When it comes to sex, we all know what works best for us. Every body is different, so even if someone thinks they’re “good in bed,” skills don’t necessarily transfer from partner to partner. So it’s hardly surprising that a new survey by U.K.-based drugstore chain Superdrug of over 900 Europeans found that 88 percent of those who identified as women said they masturbated twice a week and 24 percent of them preferred it to intercourse.
More than half of participants — 56 percent to be exact — explained that for them, masturbation led to a more fulfilling orgasm. The deeper the study went, the more that was learned about women’s masturbating preferences — 38 percent of women said porn was their go-to for visuals, more than 10 percent relied on fantasies about their significant other, literature or fantasies involving strangers.
While only 16 percent of men prefer masturbating to sex, they still do it more.
For women, 68 percent favor having sex because of the intimacy, and for men, 71 percent find that satisfaction is the most important (only 58 percent of women agree with this).
For both binaries, masturbation is important even though our intentions and stimulation may differ. Not only that, but it comes with some major health benefits, including relieving stress, strengthening your pelvic floor and providing pain relief in some situations.
As for myself, I prefer sex over masturbation. I’ve always said, “I need a pair of lips to kiss,” and I’m talking about lips on the face. I need hair pulling, back scratching and neck snogging. While I have a large assortment of toys, I prefer my partner. Maybe it’s love or maybe it’s just good sex.
While I know all about the orgasm gap, I was still curious about what other women thought about the study, especially since masturbation and women is still a bit of a taboo topic (no, we aren’t the only ones using our hands).
When I asked the question, “Is masturbating better than sex?” most of the women I spoke to all had the same response: “It depends on who it’s with!” For those who preferred masturbation, bad sex was the reason they often cited.
“I would rather have a solo session by myself than sleep with someone who doesn’t care about my orgasm,” said Amanda.*
But when your partner is using you as a “thing to masturbate with for themselves,” as one friend wrote to me, it leaves you feeling a bit empty and also extremely annoyed.
“Why do I need you here?” said Kate* about being intimate with a partner who doesn’t satisfy their needs. “I can have a for-sure orgasm with masturbating in a few minutes instead of having sex for 20 minutes and it resulting in nothing,” she continued.
One friend, Eve* said, “I love both so much that I don’t think I can choose!” followed by a slew of emojis.
When speaking to friends, peers and strangers, I found that there is a split down the middle on how many prefer sex and how many prefer masturbating.
Tonya* told me, “I get off on making myself orgasm. I know my body better than anyone.” So, while many of us may not openly talk about it and sex education may choose to ignore our contribution to it, women are masturbating and they are very much enjoying it.
When I asked Tonya* why she thinks masturbation feels better than intercourse with a partner, she said, “I’ve just had more time with my body. It’s nothing against my partners, really. I’ve just laid in bed longer with my clitoris…”
Through experimentation and exploration, women are able to fine-tune their techniques on themselves. “Many guys don’t want you to tell them that they are doing something wrong, or that they should move this way or touch you this way. They get so offended,” said Kate.
And while we’re on the subject of sex, penis-in-vagina isn’t necessarily the default way to have sex, so why do we think it is? While the history is dense and it’s rooted in medieval times, it’s mostly the result of religion and reproduction. This is why masturbation is seen as a taboo subject — it’s interfering with the so-called “natural” laws of the world — that is, pregnancy should be the goal. And for some, PIV intercourse just doesn’t do the trick when it comes to having an orgasm. Oral sex, clitoral stimulation and performance are all key to achieving a successful romp with a penis. And look, sometimes masturbation is just easier. Plain and simple. But for many, a woman enjoying herself is dangerous — pleasure is taboo, pleasure is never a solo act.
In the future, for the sake of science and research, let’s all agree on discovering self-pleasure and carrying that onward through 2018 and beyond.
* Names have been changed.