This article first appeared on SHE'SAID' and has been republished with permission.
Ah, masturbation. One of life’s greatest cost-free pleasures.
Getting turned on, touching yourself and having an orgasm is a really good time – and I mean good for the body, mind, and soul. It’s amazing if you’re alone, and fabulous if you’re in a relationship. It can be a wonderful thing for your sex life, and honestly, everyone should give it a go at least once in their lives.
But is there such a thing as ‘too much’ masturbating? I know I often can’t wait until I hear my roommate snoozing soundly in the room across the hall so I can shut the door and have some ‘me time’ without disturbing anyone. Sometimes I spend all day looking forward to it, sometimes I do it every single day; but does this mean I’m…addicted? And, is that even…a bad thing??
There are so many questions about masturbation which don’t get answered because no-one talks about it. But that’s all about to change…
Why we masturbate
Touching ourselves feels so damn good because during masturbation, the brain releases high amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which triggers the pleasure center of the brain. So, it’s no wonder so many people enjoy a ménage à moi once in a while.
The largest sexual health survey of its kind – the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior – found that more than 84 percent of women reported masturbating at some point in their lives, and more than 94 percent of men did the same. Among both men and women, how often we have some solo play time increases as we get older.
It’s also one of the best and most effective ways to learn about your own body and what turns you on the most. Director of the female sexual medicine program at Stanford Health Care, Leah Millheiser, says masturbation is extremely helpful in learning your personal buttons.
“If you can’t tell or don’t know where your erogenous zones are – they could be clitoral, vaginal, or anal – then you can’t voice that and explain it to your partner.”
Learning about your body through experimentation and self-exploration can also lead to bigger and better orgasms with a partner, as well as boost bedroom confidence. In fact, a 2013 study found most women find masturbating to be sexually empowering.
As well as just feeling really good and being the key to finding out what gets us off, masturbation has a bunch of positive health benefits as well – from being a natural stress reliever to releasing pain-reducing endorphins as well as prolactin, which helps with sleep. And for all the women who suffer from terrible menstrual cramps, trying some solo play time could be a good remedy for period pain relief.
“Masturbating causes contractions of the uterus, which seems counterintuitive, but it’s an analgesic in a sense, It releases chemicals that act as pain relievers,” explains Millheiser.
You should also view masturbation as a sort of workout for your vagina, making it easier to reach climax if you have trouble having an orgasm, because after all, practice makes perfect, right?
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How often should you do it?
So if masturbating has so many different benefits, how often should one let their fingers wander? The good news is, there is no hard-and-fast (pun unintended) number which is ‘normal’, required or expected.
“There’s no downside to masturbation,” Millheiser says.
“In general, there are women who masturbate daily and ones who masturbate once a month. For some, zero times is normal. It doesn’t mean anything, or that you’re more or less sexual.”
So basically, it’s an individual issue, and no amount is right or wrong… Or is it?
How much is too much?
… However, there are a couple of signs masturbating might be a problem for you, or you might be doing it excessively.
Generally, if any activity interferes with your ability to function normally in your everyday life, that thing can become problematic. Masturbation is no different. Sex and marriage therapist, Kat Van Kirk, explains that if, for example, you’re always skipping out on work to touch yourself in the bathroom to the point of being reprimanded by your boss for being late, or if you’re avoiding sex with a partner because you’d prefer to masturbate, there might be cause for concern.
“Some people use masturbation as a way to check out of reality and live more in their head, where they can focus on fantasies,” she explains.
“It can also be unhealthy if you find that you do it to the point of causing yourself physical harm, such as rawness and extreme genital irritation from too much friction.”
If your pink bits are getting red raw or even – *gasp* – bleeding from repeated masturbation, and you can’t seem to stop, or if you find yourself going multiple times in a row out of compulsion rather than pleasure, this could be an indication of an addiction, and it’s best to see a doctor or therapist to figure out the cause behind it.
Dr Van Kirk also warns against masturbating the same way every time. Just like sex, it’s important to mix things up – be it by varying the pressure, speed, alternating between using and not using toys (FYI if you’re in the market for a vibrator, here’s how to find the right one for you), or changing up positions – to avoid hitting a plateau that could interfere with your sex life.
“It can condition you to only become aroused or orgasm in one specific way, which can lead to difficulties when having partnered sex,” explains Dr Van Kirk.
How to do it well
As long as your private-time activities aren’t interfering with your daily life, you should be golden to rub yourself any and every which way you wish.
The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior recorded that 52 percent of women use a vibrator, which can be one amazing and easy way to embrace masturbation head on. They come in all shapes, sizes and countless different functions, and so you can choose the toy which is perfect for you based on what you like. It’s worth noting that using a vibe once a day may potentially lead to temporary numbness, though Millheiser says this is unlikely.
“Despite rumors that vibrators can cause nerve damage, most don’t use it long enough to bring on any issues,” she says.
And the survey backs her up. Seventy-one percent of vibrator-using women have never experienced any negative side-effects as a result of regular use.
Apart from using a vibrator to get yourself off, mutual masturbation with a partner is another great way to involve your significant other in your self-exploration, and it can have a positive impact on your sex life by allowing you to each demonstrate exactly where and how you like to be touched.
As for positioning, it’s important to try different options to find your fave foolproof angles. Some women like to lie on their stomachs because the pressure of their body weight intensifies the sensitivity of their touch, while others swear by solo time in the shower, with warm – or cold – water adding an extra layer of sensation.
Really, there’s a thousand different styles and frequencies when it comes to masturbating, and none of them are wrong. Whatever feels right for you is probably right for you. Though for what it’s worth, you seriously can’t go wrong with a little bit of lube, and some imagination.
Images via tenor.com and giphy.com