Everyone does it, but are we all doing it wrong? I sought out an expert to help perfect my solo sex practice.
This story is republished from MEL Magazine. MEL aims to challenge, inspire and encourage readers to drop any preconceived notions of who they’re supposed to be.
“Am I pleased with the way I masturbate?”
“Should I stop masturbating the way I have been since I was 13?
“Have I been masturbating the same way since I was 13?”
“Do I even want to masturbate better?”
“Shouldn’t I be more focused on getting laid with someone other than myself?”
These are a few of the questions I’m asking myself as I speed through a rare Southern California monsoon toward Palm Springs on the eve of New Year’s Eve.
My masturbation coach will be expecting answers to these questions.
Or at least to the first four.
I’d heard about the female equivalent on Real Sex years ago and thought of it again recently, after which I Googled “male masturbation coach in California” to see if such a thing existed. The most immediate search results yielded a smattering of SoCal sex therapists (e.g., “Naughty Lifestyle Expert” Sienna Sinclaire), and stories about a San Diego Chargers security guard who was recently filmed masturbating in front of the team’s cheerleading squad. The second page of search results, though, revealed exactly what I was looking for: Masturbation coach Ed Ehrgott, the middle-aged, dual-nipple-ringed owner of Sacred Touch for Men who asks on his website, “Could your solo sexual practice use some juice?”
You bet it could, Ed.
The fact is, save for the occasional lube adjustment, I masturbate exactly the same way I did when I was 13. There’s nothing particularly pleasing about it, though it’s one of the few remaining dopamine dumps my sober brain is permitted, and it helps me fall asleep in the absence of a blissful fog of booze and benzodiazepines. I’m single, so minding my solitary erotic life is relevant. And I’ve resolved to cultivate a number of self-care practices in 2017; in addition to enhancing my wank, I’m exfoliating and trying to drink eight cups of water a day.
My search also turned up two of the other male masturbation coaches on the planet — Bruce P. Grether in Texas and Osher Elias in Madrid — as well as Vanessa Marin, a female coach specializing in helping women find their orgasm. “There’s no real certification for masturbation coaches,” Grether tells me, but there are “plenty of people who do it informally. For example, there’s a video called the ‘nine golden keys of mindful masturbation’ that my young friend Blue Tyger produced. He’s a film student, so it’s really well done.”
Across the pond, Elias leads an online Tantric Masturbation Course For Men. Coaching Europeans presents unique challenges and opportunities, he says. “Most men in Europe are uncircumcised and lose a lot of pleasure by not masturbating effectively. They just move the foreskin up and down with two fingers and experience what people hate the most with condoms. When I teach them to make contact with the glans and frenulum, it generates another level of stimulation with a direct connection to the nervous system. They feel like they’re going to explode!”
That all sounded well and good, but I’m circumcised and plenty acquainted with my frenulum. Nor was I looking to fly to Spain (or even Texas) to improve my wank. So I settled on Ed, who was a mere two hours from my L.A. apartment. After a brief phone call, I scheduled a 90-minute, in-person session at his “studio” — a generous term, since it turned out to be the master bedroom of his beige ranch house in North Palm Springs. Despite the rain, I arrived early and killed 30 minutes or so parked out front, awkwardly waving to passing residents of Ed’s gated community.
Just here to see Coach…
* * *
Iwasn’t anticipating the loveseat.
It’s an awkwardly cozy seating arrangement — for siblings playing Xbox, let alone a masturbation interview with a stranger. But that’s where we both have a seat and I proceed with my first question: “What’s the most common thing you hear from your clients?”
“‘How can I last longer?’ I get that all the time,” Ed responds without hesitation. He’s in casual, loose-fitting clothes and judging from an occasional coughing fit, seems to be fighting a bit of a cold.
Ed claims the key to lasting longer is learning how to better manipulate your erotic energy, which most men are ashamed of. “We run away from it,” he explains. “Sure, we’ll use sex and eroticism to sell things, and there’s porn, but that’s not an accurate reflection of sexuality. Most people think men’s masturbation is really simple: Five minutes, your hand, some porn and you’re done. That’s true on one level, but really limiting.”
He explains men are just expected to know how to masturbate in our society — no lessons necessary! — and the only time it comes up in conversation is in the form of humor. “We’ll joke about it. We’ll make fun of it. But most guys aren’t gonna seriously talk about it because that would be a blow to their masculinity. We learn to do it quickly, quietly, discreetly and to remove all the evidence as soon as possible. But what worked well in our teens may not work as well as we age since our bodies and tastes change.”
“What was your favorite food when you were 13?” he asks.
