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The Touchy Topic of Self Gratification

28 September 2018 11 comments

Woody Allen famously said, “Don’t knock masturbation, it’s sex with someone I love.” People are often lost when it comes to the myths and truths of a little self-loving. Are there really any health benefits to playing with yourself? How does it differ for men and women? What is deemed as “normal”? Here are all the things you should know about masturbation.

The Touchy Topic of Self GratificationThe Touchy Topic of Self Gratification

Let’s clear the air from the very beginning - I, like many healthy 30-something-year-old women, masturbate frequently. It could happen any time of day, and it could happen anywhere. Most often it happens in the bathroom stalls at work, in the shopping center toilets, in the shower, in my car. And it happens for many different reasons. Sometimes it’s that muscly electrician - ladies is there anything sexier than a hunk in your kitchen? Other times it’s because of the hungry way the embarrassingly young office intern looks at me. (He still gets acne!) And let us not forget the silver fox who intoxicates my senses with his sexy cologne every time we stand next to one another in the office lift. And then there are the times I can’t explain. Like when that Belgium dark chocolate tasted just too damn delicious, and before I knew it I was rushing off to the Lindt cafe bathrooms. Or when I stumbled (yes stumbled - it happens) on some girl-on-girl porn and surprised myself.

These are what we call impulsive reasons to inspire one to masturbate, but there are also premeditative reasons. For instance, at the end of a long day I make it a point to masturbate - even if I am not in the mood. Some of you open a bottle of wine, others watch Netflix. I play with myself. It makes me relax and helps me sleep like a baby. I also intentionally masturbate when I have no choice but to attend lifeless events - like those dreaded Christmas street parties (sorry Jenny). That’s when a little help from my Rocket in my Pocket goes a long way; it’s a much better alternative to getting drunk (as Kev does every year, understandably, just to survive the night).

The myths
Some of the bizarre claims surrounding masturbation, which have absolutely no scientific backing, are as follows: -

  • A veiny and, therefore, unattractive penis (wonder who started that one - some women love veiny penises);
  • Blindness;
  • Infertility;
  • Loss of hair (actual cause of hair loss is most often a combination of heredity and hormones);
  • Hairy palms (yes palms);
  • Erectile dysfunction;
  • Weakening of bones; and
  • Memory loss.

Holly molly! Is it any wonder we end up confused and carry the guilt and shame of self-satisfaction well into adulthood, never really getting the chance to be comfortable with our own sexuality?! I mean - hairy palms?! Sexual development is an essential part of a child’s growth, and just as important as physical, emotional and mental development. The best thing parents can do is not label masturbation as “good” or “bad,” but instead, encourage their children to get to know their own bodies and feel comfortable in them.

Why do we do it?
People masturbate for a variety of reasons; they are turned on, it’s fun, it relieves stress and maybe even because it is, quite simply, in our DNA. There is an evolutionary strategy behind the driving force of masturbation in both animals and humans. An orgasm is a natural high - a sort of non-drug induced euphoria. It's basically your brain's way of making you feel great for trying to procreate - albeit you being the only person in the room.

It is interesting to note that masturbation is an intricate part of modern sex therapy. People who seek professional counselling for sexual difficulties, including the inability to orgasm, are typically instructed to masturbate in order to learn more about their bodies and how to better communicate with their partners. This is hardly surprising as masturbation holds enormous potential for fulfillment, insight, and healing - through exploring your sexuality and expressing it with joy, you can only enhance your life.

Science weighs in
There are countless studies conducted about masturbation, however the challenge is always in obtaining honest answers. Would I really want to tell a bunch of survey people that watching Steve Carell gets me hot under the collar? Because it doesn’t… There are, however, many studies (not merely anecdotal reports) which show some clear data and tangible results.

New Scientist writer Kayt Sukel was so dedicated to getting authentic data that she masturbated whilst in a fMRI scanner. All in the name of science! According to her findings, over 30 areas of the brain were activated during masturbation, and even activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) was registered during orgasm. The PFC is implicated in complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision making and some say even consciousness.

First a lesson in chemistry
On an elementary level, masturbation is proven to release the following: -

  • Dopamine - a compound which activates the pleasure centre in your brain.
  • Endorphins - hormones in the brain and nervous system that decrease the perception of pain.
  • Prolactin - a hormone released by your pituitary gland which assists in falling asleep.
  • Oxytocin - a.k.a. Love Hormone is a powerful hormone and neurotransmitter produced in the hypothalamus involved in childbirth, breastfeeding and associated with empathy, sexual activity, and bonding.
  • Amygdala - part of the brain involved for emotional expression and feelings is activated during the buildup to orgasm.

