This article was originally published on VICE Spain.
I have zero experience of living with a partner. I've never got irrationally mad about someone leaving the cabinets open, no one has complained about my hair moulting like an old dog's, and I've never had to wonder, 'How did I end up living here?'
This lack of experience leaves me with a few questions – but one that I can't get out of my head right now is: do people who live with their partners masturbate? Alone, I mean; not mutual masturbation. And if they do: how?
"Yeah, of course," said David, a 34-year-old who's been living with his girlfriend for the last three years. "I was actually just talking about it with a friend of mine, because quarantine has made the situation harder. I usually do it in the bathroom – sometimes quickly, because I'm worried she’ll come in and there’s no lock – or whenever she's not home.
"Now, with the quarantine, I make the most of the times when my partner is on video calls for work, or with her friends. I tell her I'm getting out of the living room to give her some peace and quiet, and I go to our room. It’s weird doing it while listening to her talk about work stuff, but there’s no other option. To tell you the truth, I've never discussed it with her; I haven’t needed to. It’s something I feel is mine, and I prefer to keep it to myself. I've never asked her if she does it, either."
Esther, 29, has noticed a gradual change in her and her partner’s appetite for solo wanks. "When we first started living together I never did it, perhaps because we had loads of sex at the beginning, or because we spent more time doing things as a couple, whether that meant sexually or not," she said. "Now, we've learned to have our own space. Before the lockdown we were both going out with our own friends and sometimes I'd make the most of it when my partner wasn’t home to masturbate. It wasn’t like I was waiting for the door to be shut to start, but, yeah, I would do it sometimes."
Esther confessed that, since the start of lockdown, she hasn't masturbated: "Not because I can't, but because I haven’t felt like it. If I had, I would have found a way, because we've kept doing things separately, although it's harder now. It’s just that my libido is close to zero. People saying that couples in lockdown together are fucking like rabbits are wrong."
Álvaro, 28, hasn't masturbated since mid-March, when the state of emergency was declared in Spain. "Now that I think about it, it might be the longest period I’ve gone without masturbating in my life," he said. "But yeah, I have done it [in the past], and I suppose I'll keep doing it while living together. I've done it in the bathroom with the door locked, pretending to take a shit, but I've also done it while my girlfriend was sleeping.
"She usually falls asleep before me, especially if we're watching a film or a series, so sometimes I've done it while she's been asleep next to me. I don’t know if that’s a bit creepy. I don’t really think so, and I’ve told her and she didn’t think so – she actually laughed. I don’t think it’s because of a lack of sex or satisfaction; neither of us look at it like that."
Álvaro's girlfriend might not mind, but some people feel uneasy when they find out their partner has been masturbating. Carme Sánchez Martín, clinical psychologist and sexologist at the Serrate and Ribal Institute of Urology, said there’s nothing to be worried (or upset) about. "Some people see it as a form of cheating, as if sexuality can only be expressed as a couple, when that’s not the case," she said.
“There is a part of our sexuality that is our own as much as there is a part that is shared. There are people who think that if a partner is masturbating then it suggests dissatisfaction, but that’s probably due to a lack of sexual education. Masturbation is a way of experiencing sexuality that goes further than a relationship with another person."
"Even if I fucked three times a day, I would still masturbate," said Pedro, 30. "You can’t compare it with sex." Sánchez Martín agreed: "Let's take eating as an example. The fact that we eat as a couple – that we always enjoy meals in their company – doesn’t mean that one day we can't enjoy a chocolate crepe alone, right?"
Emma, 28, said she actually finds sex more pleasurable if she has masturbated in the days leading up to it: "When I masturbate – which is something I still do, even though I live with my partner, normally when he’s left the house – I don’t have less desire afterwards, but more. For me, it isn’t a substitute for sex with my partner, but the opposite – it heightens it."
Martín Sánchez said that, for some of her clients, solo masturbation can deliver their most intense pleasure. "There are people, both men and women, who tell me during sessions that they have better orgasms when they are alone," she said, while emphasising that it doesn’t stop them enjoying partnered sex.
So whether you're in the shower or pretending to take a shit, locking yourself in the bathroom or lying next to your sleeping partner, don't feel bad about your desire to get yourself off. It’s not cheating, nor does it mean you’re dissatisfied. Instead, channel that remorse for when you've done something wrong, like leaving every single fucking kitchen cabinet open.