Everything You Need To Know About Mutual Masturbation

Photographed by Lula Hyers.
Sex doesn’t always have to be about giving or receiving — you can just do you, so to speak, and that’s still sex. It’s called mutual masturbation, and it can involve simply touching yourself with an audience, as well as touching a partner’s genitals with your hands or having your partner touch you (or all of these things at once). So why can it feel so intimidating?
For one thing, it can carry all of the taboo, or aura of privacy, secrecy, and shame, that can go along with masturbation. “There’s a lot of stigma around masturbation, even more so than sex, so people can have a lot of nervousness about showing their partner how they like to be touched,” says Allison Moon, a sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101. For another, it can feel really vulnerable. "Often, people have more anxiety touching themselves in front of their partner than having their partner touch them,” Moon says.
Plus, sometimes it’s hard to remember mutual masturbation is even an option when penetrative sex is a possibility. But, taking the focus off of penetration can let you explore other sensations. And that kind of exploration can make all kinds of sex better. "Sharing mutual masturbation is very, very sexy, but it’s also a way for our partners to know what feels good to us: what it looks like, how we move our hands, how we move our bodies, what part of our bodies we concentrate on. It's a visual of what makes us get off,” says Ignacio Rivera, a.k.a. Papí Coxxx, a sex educator, author, performance artist, and porn star.
Within a relationship, mutual masturbation can be an option when you’re tired but want to feel sexually connected. It also can just be a quicker way to get off together, whether you’re in a relationship or not. Another bonus? "There’s not usually a lot of fluid exchange in mutual masturbation,” Moon says, so it’s great for safer sex.
It’s also easy to fit into your existing sex life. “You can do it in a variety of ways: You can use toys; you can use your hands; you can be creative with it as much as possible. There’s no 'one size fits all' when it comes to mutual masturbation,” says Ieshai Bailey, a certified sex therapist based in Florida who works with people of all genders and sexualities in lots of different relationship configurations.
Less intimidated? Here are some tips on how to get started with mutual masturbation. Even if you’re already doing this — and many people are — there’s always a new tip or trick that can take your mutual masturbation game to the next level.