Perhaps the joke’s on us. While people love to make wisecracks about it, few will actually admit to doing “it.”
Yet, according to Martha Cornog, of "The Big Book of Masturbation", self-pleasuring is surely the second most common human sex act. And, despite its torrid history, that’s proving to be a good thing. Turns out this once taboo behavior has plenty of health benefits and can do wonders for your sex life.
While the shackles of masturbation have been loosening around our loins, it is only recently that society has started to let go of its guilt around solo sex. This is in part thanks to sex researchers affirming that most of us do it, as well as the embracing of it by television sitcoms. Who can forget the bet made by Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer as to who could remain the “master of their domain” the longest?
Even if you’re not a conformist, there’s something about safety in numbers when it comes to this topic. (And if it makes you feel even better, know that masturbation is common among other animals, like dogs, cats, horses, bulls, rats, hamsters, deer, and whales, too).
This more relaxed attitude is also due to the medical community challenging its own original claims that masturbation was a serious medical-ethical problem with dire results. According to works like Onania, circa 1712, male masturbation was said to lead to disease or disorder with the loss of semen.
Likewise, in losing vaginal fluid, a female who took matters into her own hands was supposedly at risk for hysteria, jaundice, epileptic fits, and other negative health conditions. Of equal concern, self-pleasuring was thought to send her down the road to sodomy as well.
Anybody with “solo sexploration” experience can tell you that, contrary to popular myths, masturbation does not result in any of the aforementioned, nor does it lead to acne, warts, hair on the palm, insanity, blindness...
What many may not know, however, is that stimulating yourself can ultimately boost your health in many ways.
Health Benefits for Men
Research summarized in a 2007 article in Sexual and Relationship Therapy found that masturbation may help men by:
— Improving his immune system’s functioning.
— Building his resistance to prostate gland infection.
— Making for a healthier prostate.
Australian researchers have reported that frequent masturbation may lower a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. A survey of men found the more frequently a man masturbates between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to get prostate cancer. In fact, those who masturbated more than five times a week were one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Health Benefits for Females
When it comes to a woman’s health, self-pleasuring serves her well by:
— Building her resistance to yeast infections.
— Combating pre-menstrual tension and other physical conditions associated with their menstrual cycles, like cramps.
— Relieving painful menstruation by increasing blood flow to the pelvic region. This will also reduce pelvic cramping and related backaches.
— Relieving chronic back pain and increasing her threshold for pain.
Health Benefits for Both Sexes
Masturbation rewards both men and women because it’s:
— The safest kind of sex, keeping you free of sexually transmitted infections.
— A great form of stress relief.
— A mood booster in releasing endorphins.
— A natural sleep sedative.
— A mechanism for building stronger pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to better sex.
— A natural energetic pick-me-up.
As Sigmund Freud once remarked at the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society, “the subject of masturbation is quite inexhaustible.” While he wasn’t getting at the benefits (Freud saw self-pleasuring as harmful to the genitals and one’s psychosexual and moral development), the same can be said in how it can improve one’s sexual relationship.
For couples who masturbate on occasion or regularly, sex with yourself can:
— Be empowering, especially by helping you to feel better about your body, genitals and sexual response.
— Deliver some of your most intense orgasms ever, which you’ll now know how to recreate with that special someone!
— Increase your sexual awareness, giving you the opportunity to discover what turns you on – the sensations and movements that work best to give you the greatest of sexual gratification.
— Have the potential to enhance your sex life in general, boosting your sexual confidence and turning you into a better lover.
— Get you or your partner off the hook if neither is available or not in the mood.
In the Know Sex News …
Docs Missing Early Signs of HIV. According to Britain's National AIDS Trust, up to half of early-stage HIV cases are being missed by British physicians. With many symptoms flu-like in nature, such as sore throat and fever, patients are often told that they have a minor viral infection and that they should return if their condition does not improve.
Sexual Risk of Young Internet-Using Men Who Have Sex With Men Assessed. A University of Minnesota study, assessing the characteristics and risks associated with sex pursuits of men who have sex with men found that those who met sexual partners both online and offline reported unprotected intercourse more often than those who met their partners either online or offline, but not both. Those who met partners exclusively offline reported the fewest sexual partners. Being drunk or high were significant risks for unprotected sex regardless of how one met their partner.
Sex Taboos Thwarting HIV/AIDS Efforts in Pakistan. According to a study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being hampered in Pakistan. The culprit: many believe that the infection is a non-issue for Muslim countries since Islamic law bans sex outside of marriage. UNAIDS, however, holds that at least 85,000 people in Pakistan are infected with HIV.
Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."