Few things are more toxic to a thriving sex life than w*nk-policing – the act of putting boundaries around (or even banning) a partner's masturbatory habits. (Also, anyone convinced their partner doesn't fap to porn should probably look up "denial" in the dictionary).
A respectful, equal partnership will never require you to surrender your body autonomy to another person.
Additionally, masturbation is foundational to any healthy sexual relationship. It's a safe, pressure-free way to connect with your sexuality, discover your turn-ons and consequently, become a better lover.
Now I'm going to eat my own words and say something a little controversial …
I don't think anyone should masturbate during a relationship if it's in place of sex.
If you want to take yourself to "Pleasure Town" 10 times a day because your partner's physically absent, or they can't keep up with your significantly higher sex drive, by all means, w*nk away.
But if you're getting off solo to supplement sex because it's less work, you're being a jerk (no pun intended).
It's rarely acknowledged that although sex is an undoubtedly fun and pleasurable exercise, it's also effortful. And like, actual exercise. Especially if you're having sex with someone who owns a vagina.
Research indicates just 65 per cent of women climax during partnered sex (as opposed to 95 per cent of men). This is largely because traditional penetrative sex ignores the clitoris, which most women need directly stimulated in order to achieve an orgasm.
Clitorises are also notoriously finicky things. If the clit were a person, her name would be Karen.
Like Karen striding into Kmart, demanding to speak to a manager to be refunded for her year-old broken hair dryer, clitorises require a lot of attention.
Don't get me wrong, with the right touch, clitorises are downright magical things. But so far there are only a handful of men known to womankind versed in this skill. (And approximately 5.46 billion who think they are).
Unlike penises, which – let's not beat around the bush about this (again, pun totally unintended) – can take a good hammering, clitorises respond in agitation to even a mildly zealous touch. Any woman who's been on the receiving end of an overenthusiastic fingering knows exactly what I'm talking about.
To be blunt here, pleasing a clitoris is hard work.
So yeah, it makes sense why beating off in the shower every so often might be more appealing than the effort of partnered sex. And hey, if it's only every once in a while, why not?
Except that – in surveys, at least – most men admit to masturbating up to seven times a week, and a study published in the Archives Of Sexual Behaviour found the average couple has sex roughly just once in that same time period.
Even more significantly, research suggests up to 60 per cent of women want more sex than they're getting in their relationship.
Which begs the question, are men just being lazy?
In search of answers, I stumbled upon a Reddit thread in which a woman complains her boyfriend never initiates sex.
The Redditer notes, "I recently found out he masturbates in the shower, which I think is normal for a guy, but it makes me feel worse about the situation … Is something wrong here, or do I just have to know that if I ever want sex, I will have to initiate it?"
A fellow Redditer responds, "The reason your boyfriend masturbates is that it doesn't take any time, energy or emotional connection. He doesn't have to worry about spending any time making sure you are satisfied. This is a problem."
I generally don't look to Reddit for reliable information on literally any topic, but this response hit home.
As the person who initiates most of the sex in my own relationship, it's been a long-held assumption my partner has a lower libido than me.
"How often do you masturbate?" I asked him one evening, as I was closing the laptop.
"I don't know … I guess most days," he answered casually.
"Then why don't you initiate sex? Do you no longer find me attractive?" I pressed, suddenly feeling the sting of tears prickling my eyes.
"Definitely not. I find you very sexy," he asserted confidently.
"Could it be that it's easier than sex? I mean, it's not like you have to seduce yourself like I'd expect you to seduce me. And you don't have to wait for anyone else to orgasm before you can."
"I never thought about it like that, but I guess, yeah, that makes sense," he replied.
Before I had a chance to revel in the satisfaction that only comes from achieving this kind of "gotcha" moment in one's relationship, he added, "Also, you've rejected me a couple of times, and, to be truthful, that turned me off wanting to try again."
My righteous anger at his selfishness suddenly turned to empathy for what was now apparent had in fact been insecurity.
Although masturbation shouldn't replace sex in a relationship, your partner's masturbatory habits aren't necessarily a reflection of their investment in your physical intimacy. The only way you're likely to discover if your partner is checked out of the bedroom, is to open a conversation about it.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, my boyfriend is in the shower as I write this.
This time I'm not mad though. I'm logging off to go join him.