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Masturbation: A guide on the pros, cons, myths and facts

Masturbation, when not done excessively, often has many physical benefits such as better sleep and better health. Read on to know more!
Fruit representing masturbation
Masturbation is shrouded in many myths. Let's bust them all! Image courtesy: Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 10 Apr 2024, 19:30 pm IST
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Masturbation is a commonly performed act of touching your private parts in a way that leads to sexual arousal and pleasure. Most people do it, but few talk about it.  Masturbation is a normal act of self-stimulation of the clitoris in women or penis  in men through stroking or massaging, until one reaches orgasm. Besides sexual satisfaction, masturbation has many health benefits including stress relief, mood changer as well as better sleep.

While masturbation has many positive aspects to it, it is often viewed in a negative light. There are many myths about masturbation due to thoughts of guilt and shame. In some cultures, it is also viewed as a taboo, associated with mental illness as well as even physical harm. Health Shots reached out to sexuality educator, counsellor and intimacy coach Niyatii N Shah to understand the benefits, side effects as well as myths about masturbation.

What is masturbation?

Masturbation is the act of stimulating one’s own genitals to achieve sexual pleasure. “It is a normal and natural part of human sexuality that many people engage in, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation,” says Shah. In a study, published in Springer, it was observed that about 65 percent of men and 40 per cent of women practice masturbation.

Benefits of masturbation

Masturbation offers health benefits, including:

1. Stress relief

Masturbation serves as a natural stress-reliever. When we orgasm, our body releases endorphins, commonly known as “feel-good hormones”. “These endorphins promote relaxation and improve mood, effectively reducing stress levels,” says Shah. A study published in Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine also states that masturbation can help relieve tension.

2. Better sleep

Orgasm triggers the release of hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin, which promote relaxation and a sense of calm. “Consequently, masturbation can aid in achieving better sleep quality, helping individuals to feel more rested and rejuvenated,” says Shah. When it comes to sleep latency and sleep quality, an improvement was observed after an orgasm, reported this study, published in Journal of Sleep Research.

3. Improved mood

Masturbation involves increasing the levels of those hormones that are associated with a positive mood. Engaging in masturbation stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and mood regulation. “These chemicals often lift your spirits and foster a positive outlook on life,” says Shah.

4. Sexual exploration

Masturbation offers a safe and private environment for individuals to explore their bodies, preferences, and sexual responses. “Through self-exploration, people can gain a deeper understanding of their own anatomy and what brings them pleasure, leading to increased self-awareness and sexual confidence,” says Shah.

5. Pain relief

Masturbation can also provide pain relief. The release of endorphins during orgasm acts as a natural pain reliever, helping to alleviate discomfort and promote relaxation. The body releases dopamine and serotonin, and this is what makes masturbation a natural pain reliever.

Also Read: 9 masturbation tips to master solo play and self pleasure

A woman with vibrators
Masturbation has many health benefits such as aiding better sleep and release of tension and stress. Image courtesy: Freepik

Can you masturbate during pregnancy?

Masturbation during pregnancy is generally safe and can be a normal part of sexual expression for expecting parents. Unless, of course, you are advised by your doctor to not do it. However, it is essential to communicate with your healthcare provider if you have concerns or experience any discomfort. Masturbation does not typically pose any risk to the pregnancy or the developing foetus. Masturbation, or even sex, has no effect on the baby, as she is securely enveloped in the walls of the uterus and amniotic fluid. In fact, the mucus plug, mucus at the cervical canal, protects the baby from foreign objects as well.

What are some precautions for masturbation during pregnancy?

There are some precautions that must be exercised if you are pregnant. Gynaecologist Dr Neelima Deshpande tells us what to guard against:

  • Avoid masturbation during pregnancy if there is any concern with bleeding or the doctor has advised against it
  • When using sex toys, it may better to be cautious and avoid inserting it all the way
  • Be careful with the use of sex toys. Use lubricants, keep them clean and do not share the toys

Can masturbation reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men?

A Harvard Medical School study states that regular ejaculation, at least 21 times a month, reduces risk of prostrate cancer. Whether ejaculation is done through sex or masturbation, it may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. “The theory is that ejaculation helps flush out potentially harmful substances and old cells from the prostate gland. However, more studies are needed to fully understand the relationship between ejaculation frequency and prostate health,” explains Shah.

Are there any side effects of masturbation?

While masturbation is considered a normal and healthy sexual activity, excessive or compulsive masturbation may lead to:

1. Physical discomfort

Overstimulation of the genitals during masturbation can sometimes lead to temporary soreness or discomfort, similar to any other physical activity that involves repetitive motion.

2. Interference with daily life

Engaging in excessive masturbation may disrupt daily responsibilities, social interactions, and other activities, potentially leading to neglect of important obligations. Maintaining a balance between sexual expression and other aspects of life is crucial for overall well-being.

3. Guilt or shame

Societal norms, cultural beliefs, or religious teachings may instill feelings of guilt or shame regarding masturbation, even though it is a natural and normal aspect of human sexuality. It’s essential to challenge and question these beliefs to foster a healthy relationship with one’s own body and sexuality.

4. Negative impact on relationships

If masturbation becomes the primary or exclusive form of sexual expression within a relationship, it may lead to feelings of dissatisfaction or inadequacy in one’s partner. Open communication and mutual understanding regarding sexual needs and preferences are key to maintaining healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Also Read: Is daily masturbation bad for your health?

A woman in bed
Masturbation can help one sleep better. Image courtesy: Freepik

Common myths about masturbation

1. Masturbation leads to loss of virginity

Globally, virginity is understood as the breakage of hymen, but it isn’t. Virginity is a social and cultural construct that typically refers to the first instance of sexual intercourse, not self-stimulation. In simple words, virginity only means ‘not had sex ever’. On the other hand, masturbation is a natural and common form of sexual expression that does not result in the loss of virginity.

2. Masturbation causes physical harm

Claims suggesting that masturbation leads to blindness, infertility, or erectile dysfunction are unfounded and unsupported by scientific evidence. Masturbation is a safe and healthy activity that poses no inherent risk to physical well-being when done correctly and safely.

3. Masturbating is a result of mental illness

Masturbation is not indicative of mental illness or psychological disorder. One can indulge in masturbation because of some mental health issue. Masturbation is a normal aspect of human sexuality that people of all ages and backgrounds engage in.

4. Self-pleasure may reduce sexual sensitivity

Masturbation does not typically result in a decrease in sexual sensitivity unless you are masturbating very frequently. In fact, masturbation is one of the ways to enhance awareness of one’s own body and sexual responses, leading to increased sensitivity and pleasure during sexual activity with a partner.

5. Masturbation is an unhealthy sexual expression

Masturbation is a natural and normal part of human sexuality. It can be a pleasurable and satisfying way to explore one’s own desires and preferences. It allows you to recognise your pleasure zones and this will help one to communicate with their partner.

Should you abstain from masturbation?

Abstaining from masturbation is a personal choice. For most people, masturbation is a normal and healthy aspect of sexuality. Some may masturbate because they do not have a partner, their partner is away or just because self-pleasure feels more fulfilling and satisfying. “However, if masturbation interferes with daily life, causes distress, or becomes compulsive, seeking support from a healthcare provider or therapist may be beneficial. It’s essential to prioritise self-care, open communication, and a healthy understanding of one’s own sexuality,” says Shah.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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