“Chicken pot pie,” I respond.
“Is it still?”
Well, I’m trying to cut down on entree-sized pastries these days, I think to myself as he continues, treating it as a rhetorical question.
“That’s where masturbation coaching comes in,” he continues, extending the legs of a massage table. “It’s about taking something you began doing as an adolescent and adapting it to fit your values and needs as an adult.”
He lays down a clean sheet and taps the table.
“Okay, I’m going to watch you masturbate and make some comments,” he says, handing me a tube of lotion. “Why don’t you get going, and I’ll be back in a few?”
Just like that I’m naked and alone, struggling to get hard on a massage table in the middle of a masturbation coach’s bedroom in Palm Springs. I pan the room, searching for anything remotely risqué, but find only that day’s local newspaper, The Desert Sun, featuring a group of cheerful retirees on the cover. So I opt for the ol’ reliable: An internal spankbank of exes and past hookups, which works miraculously well.
Maybe too well?
“Whoa,” Ed says, returning. “First things first: We need to work on slowing you way down. No one can fuck at that speed! You’ll never be able to replicate what you’re doing right now with someone else.”
Vanessa Marin, the female orgasm whisperer mentioned above, also urges her male clients to slow the fuck down. “If you masturbate in under a minute every time you’re training your body that’s what the orgasm process is like. When you get with a partner, he or she likely would rather the experience last longer than a minute. Guys need to learn to take more time with themselves when they’re masturbating. That can have a lot to do with the grip. A lot of men use what I call the ‘death grip’ when masturbating. It’s just not something you can replicate with a partner — especially if you’re having vaginal intercourse.”
Ed says I’m exhibiting something called an idiosyncratic masturbatory style, which sex counselor and psychotherapist Ian Kerner tells me is one of the most common issues presented by his male clients. “Based on what I’ve seen in my own practice, I’d say men are masturbating 500 percent more than they did before the rise of internet porn. They’ve rewired their brains to crave the instant gratification of a porn-enabled orgasm and accustomed themselves to an intense type of physical stimulation that isn’t easily replicable during partnered intercourse.”
Kerner stresses he’s neither anti-masturbation nor anti-porn, but he does think both can become problematic. He’s even dubbed an acronymed term for the syndrome: Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder (SADD). “SADD can pose a problem in a relationship,” Kerner says, stating the obvious. “If your partner is getting distressed because you’re not as sexually motivated as you’ve been in the past, you need to look at your practice and consider if you have a masturbation addiction.”
To Ed, of course, that’s an oxymoron. At least if you’re masturbating mindfully, as I’m attempting to do on this massage table. Ed explains mindful masturbation is simply being present in your body and savoring every sensation, which can lead to profound ecstatic states typically achieved after a lengthy “edging” session. (And which can also, like my erection, be difficult to manage with someone examining it from multiple angles.) “Edging is the ability to maintain sexual arousal at a high level for a prolonged period of time,” he explains while overemphasizing deep, relaxed breaths, “ideally just below the point of no return, when ejaculation becomes an inevitable fact. As a man keeps edging [BREATH] he enters a state of trance where his mind intimately merges with his cock to become one. [BREATH] For all intents and purposes, his entire body becomes an appendage to his erection.” [EXHALE / MOAN]
Not surprisingly, an increasing number of men — both gay and straight — are seeking full-body erections and everything else that edging brings with it. “Love stroking my cock from the minute I wake up!” writes Addicted2edgingin the /r/EdgingTalk Subreddit (The “Anti-NoFap”). “Sometimes I lay in bed all day and night for a 12 hour edge session.”
“It’s a matter of self control and practice,” explains mfclover69. “You gotta work up to the edge and then realize when it’s about to hit and back off. I’ve been doing it for years but I still fuck up and do that one extra stroke that sets you off.”
With Ed in the room, I’m careful not to pull a mfclover69 and fuck up; after all, there’s still more than an hour left in my coaching session.
* * *
Masturbation coaching began as a female endeavor.
“There were some early pioneers in the sex-therapy movement who started talking about it in the 1960s and 1970s, but even to this day, it’s not something you see a ton of press about,” Marin tells me over Skype.
Eighty-eight-year-old Betty Dodson was once dubbed the “godmother of masturbation” thanks to her 1973 bestseller Sex for One. Dodson held women-only masturbation clinics called “Bodysex” in her rent-controlled apartment on Madison Avenue throughout the 1970s. In 2014, she resumed teaching Bodysex in the same apartment, where she’s lived since 1962, for a new generation of feminists who, she says, aren’t nearly as liberated as they think they are. “Most of them haven’t even seen their genitals in a mirror,” Dodson told Raw Story in 2014. “You show ’em and they go, ‘Eek!’ Or: ‘Ugh!’”
Grether, author of The Secret of the Golden Phallus: Male Erotic Alchemy for the 21st Century, was among the first male masturbation coaches. In the mid-1990s, he began teaching mindful masturbation — a term he claims to have coined — which included ancient masturbatory practices rooted in Tantra, Taoist Sexual Secrets and Western Sex Magick. Though again, there have always been informal masturbation coaches — both individuals and groups. The San Francisco Jacks, for example, is a “fellowship of men who like to jack-off in the company of like-minded men” and meets the second and fourth Monday of every month. “Refreshments and lubricant provided; you provide the dick and the desire,” their website promises.
As for Ed, he got into masturbation coaching 12 years ago.
“I’d been in tech for my whole life as a web developer and consultant, and I was looking for something different to do,” he says. “I’ve always had an interest in this area, and I wanted to explore it. I got a California state certification for what’s called sexological bodywork, which is doing erotic-focused touch on other people. I found masturbation was very helpful for me personally. I grew up the fat kid in school. I was never athletic. I hated ‘shirts and skins.’ What I found later in life was that focusing inward toward myself changed my perspective of my body. I became grateful and thankful for my body and thankful for the pleasure I could have with it. I think that’s really important for guys, especially ones like me who’ve had body issues.”
Ed says the biggest misconception is that this is just a wank party. “I take this very seriously and look at it as a mission. It’s something I’m passionate about. It’s fun. And it sure beats selling computer systems for a living.”
* * *
Ahalf-hour into the session, I’m doing everything I can not to cum, including calculating my expected tax refund — a surprisingly effective cold shower. That said, it’s awkward AF to have someone studying my stroke and offering commentary:
- “A looser grip would be better.”
- “Try cupping your balls.”
- “Now stimulate the epididymis.”
- “Use a fingernail to glide over the tip of your nipple.”
But I’m doing what I’m told — breathing, meditating, edging.
According to the Kinsey Institute, 75 percent of American men ejaculate within two minutes of masturbating, and the American Urological Association recently found that one out of three men suffer from premature ejaculation. Conversely, according to Woman’s Day, most women require at least 20 minutes of sexual activity to climax. It’s not surprising, then, that male and female masturbation coaches are working from different playbooks.
“Women are always trying to hurry things up, while men are doing their best to slow things down,” explains Marin. “I have women in my program who it takes 20, 30, 40 minutes to get there.” The biggest confession she hears from clients? They don’t know how to orgasm. “There’s a huge percentage of women out there who’ve never had an orgasm and have no idea what to do to get themselves there.”
Kerner, the NYC-based sex counselor, says that’s when masturbation can be especially helpful for women. “I often deal with women who can’t reach orgasm during partnered sex and we help them develop a masturbation practice as a resource.”
And unlike men, the goal is to cross finish line as fast as possible. “Especially when you’re learning how to masturbate, there’s a desire to try to figure it out and make it happen quickly,” Marin explains.
* * *
“Idon’t usually twitch like that,” I tell Ed.
After 45 minutes of mindful masturbation and edging I’m ready to fucking explode.
“That’s okay; this is more of a full-body experience,” he replies calmly. “I find guys mostly focus on the cock so the challenge is spreading the energy out of the cock to the rest of your body.”
Ed can tell I’m struggling to keep the genie in the bottle.
“I don’t recommend stopping completely,” Ed warns. “It’s a good intro but can be a little abrupt. When you get to a point where you feel very close to cumming, do something different, switch up your hand, try a different stroke, concentrate on your breathing. Relax, breathe and take in the sensation. You can ride these waves of orgasmic energy for as long as you want. The physiological urge to come will go away. Coming is great, but you don’t always need to.”
Form 1040 is used to deduct medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of my annual adjusted gross income, right?
“When I was in my teens, I would cum six or eight times a day,” Ed says matter-of-factly. “My goal in masturbating was I want to come and I want to do it quickly. We take that same habit into our adult lives. I advocate checking in with your body. Do I really want to cum right now? Sometimes the answer is no.”
BUT SOMETIMES THE ANSWER IS YES! (What’s the name of my H&R Block adviser? I should drop her a line this week…)
Grether says that if you’re trying to learn masturbation excellence, it’s extremely valuable to learn to end your session without ejaculating. “When men ejaculate really often, it changes their brain chemicals and hormones. It’s like a roller-coaster ride instead of learning to hang-glide. The Taoist teachings say that every ejaculation weakens you. I don’t believe that literally. But there are grains of truth in every ancient tradition.”
If you do choose to cum, though, both Grether and Ed believe you should cum hard. They also think you shouldn’t be so quick to clean it up. “Make an intention to ejaculate,” Ed says, “and when you do, celebrate it! When most guys come, the first thing they do is reach for the Kleenex and throw it away somewhere. How does that reenforce us as sexual creatures? What about honoring it for what it is instead: an important bodily function and bodily fluid. Play with it. What’s the consistency like? What’s it taste like? Find out. It’s your own, it’s not going to hurt you.”
Grether’s suggestion? “Rub it into your surface.” Or, failing that: “Put it in a potted plant.”
* * *
Maybe it’s the look on my face, but we’re an hour in and Ed can sense I’m getting bored.
“Try a backwards grip,” he suggests. “Or your left hand — switching hands can create a completely different feeling. Or rotate. With one hand, hold the base. No, not like that. Grip and rotate with the other toward the head of your cock. Theeeere ya go.”
The most valuable lesson we can take from masturbation coaching, Ed says, is learning to let go.
“Most guys are taught to be in control all of the time, which in many aspects of life can be helpful. But from a sexual perspective, not so much. The idea of just letting go and simply surrendering to your pleasure can be a challenge for a lot of guys. Even when it comes to partnered sex, most guys take on the role of ‘I have to please my partner. I have to make sure that he or she is enjoying this too and having a wonderful experience.’ This is counterintuitive to that and surrendering to the sensation and letting it happen. When an erotic trance state is achieved through edging, a man is freed of all social codes of conduct, and his arousal alone dictates his reactions.
“As a result,” he continues, “he will become very expressive and demonstrative: he may become very vocal, while his body and face might take on undignified expressions and poses, all in response to the intensely exquisite sensations. A lot of us learned when we were younger not to make noise because we didn’t want to get caught. So the idea of making noise, and sighs and other types of sound that reinforce the enjoyment of it can be a challenge for a lot of people.”
The twitching has stopped. In fact, all of a sudden, I seem to be entering the promised trance state. As predicted, the compulsion to ejaculate has waned and I’m coasting on a meditative wave of… something. “Ecstasy” is probably a stretch, but I’m starting to appreciate the value of having someone guide you through the edging process like a masturbatory sherpa.
It’s around this time that Ed interjects once again — now with a decidedly different tone.
“Looks like you got the hang of slowing down, so…”
“How we doing on time?” I ask, noting the new urgency in his voice.
“We have to finish because I have someone arriving in five minutes.”
So after all that talk of mindfully avoiding the masculine pitfalls of speed-wanking, I start beating off like a teenager whose mother just pulled into the driveway. Ed lobs in frantic coaching tips while glancing at his watch.
“Pull down on your balls right before you cum to create an intense orgasm!”
“Can you explain why?” I inquire between sips of air. (I’m a professional journalist, after all.)
“It’s stimulating your nerve endings in your balls and scrotal area.”
My eyes water. I emit sounds I’ve never heard before. Bestial, guttural, tribal moans. National Geographic shit. Thwack! Thwack! A rope of my ejaculate meets a wall behind me with force, something that’s never happened to me before. Simply put, it’s the best solo orgasm I’ve ever had, by a lot. Granted, having a stranger witness the journey hasn’t exactly been joyful, but 90 minutes of edging has made crossing the finish line near heavenly.
Ed tosses me a bath towel (so much for the potted plant) and rolls his eyes when I hand him my debit card. Bank of America cards never work on his iPhone’s swiping adapter, he says.
I ask if he uses Venmo. He never has but will give it a try if it’s fast.
And just like my typical wank, it is.
I rush out the door like a $125 trick.
* * *
Iimagine you’ve rolled your eyes more than once while reading this — I certainly did while both writing and reporting it. That’s because, on its face, masturbation coaching is an absurd concept. The advice for improving your sex life is usually the exact opposite: Stop masturbating and start having sex with someone other than yourself. But the reality is, for a variety of reasons, that option may not always be available — or preferable — to masturbating. So to not be a cynic about things, what’s wrong with learning how to do it better and maybe experiencing the best solitary orgasm of your life, too?
I’ll stop short of recommending you book a session with your local masturbation coach, though given the increasing curiosity of edging online — including sites with color-coded, step-by-step instructions that walk you through the entire edging process — you’ll likely be able to find one before long. “The real sexual revolution is just happening now,” says Grether. “I encourage men to explore the possibilities of solitary sexual pleasure — not just for sensation, but as a form of self-love. I believe this is the true erotic frontier.”
Time to stock up on potted plants.