Attitudes Toward Masturbation Scale

Attitudes Toward Masturbation Scale‌


The Attitudes Toward Masturbation Scale (ATMS) was developed to measure individuals’ complex and often conflicting thoughts and feelings about masturbating (Young & Muehlenhard, 2009). We found two existing scales for measuring attitudes about masturbation: Abramson and Mosher’s (1975) Negative Attitudes Toward Masturbation Inventory and Miller and Lief’s (1976) Masturbation Attitude Scale. Both are more than 30 years old, both yield only one global score, and both assess respondents’ attitudes about masturbation in general rather than about their own masturbation. The purpose of the ATMS is to measure respondents’ (a) reasons for wanting (or being tempted) to masturbate, (b) reasons for avoiding (or trying to avoid) masturbating, and (c) positive and negative feelings related to masturbating.


The ATMS was developed using a multistep process. First, in a pilot study, 236 undergraduate women and men wrote answers to open-ended questions about their attitudes and feelings about masturbation. Second, we compiled their responses and used them to create scale items. We also created scale items reflecting themes identified in prior studies of attitudes toward masturbation (e.g., Clifford, 1978; Elliott & Brantley, 1997). Our preliminary scale included 223 items divided into three sections reflecting reasons for wanting—or being tempted—to masturbate, reasons for avoiding—or trying to avoid—masturbation, and feelings about masturbating. Third, a new sample of 518 undergraduate women and men rated these items on a 7-point scale. We used their responses to divide the items into subscales, based on factor loadings derived from principal components analysis, Cronbach’s alphas, and conceptual considerations (Young & Muehlenhard, 2009).

The ATMS consists of 179 items, divided into 28 subscales in three categories. (a) The 13 reasons-for- wanting-to masturbate subscales assess themes such as pleasure, self-exploration and improvement, and mood improvement. Items are rated on a 7-point scale, from 0 (Not a Reason) to 6 (A Very Important Reason). (b) The 10 reasons-for-avoiding-masturbation subscales assess themes such as immorality, lack of desire or interest, and preference for partner sex. The same 7-point scale is used. (c) The 5 feelings-related-to-masturbation subscales assess satisfaction, guilt, anger, anxiety, and indifference.

Respondents rate the strength of each feeling, using a 7- point scale ranging from 0 (Not at all) to 6 (Very Strongly). The scale was developed and tested using samples of college students, but it could be used with other populations.

It is designed so that anyone can complete it, regardless of whether they masturbate.

Response Mode and Timing

The ATMS is a paper-and-pencil questionnaire. It can be completed in about 15 to 30 minutes.


Subscale scores are calculated by averaging the respondent’s ratings for the items on the subscale. Subscale scores can range from 0 to 6. For the reasons-for-wanting-to-masturbate subscales and the reasons-for-avoiding-masturbation subscales, higher scores reflect a greater importance of the reason tapped by that subscale. For the feelings-related- to-masturbation subscales, higher scores reflect greater intensity of feeling.

Each subscale score can be used individually to assess the specific content of each subscale. In addition, four composite scores can be calculated: the Wanting Composite (the mean of the 13 reasons-for-wanting-to-masturbate subscales), the Avoiding Composite (the mean of the

10 reasons-for-avoiding-masturbation subscales), the Negative-Feelings Composite (the mean of the Guilt, Anger, Anxiety, and Indifference subscales), and the Positive-Feelings Composite (the Satisfaction subscale score). These composites can be used to assess the respondent’s overall positive and negative attitudes toward masturbation.

The subscales and items on each are as follows:

Reasons-for-Wanting-to-Masturbate Subscales

Pleasure: 1, 2, 35, 41, 42, 44, 50, 51, 52

Self-Exploration and Improvement: 11, 13, 17, 23, 39, 54, 55, 56, 63, 68

Mood Improvement: 47, 60, 62, 67

Relaxation and Stress Relief: 6, 7, 16, 40, 46, 58, 61, 64

Avoidance of Partner Sex: 26, 28, 29, 30, 34, 65

Arousal Decrease: 18, 21, 33, 49, 59, 69

Compulsion: 8, 25, 27, 32, 43

Pleasure of Partner: 15, 66, 70

Adherence to Social Norms: 12, 14, 19, 20, 38, 57

Substitution for Partner Sex: 4, 9, 10, 22, 24, 31

Importance of Fantasy: 36, 37, 48, 72

Feeling Unattractive: 45, 53, 71

Boredom: 3, 5

Reasons-for-Avoiding-Masturbation Subscales

Immorality: 73, 74, 75, 79, 81, 83, 105, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 131, 132, 134

