Q&A: Masturbation Guilt And Health Problems

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QUESTION: I'm 25 years old and I don't have sex often, but I have masturbated every day for about two years now and I feel so guilty about it. I'm scared, too, because I've heard that masturbation can cause health problems or physical damage. Is that true?

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In spite of doctors, researchers and educators best efforts to reassure women and men that masturbation is not harmful, many people still hear rumors about the dangers of masturbation.

Masturbation Is Not Harmful

And yet the facts are clear – masturbation is not only common, but it is not harmful or dangerous to either men or women.

Most men and women have masturbated at some point in their lives. That includes women and men of various ages, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations and political ideologies.

In fact, many men and women recall touching their genitals for pleasure even when they were children, something that many parents, teachers and pediatricians are well aware of. And yet many women and men were raised with the sense that touching their genitals for pleasure, relaxation or enjoyment was something bad, dirty, shameful or immoral.

Positive Effects of Masturbation

Rather than being harmful, recent research suggests that men’s masturbation during early adulthood is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer as men age.

Masturbation, like partner sex, can also help men and women to decrease stress. It may help to bolster our immune systems, to help people to feel happier or more relaxed, or to fall asleep more easily.

For women, masturbation – again, just like sex with a partner – can help to keep their vaginal tissue moist and healthy. Masturbation can help promote blood flow to the genitals for both women and men which can help to oxygenate tissues around the genitals and reproductive organs.

Masturbation can also help women and men to better understand their bodies and to help them learn what feels good. Self-pleasuring, as it is sometimes called, can also help men to learn to control the timing of their ejaculation. For women, self-pleasuring can help a woman learn to orgasm more easily.

Learn More

To learn more about masturbation – both its myths and its benefits – check out The Big Book of Masturbation by Martha Cornog. Women in particular may find the book Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving to be of interest, too.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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