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5 Masturbation Myths to Banish
Before you get down to business, it’s important to clear your mind of masturbation misinformation. We’ve already covered sex myths you should stop believing. Now it’s time to delve into the inaccuracies surrounding masturbation. There are quite a few persistent myths that swirl around the topic of masturbation — and we’re not just talking crackpot warnings about blindness or hairy palms. (Both of which are untrue, by the way.)
Sex therapists and human sexuality experts say that many masturbation myths endure because they sound like they might actually be true. In other cases, people cling to inaccurate information because their parents discouraged them from exploring their own bodies as a child. However masturbation myths arise, they can stop people from participating in a normal, healthy act.
Myth: Masturbation Is Not a Male/Female Thing
Good news, ladies. Masturbation isn’t just for the guys. According to Michael J. Salas, a sex therapist in Dallas, masturbation is an equal opportunity activity. “For both men and women, [masturbation] can help them explore their bodies, and have a good understanding of what leads to the most pleasure. It also can help women understand what leads to orgasm.”
Salas says that social norms — not nature — have conditioned some women to believe that masturbation is something reserved for men. Fortunately, this attitude is changing. “Men and women are socialized about masturbation in very different ways. Things have changed, and people accept women’s sexuality more, but there are still barriers. It is just assumed that men masturbate. Some sections of society view it as unhealthy, but overall, we view this as normal, and healthy.”
Many people also believe that men simply enjoy masturbating more than women, which explains why men masturbate more often. Not so fast, say researchers. In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, data showed similar rates of masturbation between young men and women in Sweden. Among women, 85.5 percent said they had masturbated. For men, the number was 98.9 percent. So there was a gap, yes, but not as wide as many people think.
Myth: Masturbation Leads to Sex Addiction
You don’t have to search very hard to find warnings about a supposed connection between self-love and sex addiction. The problem with this blanket warning, however, is that sexuality is an extremely personal concept. Likewise, different people have varying levels of sexual need and desire. What one individual considers excessive may seem quite ordinary to someone else.
Dr. Michael Ashworth at Psychology Today explains that sex drives vary from person to person, which means the frequency of a person’s masturbation may also vary compared to others. “Individuals vary tremendously in how much they masturbate. Some folks wouldn’t dream of it, while others masturbate two or three times in their lives, and others two or three times a day. (And those aren’t the only options!) There are no deleterious effects of masturbation itself, and it shouldn’t matter whether you’re single or in a relationship.”
Like anything else, however, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. If you’re worried that your masturbation habits are, ahem, getting out of hand, Dr. Ashworth says it’s important to look for signs that it’s interfering with other parts of your life.
For example, are you having less sex with your partner because you’d rather masturbate? This could be a warning that something is off in your relationship or your sex life. Do you use masturbation as a way to escape problems? Masturbating may feel nice, but it won’t solve your financial difficulties or help you overcome career challenges. If you rely on it too much, you might be using it as a way of avoiding real problems in your life.
Myth: Masturbating Depletes Your Sperm Count
Masturbating too often drains your guys, right? Well, not exactly. Sara SDx at Don’t Cook Your Balls explains that masturbation doesn’t hurt your fertility or lower a man’s sperm count.
In fact, it’s best to clear out old sperm if you’re trying for a baby with your partner. This is because older sperm can become less motile, which means they don’t swim as well. And if you’re trying to conceive, motility issues can lower your chances of getting pregnant. If the sperm can’t swim fast enough to reach the target, you’ll probably end up trying for a lot longer than you anticipated.
If you know you have a low sperm count, however, you might want to scale back a bit on the frequency of ejaculation. According to Sara, healthy men who wish to conceive should have sex every two to seven days. For those with low sperm count, it’s probably better to make it every three to four days. So if you’re going to masturbate — and you’re also trying to conceive — it’s just something to keep in mind.
Myth: Masturbation Means You’re Not Satisfied with Your Sex Life
Another myth claims that masturbating is something you do when you can’t get off with your partner. According to sex therapists, however, this simply isn’t true.
