May is National Masturbation Month, and we’re celebrating with Feeling Yourself, a series exploring the finer points of self-pleasure.


B, a 23-year-old man who identifies as straight, really likes looking at dicks. 

Although he isn’t romantically or sexually attracted to cis men, B says his fascination to “strictly penises” began when he started watching porn in high school. 

“For a very long time I just brushed it aside and ignored it,” B told Mashable through a Reddit DM. To maintain anonymity, he asked to only be referred to as one of his initials. “It wasn’t till around the middle of college that I discovered there were communities online filled with people like me that had very similar attractions.” 

That’s when B found r/jobuds, a NSFW subreddit for “mostly straight guys who happen to like jerking off with others.” 

B had his first sexual experience with another man after connecting on a spinoff subreddit, r/jobudsmeetup. After messaging each other for about a week, they met up at the other man’s empty apartment. B was so nervous, it took him “a little while” to be comfortable enough to even get an erection. While they settled down on the other man’s couch after a few drinks, B grappled with his own sexuality, wondering if he was gay despite his relationships with women. The two eventually slid off their pants and began masturbating side-by-side.

‘I was surprised at first, but then I realized I was supposed to return the favor so I did.’

“We would take turns choosing clips of porn to watch, but we were very much doing our own thing for the first 30-ish minutes,” B said. Then, the other man reached over and began stroking B. “I was surprised at first, but then I realized I was supposed to return the favor so I did. That lasted for 10 or 12 minutes, we both orgasmed, I got dressed, said ‘thanks’ and left.” 

They fell out of touch, but B tried it again about a year later. This time, he made a post seeking a partner and “certainly achieved an erection much quicker” when he and another man met up. B says the mutual masturbation lasted longer than his first time, and he was more comfortable with the notion of jerking off another man. He notes that after they both finished, they ended up chatting for a bit afterwards — a much less awkward conclusion than his first r/jobuds meetup. 

“It felt more right this time around,” B reflected on the experience. “Maybe I had a better connection with my partner or maybe I was just more turned on … maybe I had just changed a bit.” 

Neither encounter turned into anything longterm, and contact fizzled out after a few weeks. But while B recently posted in r/jobudsmeetup under the name u/abc_throwawayx, seeking another man to get off with, he doesn’t see himself going as far as having sex with another guy. Not every r/jobud experience is like B’s — some users prefer to limit the mutual jerking off to video calls or live texting instead of in-person meetups.

“It stops at the base though,” B said, while describing the parameters of his attraction to penises. “It’s really like this sort of primal attraction just to male sexual organs.” 

Cornell University psychology professor Ritch Savin-Williams unpacks the delicate nuances of sexuality in his 2017 book Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men, noting that the 40 young men he interviewed for the book didn’t quite fit in the labels of straight/bisexual/gay, and were reluctant to confine themselves to one of the “Big Three” categories.

Savin-Williams had subjects watch porn of women masturbating and of men masturbating, measuring attraction based on the subjects’ dilated pupils. He says the men who identify as “mostly straight” had relationships with strictly women, but in some cases, were aroused by seeing a penis. 

“They’re just very erotically turned on by penises,” Savin-Williams explained in a phone call. “Somehow in their development, the penis became an object of great fascination [and] arousal.”

He doubts that the men he profiled are closeted or in denial about their attractions, and he emphasizes the spectrum of sexuality. Granted, his study was tiny and more anecdotal than based on clinical trials. Also, not all of the self-identified straight men on r/jobuds may experience attraction the way B does. Arousal is incredibly complex, Savin-Williams says, and can’t be explained by a simple psychological theory. But people are becoming more open to admitting their sexual fluidity. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poll conducted between 2011 and 2013 found that 6 percent of men 18 to 24 reported they were mostly attracted to the opposite sex, while 87 percent said they were only attracted to the opposite sex.

For B, being able to get lost in a fantasy is what makes mutual masturbation so appealing. He feels like “everyone fantasizes a little bit” when they’re engaging in any sort of sexual activity, but he has more license to when he’s masturbating with another man than when he’s having sex with female partners because he isn’t focused on the other person’s orgasm.

