Mutual Masturbation Is a Very Underrated Lesbian Sex Act and You Can Too

Mutual masturbation is often proposed by sexperts as a method for cishet women and men to “close the orgasm gap” — they suggest that if men could take a minute to watch their betrothed female get herself off, said man might learn something, like how he himself could potentially slam her clam all the way to climax some day. Or else we’re first exposed to mutual masturbation in a furtive, bittersweet movie or TV scene — two characters, somehow repressed or shamed or prohibited from touching each other or experiencing unbridled desire, resort to touching themselves, together, and neither person can articulate their feelings but that’s actually fine because everything is very clear, albeit unspoken. (Full disclosure: I do love those movie scenes.) Finally, mutual masturbation is often represented in stories about orgasmic meditation societies/cults, which I can only assume is completely legit.

But! Mutual masturbation can absolutely exist outside of those paradigms and be very fun as well as being chock-full of every lesbian’s #1 kink: communication. Plus it’s a stellar solution to so many of life’s torrid sexual situations.

What Is Mutual Masturbation?

Simply put, it is everybody involved in a sexual encounter stimulating their own genitals. Some would limit the definition to stimulation with your hand or a toy, others count grinding on a partner as masturbation. Mutual masturbation can involve more than just genital stimulation — dirty talk is a big side dish, and so is using your other hand or your mouth to interact with your partner’s other erogenous zones while manipulating your own mango.

“I think when people think of mutual masturbation, often the first thing that pops into their imagination is an image of two people touching themselves while laying down on their backs and staring at each other’s faces,” says Sam*, a genderqueer homosexual. They’re right, of course — although what Sam described is exactly what does indeed rock so many boats, there’s so many more ways to do it than just that!

It’s Okay To Feel Intimidated By This Concept

On our 2015 Lesbian Sex Survey, 75% of respondents were interested in watching their partner masturbate, but only 49.5% were in favor of being watched. Masturbating in front of someone else can make you feel really vulnerable, or like you’re bringing something deeply private into the light. Or maybe it just feels too much like a pornographic performance.

If you’re nervous about all that but still wanna give it a go — do it with the lights off, or dimmed. In fact, you may prefer to always do your synchronized stroking in the dark, regardless of comfort level with the practice overall. Darkness can enable you to really commit to a fantasy and can often help ease self-consciousness. Or you can try it with the covers on, or your underwear on, or with your partner agreeing not to look directly at the sun. Try it on the phone first, and in person later.

As for initiating the encounter, “Can I watch you get yourself off?” or “I wanna see how you touch yourself” are pretty direct intentions. There’s also the option of blushing really hard, saying “what if we masturbated together” super-fast, and then burying your face in a pillow. Alternately, you can cover the topic by filling out this worksheet with your partner that should truly be a legit pre-req for any sexual relationship you ever have, and, if interest is expressed, talk about it.

Mutual Masturbation Is Not Failing at Sex… In Fact, Some Might Call It “Sex”

“If we weren’t so insecure about our abilities as lovers, it wouldn’t matter so much who’s finger was on who’s clit,” wrote Pat Califia in the seminal lesbian sex manual Sapphistry: The Book of Lesbian Sexuality. “Watching a lover excite herself can be very arousing. Her vulnerability and her trust in you can contribute to the turn-on. It doesn’t mean you are an inadequate lover. It means you are accepting and open to exploring new erotic avenues.”

In fact, on our 2015 Lesbian Sex Survey, 66% of respondents said they considered mutual masturbation to actually be sex. Whether or not it “counts” as sex specifically isn’t the point though — the point is that it is a bona-fide sexual activity, not a sexual cop-out, and there are all kinds of reasons why you might want to try it.

Why You Might Try Mutual Masturbation:

To Better Understand What Turns Your Partner On

It might seem like two people jerking off together couldn’t possibly be as intimate as sex, but it truly can be. “Watching my first girlfriend masturbate was honestly one of the most mind blowing sex things I’ve ever done,” says Anne*, a 31-year-old bisexual femme. “The experience was incredibly intimate, and the knowledge I gained from watching her touch herself was basically a fast pass to orgasms. We only did it once, but it informed every time I slept with her after that, and the technique I learned from her is still how I masturbate to this day. I cannot recommend this enough.”

Even if you’re not staring directly into your lover’s abyss or otherwise-identified genitalia, you can get the general gist of things with respect to speed, pressure and attention paid to outside parts vs. inside parts.

Because You Can’t Come, But Want To

Maybe she says her jaw isn’t tired but you’re 100% sure that her jaw is very tired because it’s been 45 minutes and you’ve gotten to the edge of coming so many times without actually coming that you’re officially psyched out beyond redemption. Meanwhile, she’s wet as a summer storm. This can be a good time to just call it off and do a little handiwork as a team!

Orgasms should never feel like a necessary component to a sexual encounter, but if you want to have one and you can’t, doing it your own self is right there for the taking. If you’re somebody who has a hard time reaching orgasm with a partner, even just being aware that finishing yourself off is an option can relieve a lot of pressure.

If you and your partner want to come at the same time, having total control over your own situation makes it a lot easier to coordinate a simultaneous orgasm.

