Why It's OK Not To Masturbate If You Don’t Want To

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

First of all, let me put it out there that I’m an avid masturbator. I’ve been masturbating since I was 11, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone a week without it. But even I can’t get behind a recent trend I’ve seen among sex-positive feminists: telling women to masturbate in order to be liberated and independent. On the most basic level, what we do with our bodies is our choice. But telling women what to do in this particular domain is problematic for its own set of reasons.

“When it comes to sex, there are no shoulds, beyond the basics: safe sex, consent, not doing harm,” clinical sexologist and relationship coach Claudia Six, PhD, author of Erotic Integrity: How To Be True To Yourself Sexually, tells Bustle. “So if you don’t want to masturbate, nobody in the world can pressure, shame, coerce you to do so. Period. And there is such a thing as Basic Sexual Rights, which state that ‘the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.’ That includes not doing anything you don’t want to do, regardless of what others may think.”

While I haven’t seen anyone outright try to coerce someone into masturbation, I have heard people talk about masturbation in a way that makes it sound like it’s the best choice for everyone, which can subtly pressure people into it. During times when I’ve cut back on masturbation, I’ve felt the need to defend this decision to some of my friends — and I shouldn’t have to. Here are some reasons it’s totally OK not to masturbate if you don’t want to.

1Because Some People Genuinely Don’t Have The Desire

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Assuming everyone would enjoy masturbation erases asexual people, some of whom don’t have the desire (though some do), as well as others who just don’t have the drive to masturbate. What’s really feminist is letting people feel into what they genuinely do and don’t want.

2Because It Doesn’t Always Serve Everyone

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

There have been times when I knew I needed to cut back on masturbation. It was either taking up too much time, tiring me out, or making me less enthused about sex with my partner. These are all totally valid reasons to stop maturbating. Masturbation has its benefits, but it can also have its drawbacks.

3Because Some Prefer Sex With A Partner

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

For some, physical pleasure alone is unsatisfying. They want to experience sexual pleasure in combination with emotional connection. These people may not get much out of masturbation, and they should focus on what they do get something out of.

4Because You Don’t Need To Masturbate To Be Liberated

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

There’s a lot of talk about how masturbation liberates women. And it’s true that masturbation can provide an alternative to sleeping with someone who doesn’t care about you. But you can say “no” to that regardless. You can masturbate and be highly dependent on others, and you can not masturbate and be super independent. What really liberates women is doing what they want, regardless of what sexists or feminists tell them.

It’s important that people who want to masturbate feel free to do so. But it’s also important that nobody feels pressure to do something they don’t want. There are lots of benefits to masturbation, but only if you enjoy it. And there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t.