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Masturbation as healthy practice.

masturbation as healthy practice.

Debunking Myths and Embracing Pleasure for Health and Well-being.

Critiques of masturbation are masturbatory--they’re either tired moral doctrine, founded on subjective interpretations of religious texts, or they center on “optimizing” sex drive, encouraged by a culture that treats productivity as a form of religion. 

Let’s first get this out of the way: Masturbation is natural. Horses, whales, donkeys, and lizards are just a few examples of animals that prove, through their creative forms of self pleasure, that masturbation is not a behavior reserved for highly complex, “self ruinous” life forms such as ourselves. 

Now, with moral scrutiny out of the way, we can focus on the question pervading more modern conversations about masturbation: does self pleasure make us less productive? Does it diminish our libido, influence our quality of sex, make us less attracted to our partners? 

Today, one common belief about masturbation is that we might feel happier and hornier if we do not do it. In a 2020 paper titled Abstinence from Masturbation and Hypersexuality, researchers introduce their study by discussing how, despite lack of evidence for negative health effects of masturbation, abstinence is frequently recommended as a means of improving self-regulation. 

Of course, engaging in any behavior compulsively, to the extent that it negatively impacts quality of life, is not the doctor’s orders. Human beings are pleasure seekers, like many other species, with the added bonus of having the free time of an apex predator. This means we can sometimes get a bit carried away. 

But recent research suggests a healthy amount of masturbation has beneficial effects. 

A 2024 study on women found that masturbation was a reliable coping strategy for stress, which induced feelings of happiness and relaxation. To address the argument that masturbation itself is a culprit for the stress, further analysis showed that women who masturbate more frequently to cope do not differ in their levels of psychological stress from women who do not use it. Masturbation has also been shown to improve sleep, reduce depression, and relieve menstrual cramps

Self-pleasure can also be a useful tool for getting acquainted with your body and more comfortable with your sexuality. This in turn can have a positive impact on partnered sex, whether through verbalization of the knowledge you’ve gained in self-exploration, or through the attunement you bring to an intimate connection following a period of deeply listening to your own body.

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