No Desire or Interest: 76, 77, 86, 87, 88, 100, 101, 114, 118, 119, 120

Preference for Partner Sex: 90, 103, 104, 107, 110, 128, 129, 133

Fear of Negative Social Evaluation: 84, 91, 93, 95, 102, 121

Sex Negativity: 78, 82, 85, 94, 96, 97

Negative Mood State: 92, 106, 109, 117

Detraction from Partner Sex: 111, 112

In Committed Relationship: 80, 98, 108, 115

Bothered by Thoughts: 116, 130

Self-Control: 89, 99, 113

Feelings-Related-to-Masturbation Subscales

Guilt: 136, 138, 142, 143, 153, 154, 155, 167, 168, 169, 171, 179

Satisfaction: 135, 139, 146, 147, 149, 150, 151, 152, 156, 157, 158, 163, 166, 170, 173, 174, 176, 177, 178

Anger: 159, 160, 161, 165

Anxiety: 144, 145, 148, 162

Indifference: 137, 140, 141, 164, 172, 175


Based on a sample of 518 undergraduate women and men (Young & Muehlenhard, 2009), Cronbach’s alphas for the subscales ranged from .71 to .97, providing evidence that the subscales have good internal consistency.


Based on data from 518 undergraduate women and men, Young and Muehlenhard (2009) found numerous significant differences between participants who masturbated and those who did not, even after controlling for gender. Compared with nonmasturbators, masturbators scored significantly higher on 9 of the 13 reasons-for-wanting- to-masturbate subscales and the Satisfaction subscale and significantly lower on 5 of the 10 reasons-for-avoiding- masturbation subscales and the Guilt, Anger, Anxiety, and Indifference subscales.

Consistent with meta-analytic findings that more men than women masturbate (Oliver & Hyde, 1993; Petersen & Hyde, 2007), there were significant gender differ- ences on 18 of the 28 subscales. Men generally reported stronger reasons for wanting to masturbate, weaker rea- sons for avoiding masturbation, and stronger positive and weaker negative feelings related to masturbation. When controlling for masturbation status, there were fewer gen- der differences, but some remained: For the reasons-for- wanting-to-masturbate subscales, women scored higher on Self-Exploration and Improvement, Avoidance of Partner Sex, and Pleasure of Partner; men scored higher on Boredom. For reasons-for-avoiding-masturbation sub- scales, women scored higher on No Desire or Interest, Fear of Negative Social Evaluation, and Sex Negativity. For feelings-related-to-masturbation subscales, women scored higher on Anxiety.

Young and Muehlenhard (2009) performed a cluster analysis on participants’ subscale scores. They identified four clusters: The enthusiastic cluster had high Wanting subscale scores and low Avoiding subscales scores. The lukewarm cluster had low Wanting subscale scores and even lower Avoiding subscales scores. The high-guilt cluster had low Wanting subscale scores and high Avoiding subscales scores. The ambivalent cluster had the highest Wanting subscale scores and the highest Avoiding sub- scales scores. These clusters showed numerous differences in the percentages of women and men in the cluster, the percentages who reported masturbating, and their qualitative comments about masturbation.

In another study (Stroupe, 2008), 210 undergraduate women completed the ATMS. Compared with women who had never masturbated, those who masturbated had significantly higher Wanting Composite and Positive-Feelings Composite scores and significantly lower Avoiding Composite and Negative-Feelings Composite scores; scores for women who masturbated infrequently were intermediate. Analyses of subscale scores provided additional information.

Other Information

With appropriate citation, the ATMS may be copied and used for educational, research, and clinical purposes, with- out permission. The authors would appreciate receiving a summary of any research using this scale.

Attitudes Toward Masturbation Scale

Reasons for Wanting to Masturbate

Whether they masturbate or not, people may want to masturbate (or be tempted to masturbate) for many different reasons. Below is a list of possible reasons. Please rate how strong each of the reasons is for your wanting to masturbate or being tempted to masturbate, regardless of whether or not you actually masturbate.








Not a

A Moderately

A Very






For you, how strong are the following reasons for wanting to (or being tempted to) masturbate?

