Wednesday, July 6, 2022

For both women and men, higher education predicted a high masturbation frequency and sexual dissatisfaction

A Seemingly Paradoxical Relationship Between Masturbation Frequency and Sexual Satisfaction. Nantje Fischer & Bente Træen. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Jul 5 2022.

Abstract: Despite many benefits related to masturbation, we know surprisingly little about how solo sex is associated with sexual satisfaction. Using questionnaire data from a probability-based sample of 4,160 Norwegians aged 18–89 years, we explored subgroups of women and men that differed in their masturbation–sexual satisfaction typology and examined whether sociodemographic, psychological, and sexual behavioral characteristics were associated with distinct masturbation–satisfaction patterns. A cluster analysis revealed four similar groupings for women and men, reflecting sex lives characterized by high masturbation/sexual satisfaction, low masturbation/sexual satisfaction, high masturbation/sexual dissatisfaction, or low masturbation/sexual dissatisfaction. While being younger, higher pornography consumption, and sexual variety were primarily associated with increased masturbation frequency, sexual distress and a negative body and genital self-image were more clearly associated with sexual dissatisfaction. Predicting different masturbation–satisfaction groupings also revealed some gender-specific findings in the use of pornography, and in the association between masturbation and intercourse frequency, which suggested a complementary pattern for women and a compensatory pattern for men. Our findings emphasize that the linkage between masturbation and sexual satisfaction warrants closer focus.


Previous studies have focused on linear relationships between sexual satisfaction and masturbation frequency, without considering the possibility that women and men might vary in their masturbation–sexual satisfaction relationships. The clustering in this study revealed four groupings, with men’s and women’s sex life being characterized by either HmS, LmS, HmD, or LmD. Further, we assessed whether sociodemographic, psychological, and sexual behavioral factors predicted distinct masturbation–satisfaction patterns.

Two interesting patterns emerged. Psychological factors (sexual distress, body image and genital self-image) were more clearly related to sexual dissatisfaction, while age and sexual behavioral factors (pornography use, sexual experience and desires) were mainly linked to masturbation frequency. A possible reason for the fragmented findings may reflect that masturbatory behavior only partly contributes to a person’s overall sex life satisfaction. For example, Philippsohn and Hartmann (2009) found that masturbation was considerably less central in explaining women’s overall sexual satisfaction than sexual intercourse activity. Moreover, qualitative data from focus groups with 50 heterosexual men reveal that, compared to partnered sexual activities, masturbation was not fully integrated into men’s sense of being sexual (Janssen et al., 2008). These studies indicate that, although overlapping, sexual satisfaction from solitary and partnered sexuality might be different. Similarly, qualitative data from focus groups with 73 queer and heterosexual women showed that solitary and partnered sexual pleasure were largely distinct constructs, with only some overlap (Goldey et al., 2016). Future studies should therefore consider defining and measuring solitary and partnered sex life satisfaction as distinct concepts.

A Compensatory or Complementary Pattern?

Women with higher sexual intercourse frequency were more likely to report high masturbation and satisfaction (HmS) than any other group (LmS, HmD, LmD). Also, more sexual experimentation among women was associated with more masturbation and satisfaction (HmS), compared to participants with LmS. Both findings support a complementary pattern for women, as it implies that frequent solo sex enhances partnered sex and is more widespread among adults with a sexualized personality pattern (e.g., increased sexual experimentation and desires) (Das et al., 2009).

Similar as in women, we found that men with higher intercourse frequency were more likely to be sexually satisfied (HmS), than those belonging to a sexually dissatisfied cluster (HmD or LmD). This is a finding that corresponds to previous studies that have found a positive relationship between partnered sex and sexual satisfaction (Brody & Costa, 2009; Byers & Rehman, 2014; Schoenfeld et al., 2017). However, when comparing men with high sexual satisfaction (HmS versus LmS), those with more partnered sex were more likely to report no or low masturbation (LmS). This finding supports a compensatory pattern in men, as it suggests that masturbation is regarded as unnecessary if one has highly satisfying and frequent sex with a partner (Regnerus et al., 2017). The gendered finding, revealing a compensatory pattern among men and a complementary pattern among women, is consistent with prior work supporting gender-specific models (Carvalheira & Leal, 2013; Fischer et al., 2022; Gerressu et al., 2008; Regnerus et al., 2017).

