Better Health in the Palm of Your Hand
Since the early 20th century, masturbation has been linked to a number of dangerous and frightening ailments like blindness, skin disorders, and even infertility. Most folks don’t know that Corn Flakes and Graham Crackers, among other products, were originally designed to dampen sexual desire and prevent masturbation. Publications and leaflets with titles like “Onania: the Heinous Sin of Self Pollution,” detailed the horrors of self-pleasure and praised chaste folks who kept their hands far away from their genitals.
Since then, although some myths about masturbation continue on, science and society have progressed, and the research and rhetoric around masturbation are much more positive. Several studies praise masturbation as a way to support overall health! So settle in and get comfortable – you’re about to learn just how good touching yourself can be…even beyond the orgasm.
Masturbation is actually good for your body.
There are still pervasive myths in our society about the effects of masturbation. For example, some people still think that ejaculating decreases fertility for people with penises. It might seem logical; expelling semen means less semen, which in turn would lower sperm quantity. Except that isn’t how the body works! For people who produce semen, sperm is continually manufactured in the seminiferous tubules within the testicles (as opposed to ovaries, which only have a certain number of ova to release over their lifetime). Research has even shown that not ejaculating for as few as five days has a detrimental effect on sperm quality and quantity.
Orgasm isn’t just beneficial for for people with penises, though. Blood flow to the genitals occurring during masturbation, arousal, and even sexy dreams maintains the integrity of the smooth muscle that lines the vagina, rectum, and connective tissue between the penile shaft and scrotum. There are huge benefits to keeping the genital vasculature pumping on a regular basis. Leiblum et al., in a 1983 study, found that vaginal atrophy that can happen after menopause can be reduced through regular sexual activity, including masturbation!
Masturbating is almost like going for a quick run – one more reason to bring your workout inside on those rainy days.
When you’re about to get off, do you feel your heart pound and your breathing speed up? Maybe it’s not quite like going for a run, but when someone engages in sexual activity (by themselves or with others), they’re performing mild aerobic activity.
Beyond getting the heart pumping and blood flowing, the neurochemicals released during orgasm also function as an analgesic, or a natural painkiller. Researchers, as early as 1961, have been observing the effects of masturbation as a way to reduce pain. Sexual arousal — especially when it includes an orgasm — can reduce lower back pain. In the same study, Komisaruk and Whipple found that arousal and orgasms also increase pain tolerance for cisgender women.
For people with uteruses, masturbation during menstruation can increase blood flow to the uterus, reducing cramping. Beyond that, the pain reduction effects of sexual arousal are utilized around the world as a way to alleviate the pain of childbirth. In cultures based in western medicine, it’s quite rare to see genital arousal as part of labor care, but nipple stimulation has been promoted as a way to enhance contractions during childbirth.
There is also some research that indicates masturbation, alone or with a partner, is a great risk reduction technique when one partner has a transmittable STI and others don’t. Promoting masturbation with partners rather than intercourse is starting to gain popularity in countries where HIV is prevalent as a way to encourage serodiscordant (one positive, one negative) couples to have sexual contact without the risk of transmission.
Exploring your body and your pleasure can make you better in bed.
As you can see, sexual arousal has countless physical health benefits–but that isn’t all. Although masturbation is often viewed as something to do to get off when you don’t have an active sexual partner, the past decade has seen a shift in attitude to treating self-pleasure as a complementary act to sexy time with others. Masturbation can make you a more active, communicative, empowered sexual partner.
Learning your body makes you better at telling others what feels good (and what doesn’t). According to the American Sexual Health Association, “The more you explore and know your own body through masturbation, the clearer you can be about what kind of touch you enjoy.” Beyond that, people have started talking about the correlation between masturbation and higher levels of self confidence, self-esteem, and body positivity, specifically for women around their bodies. While the research hasn’t proven this yet, there is information that correlates lower rates of masturbation or self-pleasure with negative body image.
The Big O: Overall Health!
There are a myriad of benefits of masturbation as it applies to your body, self-esteem, and interpersonal relationships. However, don’t forget the best part about pleasuring yourself–if feels good! There is absolutely nothing wrong with your own pleasure being the reason you masturbate. All of the ancillary benefits are just the icing on the already delicious cake of auto-eroticism.