The health benefits of masturbation
Generally speaking, women have been socialized to believe our sexual needs and desires are less important than those of our partners. It is in our physical and emotional best interest to give our own needs and desires a seat at the table. Because of cultural taboos, many women feel that the urge to masturbate is somehow wrong, or they feel guilt or shame. There is enormous potential for healing through honoring our sexuality, expressing it, and experiencing it with joy.
The reality is that women who “self-cultivate” experience a wide range of health benefits, and here are just a few:
- Masturbation helps prevent cervical infections and helps relieve urinary tract infections. While it’s general knowledge that regular masturbation can reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men, studies are showing that female masturbation can also provide protection against cervical infections because when women masturbate, the orgasm “tents” or opens the cervix.
In her book Sex: A Natural History, Joann Ellison Rodgers describes how the process of tenting stretches and pulls the mucous within the cervix, allowing for a rise in acidity in the cervical fluid. This increases “friendly” bacteria and allows more fluid to move from the cervix into the vagina. When“old” fluid moves from the tented cervix, it not only lubricates the vagina, but also flushes out unfriendly organisms that can cause infections.
Many women with urinary tract infections report the desire to masturbate when they feel a UTI coming on, and for a good reason: masturbating helps relieve pain and it flushes the old bacteria from the cervix. It’s the body’s way of getting the bacteria out.
- Masturbation is associated with improved cardiovascular health and lower risk of type-2 diabetes. In a number of studies, women who experienced more orgasms, and overall greater frequency and satisfaction with sex — whether with a partner or not — were shown to have greater resistance to coronary heart disease (CHD) and type-2 diabetes.
- Masturbation can help work against insomnia naturally, through hormonal and tension release. Many women masturbate as a means to wind down after a hectic day or to fall asleep at night, but they often don’t know that there’s a hormonal reason why it works. Dopamine, or the “feel-good” hormone, is on the rise during the anticipation of a sexual climax. After the climax, the calming hormones oxytocin and endorphins are released, making us feel the warm afterglow that helps us sleep.
- Orgasm increases pelvic floor strength. There are so many benefits to having a healthy pelvic floor. In the “plateau” stage of orgasm, the pelvic floor gets a real workout. The clitoris surges with increased blood pressure. Muscle tone, heart rate, and respirations increase. The uterus “lifts” off the pelvic floor, increasing pelvic muscle tension. This strengthens the entire region, as well as your sexual satisfaction.
Psychological and emotional benefits of masturbation
Women most often cite fatigue as the reason for a decrease in, or loss of, libido. I haven’t met a tired woman yet who cares a bit about sex. Appropriately so, as a tired body is focused on taking care of itself. The second most common reason women tell me they have decreased interest in sex is their dissatisfaction with their appearance. Given the often unrealistic yet prevailing standards of American beauty, it is challenging for many women to feel attractive. Masturbation is one way to honor our sexuality conveniently and privately.
Because we are in control of our bodies when we masturbate, we can learn a lot about who we are. We can cultivate positive feelings about our miraculous bodies, giving us confidence from the inside out and the potential to heal any past negative sexual experiences.
These are all good reasons to reconsider our views on masturbation, but there are also several other reasons why masturbation can help us feel more confident and connected:
- Improves our mood. Masturbation helps relieve depressive emotions. As we become aroused, the hormone levels of dopamine and epinephrine soar in our bodies. Both of these hormones are mood-boosters. Many studies show that women who report personal satisfaction with their sex lives live a better quality of life overall.
- Relieves stress. In her book For Yourself, noted sex therapist Lonnie Barbach explains that the stress resulting from avoiding sex can create the kind of body imbalances we mentioned earlier. She writes that masturbation can help relieve emotional stress by taking time for ourselves, amidst the demands of home, family, and work.
- Strengthens our relationship with ourselves. When we know, love, and nurture ourselves on emotional and physical levels, we gain confidence and grow through self-awareness. Being able to recognize, articulate, and experience what brings pleasure is a powerful step toward fulfillment.
- Strengthens sexual relationship with partner. Many couples have different sexual drives and needs. Masturbation is one way to meet personal needs not met by a partner. It can be shared with a partner. Witnessing a partner masturbate can teach us what methods our partners use so we can learn what they enjoy. It can also open the lines of communication between partners who otherwise might be assuming that the “routine” is still working.