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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UVA chapter.

Masturbation! Everyone’s favorite thing to do and least favorite thing to talk about. Masturbating is really common, as a large survey of over 13 thousand people (the TENGA 2018 Global Self-Pleasure Report to be exact) noted that 84% of American adults masturbate, yet only 18% felt that it was important to discuss masturbation with people they are close with. Why is that?

There are so many strange, baseless myths surrounding both male and female masturbation, but the bottom line is, it can actually be really healthy. In fact, it is very normal and encouraged by many sex therapists to maturbate regardless of relationship status. It is essential for those in a relationship to not always be reliant on their partners for sexual pleasure and spend time exploring themselves to figure out what makes themselves feel good. Masturbating provides everyone with a release of sexual tension, more orgasms, and increased self love.

There is also no amount of masturbation that is too much or too little. Unless it is interfering with your social life or responsibilities, it is perfectly okay to masturbate as much as feels right to you! Some people masturbate several times per day, whereas other people prefer to only do it closer to once a month or on a rare occasion. It’s all about however much makes you most comfortable with your body and sexuality.

Orgasms release hormones that support your mental health

You can thank the released endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin hormones for those relaxed, euphoric feelings you get during and after orgasm. Gloria Brame, Ph.D., noted from her research that “An orgasm is the biggest non-drug blast of dopamine available.” These happy feelings have also been found to reduce stress and anxiety. They can improve your concentration, and increased levels of vasopressin and melatonin, which are responsible for relaxation, can improve your quality of sleep. While masturbation is not just about reaching climax, it is for sure an added bonus that comes with its own set of benefits. 

Orgasms also reduce pain

Those same endorphins that improve your mental state are also responsible for a reduction in pain. Vulva owners who suffer from symptoms of PMS such as backaches, cramps, or headaches can find relief through masturbation. Furthermore, by promoting relaxation, orgasms help to reduce muscle tension throughout the body. We often physically hold stress in our bodies by subconsciously tensing certain muscles, and giving yourself an orgasm is a good way to relieve any tension you may not even have known you were carrying.

Masturbation is good for your physical health

Sexual arousal and orgasms have several physical effects on your body that go beyond even reducing pain. It increases your heart rate which, while not exactly a replacement for exercise, can still lead to a healthier heart. A person’s pelvic floor muscles also contract which serves to strengthen those muscles, leading to, among other things, better sex and stronger orgasms in the future. There is a common misconception that masturbating can desensitize what sexual organs you possess: in reality however, like everything, your sexual functions work best when they are regularly practiced and exercised. Other, more debated findings have shown that there is a possibility for orgasms to improve immune system functioning and even prostate health in penis owners.

It is the safest form of sex

Good news is there is no possible way to give yourself an STD or an STI, and for vulva owners, you can’t get yourself pregnant! This means that no protection is needed. However, as sex therapist and podcast host Emily Morse explains, it is usually still recommended to use lube, regardless of gender. That way skin irritation is avoided and it makes the experience overall more pleasant, as neither the penis nor the clitoris are self lubricating. 

It increases confidence

Masturbation has been shown to improve self esteem and body image. It allows you to get more comfortable in your own body and sexuality. Not only is confidence attractive, but you are more likely to enjoy mutual sex more if you are sure of yourself and your body. Especially with new partners, almost everyone can relate to getting in their head or overthinking sex: how do I look? Am I making my partner feel good? Am I feeling good? What should I do with my hands? What should I say? … Not exactly the turn on you need for a mind blowing orgasm. Masturbation takes these pressures away and allows you to focus on one thing only: your own pleasure! It is a very healthy way to increase body and self confidence that in turn can spread to benefit your mental health and other areas of your life.

It betters your sex life

For people who are single or who have no consistent sexual partners, masturbating is likely the main way to reap the benefits from regular orgasms. However, it has been shown that even those who are having regular sex are far more likely to be sexually satisfied in their relationships if they are also masturbating consistently. Masturbating alone helps you learn about your own body in a safe environment because, regardless of if you are sexually active at the moment, the next time you have sex you will know more about what you like. Exploring and learning about your own sexual desires and pleasures is a necessity because you cannot expect another person to make you feel your best when even you don’t know how to do it. Moreover, mutual masturbation can be a really sexy way to learn how your partner likes to be touched, making future sex better for both partners. But whether you do it alone or together, masturbation will make your partnered sex that much better.

Like anything, of course there are some situations where masturbation can be harmful. Namely, masturbating to the point where it interferes with daily life is an unhealthy addiction. Watching too much porn while masturbating also brings its own set of consequences, such as setting unrealistic expectations for sex and more (which I won’t get into here). Probably the biggest block to masturbating more are the social, religious, and cultural stigmas surrounding masturbation that create feelings of guilt. While I just dedicated this entire article towards why people should consider masturbating more, it is nonetheless understandable. Masturbation is meant to make you feel better, not worse! The more we talk about it with our friends and family, the less stigmatized it will become and more people will be comfortable exploring themselves.

Don’t worry about how much you masturbate, and I hope this helped you to consider masturbating more or at least question any mental barriers you have towards it. Even though masturbation, especially female masturbation, is rarely talked about, plenty of adults are reaping the benefits of this form of self care. There are so many different ways of sexually stimulating yourself: solo vs mutual masturbation, with or without toys, using porn or your imagination, different positions, and the list goes on. Everyone is different, but finding what works best for you and your body can be really beneficial to your overall health and well-being. 

UVA Contributer Account