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Is Masturbation Okay? (Yep.)

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The next time anyone tells you that only losers masturbate, or that they don't, and never would, bear this in mind: according to most studies and surveys, about 95% of adults have masturbated or continue to do so. Were many falsehoods and misconceptions about masturbation true, it would mean that 95 out of every 100 people would be blind, infertile, drooling psychopaths with hair on their palms and shrunken genitals.

I have yet, in my life, to even meet one person who meets that criteria. If and when I do, I'll let you know.

Masturbation is not bad for you physically, sexually or emotionally -- unless it is something you simply do not WANT to be doing -- and can be, in fact, quite good for you. It's been almost twenty years since the American Medical Association declared masturbation a normal and healthy sexual activity, and even then, it was long overdue.

Who Masturbates?

Most people will recognize that a lot of men masturbate, but many do not acknowledge that just as many women do. However, that is yet another misconception. According to Susan Quilliam in her study, Women on Sex, 29.1 of women do so at least once weekly, only 1.8% masturbate without clitoral stimulation and 95% ALWAYS orgasm when masturbating (and in comparison, 77.3 can orgasm from oral sex, and 79.2 during intercourse, but not always). In her study, 95% of women she surveyed masturbated. For those of you who have asked me how to have an orgasm and have wondered why I said, "Masturbate!" now you know why. It's how most women and men learn how, and it's the best way to do so.

Won't it make me go blind?

  • Masturbation will not, and cannot make you go blind or give you poor eyesight. I cannot find the original source of this blatant untruth, but we can probably assume that it was based in the correlation between puberty and the general age at which those with poor eyesight find out they need glasses.
  • Masturbation will not, and cannot give you acne any more than any OTHER activity or phase of your life in which you have hormonal fluctuations might give you acne. In fact, almost any sexual activity improves your circulation by raising your heart rate, which is good for your skin and the rest of your body.
  • Masturbation will not, and cannot make the genitals shrink or grow, and a doctor cannot tell if someone has masturbated unless they arrive at the office with ejaculate on one hand and a vibrator in the other.
  • Masturbation will not, and cannot make hair grow on your palms. On the Planet of the Apes, it just might, but not here on this planet.
  • Masturbation will not, and cannot make men or women infertile, or decrease sperm or egg count. It also does not make anyone "lose" their virginity, not "spoil" them for intercourse or other sexual acts. People are not cartons of milk. We cannot spoil or be "ruined." We change and grow, and as long as we act like good people in good conscience, no act or person can make us otherwise.
  • Plenty of scholars and religious leaders agree, Judeo-Christian and otherwise, that masturbation is not a sin, for those whose religions include the concept of sin (and many do not). There is really nothing concrete in the Bible to support this idea; it does not say masturbation is a sin in anything but a very vague sense that is highly open to interpretation. In addition, in very few religions and traditions is it considered any sort of problem at all. There are, of course, exceptions. In some Islamic traditions, if fasting, masturbating will break a fast, and in some other cultures, like Indonesia, it is considered criminal. Bear in mind, though, that some of these beliefs are very archaic, and are not based on current scientific and medical knowledge, but became tradition when this practice (and many others) were not understood.

But only losers masturbate . . . right?

Oh, come on. Another false assumption is that people who masturbate do so because they are sexually desperate, or are just plain losers.

However, bear in mind that in general, a sexually satisfied person -- and most people who are happily masturbating are -- is not a loser. In fact, many people who masturbate regularly are often better sex partners when they are having sex with others, and do not shack up with the first person available because they are dying to get sexually satisfied and just don't know how to do it themselves. Stating that those who masturbate are losers also implies that partnered sex is about conquest, not about union.


No, seriously: who masturbates? Take our poll and find out for yourself.

There is nothing superior about sleeping with someone you wouldn't otherwise sleep with because you feel masturbating is beneath you. The guy who shows up for five minutes just to sleep with you then leaves without a good-bye, or the girl you get in bed with who you'd never date publicly is hardly the mark of a "superior" choice. And to be frank, masturbation, as a practice when what you want is ONLY your own sexual satisfaction, is a better and kinder choice than sexual partnership.


How do I masturbate?

