Prone masturbation: your questions answered by a psychosexual expert

Written with
Amanda Barge

We’re always keeping an eye on Mojo’s Community to find out what’s on your minds, and to see if we can answer any of your questions.

We noticed a few of our members have been interested in ‘prone masturbation’. So we did what we always do; call up an expert and do some detective work.

Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist, Amanda Barge, was more than happy to help us understand this style of masturbation.

Read what we learned below.

What is prone masturbation?

Prone masturbation is a technique where you lie on your front (the prone position) and rub your erection onto a surface like your mattress, pillow or duvet (or anything else you choose — let your imagination go wild). Some men also thrust into one or both hands until they reach orgasm.

How common is prone masturbation?

It’s hard to get the exact numbers on this. One of history’s most famous sex publications, Sexual behavior in the human male by Arthur Kinsey, reported that 5-10% of men regularly masturbate in the prone position. But seeing as it was published in 1948, the data has probably passed its expiry date by now.

What we do know, though, is that most sexual health experts consider prone masturbation to be pretty common, and it’s certainly nothing new. The ancient Romans called this self-pleasuring style "trudo" which means "I thrust".

If you’re reading this because you masturbate in the prone position and you’re wondering if it’s "normal", you can relax. Plenty of other guys do the same thing (or slightly different variations of it).

So, you have nothing to worry about (unless it’s causing you harm — we’ll come onto that soon).  

Why do some guys masturbate in the prone position?

We learn to masturbate by ourselves from a young age, so it’s no wonder that we come up with different ways to get off — and the prone position is just one of them.

“Often, we start exploring pleasurable sensations before we even really know what sex is.

Sometimes those explorations become regular masturbation routines, and the techniques we used to reach our first orgasms stay with us into adulthood.

That’s why lots of men who exclusively masturbate in the prone position describe it more as their default than their preference.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Why is prone masturbation also known as traumatic masturbatory syndrome?

What a terrifying name.

However, there’s really nothing too scary about this style of self-pleasure, as we hope you’ll see when you know where it comes from.

In 1998 a researcher called Dr. Lawrence Sank came forward with a theory. He claimed he’d observed a small sample of men develop erectile dysfunction and delayed orgasms because they masturbated on their fronts.  

According to Dr. Sank, when the same men were retrained to masturbate on their backs with their penises in their hands, their erectile issues went away.

However, his theories were never recognized by the wider medical community, and no follow-up research was ever conducted to validate his claims.

That means, unfortunately for old Dr. Sank, that traumatic masturbatory syndrome never entered a medical textbook and his work became outdated.

Amanda points out that this term is not only clinically unsound, but it can even be harmful because of its chilling, shaming undertones.

So we’ll stick to the name prone masturbation for now, thank you.

Is prone masturbation bad (or worse than other types of solo sex)?

Masturbating is healthy, normal, and can feel great too. And there is no hard evidence (excuse the pun) to suggest prone masturbation is wrong or bad for you.

However, if the way you masturbate has a negative impact on either your physical or mental health, it might be worth exploring different ways to do it.

Here are a few signs that prone masturbation might be having negative consequences on your overall wellbeing:

If prone masturbation is physically damaging or painful

Masturbating against some surfaces can cause irritation, bruising and small cuts to appear on the penis.

Your penis can also become very dry from too much rubbing against your bedsheets (regardless of the cotton thread count).

Amanda also pointed out that we’re less sensitive to pain when we’re aroused, so it can be hard to notice when we’re applying too much pressure. This could put us at risk of physical damage to the penis without us realizing.

If prone masturbation stops you from enjoying other types of sex

Because prone masturbation puts a lot of pressure on the underside and base of the penis, this sensation is difficult to replicate during sex with a partner.

If you’ve become very used to one specific feeling, then it could become trickier to have the sex you want with a partner — perhaps it feels less enjoyable or you’re unable to cum.

If prone masturbation is causing psychological worries or emotional distress

Prone masturbation is a technique that’s often picked up at a young age, and it can become a habit over time.

As the pattern is repeated, prone masturbation can stop being just one way to reach orgasm, and start becoming the only way to reach orgasm. It can leave some guys worrying that they physically can’t climax in any other way.

This may get in your head and stop you from enjoying other types of masturbation or sex with a partner. This in turn can trigger feelings of confusion, shame. and frustration. In some cases, it could even lead to erectile dysfunction.

How to stop prone masturbation (if you want to!)

If you’re worried about prone masturbation, or if you’ve found that you can only climax from one method, it’s really useful to learn other techniques and find new ways to enjoy masturbation and sex.

This can help to give you more confidence, learn more about yourself and your body, and generally have some fun in the process.

“As you get older, it can feel like your route to orgasm gets set in stone. Luckily, that isn’t the case.

Changing our sexual habits and gaining the confidence to try new things can start with a few simple exercises.

It might not happen overnight, but with a bit of work we can retrain our brain and body to experience pleasure in new positions and reach orgasm”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Some tips to help you:

  • Change your masturbation position in stages

Begin by switching up the angle slightly or rolling to the side. This means you can experiment with your hands without losing all the sensations you’re used to.

From there, try building up to masturbating standing up, kneeling down, or having one leg on a chair. These positions can feel more like sex with someone else.  

  • Reach for the lube in your bedside table

Sex with a partner is usually moist, whether it's oral, vaginal, or anal. When it comes to prone masturbation, you get the opposite experience: the sensation is dry.

So if you’re trying to change up your masturbation style, it’s important to use plenty of lube during solo sex. This means you'll get more accustomed to the wet sensation and eventually you'll be more familiar with the sensation of being with a partner.

  • Start a sex toy stash

If you’re not feeling ready to use your hands yet, you could start by trying out some hand-held toys for men. These can help you mix up the sensation, and generally spice things up in the bedroom. Don’t forget to use a good helping of lube.

  • In the words of Frankie Goes To Hollywood: Relax!

Easier said than done, we know. But when you’re trying new masturbation techniques, try to do it during a time when you’re feeling more relaxed, and take things really slowly.

We love hearing your questions

If you’d like to hear more erection-boosting insights from our experts, we have plenty of courses, podcasts, videos, and techniques waiting for you in the Mojo app.

You can also join the conversation and ask your own questions by signing up to the Mojo Community.

Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.

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