Masturbation has long been a sensitive topic for many Americans. While sex experts consider it basic to sexual development, for many people, masturbation represents a source of guilt and shame. Only in recent years have the positive emotional and physical health benefits of masturbation gained recognition.
The term “masturbation” refers to touching and stroking your own sex organs for pleasure. It has also been called self-pleasuring, self-stimulation, or self-love. Recent studies found that 95 percent of men and 89 percent of women have masturbated. Most men and women report that masturbation was the first overt sexual act they ever engaged in.
Given the differences in anatomy, it makes sense that masturbation is a different experience for men and women.
Men nearly always masturbate by holding the shaft of the penis and stroking it in an up-and-down motion. The speed and pressure applied to stroking tends to increase until the man reaches orgasm.
Women enjoy a wider variety of masturbation techniques from which they can achieve orgasm:
- Clitoral stimulation, using a finger or an object to gently stroke the clitoris
- Vaginal insertion using fingers or sex toys
- Breast and nipple stimulation
- Squeezing the thighs together in a rhythmic motion
Both men and women can perform masturbation in a variety of positions. Some men enjoy masturbating by rubbing their penis against soft bedding or pillows. Some women like spreading their legs wide apart, while others find more pleasure in squeezing the thighs together tightly during stimulation.
The Benefits of Masturbation
A common concern is that masturbation will affect sexual performance or create sexual dysfunction. In fact, some experts believe masturbation improves your sexual responsiveness by giving you a better understanding of your body and how it responds to stimulation.
Masturbation can help men better control ejaculation and resolve problems with premature or delayed ejaculation. Women can use masturbation to learn how to achieve orgasm during sexual intercourse.
Masturbation also has other health benefits. It can serve to:
- Reduce stress
- Relieve sexual tension
- Be an outlet for people abstaining from sexual intercourse
- Be a means of “safe sex,” to prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexual transmitted diseases(STDs)
- Help offset insomnia
- Boost metabolism and stimulate the production of endorphins — brain chemicals that help ease pain and stress
Couples who aren’t ready to engage in sexual intercourse — or couples who would like a fun and intimate alternative to intercourse — can engage in mutual masturbation. This can involve touching and masturbating your partner, or touching yourself in the presence of your partner. Couples can masturbate simultaneously, while watching, listening to, or touching each other.
To enhance your mutual masturbation experience, you might want to:
- Talk with your partner ahead of time to make sure he or she is comfortable with the notion.
- Purchase some sexual lubricants to reduce friction and increase pleasure.
- Practice safe sex by making sure you use birth control if you’ll be touching each other in ways that could expose the woman to semen. Though rare, pregnancy can occur even without penetration. Likewise, any intimate contact with bodily fluids can transmit STDs, so use protection if mutual masturbation transitions into oral sex or intercourse.