Masturbation is Self-Love
On the long list of stigmas surrounding masturbation sits an idea that I dislike the most: solo-play can never be as good as sex with a partner.
It’s a common misconception, which is present everywhere in our society. From schools leaving self-pleasure completely out of sex education, to articles in mainstream media like Cosmo Frank’s, “Is He Masturbating Instead of Having Sex with You?” Masturbation is often cast aside as the less-attractive version of intercouse: it’s always an option, but never seen as the more appealing choice. The unfortunate downside of this mentality is that the many amazing benefits of DIY loving are often overlooked. According to Planned Parenthood, these benefits include: aiding with sleep, relieving physical and psychological tension, enhancing sexual health and satisfaction, and even increasing happiness within relationships. The cherry on top? Many of these perks are actually the result of two other effects of self-pleasure: improved self-esteem and body image. Masturbation can give you that one feeling that nobody else can: self-love.
So how does solo-play manage to do ALL of this for you? Let’s start with the science. In the article “M is for Masturbation,” The Center of Sexual Pleasure and Health cites three “happy” chemicals that your brain produces when you have sex or masturbate: dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. The first two are known for their ability to improve moods and reduce pain, while the last of the three is known as the “bonding” brain drug, as it creates feelings of trust and connection. With these three “feel good” elements combined, your mind naturally associates masturbation with feelings of happiness, comfort, and closeness. Meaning that when you get off, you physiologically enforce good feelings in regards to your own body, sexuality, and self.
However, it’s not just the biology behind solo-play that helps you become more confident. Masturbation allows for hands-on self-discovery, which the CSPH also says can be a huge source of positive emotions. The Center states: “Experiencing masturbation can be very empowering, giving a sense of independence because you rely on yourself for pleasure, and don’t have to worry about feeling shamed for your turn ons and fantasies.” It’s a purely personal and private experience, that becomes a sexual and emotional self-affirmation. By entertaining your own physical desires, you are validating your own sexual feelings and body on a consistent basis. This validation then translates into confidence, as you begin to feel more at ease with your individual sexual and physical traits.
On top of that, better understanding how to make yourself orgasm has endless positive effects, which Planned Parenthood goes on about in their own informational guide, Masturbation. According to the organization, “When you know what you like when it comes to sex, your comfort with sex increases. And when your confidence and comfort level are high, it is easier to let your partner know what you like.” This doesn’t just go for pleasure, it also goes for things like protection preferences, and communication concerning STI status between partners. Better communication and better sex leads to the aforementioned improved happiness in relationships.
Long term, these effects are literally orgasmic for you and your partner(s), since increased confidence and understanding of your sexuality are known to improve performance in the bedroom. In the 2012 study, “Predictors of Body Appearance Cognitive Distraction during Sexual Activity in Men and Women” (featured in the Journal of Sexual Medicine), researchers found that a lack of confidence and body positivity distracted lovers during sex, and decreased their satisfaction and frequency of orgasms. People with high self-esteem are not as concerned with their partner’s judgement, and communicate what they want more openly, leading to more frequent orgasms. Therefore, masturbation actually improves you and your partner(s) sex lives, by making you more confident about your body and the sex you’re having.
The overall result? Plenty of good sex, lots of good vibes, and a ton of well spent alone time. So do yourself a favor, and give yourself a hand.
Art by: Emily Drake