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What's the difference between sex and masturbation? Is one better than the other?
How have I, Dr. Lindsey Doe, navigated my relationships with intercourse and masturbation?
Am I a monster?

Dr. Doe's contact info:
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 (00:00) to (02:00)

This episode of Sexplanations is sponsored by, an online store that supplies playthings to enhance and enrich sex and masturbation.  


My name is Lindsey.  I'm a clinical sexologist and host of this sex curious show.  Curiosity of the idea, which is better, sex (sexual intercourse between people) or masturbation (playing with yourself)?  On a Twitter poll I did, 16% of respondents said they prefer masturbation.  38% intercourse, 5% don't have a preference, and 41% replied it depends.  Some of you explained why. 

"I prefer intercourse but end up masturbating because it's easier." 

"It depends.  Masturbation gives me much stronger orgasms.  I don't like penetrative masturbation very much but sometimes intercourse relieves a physical yearning that masturbation doesn't."  

Daniel compares it to picking which car to drive.  "There are certain times when one is better, but it's nice to have both as an option in case one is away or feeling under the weather."

His wife, Brita, agrees and adds, "It really depends on the situation.  Having a loving partner who values both intercourse and masturbation is also helpful to a healthy sexuality."  

Steven put into a few words the thoughts of many.  "I'll take it any way I can get it."

Relationship dynamics, physical limitations, or emotional roadblocks like abuse history, upbringing, how sex and masturbation were or weren't talked about, accessibility, lethargy, sickness, etc lead people to have a stronger preference for sex or masturbation.  Why is that?  What's the difference?  Cue vidoes of smart friends describing the difference between sex and masturbation for them.

Ax: Masturbation feels different from sex because often when I'm masturbating, it's for the release, so there's a bit more frustration, a little bit more urgency.

Amanda: So for me, sex and masturbation are really different.  I have a hard time having an orgasm with a partner, so that means that sex for me, not about me trying to have an orgasm, which has been really freeing actually.  It has allowed me to enjoy all the parts of sex versus viewing it as a means to an end.

Elijah Fisher: There's another person.  There's another person there.  You know, that changes everything because when you're masturbating, you're alone, usually, and you're learning about yourself, you know, learning about what things you like and what things you don't like and when you're with a whole another person, you're learning about what they like and what they don't like and how you can communicate what you like and what you don't like to another person and that's the fun of it, you know, learning about other people while you're learning about yourself and it's, yeah, what else could you ask for?

 (02:00) to (04:00)

Lauren Marie Fleming: Ultimately, I think the difference between sex and masturbation is who you're connecting with.

Lindsey: When I was first learning about sexuality, back in the 90s, masturbation was taboo, especially for girls.  We were gently encouraged to get our pleasure from the guys.  Being with other girls also taboo and non-binary relationships weren't even talked about.  The messaging I received from the world was if he fingers, licks, or dicks you, your own hand down there, no touchy, which is a bummer, because if you've ever struggled with how to have an orgasm, masturbation is an excellent solution.  Masturbation is a way to orgasm!

In high school, when I learned fully what masturbation was and how it could produce high-pitched deep moan demon exercising full body element saving the world sensations, it became one of my favorite things.  Lindsey, what's one of your favorite things?  Masturbation.  I would fantasize about me, bliss out on the feeling of whatever I was humping or rubbing or smelling.  Then, I forgot.  In college, partners could spend the night.  Why would I masturbate when I could have sex.  That whole masturbation is for people who can't get laid mentality crept in and since I could get laid, I stopped practicing self-care.  If I got horny, I needed my partner to play with me and vice versa.  I told myself that if my partner jerked off, it was because I wasn't enough.  Sex with me must not be as good as masturbation.  I must be inferior.  Or he's weird for choosing his hand over my squishy wet orifices.  

Even as a sexologist, working with people on their sex lives, I would cheer for their self-exploration and prescribe masturbation, solo and mutual, to improve personal well-being and relationships, but at home, I didn't want to touch myself.  I wanted a partner to trade me.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

You do me, I do you.  Occasionally if my partners and I were apart, travel, work, etc or if one of us was unavailable 'cause we were busy or sick, feeling disconnected, I'd go back to masturbating, but it wasn't my first choice, until I came and then it was like, yeehaw, why don't I do this every day, this is so much more accurate than sex, that orgasm was amazing.  I really should get to know myself better.  Masturbation is a healthy part of a sexual diet.  I could get good at using my other hand.  There are so many toys I can mix and match.  Ooh, I could do myself in a different way every day for a month, and then I'd map out all these variations, standing, kneeling, in the tub, with the water, no hands, multiple holes, watching porn, go for hours, but I wouldn't do them. 

I love the intimacy of sex with another person, our bodies communicating with each other.  For me, it's all the love languages at once, quality time, gift giving, words of affirmation, acts of service, and touch.  So for me, sex totally wins, until it doesn't.  When I maintain that my pleasure, my orgasms, my lovability comes from another person, then I become obsessed with trying to get their dick.  I center our relationship around what I'm getting or not getting sexually and I push out any expression of sexual autonomy.  You masturbated?  Why ddin't you come with me?  I wanted to have sex and now because you've come, you don't need it and I'll have to wait until you're horny again even though I'm horny right now.  

She's a monster.  Yes, really globbed on to someone else, which isn't sexy, healthy, or mature.  Where am I now?  I still struggle.  Shame and codependency are illnesses that I get help to manage.  By hearing the stories of others and sharing my own, I'm learning how to do it differently.  When I masturbate, I'm less bitchy.  When I masturbate, I have sex because I want to, not because I'm under a false belief that it's my only sexual outlet or the greatest sign of love.  I appreciate my partners as whole human beings, not just pinball machines to play so that I can get off.  I know that without a partner, I'm a sexually successful, complete person and my value is not my vagina or my anus or my mouth.

 (06:00) to (08:00)

Don't get me wrong.  Preferences for sex or masturbation, totally cool.  They're different.  They both have their pros and their cons.  I just don't think that they have to battle each other.  That battle takes place in my head, and when I talk it out, it loses its power.  

If you're worried that your partners aren't attracted to you because they masturbate, ask them.  If they aren't attracted to you, talk about that, not the masturbation.  If they are attracted to you, believe them or seek counsel for trust issues.  If you're worried that masturbation is more satisfying than sex, compare it to other self-care.  Some things feel better when we do them to ourselves because we know immediately what is and isn't working.  The distance between my genitals to my brain and back is shorter than the distance from my genitals to my brain to my mouth to my partner's brain to his hand to my genitals.  Case in point: make up tutorials and partner does my make up videos.  

And note, if you think wanting masturbation instead of sex is problematic, it's okay to seek professional guidance.  If you rely on masturbation to come during sex, that's okay.  Your sexuality is your sexuality.  If you want to expand your sexuality, you can ask for help.  Let's say you only like masturbating but still want a relationship?  That's also cool.  You get to decide if and how you engage with others.  Some partners don't want to kiss or hold hands or have sex.  Some aren't able to and others have very important reasons to abstain.  Sex and dating aren't synonymous.  

Finally, if you've only ever had sex and haven't masturbated before, stay curious.  Masturbation is a great way to familiarize yourself with your own body and try new sensations. makes it incredibly easy to explore sexuality.  I'm particularly in awe of this toy.  Let's look at the toy.  Open up.  Pretty box.  So well packaged.  The intimate curves, rechargeable wand.  Smooth, curves, so soft.  So yes, this, this mm, this on the prostate, this on the g-spot, yeah, give it to me.  Penetration, on the other end, vibration.

 (08:00) to (09:12)

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Stay curious!