‘We’ll often obsess a bit over the porn we’re watching and really let ourselves get lost in the fantasy that it’s presenting. It’s much more cooperative.’

“Things are more geared toward each other’s bodies and working towards pleasuring each other,” B said. When he’s engaging in mutual masturbation, the “combined fantasy” allows for more space to explore roleplay and kinks. “We’ll often obsess a bit over the porn we’re watching and really let ourselves get lost in the fantasy that it’s presenting. It’s much more cooperative.”

But coming to terms with those desires can be a struggle. Savin-Williams notes that since the confines of traditional masculinity hold men back from pursuing new experiences, they have difficulty expressing their wants to potential partners. 

“They can’t tolerate telling anyone or acting on them, but they still have them in their fantasy worlds,” he explains. 

Where else is there for someone to anonymously seek out fulfilling sexual experiences without meeting in person than in niche internet communities? B says r/jobuds may seem like a “hive of scum and terrible people,” but it still provided somewhere for him to explore without being slapped with unwanted labels. 

‘To be able to take this baby step forward instead of jumping to Grindr or in-person encounters, it’s certainly a great tool to explore themselves safely.’

Having a dedicated, moderated space to do so is a “great tool in growing or confusing times,” said r/NSFWskype mod xluckis4losersx. In a (SFW) Skype call, he said the subreddit sees many first-time posters looking to feel out the boundaries of their sexuality.

“Whether or not that’s true, or playing into some sort of fantasy, there are people who use [r/NSFWskype] to experiment,” xluckis4losersx said, referring to the self-identified straight men seeking out other men to masturbate with like on r/jobuds. “To be able to take this baby step forward instead of jumping to Grindr or in-person encounters, it’s certainly a great tool to explore themselves safely.”

Safety is key, especially when experimenting with anything sexual. While mutual masturbation over a video chat holds its own risks, like catfishing or blackmail, there’s little chance of any physical danger in these meetups. B says he keeps an eye out for “negative behavior traits,” as he’s heard horror stories of no-strings-attached hook ups that ended up getting obsessed. But xluckis4losersx remarked that the added anonymity of Skype sessions where participants can obscure their face or show just their genitals, unlike during in-person experiences, may make people feel more at ease discussing consent. 

“If anonymity makes you more comfortable to lay yourself out and say these are my boundaries, that’s great!” he said. 

At the end of the day, someone’s sexual identity is nobody’s business but their own. While internet drama curator KeemStar set off a heated debate earlier this week when he insisted on Twitter that “No straight man in the history of mankind was bi curious,” and claimed that men who had experimented couldn’t possibly be straight, Savin-Williams says sexuality is more complicated than the black and white categories we automatically put people into. He says that younger generations are much less likely to confine themselves to labels, and compared to their parents’ generations, self-identified straight millennials are more likely to approach attraction to someone of the same gender as “very unlikely, but not impossible.”

Sexual fluidity is so much more “ho hum” now.

“Contrasted with previous generations, young people today are more confident, connected, introspective, and open to change,” Savin-Williams wrote in a Time essay. During the call with Mashable, he said he and his husband were mindblown that sexual fluidity is so much more “ho hum” now — he credits pop culture for normalizing it through ads, entertainment, and celebrity relationships. 

Although society still has a long way to go in terms of accepting the sexual fluidity displayed in r/jobuds and r/NSFWskype into the mainstream, Savin-Williams believes Gen Z will lead the way.

“I have great hope that these guys will be much better off in the sense of allowing themselves to explore the full range [of attraction] that they have,” he raved. “I think the millennials are going to be shocked.” 

And for B, having a platform to facilitate same-sex mutual masturbation wasn’t necessarily a life-changing revelation — he still considers himself straight, not bisexual — but it did put him at ease with his body.

“It really just made me comfortable with my own sexuality,” B said. “It helped define the borders of my sexuality a lot.”

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