When it comes to sex, some people prefer to touch themselves over anyone else. Matthew Wade spoke to a handful of ‘bators’ about restrictive definitions around sex, solosexuals, and masturbation clubs.

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It’s dusk in Melbourne and a group of 15 men are masturbating in a semi-dark, makeshift dungeon.

Vintage porn is playing on a big screen and the men are in various states of undress, standing in the middle of the room and playing with both themselves and those around them.

Short remarks and laughter punctuate the session as more men file in, until there are dozens of hands reaching through the air to touch someone new.

One man tries to initiate oral sex, but is swiftly told “we don’t do that here” before he meekly obliges. It’s a hands-only event.

At most, if you’re wearing a white wristband, you’re consenting for your body to be on the receiving end of someone’s happy ending.

This space and spaces like it are designed for men from all walks of life—spanning a diverse mix of ages, races, sizes, and sexualities—to masturbate with others once a month.

However, they also provide a rare sanctuary for a handful of people whose sexual identities are often rendered invisible: solosexuals. That is, those who are exclusively interested in masturbation.

Timothy* always knew he preferred masturbation to partnered sex, but didn’t have the words to define it when he was younger.

“I was so adventurous and curious about my body and the pleasure I could get from it, so I was for sure solosexual growing up,” he says.

“But there were no role models or discussions about being solo so it didn’t dawn on me until I was 30 that I could opt out of the gay world and be entirely satisfied with masturbation.

“It was only online when I met other ‘bators’—usually cis or trans men who value masturbation highly and who may or may not be solosexual—that I realised being solo was a thing.”

The most recent Australian Study of Health and Relationships found that 72 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women had masturbated between 2012 and 2013, but there has been no quantifiable research conducted into how many Australians identify as solosexual.

Timothy believes this is due to society’s restrictive definitions around sex.

“I was brought up to believe sex is partnered, and it was through gritted teeth that people admitted we masturbate,” he says.

“We all have a solo side, we just don’t talk about it because we were taught to hide it.

“Still, as proud of it as I am, I find it hard to come out as solosexual, because there’s a stigma and a bias towards partnered sex as being more legitimate.”

To combat this and to provide a safe space for bators in Australia, Timothy and a group of men who similarly love masturbation have set up a monthly event in Melbourne to mirror similar ‘jack off’ events in cities like Toronto, New York, Philadelphia, and London.

While the solosexual community thrives online, which tends to be par for the course for minority groups with minimal visibility, Timothy says these monthly events act as a gateway for men to indulge in their sexual proclivities with other like-minded people.

“There is a big community of bators on Tumblr, Bateworld, and Kik,” Timothy says.

“But I wanted to make it real, and so I became friends with other bators. I think it’s important to say hey, this is my sexual outlet and it’s not hurting anyone, and I feel so much less isolated and secretive.

“Masturbation is a healthy and ethical way to have sex, yet we somehow don’t value it as such.”

The bator community is as diverse as it is hidden, drawing in cis and trans men that aren’t only solosexual or exclusively interested in masturbation, but also gay, bisexual, and straight.

Rhys* is bisexual and married to a woman, though he regularly engages in mutual masturbation with men, both one-on-one and in groups. He says he’s fortunate to have the best of both worlds.

“Growing up I’ve always been interested in both boys and girls,” he says.

“But then I met a girl who piqued my interest, and it was mutual, so we ended up marrying and have been together ever since. I enjoy sex with my wife much more than with guys, but I also find men attractive and enjoy mutual masturbation quite a bit.

“My wife is cool with that, she knows where I’m coming from and there’s a lot of trust and respect there.”

Rhys adds that his interest in the bator community stems in part from its accepting and inclusive nature.

“I find the bator community to be much less judgemental than the general gay or straight population,” he says.

“I think it has a little to do with an ‘us against them’ mentality; we kind of go against the flow in society, so we need to stick together.

“But it’s also very dick-oriented, there’s much less focus on the rest of the individual. So instead of waiting hours to maybe hook up with Mr Right, you just whip it out and get going.

“I tend to be much less picky about who’s stroking my meat, because it feels great regardless, and I’m more open to experiment with all kinds of guys.”

Much like Rhys, fellow Melbourne bator Andre* finds himself drawn to masturbation groups for both the act itself and the diverse community it fosters.

Growing up as a gay man, he says it didn’t take long for him to realise he preferred his own touch most of the time, something that would commonly provoke a negative or puzzled reaction in the gay men he encountered.

“I think there are a lot of guys who see masturbation as lesser than sex,” he says.

“When I prefer to masturbate while I’m sucking cock, sometimes guys lose interest because they’re ultimately after anal sex.

“[But in the bator community], I haven’t identified a typical bator, it seems to take all kinds. We’re all there to masturbate together, have a consensual feel, and watch.”

For those unfamiliar with the bator community, which includes but is not limited to solosexual people, Andre says it’s important to recognise the breadth of sexual identities that partake in it.

“We span a range of sexualities, and have different fetishes,” he says.

“There are certain things such as popperbating that are prevalent in the community, but not every bator is into it.

“Some bators enjoy sucking while they bate, or getting covered in cum, others do not. Some bators even prefer to wank alone and share their experiences online rather than meeting.

“Beyond our love of masturbation, there’s a fair bit of nuance there.”

Melbourne’s new monthly jack off club STROKE will take place at CLUB80 on July 11, August 8, and September 12.

*Not their real names.

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