“May has come and so should you”, proclaims the official Masturbation Month website; a message that has special resonance during this era of social distancing and coronavirus lockdowns.
This month-long dedication to self-love owes its existence to former US Surgeon General Dr Joycelyn Elder’s statement at a UN conference on AIDS in 1994, in which she answered a question about masturbation as an alternative to riskier sexual practices by saying, “I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught.”
Elder’s words drew the ire of conservatives and cost Elder her job, but in 1995 the sex-positive toy store Good Vibrations founded National Masturbation Month in her honour.
Even in these modern times, self-pleasure still carries significant stigma, especially in conservative communities, and we’ve all heard claims about what ridiculous consequences masturbation may hold for the people who dare to practice it. Hairy palms, mental illness and even blindness are just some of the reasons these groups tout as risks for masturbators. Of course, none of these claims is based on any truth.
In fact, masturbation – fapping, spanking the monkey or wanking – may actually hold significant benefits to our health. In a time when social distancing is strongly advised, masturbation has been called the safest sex one can have. Here is why masturbation shouldn’t just be restricted to one month of the year, but should always be an integral part of your sex life, whether you’re single or coupled.
1. Masturbation is a mood booster
When we are sexually aroused, our bodies release dopamine and oxytocin. These neurotransmitters provide a reprieve from feelings of stress and anxiety, and are also associated with what athletes call “runner’s high”.
2. It can help you to fall asleep more easily
Each time we orgasm, our bodies release a ton of feel-good hormones. Oxytocin, prolactin and serotonin are hailed for their relaxing properties, which can be particularly helpful on those nights when you simply can’t get to sleep.
3. Masturbation can help keep you mentally sharp into old age
A 2017 study published in The Journals of Gerontology examined 73 participants aged between 50 and 83, and found that the people who engaged in more frequent sexual activity (masturbation included) scored higher on cognitive tests measuring, among other things, verbal fluency and memory.
4. It helps you to learn what you like
Even if you’re a seasoned masturbator who has been at it since you first discovered you could have a hand in your own pleasure, switching up the techniques you use can go a long way in making sure your sexual encounters with other people are as good as they can be. Understanding just what gets you off helps you to better vocalise your needs to a partner. And self-love needn’t ever get boring – here are some alternative masturbation techniques to try.
5. It can lower the risk of prostate cancer among men
There’s growing evidence of a link between ejaculation – whether through masturbation or sex – and a reduced risk of prostate cancer. In 2017, researchers found that men who said they ejaculated 21 times or more each month reduced their risk of prostate cancer by a whopping 33 percent.
6. It may boost your immunity
A small 2003 study found that certain types of white blood cells that help the immune system to fight illnesses, called lymphocytes, increased in participants five minutes post-orgasm, suggesting that some parts of the immune system are activated with sexual arousal and orgasm. Ejaculation also increases cortisol levels – small doses of this hormone help to maintain and regulate the immune system.
Happy Masturbation Month, and remember: getting off is really good for you – so get at it!