Masturbation is a common and normal sexual activity, but many people still feel uncomfortable talking about it or even ashamed about doing it. Unfortunately, old stigmas and myths/misinformation continue to surround the practice of masturbation which, in reality, is a healthy, free way to experience sexual pleasure.
Below are some of the most common myths about masturbation, as well as the facts and health benefits of this sexual activity.
Myth: It’s not normal to masturbate.
It is completely normal to masturbate, and, according to several large-scale sexual health surveys on the topic, most people do. One such survey conducted in 2018 polled 13,000 individuals from 18 countries that make up 57% of the world’s population and found that 78% of the participants masturbate. People of all genders and sexual orientations masturbate, but men are more likely to masturbate than women. The 2018 masturbation survey revealed that 80%-96% of the men from the included countries reported having tried masturbation, compared to 48%-78% of the women.
Myth: If you masturbate while you’re in a relationship, something is wrong with your relationship.
People masturbate for many different reasons such as to relieve stress, to relax, to experience sexual pleasure, and to release sexual tension. These reasons to masturbate often continue to exist when a person is in a sexual relationship, and they do not necessarily indicate a problem with the relationship. In fact, a 2017 Archives of Sexual Behavior survey of 15,738 U.S. men and women found that while the male participants tended to masturbate more frequently when they were having less partnered sex, the female participants tended to masturbate more when they were having frequent, satisfactory partnered sex so as to complement the sex they were having. Masturbation can also be a healthy outlet for a person’s sexual release when a couple is experiencing desire discrepancy (i.e., one partner has a higher libido or sex drive than the other partner).
Myth: Masturbation is bad for you.
There are countless myths about the supposed health issues that masturbation can cause, ranging from sexual dysfunction and infertility to more outlandish claims such as blindness and hairy palms. Fortunately, there is no scientific basis for any of these claims, and none of these health problems have been linked to masturbation. On the contrary, masturbation has been shown to have health benefits like reducing stress, relieving tension and pain, improving sleep, enhancing mood and concentration, and even improving partnered sex. That said, there can be situations in which a person feels guilty about masturbating, experiences less satisfaction with partnered sex, or finds that it has become a compulsive activity that interferes with their work or social life. In these situations, it is a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider or a sex therapist to resolve any issues that may be coming up with masturbation.
Myth: Masturbation is not a normal part of healthy sexual development.
Parents and caregivers may worry about their children learning about/engaging in masturbation “too early,” but the truth is that self-stimulation is common even at a young age. While it is important to teach young people about appropriate times and places for masturbation if they are not aware, studies have shown that age-appropriate knowledge about the body’s sexual function can reduce shame around sexuality and prepare people to make good choices regarding their sexual health.