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I love orgasms, and since masturbation is the handiest way to have an orgasm, I love masturbating.
I first discovered that my body could give me ecstasy when I was about five and accidentally made the intimate acquaintance of the shiny faucet of an old claw-foot bathtub as I was romping around in the bath.
When cold drops of water dripped onto my labia, I was stunned. The feeling was indescribably amazing. I loved taking baths after that, and I even secretively climbed in there a few times to feel the icy trickle between my legs.
I didn’t know why I liked it so much or why that part of me was so sensitive, but at that age, I didn’t stop to question. It just felt good.
I remember that sensual child fondly, along with the 8-year-old who rocked on a chair that rubbed her just the right way and the 13-year-old whose imagination suddenly exploded with fantasies that made me rub my crotch against pillows and blankets to get off.
I remember nervously buying my first vibrator at age 15, dying of embarrassment yet weirdly proud. It wasn’t feminist to need a man to get me off — much better to be sexually independent and able to take care of my own needs!
By 17, I realized I knew how to give myself orgasms a lot better than the people I dated, and I cheerfully accepted that masturbation would always be a part of my life.
Now as I approach 60, nothing much has changed for me in the masturbation department. Although I live in a permanent triad with two sexy partners, it remains my go-to sexual act, a comfortingly reliable source of joy and a convenient way to relieve stress on my own schedule.
After decades of studying sex, I also know now that masturbation is the single healthiest act an adult can perform, better for you than a daily shower. Well, yay for me. Now more than ever, I can think of good reasons to end most days on an orgasmic note.
The only problem I’ve ever had with masturbation, frankly, is living in a world where other people are so uptight about the subject that they can’t even talk about it without making jokes, if they can talk about it at all.
I had a client who would literally gulp, blush and summon all her strength to whisper “M” to me. It took her months before she could say the word masturbation and a year after that before she could try it. She was almost 40 at the time and had been married for 20 years.
It is a fundamental building block of sexual development, an act that is usually accompanied by fantasies that help us develop a framework for future life choices and behaviors, from the types of sex acts that turn us on the most to the types of partners who turn us on the most.
People who have never masturbated, or who feel intensely conflicted about it, almost invariably have significant sex issues when they begin having partnered sex.
That’s one of the strange little secrets throughout American society.
On the surface, most people will agree that masturbation is normal. And while most people no longer think they’ll go blind from it, they may still believe their preachers or their local sex addiction counselors, all of whom still push the idea that masturbation is a threat to psychological stability and can unbalance or harm a relationship.
There is no evidence to support such allegations. They are, in essence, old wives’ tales that have been dressed up and repackaged for 21st century prudes.
A lot of our cultural anxiety about masturbation stems from 18th century theories, when the myths about illness and degeneration were first inscribed in advertising pamphlets parading as medical studies.
Although scientists later debunked the notion that it made your testicles shrink and your hair fall out, it is only in the 21st century that we have enough accumulated data to show masturbation is harmless, while the orgasms it produces are beneficial.
The last 20 years of studies across the health sciences have abundantly yielded good news about orgasms.
Orgasms trigger the brain to produce a natural cocktail of chemicals that help humans experience love and intimacy while promoting better health throughout our bodies.
Orgasms lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, endometriosis, prostate cancer and other reproductive cancers. They lessen depression, reduce anxiety, improve skin quality, strengthen pelvic floor muscles and support cardiovascular health. New data links frequent (three to five times/week) orgasms to longevity.
If doctors were honest, they’d tell every adult patient to masturbate as part of a sound program of preventive medicine. If psychologists were honest, they’d stop treating people who like to masturbate as sex addicts and stop shaming people about self-pleasure.
If adults were honest, they’d admit it’s time to get over their childish fear of touching themselves and talk about the benefits of masturbation to their kids.
Let’s all be honest: it’s absurd to be ashamed of something that is good for you.