My flatmate and I often try to gross each other out with the most sexually explicit stories we can muster. She knows, for example, that I have never been anywhere near lady bits and that they scare the hell out of me.

And she delights, therefore, in describing their function and state of clamminess to me in graphic detail. And I, in return, have filled her head with gay underworld horrors so depraved I’m not even sure they exist. It makes us both laugh, happy in the knowledge that we’re much more vanilla than the things we torment each other with.

But it was during one of these exchanges that I had my first glimpse of just how unhealthy straight people’s relationship with masturbation is.

It became pretty clear that she held masturbation to be up there with the kinds of things I would shield my ears from hearing about. Not just any masturbation, which I’m pretty sure straight guys and girls will grudgingly admit to doing, but masturbation in front of your partner. To her, wanking in front of anyone was almost the most lewd thing she could imagine.

I didn’t quite know how to break it to her that my boyfriend and I do that all the time. And it’s not unique to this relationship, so I’m pretty sure that gay guys throughout the world do the same.

Wanking is just something guys do; and gay guys seem to have fewer hang-ups about it. We don’t find it surprising or appalling to hear of our partner having a tug while we’re out. We wouldn’t think twice about doing so together, with some porn on. It’s not exactly romantic, and it’s certainly not the default, but the option’s there for when you’re tired. Wanking helps us get to sleep, it helps us de-stress.

We do it, quite frankly, when we just don’t have the energy to have sex. And we do it together.

“…there’s something about the whole frat-boy jerking off thing that most gay men find incredibly hot…”

In straight relationships the whole thing seems so angsty; so embroiled in guilt and betrayal. It’s almost like wanking is a sign that you are unsatisfied with your partner. Or that you are cheating on them, emotionally, by (potentially) imagining someone else. If you do do it, you have to keep it secret and pretend that you haven’t.

So, why do we have such differing views of the ol’ one-handed ramba?

The primary reason, I would guess, is that being in a straight relationship by default means that you’re not attracted to the same things. Porn loses its joyous mutual appeal when only one of you can enjoy it at a time.

I also wouldn’t underestimate the centuries of moralistic conditioning that straight people have been subjected to. It has resulted in some pretty unrealistic expectations of one another. Tradition is very clear about which things are taboo and which are sanctioned, but we checked out of that whole moral high ground guilt trip years ago. (Everything about our sex lives was on the taboo list, so we had to liberate ourselves from it or we’d have ended up in asylums.)

Take that and add it to the fact that straight partners are learning about one another as they go along, trying to look and seem their best as they make sense of the very different creature they’re involved with. Gay guys and girls understand one another pretty intuitively. We have to be honest with one another because it will be so obvious to us if we’re not. Perhaps there’s a level of honesty about our imperfect sides in gay relationships that straight people never experience.

But there’s something about the whole frat-boy jerking off thing that most gay men find incredibly hot. Not just to do, but to watch. Masturbating with your partner isn’t just lazy. It’s voyeuristic. They seem so arrogant and self-absorbed as they pleasure themselves. It’s so emotionally detached and uncaring and not about us. And that gets us off.

It’s like all our locker-room frustrations at seeing what we can’t have, and the daddy-issue laden trip that we don’t deserve it, coming to an adrenaline-pumping head. And that makes me think, perhaps, that our relationship with wanking isn’t really any healthier than straight people’s at all.

My grandpa always said that wanking was fun to do but hell to watch. And the whole thing hinges, I guess, on whether you agree or disagree with him on that.

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