We get asked this A LOT. But the truth is, like just about anything in sex, people do what they do not based on any one formula or method, but based on their mood, their means, and their own individual psychological, emotional and physiological makeup. So, while for one man, rubbing his penis briskly in his lotion-covered palms may get him off, another may instead enjoy a long soak in the tub followed by a slow and gentle massage. The same goes with women. Some women like vibrators, but others prefer their own hands, straddling a pillow or using running water.

We all have different emotional and psychological needs, and those can change by the moment. Someone who one day is aroused by the fantasy of a romantic and gentle lover may the next day fantasize about forceful sex, and both of these things are okay as fantasies. They're your fantasies, not your actions, and to think is NOT to do. The same goes with physical needs. While we all may have genitals that are called the same thing and look similar, our levels and areas of sensitivity can vary as much as snowflakes do. So, neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you how to masturbate, because only you can experience what touch feels like in your body.

At Scarleteen, we feel that masturbation is the best way to sexually experiment and learn this for yourself, and in fact is the safest sex there is, that for many often provides some of the best sexual fulfillment. The way to find out how to masturbate is to simply feel your way around your body. There are no places on your body that are "bad" or "wrong" to touch or will damage you, and if something DOES hurt, all you have to do is stop.

Learning to masturbate is in many ways learning to be in the drivers seat of your own sexuality, and to understand that no one is in charge of it but you. It is healthy, sane and safe, and can help you to develop both sexual satisfaction as well as sexual control, all at the same time. It can help to keep you from choosing partners or becoming sexually active for the wrong reasons (in other words, keep you from using people for sex when you should be satisfying yourself), and give you a solid understanding of your own anatomy and sexual response, which is what you need to have to enjoy sex with a partner or by yourself.


Masturbation Q&A

I was curious about how normal it is for girls to masturbate, and how many (I suppose your estimation of how many) do.

It is absolutely normal for all sexes to masturbate. We've all done it on one level or another even as babies and children, though we may not remember. In general, most boys seem to start masturbating regularly earlier than most girls, but on the whole, about 98% of men have or do masturbate, and about 95% of women have masturbated or currently do.

I recently tried masturbating, and inserting the fingers in my vagina wasn't comfortable at all, so then I tried something else, I put my hand between legs and pulled my hand upwards while my legs were wrapped tight. Is this a form of masturbation?

ANYTHING that you do with your genitals yourself for the purpose of sexual pleasure is considered masturbation. Most women, according to studies and general information, don't masturbate regularly with vaginal insertion, but instead by manipulating the clitoris and surrounding areas of the vulva. Like most sex, there aren't rules that govern masturbation: whatever feels best to you is what you should do.

What exactly is an orgasm?

A fine question, that one. An orgasm, simply put, is a physical and emotional sexual release. During orgasm, your body responds with a series of both voluntary and involuntary muscle contractions (most of which are in your pelvic area, abdomen and thighs), and those contraction push blood (inside your body, you won't bleed externally) from the tissues in your pelvis. You may, upon orgasm, ejaculate, or feel a wetness in your vagina and on your thighs.

Many people experience orgasm in many different ways. It may feel intense, or it may feel relaxing. You might feel a ripple of warmth through your body, or almost a tickle. Sometimes, our awareness in our mind shifts a bit; we may feel disoriented or dizzy. Not only does experience orgasm differently from person to person, we all can experience any number of different experiences of orgasm ourselves depending on our level of arousal, the means we use (masturbation, intercourse, oral sex, etc.) to achieve orgasm, and out general mood and physical well-being.

Unfortunately, a lot of young women don't know when they've had an orgasm, or don't trust in it, because a lot of media and strange mythology surrounding orgasm has thwarted the matter. Though it is a marvelous feeling, you may not always want to scream to the heavens, and for most women, orgasm does not happen from vaginal intercourse or stimulus alone. The earth doesn't always move, nor does your head feel as if it is blown off. All in all, the best way I know to know if you've had one is if you feel satisfied and sexually sated.

A lot of women fake orgasm, feeling if they don't "come," they are ruining something for their partners, however, this is not so, and is a bad habit to get into, as it gives your partner false cues about what is turning you on. Sex should not be for the point of getting off, but for the entire process. If it isn't, then everyone is missing out, whether they have an orgasm or not. If kissing or masturbating isn't as enjoyable on some level as intercourse, it's time to take stock. Reaching orgasm is wonderful, and in time, you'll learn how to have one, but it's a bit like eating you dinner: the point isn't to finish what's on your plate and get away from the table, it's to savor each bite, and relish giving your body what it wants and needs, at it's own pace. For more information on orgasm and sexual response, click here.

