Everyone masturbates, right? Or do they? And why is it so embarrassing to talk about? Should we be doing it more?
Well, here are my answers: yes, everyone masturbates. But yes, we should also be doing it more. According to Indiana University's National Survey Of Sexual Health And Behavior, more than half of American adults report masturbation between one and four times a week. Men masturbate more frequently than women do, and it’s time to change that.
Through working with thousands of women as a health coach (in addition to my own personal experience), masturbation has been both an uncomfortable topic to talk about — while also being a powerful healing technique. It's time to finally embrace it.
Masturbation has gotten a bad reputation, mainly because religion and culture tell us it’s a sin. The Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about masturbation, although there is some stern warning against “spilling your seed on the ground." The Catholic Church decided that masturbation (sometimes referred to as “onanism” after Onin, a Biblical character) was a sin deserving of eternal damnation.
By the time World War I came around, onanism was being called “self-abuse” and described in medical texts as more dangerous to young boys than lying or stealing. Girls and women aren’t even mentioned, as if "the fairer sex" couldn’t even possibly do something so dirty.
So it stands to reason that most of us would feel some traces of shame, guilt, or even fear when practicing this very natural act. But take heart from the animal world and modern science! Dozens of mammal, bird, and insect species have been documented to masturbate in captivity and in the wild. From penguins, to dolphins, horses, and even porcupines, mother nature has no judgment when it comes to wrapping your hand, wing, or fin, around your own personal magic wand.
In honor of National Masturbation Month, here are ten great reasons that masturbation should be an essential part of your wellness and self-care routine:
1. You'll get a healthy dose of dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin.
According to the 2009 University of Michigan study, orgasms cause the body to release dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin, the "love and bonding” hormone.
The boost of these hormones in turn lowers cortisol, a main stress hormone. Chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to inflammation, stress-eating, insomnia, and weight loss resistance. This means your pleasure-powered work outs will more easily lead to a toned body.
2. You won't get as many junk-food cravings.
Higher levels of oxytocin makes us feel happier, which keeps those emotionally-triggered food cravings for sugars, cheese, and other “comfort foods" at bay. Oxytocin levels are usually increased simply through the physical stimulation of the clitoris, vagina, cervix, and breasts. So even if you don't reach climax, you'll still release this powerful neurotransmitter.
3. For men, frequent masturbation improves sperm quality.
Why? There is less DNA damage and motility problems with fresh sperm.
4. Pleasure is physiologically relaxing, which has a positive effect on the microbiome.
The gut and the mind are inextricably linked. In my book Women, Food, And Desire, I tell the story of a client who wasn't dating, and wasn't masturbating. She had been suffering from bloating, gas, and a frustrating "muffin top" that wouldn't budge for years. I took her to Babeland, a clean, well-lit sex store, and we spoke with a knowledgeable staff member who helped her pick out her first nontoxic vibrator.
After a couple of weeks of self-exploration, and regular self-pleasure, she noticed a marked difference in her digestion, and her bloating had reduced greatly.
5. Women who masturbate regularly are more likely to feel positively about their body.
This, unsurprisingly, leads to higher confidence, and a positive upward spiral of self-care. When you know what you need to bring yourself pleasure and orgasm, you strengthen your emotional intelligence and connection to your body.
Knowing how your body works, and what you’re capable, regardless of your relationship status, helps you make better decisions and stronger boundaries about dating and mating. When you can bring yourself physical pleasure, you don’t need someone else to validate that you’re sexy. You know it.
6. Daydreaming kicks life up a notch.
Another study reveals that sexy daydreams release testosterone in women, which means that when you read erotic fiction, or watch any kind of porn that excites you, your body will begin anticipating encounter, which naturally raises your libido and quite literally gets your juices flowing.
7. You will feel less pain. Really.
Orgasms (and to a lesser extent simple sexual arousal) increase blood flow to both your brain and reproductive organs, which helps soothe menstrual cramps and headaches.
8. Sexual pleasure brings you in the present moment.
Sexual pleasure is a great way to clear your mind of ruminating and excessivea nxiety. It brings you to the present moment, kind of like meditating! But if sitting on a meditation cushion isn’t doing it for you, grab your bottle of lube.
The physical release doubles as stress relief, and can be a great way to get in touch with your body and out of your head. Being in the moment, and focusing on what feels physically good to you, is a wonderful intentional practice with many benefits.
9. You can keep your sex life alive and kickin' — no matter what.
Especially if you’re single, or in a long-distance relationship, masturbation is a great way to help your sexual energy stay alive. Self-stimulating keeps your reproductive tissues flexible, strong, and healthy. The more solo-sex you have, the more you’ll want because your brain is thinking about sex more often. This is really helpful for couples who are separated or for the single person who wants to present the best version of themselves while dating.
10. It feels awesome!
And we all need more pleasure in our lives, am I right?
So join me and thousands of others as we celebration the 20th anniversary of National Masturbation Month!