Pornography Use Predict HmS

Another notable finding was that both women and men with frequent pornography use were more likely to report high masturbation and sexual satisfaction (HmS) than those belonging to a cluster characterized by no or low masturbation (LmS or LmD). This finding is similar to previous studies that have found a positive relationship between pornography use and masturbation (Baćak & Štulhofer, 2011; Carvalheira et al., 2015; Richters et al., 2014) and emphasizes that pornography functions as an aid for masturbation (Prause, 2019).

Apart from this, we found a link between pornography use, high masturbation, and sexual satisfaction in men (but not in women). When comparing men characterized by relatively high masturbation frequency (HmD vs. HmS), those with greater pornography use were more likely to report being sexually dissatisfied (HmD). This finding is consistent with a recent meta-analysis (Wright et al., 2017), which documented a negative association between men’s pornography use and sexual satisfaction, but no overall or global association between women’s pornography consumption and sexual satisfaction.

Evaluative Factors Associated with Specific Masturbation-Satisfaction Typologies

Among both genders, a more negative body image was associated with being sexually dissatisfied (HmD in women and men; LmD in women), compared to participants in the reference cluster (HmS). This is consistent with previous evidence, implicating important links between body image and sexual satisfaction (Træen et al., 2016; Woertman & van den Brink, 2012). Interestingly, genital self-image was only linked to male cluster’s. In particular, a negative genital self-image was associated with being sexually dissatisfied (HmD and LmD), compared to the reference cluster (HmS). These findings echo those of a recent study, which revealed that when accounting for all body attitudes (body fat, genitals, muscularity, and height), only negative attitudes toward one’s own genitals were significantly associated with sexual dissatisfaction in men (van den Brink et al., 2018). The fact that men’s genitalia play an important role in defining masculinity in terms of appearance (e.g., penis size) and performance (e.g., erection) might explain the influences of men’s genital self-image on their sexual satisfaction.

Another central finding of the present study was that women and men who experienced distressing sexual problems were more likely to be dissatisfied with their sex life (HmD and LmD), compared to the reference cluster (HmS). This is in line with previous research indicating that sexual distress and sexual satisfaction are closely related (Stephenson & Meston, 2010).

Links Between Sociodemographic Factors and Masturbation-Satisfaction Typologies

Some sociodemographic factors predicted specific masturbation-satisfaction typologies. Interestingly, although accounting for sexual intercourse frequency, relationship status remained an important predictor of high masturbation frequency and sexual satisfaction. Specifically, those who were married/cohabitant or in a registered partnership were less likely to report high masturbation and satisfaction than falling into a cluster characterized by LmS, HmD, LmD. This resembles findings of a recent large-scale study, which documented a negative association between being partnered and recent masturbation (Regnerus et al., 2017). As Regnerus et al. controlled for sexual frequency and sexual contentment, this was a surprising finding, providing “evidence that the effect of partnered status is not simply the effect of stable access to sex” (p. 2117).

For both women and men, higher education predicted a high masturbation frequency and sexual dissatisfaction (HmD). This finding dovetails with previous findings documenting a positive relationship between higher education and more masturbation (Gerressu et al., 2008; Kaminsky-Bayer, 2020; Kontula & Haavio-Mannila, 2003; Richters et al., 2014). However, previous research also seems to indicate that education does not play a major role in sexual satisfaction (Byers & Rehman, 2014). It is thus unclear why higher education was related to less sexual satisfaction among those who frequently masturbate. Finally, consistent with prior studies on age-related decreases in masturbation activity (Fischer et al., 2022; Lee et al., 2016; Schick et al., 2010a2010b), older age was related with a sex life characterized by low masturbation (LmS in women and men; LmD in men).


