google Scholar
  17. Heiman, J., Lopiccolo, L., and Lopiccolo, J. (1976).Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual Growth Program for Women Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  18. Hoon, E. G. (1978).The Expanded Sexual Arousability Inventory. Available from E. F. Hoon, Box 5-165, JHMHC, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610.Google Scholar
  19. Hunt, M. (1974).Sexual Behavior in the 70's, Playboy Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  20. Hyde, J. S. (1979).Understanding Human Sexuality, McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948).Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  22. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C., and Gebhard, P. (1953).Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  23. Leitenberg, H. Greenwald, E., and Tarran, M. J. (1989). The relation between sexual activity among children during preadolescence and/or early adolescence and sexual adjustment in young adulthood.Arch. Sex. Behav. 28: 299–313.Google Scholar
  24. Lewis, R. J., and Janda, L. H. (1988). The relationship between adult sexual adjustment and childhood experiences regarding exposure to nudity, sleeping in the parental bed, and parental attitudes toward sexuality.Arch. Sex. Behav. 17: 349–362.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Marshall, D. S., and Suggs, R. C. (1971).Human Sexual Behavior: Variations in the Ethnographic Spectrum, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  26. Masters, W., and Johnson, V. (1966).Human Sexual Response, Little-Brown, Boston.Google Scholar
  27. Miller, W. R., and Leif, H. I. (1976). Masturbatory attitudes, knowledge, and experience: Data from Sex Knowledge and Attitudes Test (SKAT).Arch. Sex. Behav. 5: 447–468.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Sorensen, R. (1972).Adolescent Sexuality in Contemporary America, World, New York.Google Scholar
  29. Story, M. D. (1982). A comparison of university student experience with various sexual outlets in 1974 and 1980.Adolescence 17: 737–747.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold Leitenberg
    • 1
  • Mark J. Detzer
    • 1
  • Debra Srebnik
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations