By Anna Sweetland
“I need to orgasm cause I’m stressed, but I can’t orgasm cause I’m stressed. What do I do?” Quinn, a University of Puget Sound junior, responded in Oct. of 2021 to an Instagram post for my KUPS show asking if any of my peers needed sex advice.
Knowing that I rely on masturbation to relax and relieve stress, I understood Quinn’s predicament and expected other students might as well.
On Feb. 1st, 2022, I prompted my Instagram following with more masturbation-related questions. First, I asked them “Do you masturbate to relieve stress?” One third-year student answers yes, he does masturbate to relieve stress saying, “During the act, I’m not really thinking about anything else except for the thing that I am watching or imagining. So I’m not worried about what was stressing me out.” He adds that because making himself orgasm is physically demanding, when he finishes it provides a moment of relaxation. In total, 76 UPS students responded to this poll— 74% said yes, 26% said no.
An anonymous third-year UPS student who answered no to this question, shared with me that she masturbates in order to sleep when stressed. She explains, “During stressful periods in my life sometimes I just increase the amount of times I masturbate” to silence her stress and fall asleep.
On the other hand, second-year student Lily replied yes. “I think it is difficult to masturbate in stressful periods of my life because I get too in my head or prioritize dealing with the stressful issue over masturbating…sometimes I don’t feel like I have the time to step back from whatever is stressing me out,” says Lily.
My second poll asked if, like Quinn, other young adults on campus have difficulty masturbating at stressful times in their life, and the results were closer than I anticipated. Seventy-eight (78) Puget Sound students responded — 54% said yes and 46% said no. Then to dive deeper into the issue, I asked my peers if “Before or during stressful times in school do you masturbate more or less?” 70 UPS students responded to this question — 40% arguing more, and 60% arguing less.
As an aspiring sex-therapist who loves to consume anything discussing sexual health and wellness, I have some tips to share with those too stressed to enjoy masturbating:
First and foremost, it’s vital to remember that orgasms are largely influenced by our mental state — our thoughts, ability to focus, level of arousal, etc. Yes, accomplishing the “Big O” is assisted by what we are physically experiencing in the moment, but not entirely. Even when using the same sex toy and/or porn that has made you orgasm 100 times before, if you’re too consumed by thoughts of deadlines, your desired outcome may be virtually impossible.
In order to focus, you need to trust yourself. Trust that you will complete whatever it is that’s looming over your head. Trust that you will have time after this masturbation session to sort everything out. Trust that you are deserving of this moment all to yourself.
Direct your concentration entirely on your body. Where are your hands? What sensations are you feeling? Is your heart racing? Similar to meditation when one is instructed to focus on their breath and leave their mind blank, focus on the physical sensations you’re experiencing.
Those should be the only thoughts in your head. If you’re already having trouble avoiding distraction, don’t attempt to develop an elaborate erotica in your head or replay every second of a sexual encounter you once had. We allow too many opportunities for our mind to trail elsewhere in the effort to create a story.
It’s also critical that we recognize orgasms do not have to be the goal. It’s possible to experience incredibly satisfying pleasure without ever orgasming. Appreciate and fully enjoy that pleasure, rather than declaring it a waste of time if you never reached an orgasm.
We spend so much of our lives as college students wanting to please our peers, professors, families and employers, but we deserve moments where our actions are entirely for our own benefit. You are deserving of pleasure, and trust that you can provide that pleasure for yourself. Nobody knows your body like you do. Masturbation can be a great way to relieve stress, but only if you really take the time to clear your head and focus on the sensation.