Masturbation still gets a bad rap in society, probably because it is a private sexual behavior rarely shared or discussed in public — even with the closest of friends.
But masturbation is a normal part of sexuality in humans, even if they are involved in a relationship with another person. Even though some people are still often taught in childhood that masturbation is something to avoid doing, researchers and experts in sexuality agree that masturbation is a normal, healthy sexual behavior.
There is nothing wrong with you if you masturbate, or if you choose not to. Between the ages of 18 and 60, somewhere between 54 to 72 percent of women, depending on age, acknowledge masturbating regularly, according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB, 2009). For men, the number is higher — between 72 and 84 percent masturbate at least once a month, depending on their age. Nearly 84 percent of men aged 25-29 engage in masturbation the most. The same age group in women also masturbates the most (nearly 72 percent).
Most women who masturbate do so monthly, or a few times a month. Most men who masturbate do so weekly or multiple times a week, according to the NSSHB survey.
Common Masturbation Myths
In the articles below, we answer the top ten myths regarding masturbation.
1.0 Does masturbation cause blindness?
The myths that masturbation leads to blindness, or causes you to grow hair on the palms of your hands, or will cause someone to be impotent later in life, or leads to mental illness, have all been debunked many times; but they seem to have a life of their own and crop up again and again. I get letters from young men worrying that masturbating is causing their penises to curve when erect, when in fact some curvature of the erect penis is a common and unimportant thing. Common themes from women are that masturbating will cause them to no longer be considered a virgin, in societies where virginity is still highly prized, or that it will somehow make them infertile. I remember when I was in high school the entire track team vowed to stop masturbating before our big meet, in the belief that it would somehow sap our strength. Masturbation causes none of these things.
I suppose that these worries stem from the almost universal guilt that people seem to feel about masturbating — guilt that makes it a secretive practice, that makes them vow to stop doing it, and that is then multiplied when they start doing it again. Masturbating is perceived to be a weakness, something that a really strong person can and should stop doing.
In fact masturbating has been an almost universal practice since history has been recorded. Probably 90 percent of men have masturbated at some time (and many would say the other 10 percent are lying); and it is also very common among women, especially since women’s liberation began to enable women to know and appreciate their bodies.
With so many people doing it, medical science would certainly have had a lot of opportunity to determine if the practice causes any medical problems, and in fact, no blindness, misshapen penises, infertility, mental illness or other problems large or small have ever been attributed to masturbation. Many researchers, including Kinsey, reported on people who masturbated 4 times a day or so for years, and suffered from no diseases as a result. Many married men and women masturbate, not because they don’t have satisfactory sex with their partners, but because they occasionally like the alternative of giving themselves pleasure. And that’s the whole point — masturbating is one of the few pleasurable things in life that we can do almost anytime and anywhere, as often as we want, without gaining weight, getting lung cancer, being arrested or causing ourselves to become ill. There is no down side, if one can avoid that guilt so many people have.
If you are someone who masturbates, finds it pleasurable and wants to continue, pay no attention to TV show jokes about it causing blindness, or rumors of other terrible things that it can bring on. If you are a parent worrying about whether your child masturbates, start worrying if he or she doesn’t. It is common and normal for children to find pleasure in fondling themselves, and this will naturally evolve into masturbating when they are mature enough. All of our body parts perform better if used or exercised, and our sexual functions are no different. Many urologists believe that regular sexual activity is beneficial for the prostate gland, and it doesn’t matter if that is activity with a partner, or solo.
2.0 Do spouses continue to masturbate after marriage?
Masturbation is a part of most people’s sex life — even when they find themselves in a long-term relationship. And yes, even marriage. Many people who are married continue to masturbate, enjoying both their partner’s sexuality while continuing to enjoy their own as well.
There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty for masturbating even though you are married or in a long-term relationship with your partner. Most men and women do indeed continue to masturbate when they are in a relationship — it does not mean that there is anything wrong.
In fact, research shows that those people who masturbate more also have more (and more satisfying) sex. That’s probably because a person who masturbates continues to be in touch with their own body and their own sexual needs and desires more than someone who doesn’t. It also means they are getting their sexual needs met as often as they’d like — putting less pressure on their partner for their sexual needs.
