As the famous Kenny Rogers song goes, you gotta know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. That’s a song about poker (and life, man), but it could be about the gamble of going on a date too horny. Will oozing vibrant sexual energy make you seem confident and appealing, or awkwardly aroused all night? Enter “pre-bating,” which is masturbating before an event to quiet the sexual impulse for one reason or another. The term was added to Urban Dictionary in 2005, and though it’s typically only discussed as a male strategy, a recent episode of Dear White People showed a woman pre-bating too.
In the first episode of the second season, a woman named Sam (Logan Browning) is caught by roommate Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson) pre-bating with a vibrator before going to film class where she’ll see her ex, an act defined in the show as “when you take care of yourself so you don’t lose your mind in the company of problematic dick.”
It’s a curious departure from how we’ve seen pre-bating depicted before. As we wrote recently, we rarely see women masturbating in TV shows or movies at all, much less as something they’d do to keep themselves from making a bad choice. When men pre-bate, it’s shown as a strategy that’s effective because they likely won’t be getting laid that night, not necessarily because they shouldn’t.
That’s thanks to the film There’s Something About Mary, where Dom (Chris Elliott) advises Ted (Ben Stiller) that he’s nervous about going out with Mary because he’s got “baby batter on the brain,” and that “the most honest moment in a man’s life are the few minutes after he’s blown his load.” The idea here is that once he’s “no longer trying to get laid” he’ll be more appealing to her. So it’s not that he doesn’t want to have sex, it’s that he needs to be free from the all-encompassing impulse to try to get it, so he can act right and be more confident, too.
Other pre-bating advice for men typically comes up around sports. Well, not masturbation per se, but ejaculation in general, and whether or not doing so before a game helps performance or clears the nervous energy that can interfere with it. Contrast this with MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, who claims that sex before a fight raises her testosterone levels.
Another instance where men are advised to pre-bate is as a stopgap for premature ejaculation so that a man can last longer for the sex he expects to have later. This, obviously, isn’t a problem for women.
But whether you’re a man or woman who uses it to clear your head or avoid wanting to fuck someone you probably shouldn’t, people debate whether pre-bating is an effective strategy. On Reddit a few years ago, a self-described 25-year-old American male living in Israel wanted to know if the claims of pre-bating’s benefits were overhyped. Some responses were pragmatic. “Does jacking off calm your nerves?” one commenter asked. “Are you nervous before your date and think it’ll help you?”
Another said all it does is “dampen your libido,” which is fine since “it’s not like you’re getting laid on a first date anyway.” But another person called bullshit on the concept, arguing that it was advice “based on a stupid joke in a shitty Ben Stiller movie that was never meant to be taken seriously by anyone.”
Another commenter said it absolutely works, not for lasting longer in bed, but for “getting the horny-ness out.” And many chimed in to agree. That it keeps you level headed before a date, and is especially good for people who “make bad judgments when they feel horny.” Others said it provides the insurance of not “poppin’ hella boners when I first meet them.” But those commenters sound overwhelmingly male, and the advice on the practice seems overwhelmingly aimed at men. One site, in 2012, called it “the new pre-gaming for men.”
Anecdotes on women who use pre-bating are more difficult to find. One forum asking if women do this only got a few responses, and they all said no: “We’re too busy trying to look pretty.” A woman on one forum said it didn’t apply to her because “not everybody loses those horny feelings after orgasm,” and in her case, one orgasm only increases the likelihood of another. “If I were getting ready to go on a date with a man I found particularly sexually attractive,” she wrote, “rubbing one out would just make it more difficult to control myself.
In response to the Dear White People episode, one woman on Twitter said the practice resonated with her, calling it the “realist shit I ever heard.”
But a man on Twitter acted like it was the first he’d heard of women doing it.
Even if pre-bating is still under the radar for women, or simply, like many things women do, less discussed in public forums, Refinery29 spoke to a doctor, Megan Stubbs, who listed numerous benefits for women who opt to knock one out before a date, in addition to avoiding an ill-advised hookup. Women who pre-bate will be more relaxed, more confident, more in control, and — heads up to that woman who said she was too busy trying to look pretty before a date to rub one out — it also provides woman with a “warm, healthy glow.” Just as long as it doesn’t make you hornier, we guess. Although, as one Redditor noted in opposition to the practice before a first date: “Being horny makes it more fun.”