Proven health benefits
Here are 10 reasons why menage a mois is good for your general well-being: -

  1. Promotes the release of the endorphins, neurotransmitters, and chemicals (all mentioned above) all of which are associated with happy feelings and pain relief. This can improve one’s overall mood and fight off negative emotions. Sounds good to me!
  2. Help reduce headaches and muscle aches.
  3. Relieve stress and aid in relaxation.
  4. Induce sleep or conversely help start the day with more energy.
  5. Provide a sexual outlet for people who are solo by either choice or circumstance. When people are struggling with sexual difficulties or are elderly or ill and unable to engage in the full sexual act, stimulating one another at the same time can be rewarding and intimate.
  6. Strengthen muscle tone in the pelvic floor area.
  7. It’s the safest sex you can have - no STIs. Yippee!
  8. Relieves Restless Leg Syndrome - a neurological disorder which causes leg pain and cramps. Medical Journal Sleep Medicine published an interesting article on this very topic.
  9. Give you a better understanding of your wants and needs, therefore, leading to healthier sexuality both within yourself and with your partner. How is your partner meant to know what you like if you don’t even know yourself? By discovering what excites you, you will be able to communicate that to your partner, and that is a guaranteed road to having better sex. When you know and love yourself on a physical and emotional level, you gain confidence and grow through self-awareness. It leads to self-expression in all areas of life and improves your relationships with others as well as yourself.
  10. It’s FUN! What more do you want?!

Why all men should masturbate

  1. Prostate cancer and masturbation
    Whilst the connection between masturbation and prostate cancer is still somewhat indefinite, there is substantial evidence to show that build up in the prostate can cause cancer-causing chemicals. In 2003 an Australian study published in BJU International linked frequent ejaculation early in life with reduced risk for prostate cancer later on. Dr. Graham Giles, of the Cancer Council Victoria, has stated that “The more you flush the ducts out, the less there is to hang around and damage the cells that line them.” So ladies - when your man tells you he needs to release and clear his vans deferens, he isn’t having you on. For the best male stimulator, one can’t go past a Fleshlight.
  2. Premature ejaculation
    Discovering the ins and outs of a man’s erogenous zones, as a man only can through masturbation, helps teach him about his sexual responses. This will allow him to better communicate with his partner, but also to help him recognise the moment of no return and teach him how to practice control and avoid ejaculating prematurely.
  3. Healthy semen
    Lengthy periods of abstinence have been associated with poor sperm health. If you’re a healthy guy, you will produce between 3-5 million sperm an hour - on average. That's a lot of sperm just to be sitting there! Expelling the older sperm regularly through masturbation allows new healthy sperm to be produced.
  4. Coping mechanism
    When a man’s partner is temporarily unavailable for sex - perhaps due to illness, absence or mismatched libidos - a little bit of self-love can give a man the sexual release he craves.

Why all women should masturbate

  1. Cervical health and masturbation
    During masturbation, the cervix opens up, and new fluid travels up sending good bacteria to the cervix and flushing old fluid out, along with harmful organisms, preventing cervical infections (you don’t want those).
  2. Urinary tract infections
    Many women who suffer from UTIs have an urge to masturbate. This is fascinating as Mother Nature has intended it so - for masturbating helps relieve pain, brings lubrication to the area which can help mitigate the infection and flush out harmful old bacteria.
  3. Period pain relief - yes relief!
    You’ve got your painkillers, your chocolate bar(s) and all that’s missing is some DIY time with an ingenious little product like the Womanizer - now you’re ready to combat your period head on! A close girlfriend of mine almost disowned me when I told her that I masturbate during my period. Masturbation, in fact, combats pre-menstrual tension and relieves painful menstruation by increasing blood flow to the pelvic region which in turn reduces pelvic cramping and may even assist with related backaches. You don’t have to finger paint as I call it - just play with your clitoris. Believe me - it could only make you feel better and not worse!
  4. Post-menopause
    For postmenopausal women a narrowing of the vagina can make pelvic examinations and intercourse painful. As masturbating increases blood flow to the sex organs, this can help relieve dryness (a common side effect during all stages of menopause) and prevent the narrowing of the area.
  5. Gymnasium for your yoni
    When a woman orgasms she strengthens the entire pelvic region by increasing the muscle tone and blood pressure in the clitoris and vagina and raising her heart rate and respiration. Several studies show that women who experience frequent and satisfying self-play sessions have a greater resistance to heart disease and Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. This makes sense as masturbating, like sexual intercourse, is a great cardio work out and mood-boosting activity - sounds more fun than doing those abominable squats in the gym. For some awesome vag workouts why not try our Elvie Kegel Exercise Tracker.

OK, so the myths are debunked but are there any risks?
We already know that masturbation activates your brains reward centre. This part of the brain is called the nucleus accumbent and is the same part that responds to addictive stimuli such as caffeine or nicotine. Barry Komisaruk, behavioural neuroscientist, claims that this is precisely what happens when people get stuck in a reward-pleasure masturbation loop. Luckily, there is no such thing as too much masturbation and this sort of “addiction” is hardly detrimental to a person’s mental or physical health. We, humans, are too diversified to establish a norm when it comes to self-pleasure, and thus no technique or frequency rate is considered normal or abnormal.

However, whilst there are very few risks associated with masturbation, it can become a problem if: -

  • It begins to interfere with your life
    Some people become so obsessed with solo sex that it begins to interfere with their home life, work, responsibilities, etc. These people often lose interest in having sex with anyone else. Sex becomes pale in comparison to masturbation.

