In the spirit of exploring this issue more deeply during the current National Masturbation Month, I looked into how close to the truth is the old joke that that 98% of people masturbate while the other 2% are liars.
Michael Castleman writing in Psychology Today says that a fairly large survey conducted by University of Chicago sociologists finds that “only 38 percent of women said they’d masturbated at all during the past year. The figure for men was 61 percent.”
The study suggests that there are some misconceptions in the US about this practice.
In American culture, masturbation is often viewed as a sexual refuge for singles, as a way to compensate for a lack of sex in a relationship. In this survey, that turned out not to be the case. In both genders, a sexless relationship suppressed masturbation. Respondents who masturbated the most were usually involved in a sexual relationship. Having partner sex, it appears, piques interest in solo sex.
Finally, sex involves both physical and emotional closeness. In this study, any disconnect between these two elements, i.e., physical contact but no emotional closeness or visa versa, was associated with increased masturbation. In fact, for women, one of the best predictors of masturbation was a relationship that lacked emotional intimacy.
This may explain why in the US, where people seem willing to reveal all manner of intimate details about their lives to almost anyone, masturbation is still something that they seem to be a little secretive about perhaps because of the false perception that those who masturbate do so because they think it reflects badly on their own attractiveness or relationships.
We have definitely come a long way from the time when, as chronicled by Dan Allosso in his biography of Charles Knowlton, masturbation was seen as a serious medical disorder that required dangerous ‘heroic’ treatments to cure.