Once referred to as a “perversion” or mental illness, modern day masturbation is seen as very normal, socially acceptable (when done privately), and a positive way to relieve stress or sexual tension throughout life. According to sexologist Logan Levkoff, PhD, when part of a well-rounded, happy, and satisfying life, masturbation can be absolutely fine and actually quite healthy. Additionally, Dr. Gloria Brame, clinical sexologist, states that “Masturbation is part of a healthy sex life. It’s totally safe and harmless.” But when it interferes with normal functioning, i.e. having a job and healthy sex with your partner, you may want to consider cutting down on the habit or even seeing a therapist about it. Let’s consider the pros and cons of masturbating and you can decide how much is right for you!
Is Masturbation Healthy?
Is masturbation healthy?
Masturbation, or the self-stimulation of the genitals typically done to achieve sexual pleasure and often orgasm (sexual climax), is most commonly conducted by touching, massaging, or applying the use of an adult sex “toy” such as a vibrator. Studies indicate that approximately 95 percent of males and 89 percent of females report having masturbated at some point in their lives, with most individuals’ first sex act in life being masturbation. Children often stumble across it as they explore their bodies, and they usually continue the practice into adulthood.
It’s not a “perversion” anymore
What do other professionals say about it?
Several indications point to masturbation being very healthy for just about everyone. According to Dr. Lauren Streicher, an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University and author of Sex Rx: Hormones Health And Your Best Sex Ever, orgasms release the dopamine and oxytocin endorphins, which often lead to improved mood and a sort of “natural high.” Who can beat that?
It also helps us become aware of and in tune with our bodies, which can lead to an improved love and sex life. This is extremely important if we want to teach our partners how to pleasure us – we first need to gain confidence and know how to do it for ourselves. Further, says Streicher, it can help us fall asleep afterward, release stress and tension, ease body aches and alleviate menstrual pain. If you aren’t with a partner currently, masturbation can make sure your tissues stay healthy and elastic, keep the blood flowing properly, and even stimulate certain regions of the brain.
What else can masturbation do for me?
And that’s not all! Men’s Health magazine dove deeper into the health benefits and found that masturbation can even help prevent cancer! Turns out one Australian study found that men who ejaculate at least five times weekly are a third less prone to develop prostate cancer. The science behind this is that toxins can build up in your urogenital tract, and flushing it out through ejaculation helps keep the system clean. In addition, masturbating can boost your immunity. Since it increases the levels of cortisol in the body, the regulation of immunity comes as a side effect. It’s also a mood enhancer! Since, as previously mentioned, neurotransmitters like oxytocin and dopamine are released, Dr. Brame explains that, “An orgasm is the biggest non-drug blast of dopamine available. A brain scan of someone having an orgasm looks like a heroin addict’s.”
If you still aren’t sold on it yet, masturbation can also ease postmenopausal sex problems for women. According to Dr. Judi Chervenak, a gynecologist at New York City’s Montefiore Medical Center, “The vagina can actually narrow, which can make intercourse and vaginal exams more painful. But masturbation, especially with a water-based lubricant, can help prevent narrowing, boost blood flow, relieve some tissue and moisture problems, and increase sexual desire.” Additionally, for women, cervical infections and urinary tract infections may be kept away through masturbation since the process of “tenting”, or opening the cervix as an aspect of arousal, occurs. This opening stretches the cervix and its accompanying mucus, stimulates fluid circulation and the flushing of bacteria. Increasing the strength of the pelvic floor and lowering the risk of type-2 diabetes can also be accomplished via the contractions of regular orgasms.
There are a few concerns to note
Some occasions of overly rough or frequent masturbation resulting in skin irritation around the privates can also become a concern. Also, for men, the forceful bending of an erect penis can result in a harmful condition called penile fracture, often requiring surgery. It’s the compulsion, or the feeling that you need to do something regardless of a more pressing need, that creates the problem.
Otherwise, as long as you’re living a healthy, balanced life, masturbation can be a very healthy and beneficial part of it!