Masturbatory Behavior in a Population Sample of German Women

J Sex Med. 2019 Jul;16(7):963-974. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.04.015. Epub 2019 May 30.


Background: Human masturbation is and has been a very heatedly and controversially discussed topic in human sexuality. Studies investigating aspects of human masturbatory behavior and female sexual pleasure remain scarce. This lack of knowledge opens the door to further controversies and misconceptions.

Aim: To conduct an explorative study on female masturbatory behavior to gain more insight into this nonreproductive sexual behavior and provide an empiric basis for future research.

Methods: A total of 425 German women (mean age 26.6 years), 61.4% of whom were in a committed relationship, completed a comprehensive 76-item online survey consisting of study-specific, self-constructed questions and validated and standardized questionnaires.

Main outcome measure: Correlation and comparative analyses were performed. Results are presented numerically as means and percentages.

Results: The majority (94.5%) of women indicated having masturbated at least once in their life, with a mean age at first masturbation of 14 years. 85.9% of women described masturbation as "genital self-stimulation until reaching orgasm." The majority of women reported masturbating 2 or 3 times a week (26.8%) or once a week (26.3%). Factors independently associated with masturbation frequency were relationship status, orgasm frequency, openness to new experience, and body acceptance. Almost all women (91.5%) reported masturbating also when in a relationship. For the 5.5% of women who had never engaged in autoerotic stimulation, the 2 main reasons were "I hardly every feel sexual desire" and "sex is a partner-only thing." 7.6% reported never experiencing an orgasm during masturbation, whereas 50.3% indicated that they always reached orgasm during autostimulation. The reasons cited for engaging in masturbation were manifold, ranging from sexual desire to relaxation and stress reduction. The most common fantasy included the partner; however, 20.7% fantasized about being "defenseless," and 8.7% thought about a "disturbing" scenario that they chose not to elaborate further.

Clinical implications: For many women, masturbation does not represent "a partner substitute" to seek sexual pleasure, but rather is a stress coping and relaxation strategy.

Strengths & limitations: This is one of the very first studies to provide more in-depth insight into a variety of aspects related to female masturbation. The representativeness of the data is limited to this particular sample of German women.

Conclusion: Our findings highlight the huge diversity in terms of masturbation frequency, motivations, styles, and preferences that can be observed in this particular population sample of German women. Burri A, Carvalheira A. Masturbatory Behavior in a Population Sample of German Women. J Sex Med 2019;16:963-974.

Keywords: Masturbation; Orgasm Ability; Sexual Function; Women.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Fantasy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido / physiology*
  • Masturbation / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Orgasm / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexuality
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult