Showing yourself some love is never a bad thing. But is masturbation necessary for your health overall? If you’ve been wondering whether you’re missing out on some benefits beyond the obvious, here’s a closer look at whether you need to make masturbation a part of your wellness regimen.
Do you have a healthy and satisfying sexual life? If you do, does masturbation feature anywhere? Whether you’re single and haven’t had a sexual encounter in months, in a committed monogamous relationship, or have multiple partners and a buzzing sex life, masturbation can feature as heavily (or not) as you like. It’s the great equalizer that needs no other partner, no schedule other than your own and doesn’t expose you to the risk of contracting any sexually transmitted diseases or getting someone (or yourself) pregnant. What’s not to love?
But if you haven’t been masturbating, are you missing out? Should you consider making the practice of sexual self-pleasuring a part of your routine? Here’s an intimate look at the activity no one wants to discuss too openly.
Is Masturbation Good For You?
Masturbation is a great mental and physical release and can serve a range of purposes – from helping you discover what you like in bed to gaining control over your orgasms. It comes with the added benefits of being a complete no-strings-attached sexual experience, without the pressure that comes with trying to please a partner. Here are just some of the ways in which masturbation can work in your favor.
Healthy Sexual Development
What is hard for many to reconcile is that masturbation is perfectly normal, healthy sexual behavior. However, due to social conditioning and mixed messaging, there is often a struggle between reconciling this act that’s both a pleasure and a stigma. As one study found, women are more likely to struggle with the dilemma of whether it is right or wrong to masturbate. Men on the whole, however, embrace the benefits of masturbation as part of their sexual development more readily.1 But there’s no doubt that both can benefit. Women can use masturbation to understand what can be a pleasurable experience culminating in an orgasm. Men can learn to gain control over how soon they experience an orgasm.2
Improved Intimacy In Relationships
Masturbation is a commonly recommended tool by sex therapists. They believe masturbation can play a key role in improving the overall sexual health of a relationship and the way the partners approach the act.3 As the National Health Services says, it can also be useful for couples to individually discover what they like and do not like in terms of sexual activity.4
Less Unwanted Pregnancies
When you masturbate on your own or with a partner, without any vaginal sex involved, you do away with the risk of pregnancy. This can take a lot of the pressure off the experience among couples who do not want to conceive. For adolescents on the threshold of their sexual lives, masturbation offers a chance to explore and discover, without running the risk of teen pregnancy.5
Lower Transmission Of HIV And STIs
Mutual masturbation where you masturbate in the presence of your partner can be an enjoyable experience. It allows you to gain insight into what your partner enjoys, but without the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or HIV. However, you should be aware that if you touch your own genitals and then your partner’s, or vice versa, you expose yourself to the risk of passing on or contracting an STI through the vaginal fluid or semen. This transmission could also happen if sex toys shared by both of you are not cleaned properly after use.6
Positive Body Image
Masturbation doesn’t just feel good, but can actually make you feel good about yourself too. Beyond the physical pleasures of a session with yourself, you also stand to reinforce a positive body image. One piece of research looked at the link and found that a positive connection between masturbation and body image among European American women who were surveyed. Do remember, though, that whether or not this holds true for you will be determined by your personal beliefs, culture, and background. In the same study, African American women’s body image did not appear to be influenced by their masturbation.7
The Downside To Masturbation
There is no major downside to masturbating. However, the psychological impact of sexual self-pleasuring can vary. For some who see it as a taboo, feelings of guilt or negative emotions may surface after they masturbate.8
Excessive masturbation can be problematic if you find it interfering with your daily life. If it goes from being a normal part of your routine to becoming an obsession or addiction, you have reason to worry. Public masturbation too is an issue and a sign that you may need counseling to address an underlying problem.
Besides this, heavy masturbation that’s done very roughly can cause bruising or soreness and even cuts, so be careful when you indulge in sexual self-service.9 Men may also develop a swelling, called an edema, of the penis. While the appearance of your enlarged swollen penis might be scary, the fluid accumulation in the tissues of your penis should subside in a couple of days. If you have a compulsive masturbation problem, this may result in chronic penile lymphedema.10
A Magic Number: How Much Should You Masturbate?
In a nutshell, there isn’t a single golden number that you should aim for. Everyone has their own preferences, and you will need to see what works best for you. What we do know is that patterns of masturbation tend to vary with gender, social class, and education, as well as sexual health. In one survey, masturbation was found to be more frequent among those with sexual function issues – perhaps because it offered a judgment-free outlet for sexual release in the absence of a satisfying sex life. Women who had more vaginal sex and dabbled in oral and anal sex were also more likely to masturbate. Men, on the other hand, showed the opposite tendencies, with men who had frequent vaginal sex masturbating less.11
Are you rescheduling work or appointments to masturbate? Are you turning down social engagements so you can fit in an extra session with yourself in the bedroom? Do you constantly fantasize about masturbating or find it hard to control your sexual impulses? If these ring true, you may have gone too far and should consider dialing it down a little. If you do not see any of these side effects of masturbation, it should be just fine to carry on giving yourself the sexual pleasure you desire.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Kaestle, Christine E., and Katherine R. Allen. “The role of masturbation in healthy sexual development: Perceptions of young adults.” Archives of sexual behavior 40, no. 5 (2011): 983-994.|
|2, 4, 6, 9.||↑||Masturbation Q&A, NHS.|
|3, 8.||↑||Coleman, Eli. “Masturbation as a means of achieving sexual health.” Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality 14, no. 2-3 (2003): 5-16.|
|5.||↑||Planned Parenthood, Masturbation.|
|7.||↑||Shulman, Julie L., and Sharon G. Horne. “The use of self-pleasure: Masturbation and body image among African American and European American women.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 27, no. 3 (2003): 262-269.|
|10.||↑||Calabrò, Rocco Salvatore, Alessandro Galì, Silvia Marino, and Placido Bramanti. “Compulsive masturbation and chronic penile lymphedema.” Archives of sexual behavior 41, no. 3 (2012): 737-739.|
|11.||↑||Gerressu, Makeda, Catherine H. Mercer, Cynthia A. Graham, Kaye Wellings, and Anne M. Johnson. “Prevalence of masturbation and associated factors in a British national probability survey.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 37, no. 2 (2008): 266-278.|