Aside from having orgasms, there are many other reasons why people masturbate, such as relieving stress and mapping pleasurable zones.
“Masturbation is bad and might be addicting”. You’ve probably heard this statement at some point in your life, right?
But is it true? Are there even any benefits that come from masturbating? Let’s begin by understanding what masturbation really is, its benefits, and whether you can actually become addicted to it.
What is masturbation?
Masturbation, also known as self-pleasure, is the act of stimulating, rubbing and/or caressing the genitals or other parts of the body for various reasons, but typically for pleasure. It can be done solo, which involves stimulating your own genitals or body parts, or it can involve two or more individuals simultaneously stimulating each other’s body parts, including the genitals, or taking turns to stimulate each other.
This stimulation can be carried out by hand or through the use of sex toys and could be for the achievement of pleasure, relaxation or easing built-up sexual tension – not just for orgasms.
What are the benefits of masturbation?
Aside from having orgasms, there are many other reasons why people masturbate:
- Reducing sex anxiety: the fear that sex may result in a pregnancy and/or getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) might make an individual anxious. Solo masturbation can help reduce this anxiety, as there is no risk of pregnancy as well as very little chance of getting STIs.
- De-stressing and better sleep: if you masturbate for sexual pleasure, you probably feel a heightened level of satisfaction and maybe fall asleep after the act. What happens is that your body releases hormones called vasopressin and melatonin, which help to promote better sleep.
- Self-check: during masturbation, some individuals may also perform a breast, vulva or penis examination to check for lumps, rashes, sores or abnormalities, and seek medical help if needed.
- Improved pleasure: sometimes masturbation is incorporated into the sensate focus, which is a type of sex therapy that centres on touching genitals and other erogenous zones and focusing on how that feels. This is also a very useful exercise for survivors of sexual assault who want to gradually re-adjust to sensual and intimate touch.
Is ‘masturbation addiction’ possible?
Masturbation is not an addiction, but it could be compulsive. Addiction is driven by the need to seek pleasure from harmful behavior and involves a slow loss of control and the struggle to withdraw. Compulsive behavior, on the other hand, is driven by the need to do something urgently and repeatedly, usually out of fear, anxiety or satisfaction. It typically doesn’t ruin or interfere with regular activities, but this could change.
While masturbation could become a compulsive behavior, doing it frequently doesn’t mean you are addicted to it.
What are the signs of compulsive masturbation?
There are several different signs of compulsive masturbation as they vary from person to person. The most common ones are:
- reduced sexual desire for your partner,
- physical harm to a genital,
- delayed ejaculation, and
- increased performance anxiety.
How can I avoid compulsive masturbation?
Remember, a behavior becomes compulsive when there is an intense and repetitive routine. Studies show that the best way to stop compulsive behavior is to try something new in place of the old habit. In the case of masturbation, here is what you can do:
This is a practice of focusing on all your senses and observing what each touch feels like, how you feel about it and how you react to it. This helps in mapping your pleasurable zones, scanning your body to notice any possible dangerous changes.
Hopefully these tips will help you with your next masturbation session. Remember, don’t feel guilty or sad; make pleasure a priority!
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About the author: Amos Sanasi is an award-winning sex educator who specializes in sexual enlightenment. Her book “BDSM CHEAT SHEET” is a beginner’s guide for those who want to be kink-positive. She is also the founder of West Africa’s first sex-Ed tech startup RevaginateNG. She tweets at @thesanasi.