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Everything you ever wanted to know about masturbation habits of America
How do your self-love habits stack up?
Given the demonstrated health benefits of regular masturbation, one would think that, much like flossing your teeth or eating vegetables or writing emails to your grandma, there is no such thing as doing it too often. But that hasn’t stopped many from fretting over whether their fapping habits are too excessive.
One of these concerned onanists recently submitted a query to Five Thirty Eight’s “Dear Mona” series, asking if his masturbation habits were normal. (He reported jerking the gherkin eight times a week, FYI). Not only did Mona answer his question, she did him—and us—one better, with a handy infographic comparing the masturbation habits of men and women in the United States.
The infographic is based on data from Indiana University’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB), which polled 5,865 Americans between the ages of 14 and 94. Some things about the data are not surprising: For instance, the infographic shows that men masturbate more often than women across the board, with 84.6 women age 24-29 reporting having masturbated versus 93 percent of men in that same age group.
When Five Thirty Eight crunched the numbers about how often men and women masturbated, however, it started to get more interesting:
Even in the age of Pornhub and Redtube, the NSSHB’s data indicates that both men and women report masturbating far less often than you’d think. Only 20 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 29 report doing the one-hand salute more than four times a week, versus a paltry 5 percent of women in the same age group. (Only 13.5 percent of men in their 30s masturbate more than four times a week, which makes the Anonymous Five Thirty Eight Letter Writer a bit of an outlier. Sorry, AFTELW.)
Across the board, most men report masturbating an average of a few times per week, while most women report doing it “a few times per year to monthly.” For both genders, the frequency of masturbation decreases as they increase in age, with only .5 percent of women and 1.7 percent of men over 70 reporting going downtown more than four times per week.
Of course, due to the inherent unreliability of self-reported data, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt: Although the NSSHB conducted the survey anonymously, due to the stigma surrounding masturbation (particularly female masturbation) it’s possible that many of the respondents underreported their answers to avoid seeming oversexed or desperate. Furthermore, the survey was conducted in 2009, and thanks to increased visibility of female masturbation in pop culture and the advent of apps like Happy Playtime, we’ve evolved considerably in our attitude toward female masturbation since then; I’m guessing that if we conducted a similar poll today, the numbers would be a bit higher.
But if there’s one thing that should be taken away from the infographic, it shouldn’t be whether your masturbation habits are “normal” compared to everyone else’s; rather, it should be how common masturbation is, among both men and women. Regardless of how frequently you masturbate, or whether you and your hand are on a first-name basis or if you’d use the formal Spanish “usted” to address it, the point is that pretty much everyone does it; the only difference, it seems, is how often.
EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.