Masturbation is tricky when you have five roommates

The benefits and discomforts of masturbation in residence halls


Libby Camp, Staff Writer

Sex is part of the college experience, but it’s not just about having sex with others – it’s also what people are doing alone.

62 percent of women and 82 percent of men ages 18-24 masturbate, according to a 2010 study by Indiana University.

On the other hand, only 59 percent of women and 51 percent of men are sexually active with partners, according to an Oct. 2015 Cosmopolitan article

There are many health benefits to masturbation, according to the Planned Parenthood website.

Masturbation can reduce stress and improve sleep patterns, self-esteem and body image. It also relieves menstrual cramps and muscle tension, according to the organization’s website.

An April 2009 article from the Harvard Medical school reports that frequent ejaculation can reduce the chances of getting prostate cancer in men.

For women, orgasm can help prevent cervical infections, relieve hormonal tension and increase pelvic strength, according to a Jan. 2015 Huffington Post article.

“Regardless of the reason why, take comfort in the fact that ejaculation is not only pleasurable, but also may convey health benefits,” the article said.

Sophomore Sam Atallah is a firm advocate of the benefits of masturbating, he said, but recognizes that in college, it’s not easy.

“With these statistics as well as a collective understanding that ‘everyone does it,’ complicated feelings come up when you place masturbation in the context of dorm life.”

Lack of privacy and space is one of the biggest adjustment to living in a dorm, according to an April 2011 USA Today article.

“Masturbation in college is kind of tricky to pull off because the line between public and personal space is so blurred,” sophomore Julian Lathrop said.

With a limited number of single bedrooms and an even more limited availability of private bathrooms, on-campus living typically means being around other people.

“You don’t want to do it in your room because that disrespects your roommate, but you also don’t want to do it in your bathroom because that’s also a shared space,” Lathrop said.

Lathrop said the constant presence of others makes masturbation feel especially forbidden.

“Basically if you masturbate, which most people obviously do, you’re breaking a rule no matter what,” he said.

Masturbation is perceived differently between people of different genders, sophomore Kristen Brown said.

“Sexual education speaks only of boys masturbating with the ideology of ‘boys will be boys,’” she said.

This lack of widespread education creates an atmosphere of hypermasculinity and is “exclusionary toward women and gender non-binary people,” Brown said.

This, on top of the awkwardness that comes with the topic, creates an air of secrecy around masturbation and the “indulgence of flesh,” she said.

But if the benefits of “body and mind,”  Lathrop said, are anything to go off of, then masturbation shouldn’t be such a taboo.

So instead of holding back, just be honest, Brown said.

“If you have a roommate and have a difficult time discussing personal time or masturbation, try communicating to lay down some boundaries about comfort levels,” she said.

Masturbating does not make you a bad person, Lathrop said, and the taboo around it is trivial.

“The whole dilemma is less indicative of the shittiness of everybody’s moral compass and perhaps more indicative of the fact that the rules are probably silly,” Lathrop said.

So don’t conform to the rule and instead follow Brown’s advice to “communicate to find time for yourself.”