May is the International Masturbation Month. Yep that is right – it is a month dedicated to the solo exploration of our sexual selves.
The International Masturbation Month is about protecting people’s right to masturbate. It was first observed as a “day” – the National Masturbation Day either on 7th or 28th – back in 1995. It was a response by Good Vibrations, a San Francisco-based sex toy retailer, to the sacking of the US Surgeon-General Jocelyn Elders by US President Bill Clinton (of the oral-sex-isn’t-real-sex-fame) over Elders’ statements supporting masturbation for sexual health and wellbeing. It is also important to note, that Jocelyn Elders was the first Africa-American woman to hold the post of Surgeon-General.
What is Masturbation?
Masturbation is the sexual stimulation of one’s genitals. It does not have to be to the point of orgasm and ejaculation. Masturbation can be solitary or with a partner or two (or more). Although International Masturbation Month is about an individual’s right to masturbate. Masturbation and sex do not cancel each other necessarily. Masturbation is about solo exploration and love; sex on the other hand is an expression of love and intimacy between partners. Masturbation is a normal, healthy activity.
So Who Masturbates?
Everyone right? Well no. It would be good if everyone did masturbate – it is good for one’s health – but I will explore this later. In the Australian Study of Health and Relationship by Juliet Richters and colleagues (2003), some 9,696 men and 9,387 women responded to questions about their masturbation frequency. Around 64.5% of men and 35% of women had masturbated in the last 12 months. So around one-third of men and nearly two-thirds of women had not “played the fiddle” in the previous 12 months.
When asked about their self-love frequency in the previous four-week period prior to completing the survey, 48% of men and 75% of women had not masturbated. Nearly a quarter of men and around 14% of women had masturbated less than once a week (in the previous four weeks). Breakdowns of frequency was reported below. The average number of times was reported as 4.4 (men) and 3.3 (women) times in the previous four weeks. The maximum recorded frequency was 100 times (in a month) for men and 56 times for women. Yes we masturbate some more than others it seems. Richters and co reported that men were more likely to masturbate than women.
|Masturbated in last 4 weeks
|Less than 1/wk
|1-3 times a week
|4-6 times a week
|Daily or more often
Source: Richters et al, 2003
Teens were not the most frequent masturbators, contrary to common belief. The highest frequency of masturbation was reported for 20 to 29 year olds for men and women followed closely by 30 to 39 year olds.
Source: Richters et al, 2003
What can you do for International Masturbation Month?
International Masturbation Month gives us an opportunity to explore masturbation – not just by doing. To celebrate Masturbation spend some time reflecting on the reasons for masturbating. Talk to your friends; your family about masturbation. Let your children know it is okay to masturbate – Elders responded to a question about whether masturbation had potential for discouraging early sexual activity responded that she believed that masturbation was part of human activity and “perhaps something that should be taught.”
In my practice as a Sex Therapist I often find I have to dispel myths about masturbating and also provide instruction on masturbation techniques. Many of the reasons women tell me in therapy for not masturbating is based on messages they received as children from their parents about not touching “down there” or that touching “down there” was dirty. One young women did not masturbate, found it difficult to orgasm and really did not like sex. Through therapy we did identify it was the messages her mother gave from childhood. One man I have worked with in the past used to feel guilty about masturbating – at first he thought it was because he was married and should have been having sex with his wife. Later he realised he had always felt guilty about masturbating because his father caught him once and told him he was a disgraceful child.
Therefore talking about masturbation and how to do it is important to our sexual development. Of course our sexual development is something which continues through life. Talk to your friends and share tips and techniques. Try something new.
The Benefits of Masturbation
There are many benefits to masturbation for men and women. People who masturbate regularly are likely to have a good understanding and feel better about their body, genitals and sexual response – especially if they spend time having a quality masturbation sessions. Masturbation can benefit everyone by being:
- A fantastic form of stress relief – have a play when stressed and feel relaxed afterwards;
- A mood enhancer. Masturbation releases endorphines;
- A natural sleep sedative. Like being a stress relief and a mood enhancer, the chemicals released by the body through and after masturbation can help us get to sleep.
- A pick-me-up. Unlike many old remedies, masturbation can act like a pick-me-up where we can feel good after the wank session.
- Through masturbation we also work our pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are important to our arousal and orgasm and strengthening and control of these muscles can lead to better sex.
Basically, masturbation releases a whole heap pf hormones which contribute to us feeling better – the feel-good-hormones. Women who masturbate can also benefit from increase blood flow to the pelvic region. This can help with relief from pre-menstrual tension and other physical conditions related to menstrual cycles, including cramps; painful menstruation. The increased blood flow can also decrease pelvic cramping and backaches, chronic back pain and lead to an increase in the pain threshold. Masturbation has also been reported to build resistance to yeast infections.
Men who masturbate regularly are also likely to improve their immune system, build resistance to prostate gland infections and have a healthier prostate. Earlier research which suggested increased masturbation in men’s 20 through to 50s may have contributed to a less likelihood of developing prostate cancer in alter life has been found to be inconclusive (Levin, 2007). Yet if having a wank may mean reduce risk to prostate cancer why not masturbate any way. It cannot hurt and only do good.
Tips for Masturbation
I am not going to provide different techniques to try there are many. If you want to try an exploratory masturbation look back at my blogs on choosing sex toys for women and men – Mindful Masturbation. Yet for a good masturbatory experience you might like to the implement the following tips:
Get in the mood – but what is the mood. Remember masturbation can relieve stress. At least want to masturbate and approach the experience as something you want to do and not feel you have to do. Try taking a few moments to relax and taking a few deep breaths as you begin. Flex your pelvic floor muscles and begin by touching your body rather than going straight for genital arousal.
Take your time – Do not rush the job. Take your time. Choose a time when you have more than 5 or 10 minutes. Sit back or lie back and relax. Enjoy the moment. This is not an emergency. The end result does not have to be an orgasm. The end result is a good time.
Change the location (in your home) – I do not recommend masturbating at work and most definitely not where others are going to catch/see/hear you. This is a private act. An act that is just for you. But change the location. If you are a shower masturbator, try the bath tub (if you have one) or the bedroom. Even the living room if you have time with others around you. Even try masturbating at a different time of day.
Try a different technique – many people use the same masturbatory technique they developed in their late teens/early 20s. Come on people time to try something new. Change hands. Try a different stroke. Use a toy. Play with other parts of your anatomy. Remember our skin is our largest sex organ and is full of nerves and feelings. The perineum on men and women can add spice to the experience. If you want look up techniques on the web.
Use some lube – if you normally have a dry masturbation (and/or only use the body’s secretions as lube), try using a lubricant. There are many lubes out there. A lubricant can help make a different sensation.
Remember during May to spend time talking about masturbation – it is normal; it is healthy; and it is fun.
I hope you have a great International Masturbation Month and remember a healthy life includes a healthy sex life (and masturbation life!)
Enjoy! Dr Christopher
Dr Christopher Fox is a Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist at Sex Life Therapy in Melbourne. He has clinics in East Melbourne and Frankston.
References: Richters, J., Grulich, A.E., de Visser, R.O>, Smith, A.M.A>, & Rissel, C.E. (2003). Sex in Australia: Autoerotic, esoteric and other sexual practices engaged in by a representative sample of adults. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 27, 2, 180-190. Disclaimer: The information contained in this document should be read as general in nature and is only to provide an overview of the subject matter covered. Please read product packaging carefully and follow all instructions.