Hand? Check. Vibrator? Check. Random thought about your boss who you’re not attracted to whatsoever? Big resounding nope. We need answers.
If you’ve ever thought “let me just bang out an orgasm really quick” while your mind wanders between a million (not even necessarily sexy) thoughts, you’re in good company. Really, I’m raising my hand in the air right now. Whether you daydream about steamy memories or rub one out while thinking about your to-do list, there’s an infinite variety of things people think about while masturbating.
It raises the question: What’s the psychology behind it all? You know, those “finish the deed” thoughts that send you hurdling over the edge into a shattering orgasm… Yeah. Those ones. We did the heavy lifting – about stroking – so you can carry on with clarity.
Here’s what the things you think about while masturbating say about you.
What do you think about while masturbating?
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of the classic “just trying to extract an orgasm from my body as fast as humanly possible because I have a million things going on” type of masturbation. There’s nothing wrong with this – we deserve to feel that glorious sensation even if it’s rushed. It does say something about our relationship with self-pleasure though.
Nikquan Lewis, a sex therapist who founded Intimate Connections(opens in a new tab), weighs in: “Focusing on anything else other than sensations and erotic stimuli can cause difficulty with orgasm.” While thinking about running errands? What a surprise, that always seems to turn me on (said with pure sarcasm).
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For those of us who I’ll call “mentally multitasking masturbators,” Lewis has valuable suggestions. She elaborates: “I encourage engaging in mindfulness, deep breathing, and being intentional with preparing for self-pleasure by setting the mood prior to masturbation.” Rubbing one out like you’re working against one of those self-timer bombs might work eventually, but going deeper within the mental process – and connecting the body and mind – can take you so much higher.
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Thinking about exes during solo sex
If there was a drinking game where you took a shot for every time you thought about an ex while masturbating, we’d all be way too lit. Everyone’s been there. You might assume it means you’re not over them, but it’s not always the case. Lewis explains: “If the sex was good with that ex, fantasizing may be just what you need to enhance pleasure and orgasm. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that you still want that relationship. What it does indicate is that you are turned on by aspects of that person or relationship.”
Lewis says it’s only problematic if it interrupts your focus or ability to get sexually excited. So, assuming the thoughts still get you going, give yourself permission to dive into those spicy memories. It’s incredibly common and simply makes sense.
Breaking no-contact to send them a flurry of horny texts, however – that’s a different story. If that becomes a temptation, you might want to have a self-check in about intentions beyond using memories as a tool for self-pleasure.
Should you get back together with an ex?
Sexual memories with people you’re not even into anymore
The mental file cabinet of past sexual experiences is rife for picking when it comes to a horny brain in solitude. If you’ve ever swiftly descended into orgasm while thinking of someone you’re not even into anymore, it’s normal.
Ask Alexandria Saunders, a psychotherapist and clinical sexologist(opens in a new tab), and she’ll tell you it’s all about our body remembering past pleasure. “When we masturbate to people we have engaged with sexually, it doesn’t necessarily mean we want to have a new relationship with them. Sometimes, the body is simply remembering and masturbation triggers those sexual memories. Sometimes the memories are pleasant and other times, not so much,” she says.
Maybe they ended up being a complete jerk in the end, but when they went down on you it felt like you catapulted into another dimension of pleasure. Rest assured: It’s perfectly alright to remember the good times. Just don’t text them.
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Wanking over porn
Seeing as 87 percent of men and 28.5 percent of women(opens in a new tab) surveyed in the U.S. watch porn, we’re due for some analysis. What does watching porn say about you? There’s a lot of variables to consider here. Saunders begins: “Pornography is such a controversial subject. As a sex therapist, I lean toward accepting and finding ways to make it work for you.” There’s definitely a healthy balance that can be struck (or rather, stroked).
But much like your favorite situationship, it’s complicated. “much of the industry is abusive toward women and encourages racial and gender stereotypes. If you’re looking at porn as sex education, then you’re barking up the wrong tree. These are paid actors. Porn is meant to be entertainment. It is not real life,” Saunders adds. “With a little research, you can find many sites which build the foundation of ethical porn and many of these prioritize diversity in all forms and are run, written, and directed by women. You will most likely have to pay an annual fee for these sites, but it’s worth it to ensure you are supporting enhancing ethics for this industry.” And to that, all I have to add is hell yeah.
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Before you go into a spiral of self-analyzing your habits, don’t sweat it. Saunders’ bottom line is that a lot of people watch porn, and it can be a completely healthy part of masturbation. “If, however, it’s interfering with your relationships and functioning in your life, you might want to take a look at the impact it’s having on your life.”
Random fantasies that have no basis in reality
Ever get so deep in a random sexual fantasy within the crevices of your mind that you kind of forget you’re in public? Been there. The bread aisle gets weird sometimes.
Going deep into the mind palace to drum up our most coveted sexual scenarios is a healthy way to ignite arousal. It’s also common; over 84 percent of people surveyed in one study(opens in a new tab) reported having sexual fantasies. Lena Elkhatib, a sex and relationships therapist who founded Avid Intimacy(opens in a new tab), is a big supporter. “Fantasies can be an excellent way to experience novelty, push boundaries, experiment with gender and sexual fluidity, envision desirable scenarios with your current partner(s) or relive tasty moments from your past.”
She adds: “You can fantasize about something without ACTUALLY wanting it to happen, and you can want it to happen but never actually engage in the behavior for a variety of reasons. That matters because it offers permission for us to sink into our fantasies free of shame, and allows our fantasies to simply serve as a means to enhance arousal and pleasure.”
Can you masturbate too much?
Sarah E. Wright, PsyD, CST/S, a sex therapist with Choosing Therapy(opens in a new tab), clarifies the above: “For those who use fantasy as preparation or begin to notice behaviors edging closer to hurtful or violent fantasies, take caution. Talking to a therapist can help process what’s driving these fantasies and create safeguards to ensure that nothing crosses over into reality that can’t be undone. Talking out loud brings logic into the mix – something that is often absent in fantasy.”
“Talking to a therapist can help process what’s driving these fantasies and create safeguards to ensure that nothing crosses over into reality that can’t be undone.”
Overall, what does fantasizing say about you? Most likely that you’re quite creative (and horny). For the overwhelming majority, it’s best to simply avoid overthinking.
Things that turn you off and make you say ‘dear god why did that come to mind’
It’s all going well, until your 93-year-old neighbor randomly appears in your head. You recoil in shock, because why on earth is Mildred up in your head right now. Fear not – everyone has intrusive thoughts. Sometimes they arrive in the most nonsensical of times. Elkhatib explains: “Having the thought, noticing it and letting it pass is your best bet at making sure the random thought you had of some grandma’s blueberry pancakes doesn’t kill your vibe.” She does clarify, however: “If you are having recurring intrusive thoughts pertaining to past sexual trauma, that is a different story. In which case, that is a red flag that the trauma needs to be worked on further and is hindering one’s ability to be sexually present.”
“Fantasizing or thinking about unwanted events during masturbation DOES NOT mean that what happened was wanted or that it is wanted in the future.”
Wright details that concept: “I want to add that it’s not unusual for survivors of sexual abuse or sexual assault to have thoughts about these events during masturbation. For those who have eroticized unwanted events – you are not alone! Sexualizing something is a way to have power over it. Many survivors find that sexualizing an aspect of what happened to them provides a sense of control that had been taken.”
Why some people masturbate about people they hate
She also dispels a common misconception: “Fantasizing or thinking about unwanted events during masturbation DOES NOT mean that what happened was wanted or that it is wanted in the future. ‘Rape fantasy’ is an oxymoron. A person is in control when they fantasize and rape is when control is taken away completely. There is absolutely nothing wrong about wanting to reclaim control when it has been so completely violated.”
A lot of us are out here thinking about similar things. If you think you’re weird, you’re probably not. Self-check-ins are always a good idea, however, along with having a sex toy of your choice (or two, or seven) within arms reach of bed. Simply put: Keep enjoying yourself.
If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org(opens in a new tab).