Masturbation and Partnered Sex: Substitutes or Complements?
- 1.6k Downloads
Drawing upon a large, recent probability sample of American adults ages 18–60 (7648 men and 8090 women), we explored the association between sexual frequency and masturbation, evaluating the evidence for whether masturbation compensates for unavailable sex, complements (or augments) existing paired sexual activity, or bears little association with it. We found evidence supporting a compensatory relationship between masturbation and sexual frequency for men, and a complementary one among women, but each association was both modest and contingent on how content participants were with their self-reported frequency of sex. Among men and women, both partnered status and their sexual contentment were more obvious predictors of masturbation than was recent frequency of sex. We conclude that both hypotheses as commonly evaluated suffer from failing to account for the pivotal role of subjective sexual contentment in predicting masturbation.
KeywordsMasturbation Sexual desire Gender differences Partnered sexual behavior
The survey data for this study were funded by a grant from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture to the University of Texas at Austin.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Regnerus and Price are uncompensated fellows of the Austin Institute, and Gordon was formerly a paid research assistant of the Austin Institute. Regnerus was the principal investigator of the Relationships in America survey data collection project.
The Relationships in America survey data collection project was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Texas at Austin and was performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
- Baumeister, R. F., Cantanese, K. R., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Is there a gender difference in strength of sex drive? Theoretical views, conceptual distinctions, and a review of relevant evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 242–273. doi: 10.1207/S15327957PSPR0503_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Graham, C. A., Catania, J. A., Brand, R., Duong, T., & Canchola, J. A. (2003). Recalling sexual behavior: A methodological analysis of memory recall bias via interview using the diary as the gold standard. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 325–332. doi: 10.1080/00224490209552198.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Schick, V., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Sexual behavior in the United States: results from a national probability sample of men and women ages 14-94. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 255–265. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02012.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Leitenberg, H., Detzer, M. J., & Srebnik, D. (1993). 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. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22, 87–98. doi: 10.1007/BF01542359.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Reece, M., Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Sexual behaviors, relationships, and perceived health status among adult men in the United States: Results from a national probability sample. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 291–304. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02009.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Richters, J., Grulich, A., de Vissen, R. O., Smith, A. M. A., & Rissel, C. E. (2003). Sex in Australia: Autoerotic, esoteric and other sexual practices engaged in by a representative sample of adults. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 27, 180–190. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842X.2003.tb00806.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar