‘If you do it, you’ll become blind.’

‘Stop that or you won’t be able to have children in the future.’

‘It’s a dirty thing – you’ll make yourself ill.’

Masturbation can be defined as the touching of one’s own body to induce sexual release. For centuries, the act itself was viewed as something wrong and dirty and associated with feelings of shame, fear and guilt. Although masturbation may be a delicate issue for some, it is actually a natural process by which human beings get to know themselves and their sexual preferences. When one masturbates, one is in control of his/her own body and knows who he/she is, which may also increase self-esteem and decrease stress-levels.

Although masturbation is accepted nowadays, it is mostly associated with the male gender. Let’s get the facts straight.

Masturbation is a natural and common activity for both men and women. Men talk about masturbating as though it’s a normal occurrence, which it is, so why are women still ashamed or too shy to do the same? Granted, not everyone masturbates. However, a great percentage of the population does. Why the double standard? Why is female masturbation only accepted when it’s used as a form of male titillation? Female desires and passions are as important and strong as male wants and needs. Women feel horny just like men do, so why do we feel uncomfortable talking about it?

Apart from the emotional and psychological benefits, there are also a number of documented health-related benefits linked to masturbation. In her book Sex: A Natural History, Joann Ellison Rodgers describes the way that the rise in acidity in the cervical fluid, produced during masturbation, not only lubricates the vagina but also flushes out unfriendly organisms and bacteria, thereby preventing infections. For the same reason, masturbation can have a beneficial effect on older women who experience vaginal dryness and a loss of sexual desire later on in life, due to an irregular supply of estrogen. Masturbation could help remedy some of these issues, since stimulation of the clitoris and vagina activates neural pathways and produces natural lubrication, as well as lessening any physical discomfort older women may feel when with a partner.

Many couples have different sexual drives and needs. When we know, love, and nurture ourselves on emotional and physical levels, we gain confidence and grow through self-awareness. Being able to recognise, articulate, and experience what brings us pleasure is a powerful step toward having a better and more fulfilling relationship with one’s partner. Masturbation can also help to relieve tension and insomnia, since it’s also a way to unwind, not to mention help to relieve depressive moods, since the levels of hormonal dopamine and epinephrine which increase during masturbation are mood-boosters.

In a nutshell, for those who are single, divorced, widowed or whose partner has no interest in sexual intercourse, masturbation can be a satisfying substitute. For those who have a good and strong relationship, it can serve to further strengthen one’s knowledge not only of one’s self, but also of one’s sexual relationship with their partner. If you’re not comfortable with masturbation or don’t feel the need for it, that’s ok. The choice is entirely up to the individual or the couple. The important thing is that the topic stops being a taboo, stops being a reason to shame or be ashamed of something which is natural and which is socially acceptable in males, but not in females. Female sexual needs are as important as anyone’s. Never feel guilty for being human.