This article originally appeared on VICE UK
I've always been confused about my strongest hand. When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I used to switch hands when writing or coloring in, when one or the other hand got tired. As a grew older I realized I was left-handed when I was writing but had an ambidextrous hangover because my stronger side was always my right.
But, I hear you ask, what does this mean for your preferred wanking hand of choice? Yes, a pertinent question. A little personal, as I barely know you, but it means in reality that I've always used both hands, and never really thought too much about it either way, you weirdo. After doing a bit of research I found that left-handed wanking, or "non-dominant hand masturbation," is a thing.
"I wank with my left hand so I can browse porn using my mouse easier with the right," is one excuse trotted out a lot by wankers. Others say the "orgasm is more intense and lasts longer when I wank with the left hand." Finally, a lot of wankers seem to say that "wanking with the opposite hand makes it feel like someone else is doing it." All good and valid reasons from people of an 'ambisextrous' nature (ZING). But to find out the real reasons why we may choose to bash off with our non-dominant hands I spoke to counselor, psychosexual, and sex addiction therapist Michael Stock, a member of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity (ATSAC).
VICE: Why might you think guys might want to masturbate in different ways? What reasons have you heard so far?
Michael Stock: The key thing with internet porn is that the person, or teenager, watching it and masturbating separates sex from emotion. They're short-circuiting—going straight to strong sexual arousal using porn, rather than putting in the effort from being with a man or woman. When they switch on their computer, they have more porn than they can shake a stick at their command—with anonymity and accessibility.
So you think people end up wanking in different ways because it's become so easy to be aroused?
Yes. A typical guy will orgasm within about two minutes of starting to masturbate. Some people will say, 'no that's not me' but most men masturbate roughly to porn, completely focused on the idea that they have to get to the orgasm—nothing pleasurable about it. Some of my clients play around for several hours and might sit there watching porn, stimulating but not allowing themselves to come, but most come quite quickly.
What mental or physical difference can non-dominant masturbation make, then?
I imagine it's about variety, because the human brain craves excitement. If I were looking at porn, I'd start on the reasonably soft stuff and then I'd want more and more, which all has to do with dopamine. That's when people get addicted. I've worked with clients who the only way they could come is masturbation—they couldn't even do couple sex anymore. So I can imagine that non-dominant hand masturbation is another way to get some excitement and make wanking feel different.
I see a lot of stuff on the internet about the shape of people's penises and how it affects things differently when masturbating. Have you come across anything like that?
I would say that's unlikely to be true. I think there are a lot of rumours but, first of all, most of us are boringly normal, and secondly the size and shape shouldn't matter. The only issue is if a man has been circumcised or not: circumcised men may find the head of the penis, filled with nerves, feels very sensitive. Unless the shape of the penis was absolutely extreme, it's not relevant.
Have you seen any experiments or research done on the right and left hemispheres of the brain and how that impacts on masturbation?
I think that's a red herring. Neuroscience says the right and left hemispheres talk to each other all the time—this idea is very overdone. You're right in the sense that as someone right-handed, the left hemisphere of my cerebral cortex controls my right hand and the right side of my brain controls my left hand. But I wouldn't think using one side of the brain or the other would be particularly important in masturbation. It would be different probably more realistically, if you think about it—and I'm going to assume you masturbate…
… If you were masturbating with one hand, your thumb and finger would be in a particular position, rubbing up and down the shaft of the penis. If you used your other hand, you'd stimulate other areas of the penis.
I'm ambidextrous, so this idea of right-handed people masturbating left-handed is a new thing for me.
You've made the case for me! You can be ambidextrous, able to do it either way around, and we can certainly learn to change. I'm strongly right-handed. I can write with my left but it's extremely difficult; it feels like I'd get brain-ache after a while. I would say that for someone imasturbating with their non-dominant hand, the main effect would a different, and somehow novel physical stimulation of the penis.
Earlier you mentioned how porn may be desensitising us when it comes to our pleasure from masturbation.
I've had young men as clients, 18-year-olds, so hooked on porn that they've become uninterested in couple sex. We train our brain all the time, and I believe most of our behavior is learned. Young guys in particular—say 16-year-olds—who masturbate a lot are in the middle of a crucial time when their brains are growing in complexity, in neuropathological ways.
At 16, your brain did something called 'pruning.' It went in and got rid of lots of neural pathways it didn't need, like a railway network over the UK that's gone mad laying tracks everywhere until you say, 'This is crazy I don't need this track.' And your brain rips up a track. Your brain goes from an overgrown weed at 16 to a nice tree structure two years later—you've pruned your brain. Today's youngster are being exposed to more extreme porn when they're young, in this pruning stage, and that's where things have grown really interesting for someone in my line of work.
Wow, this got heavy, Thanks, Michael.