If you've stroked into a tube sock, humped a pillow like a horny hare, taken hand or vibe to bits, or really enjoyed your detachable shower head, you know firsthand (ahem) that masturbating feels good. But did you know it's also good for your overall health and well-being? Below, the very real benefits of a little self-love:
Masturbation can help make your pelvic floor stronger.
Yup, jacking off can really get you—or more specifically, your pelvic floor—jacked. "An orgasm creates a series of muscle contractions in the pelvic floor," Holly Richmond, Ph.D., LMFT, somatic psychologist, certified sex therapist, and K-Y partner, tells mbg. "So essentially, orgasming is like a mini workout for your pelvic floor," she says.
This diamond-shaped group of internal muscles work together to support our pelvic organs, including the vagina, uterus, bladder, and bowels. If the pelvic floor muscles are weak, these organs can literally fall out of place, known as prolapse. Weak pelvic floor muscles are also associated with urinary and bowel incontinence (for instance, leaking every time you sneeze), lower back and pelvic floor pain, discomfort during penetrative sex for vulva owners, and constipation. Masturbating won't heal these things, but it's a great way to help prevent pelvic floor weakness.
Masturbation can help dull pain.
Got a headache? Feeling achy from your last CrossFit workout? Try masturbating. "Masturbation can have pain-relieving benefits because orgasming releases dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, the bodies feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters, into the body," Shweta Pai, M.D., urogynecologist and Love Wellness adviser, tells mbg. In fact, one classic study by famous sexologist Beverly Whipple, Ph.D., R.N., found that vaginal stimulation can actually increase someone's pain tolerance threshold by over 40%. Pretty impressive.
The endorphin and hormone release isn't going to heal an injury like a torn muscle, broken bone, or other serious medical issue, but it can help lower your pain sensitivity.
It can also help with period cramps.
Biologically speaking, when you get your period, you're shedding something called your endometrial lining. Sometimes the uterus (which is a muscle) contracts to help this process along, which can result in some pretty uncomfortable cramps. But those aforementioned feel-good neurotransmitters (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin) you get from masturbating? Richmond says they put up quite a fight against period cramps.
Masturbating helps relieve stress.
During your last pleasurable sexual experience (with or without a partner) you probably weren't thinking about your never-ending to-do list or upcoming presentation. "Sexual pleasure forces us to tune into our body's reactions to pleasure, rather than staying in our head where it's easy to be preoccupied and stressed," says Richmond. And masturbating definitely counts as sexual pleasure.
If the solo session includes an orgasm, there's additional stress-busting benefits. One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that orgasming releases oxytocin, which Pai says results in decreased levels of cortisol in the body. And when cortisol levels are decreased, so are feelings of stress.
Masturbation can make you happier.
"Masturbating in and of itself—with or without an orgasm—can make you happier," says Richmond. Seriously. "Masturbating activates the parts of the brain responsible for pleasure like the hypothalamus and thalamus, while also decreasing the parts of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety like the lateral orbitofrontal cortex."
If you have an orgasm, one 2016 study1 says masturbation can lead to an increased concentration of neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin, which have been linked time2 and time again to increased happiness and mood regulation. So, if you find yourself smiling more after ramping up your solo sex life, don't be alarmed. It's the wanking talking.
Masturbating may increase your libido.
Masturbating can make you want more sex—not less. "Sex begets sex," Richmond explains. Meaning, the more one has sex, they more one hungers for it. "Humans like to do things that make them feel good (yes, it's almost that simple), and due to the surge of dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin we get during sex (whether it's solo or partnered), sex feels good."
This perk is especially noteworthy for vulva owners who struggle to get turned on. In fact, according to Pai, "masturbation is regularly used as part of a treatment plan for vulva owners with sexual dysfunction and low sex drive."
It may also help men last longer in bed.
For people with penises, masturbating before partnered sex can sometimes help you last longer with your partner because it'll take you longer to masturbate the second time around. Of course, this isn't a guarantee for everyone because everybody's bodies are different. Silicon Valley–based holistic psychologist and sex coach Pam Costa, M.A., also says to keep in mind your refractory period, or the amount of time it usually takes your body to recover and be able to accept sexual stimulation again.
Masturbation can improve sleep.
Having an orgasm before bed can help you fall asleep faster, says Rebecca Alvarez Story, M.A., sexologist and founder of intimate care marketplace Bloomi. In general, self-pleasuring quiets the mind, an essential ingredient for hitting the hay. And if you have an orgasm, there's the release of oxytocin, which has been shown3 to promote sleep, she says.
Beyond just getting you to fall sleep, shining your pearl or pole may promote deep sleep. Story explains: "Norepinephrine and serotonin, which are released during orgasm, help your body get into your REM cycles better, which makes your rest more restful." Indeed, a 2019 study4 found more than half of people who masturbated before bed and had an orgasm reported better sleep quality.
