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Getting intimate with your partner or partners can mean all kinds of things beyond penetrative or oral sex. Physical touch in any form can take on a sexual meaning between you and your partner(s), making you feel close, cared for, and desired. One way to get intimate with your partner on a number of sexual levels is through mutual masturbation.

Mutual masturbation can mean two different things: You and your partner(s) masturbate each other with hands, fingers, or sex toys, or you and your partner engage in solo sex side by side. Either type of touch can be foreplay or the end game—that part is totally up to you. To get a better idea of how mutual masturbation can work in its various forms, we'll go over a few ideas and the potential benefits of giving it a try.

Why try mutual masturbation?

Mutual masturbation is a fun way to mix up your sex life. It’s another tool to tuck in your sexual toolbelt to help keep things exciting and interesting, especially in long-term relationships where things can sometimes become routine or stale. It's also a useful tool in new relationships or casual encounters.

While it might not seem intuitive to scale back from penetrative sex to spice things up, it really can make things interesting! Mutual masturbation is a fun alternative to sex when you're feeling more low-key but still want to go for it with your partner. It's also a valuable part of foreplay. Most importantly, it's a super useful way to help guide your partner(s) in the right direction for what you like and what gets you off.

Prep and practice

Masturbation and solo sex are valuable sexual outlets in and of themselves, but they can also serve another purpose: They can help you understand yourself better sexually. Through self-touch and exploration, you'll get a sense of the kinds of things your body responds to, the erogenous zones that spark your interest, what kinds of sex toys you like, and how you like to use them on yourself.

When you know yourself better sexually, you're better able to communicate your needs to your partner(s) so that they can successfully give you the pleasure and attention you crave. Mutual masturbation takes that self-knowledge a step further, letting your partner in on the secrets of your body so that they can either watch or practice the kind of touch that really gets you going.

Having an open dialog around what you like during a mutual masturbation session is a great way to diversify your sexual activity while getting closer to each other and learning how to more successfully satisfy each other. In fact, some couples prefer mutual masturbation orgasms to those they get from other sexual activities. As Dan Savage says, "Mutual masturbation isn’t a sad consolation prize—mutual masturbation is sex and it can be great sex."

The many benefits of partnered solo sex

Side-by-side play comes with incredible benefits. First, it's a super useful practice for couples in long-distance relationships who can't physically be near each other but want to get off during a phone sex sesh. Second, it's a wonderful time-saver for established couples who want to feel close to each other during a busy or stressful week and have limited time or energy in the evening for more involved sexual activity.

Possibly the most valuable benefit of side-by-side play is this: Getting comfortable touching yourself in front of a partner builds trust and shows a vulnerability that can be incredibly hot. You're showing your partner what you like by touching yourself in front of them. They're getting a voyeuristic experience while touching themselves at the same time, putting the two of you into a sexy feedback loop that often ends in simultaneous orgasm because you're both doing exactly what you like to yourselves.

Being able to masturbate in front of someone else, whether it's with your hands, fingers, a vibrator, or a dildo, also opens up the possibilities of bringing these tools into other sexual activities with your partner.

This is especially relevant in straight relationships, in which expectations for the cis man to be able to bring the cis woman to orgasm with penetration can be unrealistically high. Most vulva owners need external clitoral stimulation to orgasm, and being able to do that yourself when your parther is inside (whether with a sex toy, fingers, or penis) can be part of the fun.

We've talked to cis women who've never used toys in the bedroom with their cis male partners because they're embarrassed or don't want their partners to think they need help from a toy when they're with them. Using a toy or touching yourself with your partner present, whether it's during a mutual masturbation session or during penetrative sex, shouldn't be embarrassing for either party.

If your vulva-owning partner needs to use their fingers or a toy to come, awesome. It doesn't mean anything about your ability to perform, it just means that's what they like. And if you're the person with the vulva, owning your desires and communicating them is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page and reaching the level of pleasure they want to reach.

How to make mutual masturbation work for you

If you're interested in trying either form of this type of play, the first thing you need to do is figure out how to talk about it with your partner(s). In some cases, it's an easy conversation: "Wanna watch me masturbate?" or "Finger me while I give you a hand job?" are both viable options. You could also create an inside joke, euphemism, or game that makes you feel more comfortable if asking directly doesn’t feel like the move.

If that's too straightforward for you, you might ask your partner to show you what they like as a way to breach that conversation: "I felt you twitch when I touched you this/that way. Is that what you like to do to yourself when I'm not here? Can you show me what you like?"

It might also be helpful to bring in your friend Dipsea. Ask your partner if they want to listen to some sexy stories together so you can show them what you do when you're by yourself.

Set the scene

Much like other kinds of sex, setting the scene can really help build tension and create a mood. Dim the lights, put on your bedroom jams playlist, and get comfy on the couch or in bed. Or, if you prefer bringing your mutual masturbation session to a bath or shower, those are great locations too.

Setting the scene is worth the effort to help ease you into this new activity if you're feeling a little nervous. It's also a great lubricator for mutual masturbation as a segue into other kinds of sex. (And speaking of lubrication, be sure your lube and toys are close by so you can grab what you need when you need it.)

The only rules in this game are the rules you make, so if you set out to mutually masturbate and a hand job turns into a blowjob, everyone wins. There's no way to do this wrong, as long as everyone is having a good time.

Get into position

The position you choose can really change the whole experience, just like with penetrative sex and oral sex. If you're feeling nervous and eye contact makes you too self-conscious at first, lay side by side so that you have the option of looking over when you're ready.

If you're feeling bold and want to see everything that's happening between your partner's legs and vice versa, sit facing each other, legs spread.

If you're wanting to simulate penetrative sex, one of you can climb on top of the other so you have an ideal POV, but your hands are free to touch yourself or use a toy.

Talk dirty — or don't

Mutual masturbation can be an excellent segue into dirty talk if you've been looking for a way to bring that up too. Talking dirty might feel like another hurdle to jump in this conversation, but rest assured, most dirty talk falls into one of just a few categories:

  • Saying what you like or want
  • Asking the other person questions about what they like or want (even if it's just "do you like that?")
  • Narrating what you're doing or what they're doing

You can try dirty talk to stay engaged with your partner during solo play, or you can choose to keep it simple and moan when something feels good and make eye contact when you're about to come. All options are fantastic.

Keep it simple

Mutual masturbation is about sharing what you like with your partner(s). Step one is figuring that out on your own. Step two is breaking the ice on the topic with your partner(s), and step three is making it happen.

Mutual masturbation helps you feel closer to your partner through shared vulnerability and better communication around what feels good to you. Try out these sessions to help you get started.