When sex does happen with your partner, the focus becomes more on their pleasure rather than yours.
People have sex, as well as masturbate, for all sorts of reasons. Often men and women feel like having an orgasm or pleasuring themselves as a quick stress reliever, as a “pick-me-up”, or just because they are very aroused but don’t want to go through the whole process of sex.
Masturbating is also a great way to learn about your own body, which invariably makes for better sex with a partner. Men can use masturbation as a way to learn how to control their orgasms, while women can learn how to have orgasms more easily.
Sometimes people feel that if everything was perfect in a sexual relationship, then neither partner would “need” to masturbate. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Simply put, good sex begets more good sex — in all its forms. In fact, many couples masturbate together and find it a very enjoyable part of their relationship. Honestly, there is no need to feel guilty. Listen to the good doctor: Masturbation is good for you!
3.0 Why are people so embarrassed about masturbation?
I am a 26-year-old female who masturbates regularly. I have great orgasms quite easily by simply rubbing my clitoris. When I am having intercourse, however, I almost never have an orgasm. Could this be because of the way I masturbate?
It is highly unlikely that your manner of masturbating is the reason you find it difficult to have orgasms during intercourse. Most women masturbate by stimulating their clitoris in some way, either through the use of a vibrator or their own hand.
The clitoris is the center of sexual pleasure for most women, which is why so few women can have orgasms from intercourse alone. The fact is, when having sex, a man’s penis doesn’t spend much time around the clitoris. And what little friction there is between the clit and penis is offset by the amount of lubrication typically generated by sex.
So while most women need direct and indirect stimulation of the clitoris in a rhythmic fashion in order to achieve orgasm, most sexual positions involve little stimulation of the clit. Some sexual positions provide for more direct stimulation — and control — of the clitoris’s contact with the penis, such as the woman being on top (cowgirl position). You could be more adventurous with trying out different sexual positions to find whether there may be one that works for you.
But keep in mind, according to research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, surveys have found that as many as 80 percent of women do not regularly orgasm during sex. Cosmopolitan’s Female Orgasm Survey of 2015 found that approximately 57 percent of women usually have orgasms when they have sex with a partner. That leaves a significant group of women who simply won’t have orgasms during sex no matter what position they try.
This is not a problem unless you or your partner believes it to be. There are many other ways to achieve orgasm, and orgasm can readily become a part of your sex play with your partner without it needing to be an actual part of intercourse itself.
You should also count yourself lucky. Because you can have orgasms easily by yourself, it may also be possible to teach your partner. Simply show him or her how you like to be stimulated, and incorporate that into your sexual activities — whether it be before, during, after or instead of intercourse!
Remember, with sex there comes no judgment. You do whatever feels good and right in the moment. While achieving an orgasm is considered important to many who enjoy sex, it doesn’t have to be that way for you. Keep open-minded and be willing to try different things, and you will likely find a fun and creative way to incorporate orgasms into your sex life that works for both you and your partner.
5.0 How much masturbation is too much?
Oh, the classic masturbation question — how much is too much? Do people who are in a relationship masturbate? Oops, Delilah’s getting carried away here and asking the questions instead of answering them…
More to the point: Individuals vary tremendously in how much they masturbate. Some folks wouldn’t dream of it, while others masturbate two or three times in their lives, and others two or three times a day. (And those aren’t the only options!) There are no deleterious effects of masturbation itself, and it shouldn’t matter whether you’re single or in a relationship.
On the other hand, since you’re worried about how your masturbation may be affecting your relationship with your partner, here are a few things to think about to help you decide if it’s a problem or not:
- How is your health? Has it changed in any way since you increased your masturbation?
- Are you satisfied with your life — career, relationship, friendships — or are you using masturbation as an escape from things that are bothering you?
- Is your penis or clitoris sore or bruised?
- Do you have any problem orgasming or ejaculating alone or with your partner?
- Do you still have sex with your partner? Are you having an amount of sex that you’re both content with?