But it can also make you feel more energized.
Not everyone gets sleepy after masturbating. According to Story, some folks find that masturbation energizes them. The only way to find out what it does for you? Trial and error. "If you get a hit of energy after orgasming, a quick morning orgasm is a great way to start the day refreshed," she says. Climax, then coffee, anyone?
Masturbating can help improve your skin.
We've all heard about the post-orgasm glow. The beauty benefits of sex are real, and they also apply to masturbating. But the skin-boosting benefits go beyond the sex flush: One study5 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found having an orgasm increases your body's estrogen levels, which are known to help with healthier-looking skin (and hair!).
"Masturbating reduces stress levels, which can reduce some of the body's stress such as the overproduction of sweat and acne," Pai adds. "So a regular masturbation practice really can make someone's skin look clearer." And hey, a visit with your vibe is a whole lot more fun than a visit to the dermatologist.
It might even count as a workout.
Or at least an active recovery workout. "Research suggests that sex burns a decent number of calories," says Rachel Needle, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist in West Palm Beach, Florida. Currently, there's no research on how many calories solo sex burns. But one 2013 study6 published in the journal PLOS One found that during partnered sex, men burn 4.2 calories per minute and women burn 3.1 calories per minute.
Depending on how much you're bumping and grinding during your own solo sesh, Needle says the calorie burn is likely similar during masturbation. "It's an aerobic workout."
Masturbating may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
If you have a prostate (aka have a penis), regular ejaculation may help reduce your risk of prostate cancer. "Research on the topic found that compared to men who ejaculated four to seven times per month across their lifetimes, men who ejaculated 21 or more times a month enjoyed about a 31% lower risk of prostate cancer," says Richmond.
It may improve cognitive function.
In one 2017 study published in the Journals of Gerontology, researchers had 73 people over the age of 50 complete a cognitive assessment and a questionnaire about how often they get it on (solo or with a partner). And what did they find? That those who had sex more frequently score way higher on the memory and verbal fluency tests, compared to infrequent copulators.
Masturbation is a safer sex practice.
Unlike most partnered forms of sex, masturbating cannot lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. That makes it one of the best forms of safer sex. If you're in a predicament with a partner where other safer sex precautions aren't available, mutual masturbation can be a fun, very hot way to still have a sexual experience with each other that isn't risking anyone's health.
You get to know your body better.
Masturbation is a way to get in touch with your body and learn what turns you on. Most people actually don't know what types of touch their body enjoys well enough to relay that information to a partner, Costa says And that's where masturbating comes in. "Masturbating allows you to explore what touches, pressures, intensities, and strokes your body responds to," she explains.
If you have a vulva, she suggests getting a hand mirror, some lube, and watching as you touch yourself. "That way you can connect the sensation to the exact part of your vulva," she says. When you get down there, don't rush right to your clit or vagina. Stroke, squeeze, and massage your inner and outer labia. Massage and apply pressure to your pubic mound. Tap and pinch your clitoral hood. "Really explore the entire vulva," she says.
If you have a penis, she says, "Go beyond just stroking your shaft. Explore the pleasure potential of your stroking, tapping, squeezing, applying pressure to your balls, perineum, anus, and head and discovering what feels good."
It can lead to more pleasurable partnered play.
We might want our partners to just intuitively know where our "it" spots are, but, spoiler alert: That's not realistic! "You can't expect your partner to be a mind-reader of your body," says Costa. "You need to communicate to them what feels good!"
By masturbating, you can learn exactly what makes you feel good sexually. Then you can take this information back to your partner. "Not only will you know how to pleasure yourself better, but you'll be able to teach it to your partner," says Story. "It's a win-win!"
You may feel more confident.
"Masturbating is essential for developing self-awareness, body-awareness, self-acceptance, and confidence," Richmond says. Obviously, this translates in the bedroom. But she says, "In my practice, I've seen this confidence carry over outside the bedroom, too."
Costa agrees, adding, "I've seen a regular masturbation practice give someone the confidence they never had before to ask for a raise, ask someone out, and more."
Yes, masturbating is very powerful indeed.
Gabrielle Kassel is a sex and wellness writer and certified CrossFit trainer. She has a degree in English and Women & Gender from Smith College, and her writing on sex, identity, and wellness have appeared on Cosmopolitan, Well Good, Health, Shape, Women’s Health, Greatist, Healthline, and more. She's become a morning person, tested over 300 vibrators, and worn her vaginal ~essence~ as perfume—all in the name of journalism. In her free time, Gabrielle can be found reading romance novels, bench-pressing, and pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.