    The Chinese Taoists believed that overly excessive masturbation leads men to an early grave. This stems from their notion that ejaculation is a dispelling of one’s vitality and if done too often can lead to an exhausted energy tank. So gentlemen - don’t overdo it! (As women are multi-orgasmic creatures they don’t lose so much of their essence after one orgasm. Yay girl power!)

  • Causes problems in your relationship
    Masturbating is not an indicator that your relationship is in trouble - perfectly happy couples masturbate. For most people masturbation is satisfying yes, however, falls tragically short of giving one a deep sense of connection that only coupled sex can bring. Men can get a bit funny if their woman uses a larger or thicker sex toy during masturbation. For example, I had a boyfriend who was perfectly fine with me using my fingers every day but not OK with me using a large dildo to do the exact same thing. Similarly, women can get a bit funny if their man is masturbating to porn videos. Women are OK with men masturbating by themselves in the bathroom, but not in front of their screens whilst watching porn. This happens because, sadly, we tend to personalise our partner’s masturbating ways and make it about us.

    There is an argument amongst many sex therapists and psychiatrists which questions if erectile problems can be linked to the way a man masturbates. If he consistently masturbates in ways that produce stimulation which differ significantly from his partners hand, mouth or genital area - he may end up having difficulty getting aroused. However, the jury is out on this one with different studies showing a discrepancy between the two factors.

  • Results in injury
    The laws of biology and physics don’t cease to work merely because you are masturbating. Overly vigorous masturbation can irritate the skin of a penis, cause penis fracture, vaginal tears or vaginal/lower abdominal pain. Dr. Barbara Bartlik, a New York psychiatrist and sex therapist, says she has seen facedown masturbators (men who masturbate by thrusting against a surface such as a pillow) with urethral trauma so severe they were not able to use urinals but instead could urinate only whilst seated. So ladies if your man sits whilst he pees - do check your pillows!

So what now?
Masturbation is a topic that could do with some airing, especially considering that every single person on this planet has tried it at least once. (I’m sorry I know none of you wanted to picture Tony Abbott going on a date with Rosey Palmer and her five sisters - but here we are!)

For me - masturbation is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Good food, sunshine, exercise, a good night’s sleep, and a little self-loving. Doctors ought to prescribe it as readily as they do pharmaceutical pills!

So go and spend a bit of time communing with yourself and having sex with someone you love! We are, after all, sexual creatures.

What are your favourite masturbation stories? What is your take on your partner masturbating? Do you feel the health benefits when you do it? Share below, we’d love to hear from you!

Written by Maggie May
Maggie May is a sexologist and a writer. She is a lover of all things sensual and sexual.

Kane and Julz 9 October 2018 at 5:30 pm
Great article, both my wife and I found it very informative and fascinating. Thank you very much for writing this one.
Bailey 15 October 2018 at 12:15 pm
Masturbation is great. Couldn't live without it. Good article,
Marcia 15 October 2018 at 12:35 pm
This is a great blog, I could never imagine no self loving, it's what helps me stay sane, and I would never chastise my husband for watching porn gee I don't mind porn myself, but its so good for my body and I know that if I'm frustrated it relieves it all, the Womanizer is great for an orgasm on the run as it's a quick no fuss orgasm that has my whole body feeling great in no time, I don't know why self loving has so many hang ups when its so good for you.
Kat 15 October 2018 at 12:50 pm
Great read!
I couldn't imagine life without Masturbation :)
Lauren 15 October 2018 at 3:51 pm
It’s such a stress reliever for me and puts a pep in my step! Whether it’s a quickie or session, you always feel good after.
queenred 16 October 2018 at 1:40 pm
A great article on self love. to be honest how could you expect someone to get you to climax if you haven't searched and found out what you like, don't like and which 'buttons' to press. Also adds a bit of comfort to those who think masturbation is a bit of a sin. Its not ;) and to be honest it a great way to start the day!
Amanda 16 October 2018 at 3:02 pm
Love this Blog :) :)
And that is why I love sex toys - they give you a quick orgasm . Perfect for busy women like me
Marina 18 October 2018 at 4:20 pm
What a great article! I am all for self gratification and would have no problem for my partner to do the same, in which ever way works best for him. It’s completely natural and I couldn’t live without it :-)
Ivan 19 October 2018 at 1:38 pm
I like this article. Coming from strict catholic upbringing from a century ago I think this approach is much healthier and happier. Would help if everyone was like minded on this topic. I think it’s unrealistic to expect someone to satisfy you if you don’t know your own body and you can only do it yourself by touching yourself.
Julie 23 October 2018 at 12:58 pm
Couldn't live without masturbation, it's my survival and endorphin tool to life
BelC 11 November 2018 at 9:15 am
I agree wholeheartedly. I masturbate often and have no issue with my husband doing the same. It was very informative to learn about the physiology behind the pleasure it brings - thanks for that.
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