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Effects of Masturbation

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Updated May 08, 2014

Surprisingly little research attention has been paid to the specific effects of masturbation. The history of masturbation is littered with moral condemnation and scientific inaccuracies regarding its negative effects but thankfully there finally seems to be medical agreement that masturbation is a healthy form of sexual expression, and one with more positive than negative effects.

Still many of us believe the masturbation myths we are raised with, which makes it worthwhile to learn the truth about the effects of masturbation on the body and the mind.

Masturbation can increase self-knowledge:

Sex educators don’t call masturbation the cornerstone of sexual health for nothing. Masturbation is the first, safest, and best way to get to know how your sexual body works. You can learn what turns you on and what doesn’t. You can learn how to give yourself sexual pleasure in a hurry, or when you’ve got nothing but time. As an educational tool, masturbation is better than any textbook, video or website you’ll ever read (that includes this one!).

Masturbation can lead to self-discovery:

Even if you know how to get the job done, masturbatorally speaking, your capacity to feel sexual pleasure is limitless and masturbation is a great way to find new functions for familiar parts. Often when we’re having sex with a partner we might be too self-conscious, shy, or otherwise distracted to pay close attention to what’s happening in our own body. Masturbation, when you’re doing it by yourself, allows you to focus on the subtlety of your own sexual response , and possibly discover things you hadn’t previously realized were part of your sexuality.

Masturbation is nature’s sleep aid:

While thinking about sex might keep you up at night having it, including masturbation, is a great way to deal with insomnia. In a 2000 study of U.S. women, 32% said that in the past three months they masturbated as a way to fall asleep. Whether it’s because of the hormones and endorphins released following orgasm, the benefits of clearing your head, or the mini cardio workout, masturbation that ends in orgasm is a great way to get to sleep without pills, television, or counting sheep.

Masturbation provides pain relief:

Whether you’re experiencing temporary or chronic pain from sore joints, headaches, menstrual cramps, or other causes, masturbation and orgasm can, in some cases, provide natural pain relief. While we don’t know exactly why, research has documented arousal and orgasm resulting in reduced pain thresholds. It’s worth pointing out that for some conditions (like migraine headaches ) orgasm can either reduce the pain or increase it.

Masturbation is a great stress reliever:

Several studies have documented the relaxation effects of masturbation induced orgasm. Aside from the physical benefits, masturbation, when you’re doing it right, is all about “you time” and taking time to focus on yourself is a great way to break up the stress of a busy life. Particularly when used with sexual fantasy, masturbation can be a great escape, a way to let off some steam, and while masturbation alone might not be enough to deal with all the stress in your life, it’s a healthy, free, and non-pharmaceutical tool right at your fingertips (or other body part or sex toy, as the case may be).

Masturbation may offer cancer prevention:

Two recent studies found a link between the number of times a man ejaculates and the likelihood of getting prostate cancer. The prostate gland produces and stores seminal fluid and the fluid can build up in the prostate if a man goes a long time without ejaculating. This build up isn’t always a problem, but in the studies men who ejaculate more were less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Another researcher has proposed a theory that orgasm may offer some protective effect against breast cancer via oxytocin released at orgasm.

Sources:

  1. Cornog, M. The Big Book of Masturbation San Francisco: Down There Press, 2003.
  2. Komisaruk, B., Beyer-Flores, C., and Whipple, B. The Science of Orgasm Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
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