Why Men Masturbate: Reasons and Correlates in Men with and without Sexual Dysfunction

J Sex Marital Ther. 2023;49(7):783-797. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2023.2204088. Epub 2023 Apr 26.


Men purportedly masturbate for a variety of reasons, but systematic investigation of men's reasons has been lacking. We analyzed reasons why men masturbate (n = 2967, mean age = 37.7, SD = 12.9), whether men with and without sexual problems differ in their reasons, and whether those reasons vary with the frequency of masturbation and partnered sex. Results indicated that deriving pleasure, decreasing sexual tension, and reducing anxiety/stress were among the top motives, whereas partner issues were cited less frequently. Men with sexual dysfunctions showed only minor differences from men without sexual dysfunctions, the former more often citing anxiety/stress reduction as a motive. In addition, samples tapping participants from two world regions showed only minor differences in their patterns of responding. Motives for masturbation were also related to both the frequency of masturbation and the frequency of partnered sex. Overall, these findings indicate that men, like women, masturbate primarily for the positive reinforcing effects of pleasure, but in contrast with women, men are also more likely to use masturbation for the negatively reinforcing effects of reducing anxiety/distress. Unsatisfying sex with the partner and/or relationship issues were cited as a reason for masturbation in only a minority of men.