Masturbation is a fun, natural, and safe way to learn about your body, practice self-love, and get a better sense of what turns you on between the sheets.

But there’s no scientific evidence that masturbating before sex has any effect — negative or positive — on how you perform or get off during the act. And although a lot of unscientific reports discuss male masturbation, there’s no established link for female masturbation, either.

Read on to find out why people think masturbation affects sexual performance and how you (and your partner!) can use masturbation to spice things up.

The reasons are varied.

Some people believe masturbating before partner sex gets the buildup out of the way, essentially releasing any pent up sexual tension that could make you climax quickly.

Others may experience a shift in hormone levels that slows down their sex drive, as well as the time it takes to orgasm.

This fluctuation can also affect your body’s ability to self-lubricate. Vaginal intercourse won’t be comfortable for you or your partner if there isn’t enough lubrication, natural or otherwise.

Masturbating may make you last longer, but there’s no way to guarantee this.

Everyone experiences a refractory period — or recovery phase — after climax. Climax occurs when your body reaches its limit for sexual stimulation. Stimulation past this point can be uncomfortable.

Your body stops responding to stimulation during the refractory period to prevent discomfort and allow your body to return to its natural state.

How long your individual refractory period lasts usually depends on your:

  • age
  • gender
  • sensitivity

For example, younger men may only need a few minutes to recover, while older men may need anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.

Women typically have shorter refractory periods — allowing many women to have multiple orgasms in one session.

Know your body If you have a longer refractory period, masturbation could prevent you from climaxing for the rest of the day — maybe even into the next. Although partner sex can be enjoyable with or without orgasm, your previous climax could affect your libido and suppress your desire for further intimacy.

Many people find it arousing to see how their partner gets off behind closed doors. In fact, mutual masturbation is a great way to see what gets your partner hot and discover what you can do to further satisfy their desires.

Want to mix masturbation into your foreplay action? Try these positions:

Face-to-face. The face-to-face position is easy to incorporate during a steamy foreplay session. While tussling around in bed — or on the floor — sit up and face your partner. Find a seated position that’s comfortable and allows you to easily enjoy some solo action.

Side-by-side. The side-by-side position is perfect for some morning fun in bed. If you wake up feeling frisky, start touching yourself while lying next to your partner. Once your moans stir them awake, play with their erogenous zones, such as their nipples, while they start pleasuring themselves.

The classic 69. The good ol’ 69 position isn’t just for mutual oral pleasure. You can also mix in some sexy solo play while you’re at it. In between oral play, take a few minutes — or more! — to enjoy yourself while you watch your partner do the same.

Yes! If you have difficulty climaxing during sex, using your own hand or your favorite toy can bring you closer to climax or send you over the edge entirely.

You know what your body responds to, so masturbation may make you feel even more aroused. The more sensitive your genitals and body are to touch, the more intense the sensations will be.

And don’t think you have to keep your solo action separate from penetration. You may have a lot more — and we mean a lot more — fun if you pleasure yourself while getting it on.

Listen to your body. If you want to masturbate before sex, go for it. If you don’t, don’t. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it.

Your mindset may actually be the deciding factor here.

If you think masturbating before sex will lead to a better orgasm, then it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The same is true if you think it’ll have a negative effect. Either way, do what feels right for you.