May is National Masturbation Month. The annual celebration began in 1995 in response to the forced resignation of U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders in December 1994. After a speech at the UN World AIDS Day, Elders responded to an attendee’s question about masturbation’s potential for discouraging early sexual activity. She replied, “I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught."
Soon after, Elders’ career as the first black female Surgeon General ended. The owners of Good Vibrations, an adult shop in San Francisco, were outraged. They set out to do two things: bring attention to Elders’ unjust dismissal and educate the public about masturbation.
Many need support and advice regarding masturbation. Although it is a natural part of human sexuality, it is attached to shame and stigma. Masturbation actually offers positive benefits. It is after all, self-love.
Masturbation is when an individual stimulates their genitals for sexual pleasure, which may or may not lead to orgasm. Masturbation is common among men and women of all ages and plays a role in healthy sexual development.
Research has found that among adolescents aged 14–17 years in the United States, around 74 percent of males and 48 percent of females masturbate. Among adults, roughly 63 percent of men and 32 percent of women between 17 and 64 years of age masturbate.
People masturbate for many reasons including pleasure, enjoyment and tension release. Some individuals masturbate alone, while others masturbate with a partner.
When you have an orgasm, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that block pain and make you feel good. The good feelings that come with an orgasm happen whether you’re having sex with a partner or masturbating by yourself.
Masturbation is a normal and healthy sexual activity but many bizarre claims surround masturbation, such as:
· hairy palms
· impotence later in life
· erectile dysfunction
· penis shrinkage
· penis curvature
· low sperm count
· mental illness
· physical weakness
None of these is true. They are not supported by science. Masturbation isn’t unhealthy or bad for you at all. Masturbation can truly be good for your health, both mentally and physically.
Some couples worry that their relationship must be unsatisfying if either one of them masturbates. This, too, is a myth.
Most men and women continue to masturbate either alone or together when they are in a relationship or married, and many find it an enjoyable part of their relationship.
One study found that women who masturbated had happier marriages compared to those who did not masturbate.
Researchers have shown the health benefits of masturbation. Masturbation can:
· Release sexual tension
· Reduce stress
· Improve sleep
· Enhance self-esteem and body image
· Treat sexual problems
· Relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension
· Strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas
The more you know
Masturbation also helps you figure out what you like sexually. Where do you want to be touched? How much pressure feels good? How fast or slow? Learning how to have orgasms on your own can make it easier to have one with a partner, because you can tell or show them what feels good. And when you’re comfortable with sex, your body, and talking to your partner, you’re more likely to feel comfortable protecting yourself against STDs and unintended pregnancy.
Masturbation helps the immune system
Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
Vibrators in the mix
Enhanced stimulation, such as using a vibrator, may increase arousal and overall sexual function in both men and women.
Women who use a vibrator have reported improved sexual function and lubrication, while men experienced an improvement in erectile function.
Does masturbation increase men’s risk of developing prostate cancer?
On the contrary, a 2003 study demonstrated that men who ejaculated more than five times each week during their 20s were one third less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer than those who ejaculated less often.
A 2016 study found a similar link between frequent ejaculation and a lower risk of prostate cancer. Researchers found that men who ejaculated 21 times per month or more had a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.
Are there side effects to masturbation?
Masturbation is harmless. Some people may experience chafing or tender skin if they are too rough, but this will usually heal in a few days.
If men frequently masturbate within a short space of time, they may experience a slight swelling of the penis called an edema. This swelling usually disappears within a couple of days.
Other potential side effects include:
Some people who worry that masturbation conflicts with their religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs may experience feelings of guilt. However, masturbation is not immoral or wrong, and self-pleasure is not shameful.
Discussing feelings of guilt with a friend, healthcare professional, or therapist that specializes in sexual health might help a person to move past feelings of guilt or shame that they connect with masturbation.
Decreased sexual sensitivity
If men have an aggressive masturbation method that involves too tight a grip on their penis, they can experience decreased sensation. A man can resolve this over time with a change of technique.
Disrupting daily life
In rare cases, some individuals may masturbate more than they desire, which may:
· cause them to miss work, school, or important social events
· interrupt a person’s daily functioning
· affect their responsibilities and relationships
· serve as an escape from relationship issues or substitute for real-life experiences
If masturbation gets in the way of your job, your responsibilities, or your social life, you may want to consult with a counselor or therapist.
If you have any health concerns regarding masturbation, you should speak with a healthcare professional.