You probably don’t think twice about the way you masturbate: You find a style that feels good for you, and then let loose. But your favorite technique may become problematic when someone else joins the party.
The isue: You might grow so conditioned to one way to achieve pleasure that if your partner doesn’t touch you in that specific style during sex, you won’t be able to orgasm.
There’s a fancy name for this phenomenon: idiosyncratic masturbation. Here’s what you need to know about it—and how you can stop your tried-and-true technique from ruining her time, too.
All About Idiosyncratic Masturbation
Idiosyncratic masturbation describes a type of self-stimulation that isn’t easily reproducible during sex with a partner, says Jennifer Vencill, Ph.D., a sex therapist at the Center for Sexual Health at the University of Minnesota.
If you’re used to masturbating a certain way, you might require firmer stimulation than your partner’s mouth or vagina can provide, Vencill says.
Think about how you first learned to masturbate. Maybe you discovered, for example, that it felt really damn good to lie on your stomach and vigorously rub your penis against your bed.
Because you knew this was a guaranteed way to get off, it ultimately became your default masturbation technique.
But when you become so used to a particular sensation like that, you may not be able to achieve the same amount of pleasure when you’re with a partner. That’s where sex gets dicey.
How Idiosyncratic Masturbation Can Hurt Your Sex Life
It’s important to emphasize that there isn’t anything actually wrong with idiosyncratic masturbation, Vencill says.
“The way people masturbate and the way that feels good to them is their business,” she says.
The problem is many guys with an idiosyncratic style of masturbating experience delayed ejaculation when having sex with a partner, says Tobias Köhler, M.D., an associate urology professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
It could take you more than 20 minutes to ejaculate or orgasm during penetration, says Dr. Köhler. This can make you feel inadequate, depressed, and anxious about finishing, he says.
And when you’re stressed during sex, your body produces more of the hormone adrenaline, which actually can hinder your erection and impede ejaculation.
What Can You Do About Idiosyncratic Masturbation?
If you have a unique masturbation style and you know it doesn’t quite work during sex, take a break from both, says Vencill.
Vencill often recommends her patients refrain from masturbation and partnered sex for a week. This time off allows desire to build, so that when you’re back with your partner, you’re more easily stimulated.
But that’s only part of the solution. You also need to talk to your partner about your masturbation style, Vencill says.
Play professor: Teach her how you masturbate, so she can incorporate certain grips, styles, or speeds into your next sex session.
“There’s this cultural precedent that people must have penile-vaginal sex—that it’s the best sex,” says Vencill. “But a lot of times, part of the process is helping couples find other ways to reach pleasure.”
When Should You See a Sex Therapist?
If these options don’t work—or you don’t feel comfortable talking about masturbation with your partner—consider seeing a sex therapist, Vencill says.
At your appointment, your sex therapist will ask you for a detailed sex history, including your erectile and ejaculatory functioning; your level of desire; and your physical and mental health history.
You’ll answer questions about how you masturbate: Do you use porn when you do it? If so, what kind? What helps you climax the fastest?
Your sex therapist may also have you demonstrate how you masturbate an anatomical model. Yes, this sounds weird as hell. But it’s all so your therapist can get a better handle on your preferred style—and pass on real tips about how to replicate it with your partner, says Vencill.
But the most important reason to see a sex therapist is that he or she will help you learn how to clearly communicate with your partner about sensitive topics.
“Many people find early on they need a professional in their corner coaching them on having the conversation,” Vencill says.