Half of women masturbate to relax while a quarter do it to reduce their stress, a scientific study has found.
Hundreds of women were quizzed as part of research to ‘open the doors’ to more studies investigating female sexual pleasure.
Researchers discovered that more than one in four women masturbate up to three times a week.
And almost one in five prefer to go solo than be stimulated by their partner, the academics found.
The study, led by the Institute for Sex Counseling and Sexual Sciences, Switzerland, enrolled 425 women in Germany.
On average, they were aged 26.6 and completed a 76-item survey about their sexual experiences.
‘For many women, masturbation does not represent “a partner substitute” to seek sexual pleasure,’ lead author Dr Andrea Burri said.
‘But rather [it]is a stress coping and relaxation strategy.
‘This is one of the very first studies to provide more in-depth insight into a variety of aspects related to female masturbation.’
The research, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, reveals the majority of women do indeed masturbate.
A total of 94.5 per cent of women have masturbated at least once in their life, with most doing so for the first time at 14.
More than a quarter (26.8 per cent) masturbate two to three times a week, with a similar amount (26.3 per cent) doing so once a week.
Almost all of the women (91.5 per cent) reported masturbating while being in a relationship.
For the 5.5 per cent of women who have never masturbated, the two main reasons were: ‘I hardly every feel sexual desire’ and ‘sex is a partner-only thing’.
The reasons for masturbating ranged from sexual desire to relaxation (44 per cent) and stress reduction (22.6 per cent).
Studies investigating aspects of masturbation and female sexual pleasure remain scarce, the authors said.
Their comments echo experts who say there is a misunderstanding into what women enjoy.
Little more than half (54 per cent) of women preferred vaginal penetration to that of masturbation, the findings show.
This, the authors said, supports the idea that men place a higher value on vaginal penetration as a sexual activity.
Asked if they preferred to be manually stimulated by their partner or themselves, 31 per cent said the former and 19 per cent said the latter.
And 18.8 per cent of women said they preferred to masturbate than be stimulated by their partner.
The study did not ask if women prefer vaginal penetration or clitoral stimulation.
British sex and relationship expert and MailOnline columnist Tracey Cox said she isn’t surprised women often prefer masturbation to sex.
She said: ‘Men need to let go of the idea that his penis is enough. It isn’t. For plenty, solo sex is the only time they orgasm.’