Let's Talk About: Masturbation
As societies attitudes evolve and change on a daily basis to remain in keeping with the new norms of the present day, there are forever a few topics that there will always be a debate about, and masturbation is certainly one of them. Whilst the topic of sex and relationships education on a whole is something that people are becoming more and more open to, as we realise the benefits that a comprehensive sex and relationships education can have on today’s young people, there is still great discussion about what should be included in that education, with some topics being considered a step too far.
Masturbation is certainly one of those topics, and it is often shied away from being talked about in general let alone during sex and relationships education at schools. However, we think that masturbation should be talked about as much as possible in order to normalise it, and a great way to do that is by starting in the classroom. For many people, masturbation is a topic of discussion that may have been rife whilst they were at school, however there was often a stigma surrounding it, and many misconceptions were passed around. We’d like to take the opportunity to tackle some of the misconceptions and stigma, and share the benefits of masturbation. Lydia Wheeler, a former Ann Summers Bunny & Sexpert, has shared some of her experiences from working in the adult shop to help us tackle these stigmas.
“Women and girls don’t masturbate”
A common misconception that many will remember from their days at school, and have maybe even heard as adults, is that women and girls don’t masturbate, only men and boys. Particularly in the school ground this misconception means that a double standard is normalised from an early age, which is particularly problematic. For years, the idea that only boys masturbate has caused stigma and shame to surround female masturbation, meaning that whilst boys and men have been able to be open about masturbating, girls and women have been made to feel that it is shameful and wrong. This is absolutely not the case; masturbation is normal for everybody, and should be discussed in an equal manner regardless of gender. Lydia says,
“One of the most interesting things about working at Ann Summers wasn’t necessarily learning about the sex toys or the lingerie, but learning about all the stuff that I never got to learn in school. It was so clear to me whilst working there that there is such a huge amount of misinformation spread on the topic of sex and masturbation; the amount of middle aged women who I had to explain their own bodies to was insane.”
“Masturbation is dirty and shameful”
Whilst certainly intimate, and occasionally we might feel a bit embarrassed talking about it openly, masturbation is far from shameful. Providing education about masturbation in addition to sex during sex and relationships education would help to prevent people from feeling ashamed about masturbating, as it’s perfectly natural, just like sex is. We don’t view sex as shameful, so we shouldn’t view masturbation as shameful either. After all, it’s not known as solo sex for nothing! Lydia says,
“Having open conversations about our bodies, different ways of having sex, relationships and masturbation can massively change the way that people think about these subjects and themselves, which allows people to enjoy what they enjoy without being ashamed or confused, and even discover something new they enjoy that they never knew about before hand!”
Masturbation can make you happier! When we orgasm, endorphins are released which can help to reduce depression and keep you happy!
It can help to reduce period pain
Menstrual cramps are caused by the uterus contracting in order to shed the uterine lining. An orgasm causes the uterus to relax, which alleviates the pain caused by menstrual cramps.
Even headaches and back pains can be relieved by masturbation
It’s not only period pain that is helped by masturbation - when we orgasm, our bodies release a rush of endorphins, two of which are dopamine and serotonin, which are natural pain relievers.
It can help you to sleep
Amongst those helpful hormones that are released when we orgasm, is the endorphin oxytocin, which can help to cause sleepiness. An orgasm also reduces blood-pressure, which can also help you drift off into a peaceful slumber if you’re struggling to get some well needed shut-eye.
It’s risk free pleasure! Whilst sex may be fun, it also comes with risks, such as STIs or unplanned pregnancy. Masturbation on the other hand doesn’t come with either of those risks! Children and young people are frequently told during sex and relationships education that they should be wary of having sex due to the risks associated with it, however are never taught that masturbation is a risk free alternative. Doing so could potentially help to reduce some of the stigma surrounding masturbation that often begins in the school yard, and even help us to start having better sexual experiences both alone and with a partner sooner, and what’s not to like about that? Lydia says,
“The lack of education we are given is evident in almost all the customers we would see on a daily basis, from men not knowing about the clitoris to women not knowing about the G-Spots, both male and female! Throughout my year working there I had thousands of people telling me that myself and my co-workers had taught them really valuable information that had changed the ways they have and enjoy sexual experiences. ”
It can help people to become sexually empowered
Getting to know your body and what kind of pleasure you enjoy alone can help you to feel more sexually empowered when there’s someone else in the bedroom. The better you know yourself, the better you can communicate to a partner what you enjoy, which is likely to lead to better sex. Masturbation techniques can even be used in the bedroom, such as showing a partner what you enjoy or even using toys together. So the more you masturbate, the more likely you are to have good sex - win!
It can make you feel more confident in yourself
Studies have shown that people who are more comfortable about masturbation are also more confident in the rest of their life. Confidence is the most powerful aphrodisiac!
Masturbation can help girls and women feel more empowered
Many girls grow up feeling ashamed of masturbation, which can lead to them feeling ashamed of other things, such as enjoying sex and embracing their sexuality. Shame free masturbation can help girls to grow up to become sexually empowered women and take control of their pleasure during sex, rather than feeling that they must be submissive to the desires of their partner, or settling for uncomfortable or unenjoyable sex. Lydia says,
“Having very clear conversations about these topics can also help reduce the harmful spread of misinformation regarding sexual experiences, such as ‘it’s normal to bleed after sex’ or ‘it’s normal not to orgasm’ which is certainly not true! Talking about these things can help us stop settling for uncomfortable or unenjoyable sex, purely because we haven’t been educated in more sex positive ways.”