Is masturbation healthy?

Is it masturbation healthy or does it cause some diseases?
Heather Corinna replies:

Unless you're masturbating with something that isn't sanitary -- such as a toy or object that can't really be sanitized, or with unwashed hands -- masturbation can't cause disease or infection, just like you, say, putting your fingers in your mouth isn't going to cause disease or infection unless you're carrying around bacteria or a virus on your hands.

And in a lot of different ways, masturbation is an incredibly healthy habit.

I wrote a piece elsewhere a couple of years back on the subject of how sex -- including masturbation -- is good for you, so I'll just go ahead and tell you some of what I said there.

• Sexual arousal and orgasm triggers the release of numerous hormones. A rise in oxytocin levels via sex, for instance, has been shown in studies to be a profound pain reliever, for headaches, menstrual cramps and muscle aches, and promotes feelings of affection and nurturing which help to reduce stress levels. Sex encourages the flow of testosterone, which strengthens bones and muscles and helps transport DHEA, a hormone that is important in the function of the body’s immune system, as well as for tissue repair and neurological balance. Keeping testosterone flowing freely also helps to reduce the risk of prostate problems and cancer in men. In women, estrogen levels increase during arousal, providing benefits to the reproductive organs as well as to skin and hair. Endorphins -- releases in the same way they are after other exercise -- reduce depression, and can improve cholesterol levels and help increase circulation.

• Dr. David Weeks, a clinical neuropsychologist at Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital, conducted a study of 3,500 people ranging in age from 18 to 102. Weeks concluded that sex does actually slow the aging process.

• Sex can be mild exercise, burning around 300 calories an hour when you get really active, and engaging all of your muscle groups. Sex can help reduce the risk of strokes or heart attacks through its cardiovascular benefits.

• A long term study of 37,500 adults at the Institute for Advanced Human Sexuality has shown that sex is important for sound mental health. People with fulfilling sex lives were found to be in much better mental health, more relaxed, with a more positive outlook, and more self- reliant than those without.

• Even kissing by itself has a whole lot of benefits, great news for those of us (like me) who think the kissing is the best part, anyways. Extra saliva produced in your mouth during kissing helps rid your mouth of bacteria and helps to break down plaque. Engaging your tongue helps tone the muscles of your face. Passionate kisses can burn as many as two calories a minute.

• Good sex promotes self-acceptance, communication, tolerance, union, compassion, love, joy and peace. We need these things in our lives and our world, far more of them than we're getting or creating -- and we have to create and nurture them to keep it all going. My parents weren't saying "Make Love, Not War," blithely: they were right. Good sex keeps us tapped into the things that our minds and bodies need to relax, to stay centered and aware. Good sex keeps us open, in body, heart and mind, and circularly, when we are open in that way we're able to really have good sex.

Want more words on that than just mine? take a look at a few external links that talk about these benefits, too:

The idea that masturbation is unhealthy, and myths about it causing disease have always been based in a fear of sexuality or in ignorance about health and human sexuality. Sometimes, too, people who believe or want to believe that sex is or should only be about procreation will further myths about masturbation in order to further their own agenda.

Most people masturbate, and through history, most people have always masturbated. If it truly caused disease or illness, our species would have died out long before now -- or we'd all be blind, all have hair on our hands, all be infertile, what have you -- simply because most of us masturbate.

In other words: it's all good, and it's also all good for you when it comes to masturbation. Carry on.

For more info on masturbation here at Scarleteen, check out:

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