Sex educator Bianca Alba, a sex educator and past editor of Kinsey Confidential, says that masturbating doesn’t mean an individual is unhappy with their partner. “One major myth is that people wouldn’t choose to ever masturbate if they have a regular sexual partner or partners. As a sex educator, I believe that masturbation is a healthy aspect of self-love and understanding one’s own sexuality, regardless of other sexual opportunities. Masturbation is also a great tool for relaxation and alleviating stress, anxiety, and insomnia.”
When it comes to sex and masturbation, it turns out you really can have your cake and eat it, too.
Myth: Masturbation Is Cheating
Perhaps one of the most common masturbation myths claims that masturbating is a form of cheating on one’s partner. Not so, sex experts say.
According to Rachael Rose, a sex educator and the founder of the sex education and sexuality site Hedonish, masturbation is a healthy, normal part of a relationship. “Some people believe that masturbating while you’re in a relationship is cheating or that it means you’re dissatisfied with your sex life… The truth is masturbation is healthy and normal regardless of your gender, relationship status, or how much sex you’re having.”
Far from hurting a relationship, Rose says masturbation can actually help it by teaching you what you like when it comes to sex and sexual contact. “In fact, masturbating can be an important part of your self-care arsenal! It’s a great way to help yourself relax, to relieve stress, and it’s a fantastic way to learn what feels good for your body.”
6 Masturbation Tips You Need to Know About
Now that we’ve dispelled the myths, it’s time to talk masturbation techniques. Here are six masturbation tips to help you take your masturbation game to the next level.
- Experiment with Lubricant – Alba says that lubricant is a great way to make masturbation more pleasurable. “Adding lubricant is the simplest tip to enhance masturbation for men and women alike. For men, silicone lubricant can provide a more pleasurable experience and doesn’t dry out quickly. It prevents the skin of the penis from becoming chafed, dried out and desensitized from intense friction. For women, I recommend a water-based or water/silicone hybrid lubricant as it is closer to natural vaginal fluids.”
- Get Your Partner Involved – Masturbation doesn’t have to be a solo event. Rose says you can spice things up by inviting your partner to participate. “Masturbating can be great for your partnered sex life too! Figuring out what feels good and sharing that information with your partner can make sex even more pleasurable, or make incorporating mutual masturbation (masturbating in front of each other) a new and extremely sexy addition to your partnered sex life.”
- Practice in Front of a Mirror – We know, we know. However, sex therapists say many adults don’t have a full understanding of their own anatomy. In a British survey, 44 percent of women couldn’t point out the vagina on a medical illustration of the female reproductive system. If you don’t know what all the various parts are for, there’s a good chance you’re going to miss out on some mind-blowing orgasms. A mirror lets you get an up-close and personal look at what’s under the hood — and helps you feel more comfortable about masturbation. If you’re feeling especially daring, you can even let your partner watch while you explore in front of a mirror. If you’re not quite ready to face the mirror, that’s okay. Here are 8 things you might not know about the clitoris to get you started.
- Try Some New Toys – There is no right or wrong way to masturbate. In fact, you don’t even have to limit yourself to your hands. Rose says you can try sex toys if you’re feeling adventurous, or just looking for something different. “… Consider trying some of the fun toys out there (there are great options no matter what parts you have) if you’re uncomfortable using your hands or if that doesn’t work for you, or if you want to mix things up.”Curious which toys you should have in your toolbox? Check out our guide to toys for two.
- Make Time for It – It may sound a little odd to schedule masturbation time, but busy schedules often mean that self-care gets pushed to a back burner and maybe pushed off the schedule altogether. While you don’t necessarily need to add masturbation to your calendar, there are plenty of reasons to make it a priority. Research shows that masturbating can relieve stress, improve your orgasms and even help you sleep better.
- Take It to the Edge – There’s a lot to be said for taking your time. This is true for sex as well as masturbation. In fact, over 65 percent of women say they prefer prolonged intercourse with a slow build-up that repeatedly takes them right to the edge of climax. Referred to as “edging,” this technique can also make masturbation more pleasurable. Rather than racing right to the finish, don’t be afraid to linger over masturbation — whether you’re all alone or with someone else.
The bottom line is that masturbation is a normal part of a healthy sex life. Do it a little or a lot. Solo or with a partner. There is no wrong way to enjoy this personal and fulfilling aspect of sex.