Masturbation, or self-pleasuring, is as normal a human activity as walking or talking. Infant boys typically discover that fondling their penis feels good and will freely indulge unless prevented from doing so by adults (of course they don’t ejaculate until puberty and the maturation of the genitals). In short, masturbation is a healthy, pleasurable activity that guys of all ages engage in, whether they’re in an active relationship or not.
Men most commonly masturbate by holding their penis with a loose fist and moving it up and down the shaft until orgasm and ejaculation take place. But the early sex researchers Masters and Johnson noted wide variation in masturbatory techniques in their subjects. Some men used only a very light touch on the underside of their penis, while others “use strong gripping and stroking techniques that for many individuals would be quite objectionable, if not painful.”
Some men only stimulate the head, or glans of the penis. If a guy is uncircumcised, his foreskin will slide back and forth over the glans. This gliding motion reduces friction. For guys without a foreskin the contact between their hand and the glans is direct, and thus a lubricant is sometimes used to reduce friction.
Some guys like to masturbate in the shower where they can use soap or shampoo as a lubricant. A less common technique is to lie face down on a comfortable surface such as a mattress or pillow and rub the penis against it until orgasm is achieved. This technique may or may not include the use of a vibrator or some kind of artificial vagina. Stimulation of the anus with, or without, penetration with a finger or object is another variant of normal masturbation.
One aspect of masturbation that is quite common regardless of the specific technique is that the rhythm of stroking increases as ejaculation nears and then decreases or even stops during ejaculation itself. Just after ejaculation, the glans of the penis can be very sensitive (as can the clitoris just after a female orgasm) and so men will often involuntarily protect the glans from further stimulation, whether after masturbation or intercourse.
How often a guy masturbates depends on a couple of things at least: his age, his testosterone level, and how often he has non-masturbatory sex. Other things being equal, young guys masturbate more often than older guys, high-T guys masturbate more than low-T guys, and guys who aren’t having a lot of sex masturbate more than guys who are “getting it” on a regular basis. Teenage boys often masturbate every day, and sometimes two or three times a day. A recent study of undergraduate men found an average frequency of masturbation of about three times a week. Of course, these are averages for healthy guys. Sickness, fatigue, and high stress can all cause a guy to stop masturbating at his usual frequency.
Masturbation among couples in a sexual relationship is very common. A recent study found that nearly 85% of men and 45% of women who were living with a sexual partner reported masturbating in the past year. The only potential downside to masturbation is that you’ll get used to the arousal states associated with solo sex. Since you can stimulate yourself exactly as you want, you may become accustomed to a relatively rapid transition from erection to ejaculation. Speed, however, is rarely a good thing when making love to a partner. A penis (and brain) that has been extensively “trained” to ejaculate rapidly during masturbation may be harder to “slow down” during real sex. But aside from that general caveat, the reality is that there really is no ideal pattern or technique to masturbation…what’s right for one man may not be right for another.