You see, it’s not about how often you masturbate but about how you’re living the rest of your life. As long as masturbation is a part of your life and notinstead of your life, you’re fine. When masturbation becomes an escape from problems in your relationship, or it begins to affect your health, or turn into a substitute for real life experiences, then you should consider slowing down on your stroking and dealing with who and what’s around you.
6.0 What do I tell my “touchy” toddler?
First of all, toddlers touching themselves is absolutely normal, whether they are naked or not. In fact, research has shown that babies begin such touching while still in the womb. It would actually be odd if your daughter wasn’t exploring her whole body at this age. But it sounds like your real question is how to teach a two-year-old that while touching herself is normal and healthy, she should do so in private.
Privacy is a difficult concept for any toddler to comprehend, and you should not expect them to understand it until they are between four and six years old. But there are things you can start doing now to ensure that your daughter will begin to grasp the concept.
If you are in a public place like a bookstore, park, or grocery store, and your daughter begins to touch her genitals, you should calmly tell her, “That is something we only do at home.” Think of it as a lesson in manners. Just as we teach our children that they should not pick their noses, floss their teeth or go to the bathroom in public, we can also teach them that they should not touch their genitals in public. You can also tell her that such touching is private, even though she probably won’t fully understand the term until later.
If your daughter is touching herself only when she is naked and at home, it would be fruitless to teach her to only do so in her bedroom because she is too young to understand this. In this case, just remind yourself that this is normal, healthy behavior, and try to be more comfortable with and accepting of her touching.
As your daughter gets older (four to six) you can start to say, “Honey, that is something we do in the privacy of our bedrooms.” And be prepared for her to ask why. At this point you can compare it to using the restroom — “It’s just one of those things we do in private.” You may even say, “Mommy doesn’t touch herself in the living room either.” This is another way to normalize masturbation for your daughter as well.
Finally, remember that discussions with your daughter should be ongoing — don’t expect her to fully grasp the concept of privacy immediately. You will need to remind her repeatedly. Never slap your daughter’s hands for touching herself. This will send a very strong negative message to her about her body, and may negatively impact her sexuality well into adulthood. Masturbation is normal and healthy for toddlers and people of all ages, but it will take time for younger children to remember to only do so in the privacy of their bedrooms. Be patient, expect some embarassing moments (which I find often make great party conversations with our adult friends) and you will do just fine.
7.0 Is shower massager masturbation okay?
Masturbation is a normal and healthy part of human sexuality. More men than women masturbate, but it doesn’t matter what gender you identify with — if you’re human, it’s likely you’ve given it a try at some point. It’s the perfect way to release one’s sexual tension, and you don’t need anything more than a good imagination and some time in order to do it.
Women often start masturbating later in life than men, and approach masturbation more tentatively. Many women feel uncomfortable touching themselves directly and prefer to instead rely on either a vibrator or some other object to masturbate with. This is completely natural and normal. There is no “right” way to masturbate — it’s different for every person. Many women can reach orgasm more readily while masturbating than when having sex. This may be due to many reasons, including the fact that we know what we like best (and can most easily do it ourselves).
Like most men, most women prefer masturbating in private, and the shower or bath is often one perfect place to do so. It affords a certain amount of privacy that a person can be assured won’t readily be broken (especially if you lock the door beforehand!).
Using a shower massager is one of the tried-and-true ways of reaching orgasm for many women. In fact, one study showed this method to be the third most common way that women discovered orgasm (just after hands and rubbing against an object).
It is very hard to cause damage to your body by masturbating, no matter how you do it. Just use your body as a guide: If something feels painful, then stop. (That’s a good rule for anything in life — if it’s something you don’t like or feels painful, then stop doing it.)
But there is no harm from using a shower massager in order to masturbate. About the worst thing that could happen is that if a lot of water were to enter your vagina it could upset the natural balance and make you susceptible to a yeast infection. If you want to avoid this, concentrate the water on the outside and don’t put the shower massager directly up against or inside your vagina.
