And, more importantly, how to do it well.
Despite the fact that there are fewer taboos around it these days, many people are still shy about talking about masturbation. But whether or not we admit it, many of us engage in a self-pleasure session on a regular basis.
So why are we so reluctant to discuss something that’s an important part of a healthy sex life?
One reason could be that there have always been certain (ridiculous) myths surrounding masturbation—for example, it will make you blind, give you hairy palms, shrink your genitals, lower your sperm count, or make you unfertile. Or then there’s the slightly insane theory that we’re only allocated a certain number of orgasms per lifetime and masturbation uses them up unnecessarily.
But it can also be because we feel a certain shame around solo sex, stemming from our upbringing. “Because our society stigmatizes and devalues pleasure, sex acts like masturbation that aren’t procreative get dismissed as less than at best, or wrong, dirty and unnatural at worst,” says sex educator Kait Scalisi, MPH, founder of Passion by Kait. “Many of my counseling clients realize they have stories from their childhood about masturbation that they never questioned and are blocking them from finding freedom in pleasure now.”
The thing is, masturbation is not only an important aspect of self-care, but it can be insanely good for your wellbeing. Here’s why.
It enhances your sex life in general.
You’re much likelier to enjoy sex with other people if you know your body and what feels good. And the best way to do that? Dedicate some time to physical self-exploration to discover where your pleasure points are located, how you like to be touched and what makes you orgasm (though remember that it’s totally fine if you don’t climax).
It improves your self-esteem and body image.
When you have sex with a partner, you’re essentially showing appreciation for their body and trying to bring them pleasure. The same can be said for masturbation—only in this case you’re appreciating yourself. Prioritizing your own pleasure can help you cultivate a more positive body image and increase your self-esteem.
It relieves stress and muscle tension.
Orgasms release endorphins and dopamine into our brains and bodies, helping us relax into a rather pleasant state of euphoria—and let's be real, it's virtually impossible to be stressed and euphoric at the same time. Another benefit of masturbating while stressed or anxious? It can take your mind off whatever it is you keep ruminating on but can’t do anything about.
It improves your sleep.
By relieving stress and helping you relax, a solo-sex session can lead to a better night’s sleep. So the next time you’re tossing and turning, treat yourself to 20 minutes of self-pleasure—there’s a good chance you’ll soon be sleeping like a baby.
It can keep you safe from STIs.
A pretty obvious, yet not-often-considered fact: When you’re flying solo, you’re not dealing with anybody’s bodily fluids but your own, which means you can enjoy sex without having to worry about things like STIs. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use a condom—some people prefer to use a condom with a vibrator because it helps with lubrication or they prefer the sensation. (If you are using a condom with your silicone device, just make sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards, even though the amount of silicone lube on the condom is minimal and won’t likely cause silicone-on-silicone degradation).
It can help balance sex drives in relationships.
While it could be easy to think that the reason your partner masturbates is because you aren’t satisfying them sexually, often it’s a case of mismatched sex drives. Some people have a much stronger drive than others and masturbation can be a healthy way to accommodate those differences. In fact, research shows that women in relationships who masturbate regularly are often more sexually satisfied in general. And if you’re looking to add some variation to your sex life, try masturbating alongside partner without engaging in penetrative sex—it can be just as much of a turn-on.
It’s good for your immune system and brain.
The good news is that masturbation isn’t just for younger people. Research shows that people continue the practice well into their seventies and eighties. And their proclivity for regular solo sex could be one of the reasons they’ve lived so long—those good-old orgasm-induced endorphins can help improve cognitive function and also boost your immune system.
So now that we’ve established that masturbation is exceptionally good for you, what’s the secret to making it as great as possible?
1. Set an intention: “This could be a specific sex act you want to try or giving yourself permission to experience and focus on pleasure instead of orgasm,” advises Scalisi. “From there, start to explore your body and genitals, lingering wherever feels good."
2. Don’t just focus on the genitals: “Masturbation isn’t just about the parts between your legs,” Scalisi says. So don’t forget about the other erogenous zones, like the neck, nipples, and the inner thighs.
3. Vary your motion and touch: Experiment with touching yourself in different ways—stroking, twisting, massaging, tugging, pinching, pulling, circular motions—and vary the rhythm and intensity with which you do it. You’ll likely discover that you find certain actions more stimulating (and pleasurable) than others.
4. Try edging: Delayed gratification usually makes things all the more pleasurable, right? The same goes for masturbation. Instead of allowing yourself to climax, try the technique known as edging, which consists of bringing yourself to close to orgasm but then stopping stimulation so that you don’t actually get there. Wait a few moments and then repeat until you can’t stand it any longer—and then just enjoy the delayed euphoria.
5. Use lube: Masturbation often creates a lot of friction, which can cause irritation, especially around the genitals. A drop or two of lube on your fingertips will help make things a lot smoother and can also enhance the sensation of your touch.
Ready for some solo sex? We thought you might be.