  1. If I’m feeling horny

  2. I find it pleasurable

  3. If there is nothing else to do

  4. If I’m not getting as much sex as I want

  5. If I’m bored

  6. To relieve stress

  7. If I’m anxious

  8. Because—even though I try—I just can’t stop myself

  9. Because it’s a substitute for sex with a partner

  10. Out of sexual frustration

  11. I hope that masturbating will help me reach orgasm with a partner

  12. Someone else thinks I should (e.g., a friend or a dating partner)

  13. To explore my own sexuality

  14. So I could say that I’ve done it (it’s something to talk about)

  15. My partner wants to watch me do it

  16. It’s a good way to take a break (e.g., a break from studying, etc.)

  17. I’m curious about it

  18. If I want to avoid unwanted arousal later

  19. My friends have masturbated, and I want to be able to talk with them about it

  20. “Everyone” does it, and I want to feel “sexually normal”

  21. If I’m so sexually aroused that it’s interfering with other things I want or need to do

  22. If I don’t have a partner to have sex with

  23. To make myself a better sexual partner (e.g., to figure out how to achieve orgasm or to become more comfortable having orgasms with my partner)

  24. Masturbating helps me keep my mind off sex with a partner

  25. It’s a compulsive sexual behavior

  26. Masturbating helps me remain a virgin

  27. I just do it without really thinking about it

  28. Masturbating makes it easier to avoid sex with a partner, and I don’t want to have sex with a partner for moral reasons (e.g., I don’t want to have sex before marriage)

  29. Masturbating makes it easier to avoid sex with a partner, and I don’t want to have sex with a partner for health reasons (e.g., I don’t want to risk sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy)

  30. Masturbating makes it easier to avoid sex with a partner, and I don’t want to have sex with a partner for self-esteem reasons (e.g., I don’t feel comfortable being sexual with someone else)

  31. If I have a partner, but my partner refuses to have sex

  32. I feel an uncontrollable urge to do it

  33. If I want to decrease my sexual arousal so I can focus on something else

  34. It’s more moral to masturbate than to have sex with a partner

  35. If I want to have an orgasm

  36. I get aroused by sexual activities that are not socially acceptable, so I fantasize about them during masturbation

  37. I get aroused by sexual activities that are not possible in real life, so I fantasize about them during masturbation (e.g., sex with a movie star, sex on a beach, etc.)

  38. Because I hear about it from TV, movies, magazines, etc.

  39. Masturbating improves my sexual health

  40. To help me fall asleep

  41. Because it’s fun

  42. Because I know exactly how to stimulate myself and maximize my pleasure

  43. It’s a habit

  44. If I am already sexually aroused (e.g., from watching a movie, reading a magazine)

  45. Because I feel like no one is attracted to me

  46. If I want to relax

  47. If I’m angry

  48. If I want to exercise my imagination

  49. So that I can focus my concentration on a task after masturbating

  50. Because I deserve to experience pleasure

  51. If I see someone or something that is arousing

  52. If I have an urge to do something sexual

  53. Because I’m not comfortable enough with my body to be sexual with someone else

  54. To learn how to give myself pleasure

  55. To gain more sexual confidence

  56. Because it’s good exercise

  57. Because my friends masturbate

  58. To calm myself down

  59. So that I can stop thinking about masturbating

  60. If I feel frustrated about something else

  61. It makes me feel peaceful

  62. It distracts me when I’m feeling down

  63. To try a new method (e.g., sex toys, pornography)

  64. It’s an escape

  65. To avoid using another person for sex

  66. Because it arouses my partner when he/she knows that I masturbated

  67. If I’m in a bad mood

  68. To learn how to have better orgasms

  69. If I’m already sexually aroused, and I want to decrease my level of sexual arousal

  70. Because it arouses my partner when I masturbate in front of him/her

  71. If I’m feeling unattractive

  72. I enjoy my fantasies during masturbation

    Reasons for Avoiding (or for Trying to Avoid) Masturbating

    Whether they masturbate or not, people might avoid (or try to avoid) masturbating for many different reasons. Below is a list of possible reasons. Please rate how strong each of the reasons is for you avoiding (or trying to avoid) masturbating, regardless of whether or not you actually masturbate.








    Not a

    A Moderately

    A Very






    For you, how strong are the following reasons for avoiding (or trying to avoid) masturbating?

