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If you're asking the question "How often do women masturbate?" the answer is (or should be!), "As often as they want to." An ever-important reminder is that there are no rules to the game of self-pleasure and masturbation, as long as you're enjoying yourself and it's not negatively impacting your life.
Unfortunately, due to societal stigmas that push cis women toward feelings of shame around masturbation and pleasure in general, it's not always the case that cis women (and vulva owners) feel free in this way.
So let's talk about it. How often do women masturbate, on average? What's the gender masturbation gap all about? How can we close the gap? What are some health benefits to masturbating and self-pleasure?
Special note: We usually stick to non-gendered terms for vulva and penis owners, but this article will reference scientific research in which the subjects identify as male/female, men/women. In these cases, we are referring to cis-gendered participants. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of data on nonbinary, trans, or gender non-conforming masturbation habits.
How often women masturbate is highly personal with different answers for different age groups, cultures, and situational factors like stress levels. We know, for example, that stress can kill (or at least seriously dampen) sex drive, and we also know that masturbation can alleviate stress and anxiety, so it's all a matter of how your own body works and responds to stressful stimuli and what you choose to do from there.
While there's no universal "normal" for how often women masturbate in a week/month/year, it is absolutely normal for women of all ages to masturbate.
One study of Portuguese women showed that about 29 percent of women reported masturbating in the last month, while a second study of American women showed 40 percent of women respondents reporting the same. A German study found that a majority of the women surveyed said they masturbated two to three times per week. Some women don't masturbate at all, which is ok too. Hopefully it's by choice and not a product of shame or guilt, which is worth addressing.
We know that younger women are more open to masturbating than older generations, and that mutual masturbation is exceedingly common among partners, whether in person or via technology like video chat or sexting. We also know that relationship status sometimes changes how often women masturbate—but not always—and that masturbation and having body awareness can improve partnered sex.
As you'd probably assume, research shows that cis men report masturbating more often than cis women, and more men masturbate in general than women. This is what we mean by the "gender gap." Specifically, Indiana University's National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB)—which has surveyed over 20,000 people between the ages of 14 and 102—showed that women of all ages fall between 10 and 15 percentage points behind men when it comes to frequency of self-pleasure sessions.
FiveThirtyEight cited a 2009 NSSHB report that surveyed 5,865 Americans between ages 14 and 94 to provide the following numbers. When asked about masturbation frequency, 13.5 percent of men in their 30s reported masturbating more than four times per week and only 1.5 percent of women. That's a big gap.
As you might be guessing, societal norms and expectations for cis women play a big role in the masturbation gap. Women are trained at an early age to defer to men when it comes to sexual pleasure, and even deny or feel embarrassed about their own. While this isn't universally true among all cultures in the world, it's true in most (if not all) Western cultures, particularly American culture. Although these norms are slowly changing as younger generations renounce sexual shaming and become more vocal about sexual satisfaction, self-love, self-acceptance, and sex in general, the numbers are in—there's still a lot of work to do in this area.
The more we normalize masturbation across genders in formal sex education and in society at large, the more likely we'll be to erase the stigma and taboo around female self-pleasure and sexual pleasure in general. Understanding the mental health benefits of masturbation is a great place to start removing shame and stigma from the equation.
Masturbation is actually good for your physical and mental health and wellness. It's a normal, natural component to sexual health and self-discovery as well, and (again) can really help improve your experiences with partnered sexual activity. One study even showed that married women who masturbate report greater marital happiness than those who don't.
For starters, orgasming releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that floods your brain when you're in love, ecstatically happy, pregnant or nursing, and petting your dog or cat. It can also relieve menstrual cramps, a big bonus if you're particularly prone to those.
Masturbation can also offer temporary relief from anxiety and stress by releasing endorphins, and it can also help improve sleep quality. It's a great way to relieve tension after a long day, and it's a wonderful tool to accommodate mismatched sex drives in a relationship.
If you've been having trouble reaching orgasm, you're not alone. Consider some of these tips to reach your first solo orgasm. Importantly, masturbation and self-touch can be the end itself—your solo sesh doesn’t have to end in orgasm every time, so start by taking that pressure off the table. The act of self-touch/self-soothing/self-love can release endorphins and other feel-good chemicals, even if you don’t climax.
Let's normalize masturbation and the accoutrements that can go with it (vibrators, dildos, lubrication, sex pillows, whatever floats your boat). Your clitoris is your new best friend! Make a date with yourself, your favorite sex toy, and some sexy stories from the Dipsea vault.
If you're more experienced and looking to take your sex life to new heights by learning how to have multiple orgasms, we have you covered. If you're looking for something new to try to extend pleasure for longer, learn how to use edging. This skill is valuable with a partner and for solo play.
Honestly, the sky's the limit, so have fun with it. Your body and mind will thank you.
If you came across this article because you were wondering if you touch yourself too much or if your masturbation habits are "normal," then take comfort in the fact that there's no real "normal" in this area. Again, there are no rules to self-pleasure as long as what you're doing isn't harming your life or others around you.
Masturbation is an important component to women's health and well-being, and understanding your body will help improve your ability to pleasure yourself and enjoy partnered sex. It might also help you get some ZZZs.
If you're looking for some erotic inspiration to get started, check out the guided sessions above!