Why Do Men Pay For Handjobs?

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Totally by coincidence, two different guys called me for therapy this week with similar issues. One was regularly going to massage parlors for “happy endings,” and the other was paying young men he met on Grindr for quickies.

They each thought their behavior was wrong, and both felt ashamed. The first guy, Pedro, wanted to stop. The second guy, Chang, didn’t really want to stop, but thought he “should.”

Both guys are married. Both guys have high-paying, pressure-filled jobs. Both guys have trouble talking about sex. So they’ve each arranged to have sexual encounters without any talking.

That’s one reason they do it. As Charlie Sheen once said, “I don’t pay women to have sex. I pay them to leave afterwards.” Pedro and Chang were paying so THEY could leave afterwards—no talking, no cuddling, no connection. No obligations, or anyone else’s expectations.

Some men pay for handjobs because they want touching. Straight massage doesn’t really work for this, because it’s so different from being caressed or hugged. And negotiating with a wife or girlfriend (or husband or boyfriend) requires emotional and communication skills that, sadly, some men just don’t have.

Paid or otherwise, a quality handjob can be quite satisfying. You go from zero to sixty and back to zero (with, hopefully a smile) in a fairly short time. Without having to give a partner attention, the orgasm can be intense. When there’s no orgasm, the pleasure has its own value. Some men like to watch, or touch, which can add to the pleasure. After stroking it yourself for years, there’s something decadent about someone else taking over—assuming, of course, that that’s emotionally comfortable.

Some men pay for handjobs because it’s the only way they can get one that satisfies. Most men know how to touch themselves, but giving adequate directions to someone else can be complicated, the more so if your partner doesn’t have a penis. Professionals, and people who jack off a hundred guys a year, are generally pretty good at it.

THEN THERE’S PERFORMANCE, OF COURSE

A huge number of people struggle with a sense of performance during partner sex, even with something as simple as a handjob. I hear this all the time: “What if I don’t get hard, or I lose my erection?” “What if I come right away, or don’t come at all?” “What if she gets bored?” A mere $50 or $100 can buy the luxury of not worrying, increasing the pleasure substantially.

Do people pay for handjobs because they unconsciously want to get caught? I suppose a few do, but in 42 years as a therapist, I’ve never seen a single case of this. No, I typically see the opposite: people terrified of getting caught, the single most common reason people want to stop.

Men also pay for handjobs as a way of declaring their independence in a troubled relationship: “You may boss me around in the house, or criticize me as a husband, but you can’t control my penis.” When someone feels emasculated by the reasonable demands of intimacy, or the unreasonable demands of a high-conflict marriage, a paid handjob can be emotionally restorative—as sad as that is.

Since Pedro wanted to stop going to massage parlors, I asked him why he kept going, and why he wanted to stop. He said he was afraid of getting caught, which he was certain would lead to divorce. He also felt it was infidelity, which he thought was morally wrong.

He said he kept going because it was “relaxing,” a way to be naked with a woman without complications. His wife never took off her t-shirt during sex, and so he hesitated to do so, too.

In fact, he and his wife hadn’t had sex in over a year—it hurt, she wasn’t in the mood very often, he often worked beyond her bedtime, they felt awkward in bed together. But more to the point, he didn’t feel connected to her.

I suggested he talk to her about THAT first—not sex, not massage parlors, but rather feeling disconnected. I also reminded him that he and his wife could have various kinds of sex that didn’t involve intercourse—indeed, I suggested they weren’t ready for intercourse right now, which gave him a great sense of relief.

GLAMOROUS? COMPULSIVE?

Chang was a previously heterosexual man who now craved sex with men—many men. He said it made him feel “free.” It certainly helped him forget the constraints of the rest of his life.

He liked the glamor of men in their 20s, so as a 45-year-old, small cash payments were the way to get what he wanted. He also thought it was “glamorous” to have multiple rendezvous in a week. When I asked what it might feel like to take a few weeks off, he stopped smiling. “If you can’t imagine going a month without this,” I asked, doesn’t that sound more compulsive than glamorous?” He had to admit that it did.

“But if it works for me, it shouldn’t matter,” he said cavalierly.

A bitter wife who promised a custody battle if they divorced, an 8-year-old son he barely knew because she controlled access to him (they’d been living separately for two years), a job at which he felt chronically behind, and two sickly parents he was committed to caring for all added up to an unhappy life. He insisted he was “a basically happy person,” but at the same time said he “frequently needed a release.” Grindr + handjobs were that release.

Why pay? Because being with young guys made him feel young. Because he felt it entitled him to pick and choose. Because it made him feel in powerful and in control—feelings he rarely had in the rest of his complicated life.

One day I mentioned that he could get in trouble if a cop caught him with his pants down in a car. Furthermore, that legal trouble could dramatically impact any child custody arrangement. That finally got his attention. He suddenly looked hopeless.

I hadn’t said it to get him to stop. But ignoring this obvious danger was part of his refusal to grow up, which is what we really needed to talk about.

Sometimes a handjob is way more complicated than it looks.
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