Masturbation serves different roles in marriage, for women, its primes the pumps.
Married people do masturbate. Let’s just get that out of the way at the front. The idea that marriage fulfills all sexual needs, and that married people have no need to masturbate, has been pretty thoroughly destroyed by modern society. Married people do, in general, end up having more sex than single people, on average. And numerous studies do show that being single or newly divorced often predicts an increase in both porn-watching and masturbation (mostly in men).
But, being married isn’t a “cure” for masturbation. Historically, masturbation by married people was seen as taking something away from marriage (here, it’s called “The secret that ruins great sex”), and often was seen as an indication that something was wrong in the relationship, especially if it involves fantasy about people other than one’s partner. Either the wife was not giving her husband what he “needed” or the husband’s desires were out of proportion for the marriage.
People masturbate for a variety of reasons, including desire for sexual pleasure, stress release, and to experience private, self-focused sensations without the distraction of a partner. But when people masturbate within the context of an intimate relationship, it can be valuable to understand the motivations behind it.
Two main theories have been promoted about the relationship between masturbation and partnered sex. The complementary theory proposes that people masturbate within a relationship in order to enhance their partnered sex. So, masturbation might increase and improve the partnered sex. In contrast, the compensatory model suggests that people in relationships masturbate as a means to substitute for sexual desires (whether in quantity, quality or type) that go unmet within the relationship. Alternatively, it has also been suggested that masturbation and partnered sex are two separate, perhaps even parallel behaviors, meeting different needs.
Men and women appear to approach the issue of masturbation and marriage differently, and it has been suggested that men use masturbation in compensatory ways, and women use it in complementary ways. But, as with many things, the reality turns out to be more nuanced.
A recently published study by Regnerus, Price and Gordon examined this issue, with a very large sample of Americans (7648 men and 8090 women). This was a nonclinical sample, and was drawn by probability methods, so these data are the best estimate of how this issue is reflected in the general population, allowing us to generalize these results. The study controlled traits such as age and gender, which correlate with masturbatory frequency, and included an important, highly revealing third factor.
This study, for the first time, also considered the question of how sexually contented/satisfied a person is within their relationship. Though this seems pretty intuitive, this variable had not been considered in the past.
David J Ley Ph.D