In this post, Dr Margaret Redelman, doctor and medical sex therapist busts some of the common myths about female masturbation and assures our readers that it isn’t just a male activity:
Despite the fact that it’s considered biologically abnormal, the truth is that masturbation is a very common activity in both humans and animals. Sadly, many people who masturbate feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. Many wrongly believe that masturbation is deviant, dangerous and sinful. It is not any of these things!
Simply speaking, it involves the sexual stimulation of the genitals usually to the point of orgasm and can be solo, parallel or mutual with a partner. While people mostly masturbate using their hands and fingers there are an infinite number of ways in which people learn to give themselves sexual pleasure, arousal and orgasm. For example, rubbing the genitals with clothing, rubbing against other surfaces such as bedding and using specially designed toys like vibrators and dildos.
The difference between masturbation and lovemaking
Masturbation and lovemaking with a partner are two separate activities. With masturbation we only have to consider ourselves and most people who do it are very good at knowing exactly what to do to bring themselves to orgasm. However, masturbation does not kiss or cuddle you, or tell you that you are beautiful and wonderful. Some people think only people without partners or unsatisfactory sex lives indulge in it. This is not always true. While it is a normal healthy way to meet one’s own sexual needs when without a partner, it can also meet needs in a good relationship when there is a desire difference between the couple, they are separated for various reasons or one partner is sick and not able to participate in lovemaking. There are no negative medical consequences at all.
Myths about masturbation
The myths associated with it are very misleading as they are usually picked up sub-consciously through innuendo and jokes and are not ever scientifically verified. Some myths claim that masturbation:
- Can cause blindness or colour blindness
- Can cause hair to grow on the palm of the hand
- You can run out of orgasms (i.e. using up sexual reserve)
- Can cause mental health problems and craziness
- Excessive masturbation can cause decreased sexual stamina
- Can cause fatigue and tiredness
Many people worry about masturbating too much. There is no right number of times to masturbate or to have sexual activity. The right number is what makes you happy and works for the relationship.
It is important that women rinse their genitals with water once a day, wipe themselves from front to back after using the toilet, wash their hands before touching their genitals and always use a lubricant when masturbating. There is no natural lubrication on the external genitals and around the clitoris so rubbing with fingers or anything else can cause friction and irritation, and predispose to infections. Saliva, oil and water-based lubricants are all good.
There are many general health benefits to masturbation such as release of feelings of physical and mental wellbeing through release of brain chemicals called endorphins, decrease in stress and blood pressure, enhancing sleep, and possibly improving immunity. And of course there are very definite sexual benefits to masturbation such as:
- Becoming more comfortable with one’s body
- A way for women to find out what makes them orgasm so they can share it with their partner
- Have the ability to meet one’s own sexual needs without a partner
- There is no risk of sexually transmissible infection or unplanned pregnancy
- Free, unlimited, pleasurable and fun
- It can be a very enjoyable intimate activity for couples who don’t want to, are not able to or don’t feel ready for intercourse
Sexologists advise masturbation as a learning step for women who have not yet learned to have orgasms. Solo masturbation gives the privacy, security and unlimited time in an unpressured space which allows a woman to learn about her very special individual sexual arousal and orgasm response pattern.
Masturbation attitudes are learned early in life and a parent’s own sexual beliefs and responses to a child’s early sexual touching and questions are very important. Think about what you would have preferred in your own childhood learning about your body and sexuality and think about creating a positive sexual environment for your children. It is important to teach children that their bodies are beautiful, that they belong to them, that their genitals are lovely areas of the body that can give a lot of pleasure but need to be treated with care and respect. The belief that masturbation is a private enjoyable activity should be reinforced.