If you have worked through the stigma and shame that often surrounds masturbation and pleasure, hats off to you. Culturally, solo sex does not have a great reputation. It often requires work on our part to own our sexuality. Self-pleasure is your right, if you choose to do it.
Because of these cultural taboos, research on the health benefits of masturbation, especially when it comes to female pleasure, are few and far between. But don’t stress. There is research, and what it tells us is that masturbation has a positive effect on your physical and physiological health.
Yes, that’s right, masturbation is good for you. So you can carve out your solo time guilt-free from now on. If you’re just getting started, check out the sessions Discover Your Body I and II for some guidance on self-discovery and pleasure.
The most important benefit of masturbation is that you learn about yourself. Why is this the most important thing?
Because having a healthy relationship with your sexuality is a vital part of being a healthy person.
Because having an outlet to express your sexuality is essential to your mental and physical health.
And knowing who you are, what you like, and being confident in those things just plain feels good. In this way, masturbation is self-care.
But there are other benefits, ones that have been measured by those brave scientists who care about your pleasure more than they do stigma. Solo sex helps you a live happier, healthier life and it can even improve your relationships.
Here are those benefits, doctor-approved.
Masturbation reduces stress
When you have an orgasm, your brain releases oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins. All of these chemicals are good for you and contribute to your overall sense of well-being. The release of oxytocin in the body lowers cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone.
The unleashing of these hormones helps to chill you out and calm you down. Masturbation is a great way to do this, especially for people who struggle with achieving orgasm during partnered sex.
Masturbation can help you fall asleep and sleep better
If you’re tossing and turning or waking up throughout the night, try a quickie before bed! Orgasms, and particularly solo sex, can affect how fast you fall asleep and the quality of sleep you get.
Dopamine and oxytocin help promote a state of placidity, an ideal state for getting some proper zzz’s. A sleep study in 2019 found that 50% of participants reported that the quality of their sleep improved from masturbating before bedtime. So partner or none, there is a way for you to get better sleep.
Masturbation can be a pain reliever
Having an orgasm releases endorphins, an essential feel-good hormone that helps us lower stress and manage pain. A study in 2013 found that orgasms can be used to treat migraines and cluster headaches.
Many women find that masturbating also relieves menstrual cramps, although the science doesn’t always agree on why. But many people believe that orgasm and pleasure help to relieve tension in the uterus. Orgasm can also increase blood flow to the uterus, which eases pain.
While some women find that they want sex when they’re menstruating, not everyone does. Masturbation is a great alternative, particularly for women who experience pelvic pain during their periods, because it’s generally more relaxed.
Solo sex improves your mood
Both pleasure and orgasm increase our sense of well-being and overall self-esteem. When we orgasm, dopamine, a hormone that gives us all the happy feels, is released. Plus, lowering stress and getting adequate sleep both have direct effects on our mood.
There isn’t much research on the effect of masturbation on depression, but if you’re in a funk, there’s no harm in incorporating solo-play into your self-care plan. Sometimes depression can send your libido running for the hills, and if you’re depressed you should talk to a mental health professional.
But if you’re specifically focused on waking up your desire for sex, get this.
Masturbation can improve your libido
Your libido, just like your car, your home, and your teeth, needs regular TLC. Sometimes we experience dry spells, and that’s totally normal. But if you want to keep that engine purring, masturbation is an excellent tool.
Solo play nurtures your desire and keeps the momentum going. When you orgasm, your body releases testosterone, the hormone responsible for your sex drive. One 2011 study found that simply having sexual fantasies releases testosterone, suggesting that even masturbating without reaching orgasm can help you keep the flame alive.
Masturbation strengthens your relationships
If you’ve ever gotten the impression that you shouldn’t masturbate if you’re in a relationship, go ahead and throw that idea away. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Masturbation helps you to better understand what you enjoy, and when you know this, you can tell your partner. Your partner will then be able to please you and your bond will strengthen. This communication will help you enjoy sex more. So if you struggle with enjoying sex, masturbate. It is an essential building block that so many of us skip.
Masturbation helps you reach orgasm more often
Self-knowledge is the key to more orgasms. Sometimes partnered sex can be accompanied by feelings of needing to perform, worries about body images, and other insecurities. Solo sex doesn’t have any of these obstacles. Solo sex is uncomplicated. It helps you relax, and when you’re relaxed, you’re more likely to have an orgasm.
One study found that women who masturbated experienced more orgasms than women who only had partnered sex. Considering the giant, gaping orgasm gap between men and women, this isn’t surprising. But it does give hope to those who’ve never had an orgasm and want to.
Masturbation also encourages the use of toys, and so many women owe their first orgasm to toys (thank you, toys). All of the things you learn during solo sex, including your toys, can be brought to your partnered sex when you’re more confident in yourself.
Masturbation is you time, and you need you time
You do, right? Masturbation is a time when you can allow your thoughts to run free without pressure or worry. If you find yourself stumped when partners inquire about what you like, or if you feel anxious about your sexuality, masturbation is a safe way to explore your desires and preferences.
With no one else there, you can leave your worries behind and just enjoy.
If you want to build confidence, try incorporating a mirror. Having sex with yourself in this way helps you to become confident that it’s safe and fun to express your sexuality. You can also try mutual masturbation, where you masturbate with another person. This is an excellent way to teach and learn what you like without having to make a PowerPoint.
As cultural ideas about masturbation continue to shift, more funding for research will become available to study sex-positive behavior like masturbation. Perhaps one day we’ll consider self-discovery as important as brushing your teeth. For now, you can take comfort in knowing that putting aside time to give yourself an orgasm will help you feel better, sleep better, and know yourself better.