M is for Masturbation

By Dr Jireh Serfontein, sexual health practitioner.

May is known as International Masturbation Month. It is an entire month devoted to self-love and self-pleasure.

A San Francisco-based sex shop, Good Vibrations, started Masturbation Month in response to the firing of then-Surgeon General Dr Joycelyn Elders, who suggested masturbation be included in youth sex education programmes. “We were astounded. It was one of the most sensible things we’d ever heard a government official say – and it cost Elders her job!” They also write: “Of all the kinds of sex people can have, masturbation is the most universal and important, yet few people talk about it freely. Worse, many people still feel it is “second best” or problematic in some way. Masturbation Month lets us emphasise how great it is. It’s natural, common, and fun!”

“Masturbation is part of normal sexual health. It is a universal sexual right and thus a basic human right.”

Living in South Africa, which is actually one of the most conservative countries in the world, I know that masturbation is not something we really talk about – so let’s break the ice and get going!

The word masturbation is used to describe self-stimulation of one’s genitals for sexual pleasure. People masturbate for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is to relieve sexual tension, but it’s also valuable as a means of self-exploration. I often tell my patients that if you don’t know how to please yourself, how can you expect your partner to? People can learn a great deal about their sexual response from masturbation. Self-stimulation can help women learn to experience orgasms and, for men, experimenting with their response pattern can increase ejaculatory control. Some people masturbate to help them fall asleep at night.

An American Survey found that 48% of teenage girls and 73% of teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 17 had masturbated. The difference between the percentages of females and males who masturbate lessen for people in their 20s. Almost 85% of women and over 94% of men between 25 and 29 masturbate. A Swedish study had similar outcomes and also found that the average age of first masturbation was 13.0 years for girls and 12.5 years for boys.

Health benefits of masturbation

  1. It improves mood and decreases stress.
  2. It helps you sleep better.
  3. It improves your immune system.
  4. It can improve period pains in women.
  5. It can decrease the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Fast facts

  1. One in seven women have never masturbated.
  2. Women are more likely to use sex toys when masturbating.
  3. Girls and boys first masturbate in their early teens.
  4. Married people are less likely to masturbate.
  5. Clitoral stimulation (as opposed to vaginal insertion) is most women’s preferred masturbatory technique.
  6. Frequent masturbation could potentially be good for your health.

Masturbation is part of normal sexual health. It is a universal sexual right and thus a basic human right. Try to use the month of May to embrace your sexuality and learn to love yourself. It is not shameful, it is beautiful!

This article was specifically written for BabyYumYum by our expert Dr Jireh Serfontein and can also be found on her blog.