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Ask A Sex Therapist: What are the benefits of masturbation beyond glowing skin?

Words by Laura Miano

Putting the self into self-care.

Laura Miano is a sex and relationship writer and sex therapist based in Melbourne. Her mission is to help those with sexual concerns as well as support individuals who might like to enhance their sex lives beyond cultural norms. To learn more about her, follow @lauramianosexology or contact her here.

Let’s talk about masturbation. As pop culture’s attitude towards solo sex continues to shift, it’s worth knowing the science behind why you should be doing it. Whether you simply want to learn the facts for yourself or you’re preparing for an impressive table discussion at your next dinner party, you’ll be glad you took the time to educate yourself. Trust me, masturbation has far more benefits than you probably think.


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Stress relief

When you masturbate, you undergo a series of changes that, in the sexology world, are termed The Sexual Response Cycle. This cycle involves arousal, and for some, orgasm. When these two processes are activated, they start flooding your body with a range of hormones and chemicals that reduce your stress levels. To get all technical on you, these include prolactin, oxytocin, and vasopressin, which have been found to reduce cortisol, the hormone that produces stress. This is a huge one because stress is involved in so many poor health outcomes. In relation to your skin, it can cause inflammation and irritation, while aggravating existing skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. It’s also involved in poor quality of sleep and immune functioning. Put simply, you can basically masturbate your way to better skin, improved sleep and a healthier immune system. I think this essentially makes masturbation the new superfood.

Mood boosting

Another gorgeous outcome of masturbating is its ability to increase a sense of wellbeing. By targeting your reward pathways, masturbating can work like any other activity that makes you feel good. Think eating a yummy meal, hugging your friend or listening to music. Just like these activities, your mind perceives masturbating as a down-right good time and leaves you with a sense of happiness and contentment. On top of this, it also causes a neural response that reduces pain, even more effectively than prescription pain killers. Shockingly, we can’t be in a constant state of masturbation so medications will triumph. But until they discover a pill that cures a hangover, make the most of a bed-ridden Sunday and self-serve natures pain relief.

Learn about your body

When you masturbate, you are learning about your body. You can discover what type of stimulation you like – what speed, sequence, location, and pressure feels best for you. For some, you can get to know your ability to orgasm, how long it takes for you and how powerful it can be. It can also teach you about the kind of stimulation you dislike or simply feel apathetic about. When you know all of these things, not only do you have a better understanding and awareness of your own body, but you can communicate this to your partner. This will take the guesswork out of partnered sex because you can (gently) show them what you like. Not only is this more pleasurable sex, it’s also more efficient sex.

Boost your self-esteem and body image

Like I just mentioned, masturbating helps you to understand your body and your sexual preferences, enabling you to guide your partner during partnered sex. As with any other form of education, gaining body literacy boosts your sexual confidence because you’ll have a better idea of what you’re working with. Instead of stumbling through a sexual experience metaphorically blindfolded, you can be confident of what you’re looking for. This can be a huge boost to your self-esteem and can also lead to a sense of sexual empowerment as you’ll have more control over your sexual experiences. It can also improve your body image because once you know what you like, you’re more likely to pursue pleasure during sex instead of worrying about how you look. Generally, all of these will lead to better partnered sex. So you’re doing your future sexual partners a favour by masturbating. Thank you for blessing this world with your selflessness.

Sexual autonomy

This one goes out to the female-identifying readers. For a long time, our culture taught women not to masturbate, avoid taking control during sex, and always remain sexually passive. Side note: sounds sexually frustrating as hell. But despite recent shifts in our culture, many have still internalised these messages. If this is you, I give you my blessing – you are allowed to masturbate. And take control. And actively pursue sex. All of the above! When you masturbate, you break free from problematic gender roles and gain the control back. You feel horny, you masturbate. Simple.

Strengthen your pelvic floor

This is particularly the case for those who masturbate through to orgasm. When you do this, your pelvic floor muscles involuntarily contract. Besides feeling great, these contractions are also helping to strengthen your pelvic floor area. I often prescribe pelvic floor exercises to clients with sexual issues such as vaginismus, anorgasmia, and erectile dysfunction because they help them gain more control over the area, can heighten arousal, and facilitate better orgasms. So if you’re already masturbating regularly, great job – you’ve unknowingly been reducing your chances of acquiring a sexual dysfunction.

If you weren’t already convinced, I’m sure you are now. Masturbation is simply health maintenance. Although it can be hard to overcome internalised messages, there are so many benefits of regular masturbation. If you’re finding it hard to keep up with (or start doing altogether) please reach out for a session. No matter your genitals, gender, stage of life, or relationship status, it’s a great practice that everybody should add to their wellness routine. Have fun, masturbate.

See the other instalments in our Ask A Sex Therapist series here.

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