8.0 Can masturbation help me learn to have an orgasm?
I am an 18-year-old college student who is sexually active, and has just become interested in masturbating. I feel that if I am going to be having sex, I should become more familiar with my body. However, the few times that I have masturbated I have not really become aroused and I have yet to have an orgasm. I was wondering if there was any way I could go about becoming more familiar with myself and learning how to make myself aroused.
I agree with you that it is very important for women to become comfortable and familiar with their bodies if they want to enjoy sex by themselves or with a partner.
Unfortunately, women are frequently discouraged from exploring their own bodies and thus aren’t even sure what kinds of stimulation they like. Women learn to masturbate much later then men, and fewer women masturbate than men. This is one of the major reasons why so many women complain that they never have orgasms with a partner — a person must learn what they like before they can show or teach a partner.
The first thing I would recommend is that you simply relax and explore. Don’t make getting aroused or having an orgasm a goal. At first, all you want to do is learn more about your body. After that, you can move onto trying different types of stimulation on different areas to see what feels good, but even then, simply enjoy the sensations, whether or not they lead to orgasm.
Another thing I would suggest is to try and explore using a mirror and maybe even a flashlight. Women can’t see their genitals as easily as men, so a mirror can be a great help. Become familiar with what your body looks and feels like. The more you do so, the more comfortable and relaxed you will become when sexually aroused. This will make it more easier for your body to respond to your touch, or the use of a vibrator.
Women also tend to also enjoy fantasies more than pornography (men are typically the opposite). If you can’t find some online pornography that turns you on, consider looking up fiction stories (erotica) online, as often women respond more to such stories than simply pictures of people having sex.
I would also recommend that you purchase a copy of the excellent book Sex for One by Betty Dodson, or For Yourself by Lonnie Barbach. Both have wonderful suggestions on learning more about your own body and what turns you on.
9.0 Should I tell my partner that I masturbate?
Masturbation is a normal sexual activity that most people enjoy at one point or another in their lives. Not all people masturbate, but for those who do, there is nothing to be ashamed of or try and hide. Disclosure of your masturbation activities to your partner is something a person must decide to do on an individual level — there’s no single “right” answer, as it depends on your situation, your experiences with your partner, both his and your attitude toward masturbation (and sex in general), and your respective (and combined) histories.
Whether or not to tell your husband (or your wife or partner) about your masturbation and your masturbation practices is really up to you. I applaud you for being in touch with your own sexual pleasure and attending to yourself as needed. Many people end up pressuring their partners for sexual activity during stressful times which can, in fact, add more negative pressure to the relationship and to the emotional state of the depressed person. So it’s really good that you’re thinking about this issue before it comes up at an awkward moment, or one of you interrupts the other person while masturbating.
Take a few minutes to think about how you believe he would respond to your disclosure about masturbation. Will it make you feel better to tell? Do you think your husband will feel badly about not being able to please you sexually? Would it be possible to talk with him about this topic in a general way — so you can get a better read on how he might respond? These are all questions that I would ask myself.
Masturbation is a personal activity that can be enjoyed alone or shared with a partner both in thought and in practice. Take some time to think about your own situation before going forward with any action.
Remember — masturbation is usually a healthy, normal part of most people’s sex lives, even when they’re with a sexual partner or are married. There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about masturbating, but some people would prefer to keep this activity largely private and unspoken between themselves and their partner.
Each person is different, so approach the topic tentatively, keeping in mind that your attitude toward this sexual activity may be different than your partner’s. It helps to keep an open mind, and one hopes, your partner will keep an open mind too. If in doubt, it may be something best left to the imagination and not discussed outright.
Remember — masturbation is a normal part of human sexuality. While it may be embarrassing to discuss with others, it’s nothing to be ashamed of (as long as it is done in private and in moderation).
It’s also perfectly okay if you don’t like to masturbate, or don’t find it all that exciting to you. Human sexuality is a spectrum of behavior, all of which is perfectly normal. As the NSSHB survey notes, “There is enormous variability in the sexual repertoires of U.S. adults, with more than 40 combinations of sexual activity described at adults’ most recent sexual event.”
The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) was conducted by researchers at Indiana University and includes the sexual experiences and condom-use behaviors of 5,865 adolescents and adults ages 14 to 94.