To the Editor:

Douglas Chay’s column last issue, The Role of Masturbation in Relationships (Labor of Love, September 4, 2013] had some worthwhile information and advice.   However, overall you present masturbation as a substitute for sex with a partner.  It can be, but in my experience, jerking off is a pleasure in and of itself… not a substitute for something else.

I’m 70 years old and have not only read about masturbation over the years, but have conducted my own “research.”  Wankin’, for guys at least, is not always a substitute or alternative to sex with a partner.  In fact, it is usually just another form of enjoyable sex.  You are certainly familiar with the scientific research on masturbation à la Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, etc.  Most guys (and a lot of women, I suspect) wank just because it feels good, not because they aren’t getting enough from their partner.   If you, yourself are partnered and don’t wank, you are a rare exception.  All of the guys I have surveyed, gay and straight, wank but not as a substitute for something else.  We guys even like to talk about jerking off and when we do, it’s never “I’m not gettin’ enough so I wank in the shower so my wife / bf / etc. doesn’t know.”  It’s just fun.  It just feels good.  My best bud, a straight guy, has a really robust sex life with his wife.  I had a really hot and very satisfying sex life with my former partner of 25 years.  Yet, we all wank, too!

You do a disservice to people when you, as a professional and public writer, give people the idea that masturbation is some kind of alternative to a frustrated sex life with one’s partner.    It would lead the less informed to think that if they are jerking off, there must be something wrong with the sex they have with their partner.

Really, dude, you have to correct that.


Bob Marino

Douglas Chay replies…

Thank you for reading my Baltimore OUTloud column. I’m especially grateful to readers like you who take the time to share their experiences and opinions. I can empathize with the emotions you express. However, I didn’t write the article you describe.

In “The Role of Masturbation in Relationships,” I referenced masturbation as a self-care activity. I didn’t suggest that the act of masturbating outside the presence of the partner indicates “there must be something wrong with the sex they have with their partner.”

I encouraged couples to consider adding masturbation to their repertoire of sexual behaviors. I didn’t present it as a substitute for sex with a partner.

I described it as an experiment and I advised readers, if they choose to try it, to do so “in a way that respects both of your needs and comfort levels.” I didn’t describe it as a cure-all.

If the resolution to sexual conflict was as simple as masturbating, I imagine that the collective sighs of afterglow emanating from bedrooms everywhere would drown out the roar of downtown Baltimore traffic.

I welcome and encourage opinions, suggestions, constructive criticism, and ruminations from all readers. This column belongs to you. I truly consider it a privilege to write for the community to which I belong.