This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.
Will someone please explain this to me?
Because I do not get it at all.
I’m talking about masturbation jealousy. I’m talking about people who get jealous, not when their partners get attracted to other people, not when their partners look at porn starring other people, but when their partners masturbate. And I mean seriously jealous. Not “a little twinge of weirdness” jealous; not “I know this is irrational but I just can’t help feeling this way” jealous. I mean, “This is legitimately hurtful and threatening to me, it’s a violation of sexual trust, and I expect you to stop it” jealous.
And I do not get it at all.
Admittedly, I’m not necessarily the best person to ask about jealousy. I tend to rank fairly far down on the jealousy scale; to me, the fact that my partner gets interested in other people seems pretty normal, and not a particularly big deal. But it’s not like I don’t get it at all. I’m human. I get twinges. And I’ve felt serious, hard-core jealousy before, in bad relationships with people I didn’t trust and shouldn’t have. It’s not like the emotion is alien to me.
But getting jealous of your partner masturbating? That, I am totally baffled by. I’m trying to figure it out. And I might need someone to explain it to me.
Let’s take a closer look at jealousy for a moment. We tend to think of jealousy as a single emotion. But I don’t think thatâs so. I think it’s more accurate to think of jealousy as a stew of different emotions. It’s part fear — fear that your partner will leave you for someone else. It’s part insecurity — insecurity about your own value and desirability in comparison to someone else. It’s part hurt feelings — hurt feelings of being unwanted, rejected, left out. And it’s part just flat-out controlling possessiveness — the feeling that your partner’s sexuality belongs to you now, and that they shouldn’t have any sexual feelings or experiences that don’t involve you.
Which of these feelings have anything at all to do with a partner masturbating?
It’s almost certainly not fear. It’s not impossible, I suppose; but I highly doubt that very many people are genuinely afraid that their partner will leave them to pursue more masturbation.
And for much the same reason, I don’t think it’s insecurity. Are there people in the world who are anxious about their partner whacking off and making unflattering comparisons? Are there people in the world who are genuinely concerned that, compared to a vibrator or a right hand and a jar of Vaseline, they just don’t stack up? Maybe. But I’m skeptical.
What about hurt feelings? Possibly. In the same way that some people feel rejected or left out if their partner eats dinner without them, goes to a movie without them, has a drink with colleagues after work without them, there may well be some people who feel rejected or left out if their partner has an orgasm without them.
But my money’s on possessiveness and control.
I speculate (and I will freely admit that this is speculation, it’s not like I’ve done a peer- reviewed study or anything) that 90% of jealousy over masturbation has to do with the idea that, once you get into a relationship with someone, their sexuality should be 100% focused on you. It’s not just that they shouldn’t have sex with other people, shouldn’t look at other people, shouldn’t maintain friendships with people they’ve had sex with in the past. They shouldn’t even have sex with themselves. They shouldn’t enjoy their bodies, and their bodies’ capacity for sexual pleasure, if you’re not there. Their sexuality belongs to you now. According to this way of thinking, that’s just part of the implicit contract of a relationship.
And this, I think, is why it baffles me.
I get the other parts of jealousy. I get being afraid that you’re going to be left for someone else. I get feeling insecure about your attractiveness, and feeling anxious about being compared to other people. I even get feeling hurt and rejected if you’re not included in something that you care about and want to be a part of. These aren’t always the most useful emotions in a relationship, but they’re certainly human, and they’re certainly understandable. And they can be dealt with, in a variety of creative ways.
But I absolutely do not get the part about how being in a relationship means diverting every milliliter of your sexuality towards your partner — and how any divergence from this is tantamount to betrayal. I think that’s just loony-tunes. What’s more, itâs loony-tunes in a way that’s singularly inflexible, impenetrable to negotiation or processing or reason.
And I think that’s what expecting your partner not to masturbate — and getting jealous when they do — amounts to.
I think. I could be wrong. I really don’t get this. Can somebody explain it to me?
Please note: I’m not talking about the “My partner masturbates all the time and we never have sex together anymore” situation. That’s different.