The clusters characterized by no or low masturbation frequency and sexual satisfaction (HmS) were the largest clusters in both genders. This is interesting and may changes supposing the sexual scripts toward masturbation become more pronounced and positive in the future. The smallest clusters were those that included individuals dissatisfied with their sex life (HmD and LmD). To create a more masturbation-friendly society, future sexual health initiatives should focus on promoting masturbation and positive attitudes toward masturbation (Kontula & Haavio-Mannila, 2003).

Study Limitations

Several limitations should be addressed. First, the item used to assess masturbation frequency lacked an explicit definition and contextualization of the term masturbation. As the measure does not solely refer to masturbation in unpartnered situations, it is possible that participants used varied definitions when responding to the question. Accordingly, we cannot rule out that some also referred to masturbation during sexual intercourse. However, recent evidence indicates that the common script for sexual self-pleasure incorporates solo rather than partnered masturbation (Kirschbaum & Pederson, 2018). Specifically, the absence of a partner and having an orgasm seem to be central aspects of labeling a sexual act as masturbation. Second, although the use of single-item indicators is standard practice and indicates good convergent validity with sexual satisfaction scales (Mark et al., 2014; Štulhofer et al., 2010), the psychometric properties of multiple-item scales are preferable. However, because many individuals seem to fill out online questionnaires on their mobile phones (in this study 51%), we had to prioritize single items to minimize response fatigue. Third, no information about attitudes toward masturbation and feelings associated with sexual self-pleasure was collected. Thus, third-variable problems cannot be ruled out. Assessing negative and positive perceptions of masturbation would have allowed for more differentiated clustering. Another limitation pertains the presumption of binary gender/sex in some questions. Also, because the results from this study are based on cross-sectional data, it is not feasible to draw any causal conclusions. Further, the possibility of social desirability bias and volunteer bias may affect our findings and limit the generalizability of the study findings (Boughner, 2010). A final limitation pertains to the low response rate. In the past decades, scientific research has experienced a steady decrease in participation rates (Galea & Tracy, 2007). This applies also to Norwegian surveys, where response rates have been declining from 63% in 1987, to 48% in 1992, 38% in 1997, 34% in 2002, and 23% in 2008 (Træen & Stigum, 2010). One reason for much higher refusal rates nowadays may be the growing number of instances people are asked to participate in studies (Galea & Tracy, 2007). Because this survey was carried out during the COVID-19-related lockdown, which was imposed on 12 March in Norway, it is possible that some Web Panel members were less receptive to participate in a study on sexual behavior. Moreover, it is uncertain how the COVID-19-related restrictions may have influenced our findings. Another explanation for the low response rate may pertain to the length of the questionnaire. According to Kantar, response rates for surveys drawn from the Gallup Panel vary between 46 and 51%. An estimated timeframe of 15–20 min for our survey was probably too long, especially because 51% of the respondents were answering on their mobile devices.

Openness to experience, extraversion and neuroticism correlated with a higher frequency of sexual dreams; agreeableness showed a negative relationship

Personality correlates of the self-rated frequency of erotic dreams. Anja S. Göritz. International Journal of Dream Research, Vol 15, No 1 (April 2022).

Abstract: Erotic dreams have been of interest for researchers and the public alike. Although, the gender difference in the frequency of erotic dreams is well documented with men reporting erotic dreams more often than women, studying other factors, for example, personality traits, in relationship with erotic dreaming is scarce. Overall, 1711 participant estimated the percentage of erotic dreams with regard to all their remembered dreams and also completed a Big Five Personality inventory. The findings indicate that four of the Big Five personality factors were related to the frequency of erotic dreams; although the effects sizes of these associations were small. As expected, openness to experience correlated with a higher frequency of sexual dreams, as this personality trait is related to more frequent positive sexual cognitions and pornography consumption. Whereas extraversion and neuroticism were also positively related to erotic dream frequency, agreeableness showed a negative relationship. These kinds of studies help to understand how waking life sexuality affect erotic dreams, and in more general terms, how waking life is reflected in dreams.