The Benefits Of Masturbation Can't Be Counted On One Hand

We've all done it, so why can't we talk openly about it?

We broadcast all the other things we do to aid our health: we take selfies at the gym, we Insta our kale smoothies, but when it comes to the health benefits of pleasuring ourselves we, well, hide under the sheets.

In 1995 the month of May was declared International Masturbation Month. It started when the first women-friendly sex toy shop in San Francisco raised awareness and promoted masturbation as a healthy, safe and natural way to express one’s sexuality. The move was in response to the then-president Bill Clinton firing Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders following a speech she gave at the 1994 United Nations World AIDS Day.

Elders was asked by an audience member about masturbation as a way of discouraging risky sexual activity among young people.

She responded: “I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught."

As a result she was forced to resign from government. The people at Good Vibrations were astounded -- it was one of the most sensible things they ever heard a government official say and she lost her job and also her reputation.

Since then the Good Vibrations group has used the event as a public health education device and strategy for safer sex and alternative safe methods of sexual expression. In 1999 the Masturbate-a-thon was launched, an event where participants masturbated to raise money for charity and to increase public awareness and dispel the shame and taboos that still existed about self-pleasuring. It spread to other cities and became a worldwide event for several years.

Masturbation (or my preferred term “solo sex”) is the foundation for human sexuality, for both men and women, but only a few of us admit doing it or even discuss it because it’s considered a taboo subject. Given the negative messages children often receive about touching themselves while growing up; it’s understandable they may retain elements of shame and embarrassment which can affect their sexuality for the rest of their lives.

You can do it on the fly. Image: Getty Images.

This is a real pity because it’s not generally known how healthy masturbation is and the many benefits it may provide. Sexual arousal and orgasm produce a chemical called oxytocin, which works as a natural pain reliever. It helps reduce headaches, muscle aches, other assorted aches and pains and is a great cure for insomnia. It helps to relax and relieve tension after a stressful day and may help fight off depression as the endorphins released during masturbation or sex can improve your overall mood.

If you’re not in a relationship, it gives you the sexual release you need. Research has shown that men who masturbate regularly are less at risk of developing prostate cancer. For men it may also help combat premature ejaculation by training to last longer; it's easier to practise control when on your own.

Almost everyone self-pleasures, but for men it’s easier because their genitals are visible from an early age. It’s important for a woman to learn how to masturbate and achieve an orgasm on her own first, then she can determine what is erotically pleasing for her and will be able to tell her partner what excites her and show him what to do. Some couples use mutual masturbation to discover techniques for a more satisfying sexual relationship to add to their shared intimacy.

I have counselled several women who told me they caught their husbands or boyfriends masturbating and saw it as cheating. Quite some people believe that if you are in a relationship, there is no need for masturbation. This doesn’t make sense at all -- just imagine that every time your partner wants to have sex you need to be ready for it whether you are in the mood or not!

Maybe it's a good idea to make masturbation part of your health routine and have fun at the same time. At least in the month of May.

Mmmmmmmmmay is my favourite month. Image: Getty Images.