It may still be the punchline of many a joke, but self-pleasure has come a long way since American Pie's apple pie incident. While the stigma around self-love is slowly shrinking, we have to ask: Is it possible it's affecting our ability to get it on IRL?
Masturbation actually helps keep your sexual pilot light on, says Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex and relationship therapist. If you get in the habit of bringing yourself to orgasm and experiencing that onslaught of dopamine, oxytocin, and stress relief, you won't start with a cold engine when you want to get revved up with a partner. Getting excited to get it on may not be a problem for some, but if you tend to have a low libido, solo sessions can help you know exactly what turns you on, Fleming says.
And while no one's going to touch you exactly like you do, having a super-great time with yourself won't necessarily diminish a bout with someone else, says Megan Stubbs, a sexologist and sex educator. Instead look at masturabation like an opportunity to communicate with your partner--touch yourself in front of them, walk them through what you're doing, and they'll pick up tips.
Whether or not you want to make masturbation a teachable moment, there's no reason to worry about self-love ruining your libido for partner play. After all, there's no hard-and-fast rule for how much libido you should have, says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., LMFT, a licensed therapist and sexuality counselor. And the refractory period (the time it takes a man to get aroused again after orgasm) can range from a few minutes to a few days, depending on a guy's overall health, diet, exercise, and stress level.
For women, a less-amped libido often results from lower testosterone levels, not too much self-love, Fleming says. Plus, women don't have the built-in recovery period between orgasms like men. Still, if you're worried that pleasing yourself is going to make you less excited for later, try arousing yourself without finishing the job to "store the sexual energy" and set yourself up for success with your partner, Kerner suggests.
If you and your partner aren't on the same page sexually, Fleming says masturbation can help level the playing field. The person who wants sex more often can go it alone and fantasize about what they want to experience later, a technique Fleming calls "pattern interrupt"--a break from the typical, scripted sex couples can fall into.
It's all good (really good): Masturbation gives the libido a helping hand, keeping us revved up and in tune with our bodies. Outside of certain conditions and hormone imbalances, there's no way to "tap out" of desire--so feel free to keep going at it with the person who knows best.