Although a significant number of teenagers do not experience sexual intercourse by the age of 19, many masturbate. As we saw earlier in this chapter, masturbation is a com­mon sexual expression during childhood. The NSSHB Survey found that masturbation was considerably more common than partnered sexual activities during adolescence (Her – benick et al., 2010a). During adolescence the behavior tends to increase in frequency. Mas­turbation frequency rates among females are notably lower than among males for all age groups, including adolescents. The NSSHB Survey reported that about 26% of females, ages 16-19 years, reported solo masturbation during the previous month. A comparable figure for males in the same age range was approximately 60%. By age 19 about 66% of females and 86% of males had engaged in solo masturbation (Herbenick et al., 2010a).

Masturbation can serve as an important avenue for sexual expression during adoles­cence (Kaestle & Allen, 2011). Besides providing an always available outlet for sexual

tension, self-stimulation is an excellent way to learn about one’s body and its sexual potential. Teenagers can experiment with different ways of pleasuring themselves, thereby increasing their self-knowledge. This information may later prove helpful dur­ing sexual interaction with a partner.