To Explore Fantasies

Sometimes mutual masturbation is basically just PHONE SEX: LIVE which can basically be SEXTING: OUT LOUD AND WITHIN A VERY CONCENTRATED PERIOD OF TIME. “A love of mutual masturbation is clutch in long distance relationships,” says Frances*, a non-binary person in their twenties. Mutual masturbation can take that dirty talk right out of your head and into the damp, sweaty, oversexed air between you and your partner. While you’re riding your own melt, you can try narrating what you’d be doing if you were really engaged with each other or do some fantasy role-play.

For an Orgasm-Focused Quickie

Just being totally hypothetical here — you and your girlfriend are in a parking garage after an unexpectedly erotically charged visit to an art museum and you’ve got maybe fifteen minutes to drive to the restaurant where you’re meeting up with the people you were just at the museum with. You want to have sex but there’s no time or space or privacy to do so, so you try straddling and grinding but you’re very conscious of the people walking by, and you try having her hand down your pants but your pants are really tight and you know what, what if we just took care of ourselves while talking about what we’d like to be doing instead! Problem solved.

Because You’re Tired

“When one of you feels like having sex and the other one is too tired or not in the mood, suggest that you share masturbation,” suggests Califia in Lesbian Sapphistry, “You can hold your friend, caress her, or simply be with her as she pleasures herself.”

In addition to being a nice clutch for exhausting evenings, masturbation can also be a sleep aid. “My girlfriend has really bad insomnia,” says Ariel*, a lesbian in her mid-thirties. “When she was alone, before we started spending most nights together, she’d just make herself come in order to fall asleep. She was very excited to hear that I’d be down to take part in this and it’s become a huge part of our sex life now! We’re often way too tired on weeknights to have sex with each other, and masturbating together has led to us exploring some really intense fantasies through dirty talk that I don’t think we would’ve talked about otherwise.”

You Don’t Want To Be Touched

Sam reports that “mutual masturbation can be SO fun and SO kinky and has also been helpful to me as a person who doesn’t always want their body touched by a date/hookup.” There are so many reasons why a person might not want anybody else’s hands or mouth on their genitals — you’re on your period, you have dysphoric or otherwise complicated gender feelings, you’re dealing with trauma, you have a yeast infection or BV, you haven’t showered in five days — but you still might want to get off. Sam continues, “Getting off during sex/a scene is important to me and it’s nice to know that I can still get off even if I don’t want to be touched a certain way or take off certain clothes and it’s still sexy to everyone involved.”

You’re In a Jail Cell Overnight With Your Carpenter and You Really Want to F*ck Her But You Can’t Because You’re In a Monogamous Relationship With Tina

[It still counts as cheating though, Bette.]

Masturbating Together Is a Wonderland of Possibilities

“Masturbating isn’t just your hand on your junk,” Sam says. “I think the best tip I’d have when it comes to masturbating mutually with someone is to incorporate the rest of your bodies.” The means and methods of mutual masturbation are, indeed, endless. You can grind against the bed or your partner while they fuck themselves. You can incorporate toys like vibrators. You can climb on top of somebody and masturbate over them while they touch themselves.

You can experiment with power-play either long-distance or in the same room. Sam suggests, “directing how someone is masturbating — legs on the wall, touch yourself slower, do this/that etc. etc.”

On our sex survey, “mutual masturbation” came up a lot as a “favorite sex act.” Some shared specifics, which included:

  • I am never not in the mood for mutual masturbation .
  • Being read kinky erotica by my partner while masturbating
  • I could never give up sitting on their face while they masturbate , with lots of slapping and grabbing tits and ass.
  • Mutual masturbation with lots of physical closeness, dirty talk and eye contact.
  • I love being rimmed (anus licked) by my partner while I play with myself (masturbate my clitoris).
  • Mutual masturbation with nipple play
  • My partner masturbating and being unable to touch her
  • Kissing, mutual masturbation at the same time

In conclusion, you don’t need to join a cult to start masturbating with other people. Go for it!


Lesbian Sex 101 is Autostraddle’s series on how to have lesbian sex for queer women and anyone who finds this information applicable to their bodies or sexual activities. Employment of the term “lesbian sex” in this post uses “lesbian” as an adjective to describe sex between two women or people who identify with that experience, regardless of the sexual orientation of the two people involved.

Sex ed almost never includes queer women or our experiences, so we’re exploring pleasure, safety, relationships and more to make that information more accessible. A lot of the language in these posts is intended to make them easy to find on search engines.

Some of the body parts we talk about will be yours or your partners’ and some won’t. Some of the pronouns will be yours or your partners’ and some won’t. Some of the sexualities will be yours or your partners’ and some won’t. Some of the language will be yours or your partners’ and some won’t. Take what you want and what applies to you or what you can make apply to you and your partners and your experiences, and leave the rest!


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Riese is the 36-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2567 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. In reference to the linked article I just want to make this distinction -mainly because it’s a manipulative cult that really creeps me out, and this distinction is an aspect of the whole thing that is a major red-flag for me personally- But the One Taste “orgasmic meditation” involves a (usually) male stranger (fully clothed) touching a person’s clitoris, and is by definition a two person, giver receiver thing, rather than a masturbation thing.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-06-18/the-dark-side-of-onetaste-the-orgasmic-meditation-company

  2. “Whether or not it “counts” as sex specifically isn’t the point though — the point is that it is a bona-fide sexual activity, not a sexual cop-out, and there are all kinds of reasons why you might want to try it.”

    This whole thing about whether something “counts” as sex is some het-cis hangup, right, which means I have permission to stop caring about it?

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