I find myself completely obsessed w/ sex... and I've never even had it!! I think about it constantly. I have this huge desire to go all the way, yet, at age 14, I feel I truly shouldn't. What can I do to substitute for sex? I have a guy that I am physically involved with and we both feel the same way. What can we try without doing the actual deed?

It's completely normal to think about sex a lot, especially when you've got hormones racing through your system like the Indy 500. There is something about the notion of "substituting" for intercourse that disturbs me though. The thing is, sex is bigger than intercourse, and it isn't the be-all end-all of sexuality, by any stretch of the imagination.

There are any number of things you can try, both with and without a partner. My guess is, your desire isn't so much for intercourse, per se, as you haven't experienced it to know that, but simply to diffuse the sexual longing and frustration that you feel, and that is exactly what masturbation is for, and on some level what sex with a partner shouldn't be for.

Work with yourself first, and I think you'll be surprised to discover how much of sexual longing is about you, solely, and not you wanting your partner. After that, you can try any number of things, including mutual masturbation, manual/digital sex (with hands and fingers), oral sex (use protection, please) and even simply talking about sex. These things will not only do the trick now, they'll prepare you for better intercourse when the time comes.

If you masturbate close to the time your period is suppose to come, can your period be late?

Not because of masturbation. In fact, because orgasm brings on contractions in your pelvic area, it's more common that it might bring on your period if it's about that time. If you masturbated and your period is late, it's a coincidence.

I am a Virgin and I want to know how to explore myself properly. I want to know how to masterbate. When I watch movies like (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) it makes me sooo Horny I wanna know what it feels like I know nothing about sex or my clitoris. When my friends talk about it, and ask me how do I like it? I end up lying. They use words that I never heard before and I don't even know what they mean.

Learning to masturbate is just like learning to do anything else with your body. No one else can tell you how to walk or how to run, you just have to pick up your feet and give it a go.

Check out our map of your anatomy (or this one, if you're a guy reader) and get to know your body a bit. Then explore! Use your hands and fingers, or as many women do at first, running water or a shower head, to touch different parts of your vulva and find out what you like best.

Okay here's my problem. I've had two sex partners who both I cared much about. The thing is I have never got ANYTHING out of sex. I don't even enjoy fingering. I wish that at least once I could curl my toes while having sex and mean it. Is it me or is it my partners? And whatever it may be, how I can enjoy sex?

More than likely, it has to do with you or your partners, like many people, assuming sex is something that is given to you or done to you. The best way to enjoy sex is to walk into it understanding that you're responsible for your own sexual satisfaction, even with a partner.

Ultimately, my advice to most people who aren't very satisfied with their initial sexual encounters with others is to start instead with themselves. Find what turns you on, beyond your partner, mentally, emotionally and physically. Then explore that in masturbation, and discover what techniques, practices and physical areas turn you on. If you're talking about vaginal intercourse, you may need to adjust your expectations, or make sure you're focusing on more activities than just intercourse alone.

It's hard to say, as a third party, what isn't doing it for you, as it can be any number of things, and I'd have to ask you many more questions to find out. But all in all, like most things, good sex starts with you, not a partner. Take it from there, and I'll bet you see results.

Hey there, I want to thank you for the site it has done a lot for me. I'm 15 soon to be 16, and I have this great interest in sex, I write about it, I talk about it, and I plan on doing it this summer with a good guy friend that has mutual feelings for me. I wanted to know if having this great interest in sex is normal for teens, especially for girls?

It certainly is normal. However, I think too many of us when we're young make the false assumption that an interest in sex, or a sexual drive, is an interest in intercourse. Though intercourse is sex, sex isn't only intercourse. A lot of women who assume that wanting sex means wanting intercourse are sorely disappointed when they have intercourse, and discover it isn't what they thought it would be. In fact, some studies show that as many as 80% of women don't usually enjoy first intercourse or are satisfied by it.

That's where you, and your hands and fingers, come in. Wanting intercourse as a curiosity is okay, but we should make sure we aren't using someone else to get off, to put it bluntly. You can alleviate both your physical craving and your curiosity by masturbating, and in the long run, you may find it works better when it is sexual satisfaction -- separated from emotional intimacy -- that you crave.

written 29 Apr 2007 . updated 13 Jul 2014

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