I don’t remember the first time I masturbated. Maybe the shame and secrecy that shrouded masturbating shoved those memories into a dark corner of my brain. I vaguely recall it involved Days of Our Lives fan fiction—a story about Eric and Greta, if you must know—that I printed off from an early-Internet-days message board. I was…12? Does that seem right? I had no idea what I was doing, but it felt great.
I do remember the last time I masturbated. Because it was today, 2:00 p.m., an energetic dip in my afternoon when I needed to motivate myself. I also masturbated yesterday, a quick one-minute session to lull me to sleep. Likely I did it the day before too. I knew exactly what I was doing, and it felt great.
It’s time, way past due time, to normalize female masturbation. While the idea of men masturbating is an accepted part of life—Aren’t men so funny! They simply can’t control themselves!—female masturbation is still relatively hush-hush. Though times are changing, it’s still rarely represented in the media, the porn industry is largely geared toward men, and when’s the last time you talked about masturbating with your friends?
It’s time, way past due time, to normalize female masturbation. . . . Though times are changing, it’s still rarely represented in the media, the porn industry is largely geared toward men, and when’s the last time you talked about masturbating with your friends?
Here to help us understand the benefits of female masturbation, as well as the mystique around it, is Myisha Battle, a certified sex and dating coach. She boasts a long list of credentials, including a Master of Psychology, and is a certified member of the World Association of Sex Coaches. Battle owns her own sex and dating coaching practice, Sex for Life, and hosts a sex-positive podcast called Down for Whatever. She’s a sex pro.
“There is a general silence around female pleasure in our culture, so it makes sense that there’s also little discussion about female masturbation,” Battle says. “It’s very common for people to experience some form of shaming while exploring their genitals as a child, and that can also lead to feeling that masturbation is wrong and something not to be openly discussed.”
Enough of the silence and shame. It’s time to get busy. Here are five benefits—of the countless benefits—of making time to masturbate, as if you needed any more reason for some alone time.
1. Masturbating releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin and dopamine.
“Female-bodied folks who masturbate can experience the feel-good hormones that are released during sex, like oxytocin and dopamine,” says Battle.
While dopamine is notoriously known as the pleasure chemical, it’s also a learning chemical, helping your brain notice when you’ve received a reward, like food or sex, and plot how to get more of those rewards. Oxytocin, meanwhile, is a bonding hormone, and in the case of masturbating, releases a heavy dose of self-love.
2. Masturbating helps keep your sex drive alive.
“There is a ‘use it or lose it’ quality to sexual energy, so masturbation can really help your body stay open to sex,” says Battle. “Having a regular masturbation practice helps keep erotic energy online.”
Experiencing a dip in sex drive is extremely common and can occur for myriad reasons, from stress to a new medication to monotony felt in a long-term relationship. Setting aside time to masturbate regularly can revive your sex drive, both for solo exploration and for sex with a partner. Think of it this way: masturbating strengthens the pleasure pathways in your brain, and the more you pave those paths, the easier it is to find them.
Regular masturbating can revive your sex drive, both for solo exploration and for sex with a partner. Think of it this way: masturbating strengthens the pleasure pathways in your brain, and the more you pave those paths, the easier it is to find them.
3. Masturbating can improve your sex life with a partner.
Through masturbating, you’ll become more aware of your sexual preferences—what works, what really works, and what doesn’t work. You can then confidently advocate for those needs to a partner. “It’s hard to tell someone else what you like if you haven’t gathered that information for yourself,” Battle says. “The person whom you will have the longest sexual relationship with is yourself. That means that masturbation is a great way to learn how your unique body responds to different types of sexual stimulation.”
You’ll likely also become more comfortable with sex in general, fears be damned. “Folks with a positive association with masturbation experience less stress and anxiety about it and can enjoy solo sex more. In some cases, this may also carry over into partnered sex,” Battle says.
4. Masturbating can help you fall asleep.
The sexual response cycle is made up of four stages: desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution. During the resolution phase, when your body’s functions—blood pressure, heart rate, breathing—are returning to normal, it’s common to experience fatigue. Your body has just experienced a roller coaster.
No wonder it’s common to masturbate before bed.
5. It feels good. Isn’t that reason enough?
The sole purpose of your clitoris, all 8,000 nerve endings of it, is to bring you pleasure. That’s what it’s there for. (A penis has half the amount of nerve endings as a clitoris does.) Even the word “clitoris,” which derives from the Greek word for “key,” encourages us to unlock it.
How often do we allow ourselves to do something, anything, just for pleasure? Not because it advances our career or earns us money or helps us get fitter, but because it feels good. Not often enough.
While making time to masturbate in your routine, Battle notes that everybody and every body is different, so you’ll need to investigate and experiment to build a practice that serves you. If you’ve never masturbated or feel like you could benefit from a guide, Battle recommends OMGYES for techniques and tutorials.
Now excuse me. It’s 2:00 somewhere.
Megan is a writer, editor, etc.-er who muses about life, design and travel for Domino, Lonny, Hunker and more. Her life rules include, but are not limited to: zipper when merging, tip in cash and contribute to your IRA. Be a pal and subscribe to her newsletter Night Vision.