  73. It’s against my religion

  74. It’s against my morals or values

  75. It’s against my parents’ morals or values

  76. I’m just not interested

  77. It just doesn’t appeal to me

  78. I am uncomfortable with any sexual behavior

  79. It would make me feel cheap

  80. If I am committed to someone

  81. I would feel guilty about it

  82. I am anxious about sexual behavior

  83. I know I’d regret it

  84. I fear it will damage my reputation

  85. I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about my body

  86. I think it would be physically uncomfortable

  87. It seems weird to me

  88. I feel strange doing it

  89. I think I should have more self-control

  90. If I’m currently sexually satisfied

  91. Society says it’s wrong

  92. If I’m stressed

  93. I’m afraid of someone knowing I masturbate

  94. It makes me feel lonely

  95. If I’m afraid of being caught

  96. It makes me feel sexually inadequate

  97. It’s bad for my health

  98. If I’m in a committed relationship

  99. I like to feel in control of my urges

  100. I’m not sure how to masturbate

  101. I don’t like how it feels

  102. It’s embarrassing to me

  103. Because I like intercourse better

  104. Because I like any sexual contact with a partner better

  105. I feel bad about myself afterwards

  106. If I’m depressed

  107. Orgasms are better with a partner

  108. My partner doesn’t want me to do it

  109. If I’m worried about something else

  110. If I’ve recently had sex

  111. It makes me less able to orgasm during sex

  112. It makes me less horny during sex

  113. I want to improve my self-discipline

  114. It’s boring

  115. I feel like I’m cheating on my partner

  116. My fantasies during masturbation bother me

  117. If I’ve had a bad day

  118. It’s a waste of time

  119. It seems pointless

  120. I don’t find it sexually arousing

  121. Other people might find me gross

  122. My family is against it

  123. My friends are against it

  124. It makes me feel empty inside

  125. I was raised to believe it’s wrong

  126. It makes me feel ashamed

  127. It’s disrespectful to myself

  128. If I’m satisfied with the quantity of the sex I’m having

  129. If I’m satisfied with the quality of the sex I’m having

  130. My sexual thoughts during masturbation bother me

  131. Masturbation in an adult is immature

  132. It makes me feel like I’m sinning against myself

  133. It’s not as good as sex

  134. It does not fit with my religious views

Feelings About Masturbation

Check which set of directions applies to you:

         If you masturbate: People feel many different things when they masturbate. Below is a list of possible feelings. How strongly, if at all, do you usually experience these feelings when you masturbate?

         If you don’t masturbate: People feel many different things when they masturbate. Below is a list of possible feelings. How strongly, if at all, do you think you would usually experience these feelings if you did masturbate?








Not at all


Very Strongly

How strongly do you experience this feeling when you masturbate?


How strongly would you experience this feeling if you did masturbate?

135. happy



136. guilty



137. empty



138. pathetic



139. healthy



140. indifferent



141. nothing



142. strange



143. embarrassed



144. anxious



145. tense



146. horny



147. focused



148. awkward



149. good



150. calm



151. relieved



152. in control



153. ashamed



154. regretful



155. degraded



156. pleased



157. connected to myself

Address correspondence to Charlene Muehlenhard, Department of Psychology, 426 Fraser Hall, University of Kansas, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd, Lawrence, KS 66045–7556; e-mail: [email protected]


Abramson, P., & Mosher, D. (1975). Development of a measure of nega- tive attitudes toward masturbation. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 43, 485–490.

Clifford, R. (1978). Development of masturbation in college women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 7, 559–573.

Elliott, L., & Brantley, C. (1997). Sex on campus: The naked truth about the real sex lives of college students. New York: Random House.

Miller, W. R., & Lief, H. I. (1976). Masturbatory attitudes, knowledge, and experience: Data from the sex knowledge and attitude test (SKAT). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5, 447–467.

Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29–51.

Petersen, J., & Hyde, J. S. (2007, November). A meta-analytic review of gender differences in sexuality: 1990–2007. Paper presented at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Indianapolis, IN.

Stroupe, N. (2008). How difficult is too difficult? The relationships among women’s sexual experience and attitudes, difficulty with orgasm, and perception of themselves as orgasmic or anorgasmic. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Young, C. D., & Muehlenhard, C. L. (2009). The meanings of masturba- tion. Manuscript in preparation.