Masturbation is the erotic stimulation of one's own genitals for
Masturbation is the self-stimulation of the sex organs, most often to the
point of orgasm. Sixty to ninety percent of adolescent boys and 40 percent
of girls masturbate. Although people's attitudes about masturbation
differ widely, there is no evidence that masturbation is in any way
physically, psychologically, or emotionally harmful. For many young
people, masturbation is an opportunity for private sexual exploration
before deciding to engage is sexual activity with another person. It is
also considered the safest form of sex in the prevention of
sexually transmitted diseases
, including human
Masturbation allows a healthy way to express and explore one's
sexuality and to release sexual tension without the associated risks of
sexual intercourse, according to many healthcare providers. They also
agree that masturbation is a natural, normal, and healthy way of
self-exploration and sexual expression.
It is increasingly recognized among mental health professionals that
masturbation can relieve depression and lead to a higher sense of self
worth. Masturbation can also be particularly useful in relationships in
which one partner wants more sexual activity than the other, in which case
masturbation provides a balancing effect.
Many conservative religious groups teach that masturbation is a sinful
practice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2352, lists
one of the "Offenses against Chastity" and calls it
"an intrinsically and gravely disordered action" because
"use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of
marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." It goes on to
caution that extenuating factors could exist, such as immaturity,
habitual, or psychological problems.
The discussion of masturbation has been controversial for hundreds of
years and still is to some extent in the early 2000s, more so in the
United States than Europe and other Western nations. Children caught by
their parents masturbating are often punished and told it is a sin. In
fact, there is no mention of the word "masturbation" or
"self-pleasure" in the Bible. Children are also often told
it is wrong or unhealthy, myths that are not supported by medical
In the early 2000s, masturbation has become more accepted for both males
and females yet there is still a stigma about discussing it openly.
College courses on human sexuality include materials and discussion of
masturbation, and many parenting manuals deal with ways to affirm a
child's self-pleasing habits rather than degrading or punishing the
child. Many sex therapists believe that to have better sexual experiences
with a partner, an individual needs to learn to masturbate first since it
is the best way to learn what one likes and does not like in his or her
Most people think of masturbation as a very personal and private act
involving using only the hands to manipulate the genitals. Ways of
masturbating common to both males and females include pressing or rubbing
the genital area against an object, inserting a finger or other object
into the anus, and stimulating the penis or clitoris with electric
vibrators, which can also be inserted into the anus or vagina. Some males
and females enjoy touching, rubbing, or pinching their nipples while
masturbating, and both sexes also sometimes use lubricants, such as hand
lotion, to improve the sensation.
The most common form of masturbation, especially in circumcised males, is
to wrap one or both hands or several fingers and thumb around the erect
penis and stroke it up and down until ejaculation. This action results in
no direct stimulation of the head of the penis and ejaculation is achieved
almost entirely from stimulation of the penis shaft and its contact
against the underside of the head of the penis only. In uncircumcised
males, it is most common to grip the skin of the penis and move it up and
down, resulting in repeated sliding of the foreskin back and forth over
the head of the penis until orgasm is reached.
Another common method is to rub the erect penis against a smooth surface,
such as a mattress or pillow until ejaculation is reached. Less common
masturbation techniques include use of an artificial vagina or other
In 2003, an Australian research team led by Graham Giles of the
Council published a medical study that concluded frequent masturbation by
males may help prevent the development of prostate cancer and that it
would be more helpful than ejaculation through sexual intercourse because
intercourse can transmit diseases which can increase the risk of cancer
Females most commonly masturbate by stroking or rubbing the vulva,
especially the clitoris, with hands and fingers until orgasm is reached.
Females also may use running water to stimulate the vulva or insert
fingers or a hard object into the vagina. Many women are only able to
achieve orgasm through masturbation. Some women can experience sexual
stimulation simply by crossing their legs tightly.
One enduring myth is that female masturbation can lead to decreased
sensitivity of the clitoris resulting in a decrease in the frequency and
intensity of female orgasm. However, the evidence points the other way and
suggests that women who have engaged in masturbation have a better
understanding of their own genital anatomy and can guide their sexual
partners in appreciating the specific sexual acts that contribute to
Some and probably all children are capable of what appear to be sexual
responses even in earliest years. Most infants probably explore and fondle
their own genitals, but not in a goal directed way. Masturbation by
infants is also referred to as gratification disorder or infantile
masturbation. It is sometimes mistakenly identified by physicians for
epilepsy. A study published in the March 2004 issue of
Archives of Disease in Childhood
reported the median age at first symptoms was ten and one-half months,
with an age range of three months to five years and five months. The
median frequency was seven times a week and the median length was two and
one-half minutes. Masturbation in infants is difficult to recognize
because it often does not involve manual stimulation of the genitals at
all, the study reported.
Occasional masturbation is a normal behavior in preschool-age children and
most commonly occurs
"when a child is sleepy, bored, watching television, or under
stress," according to a 2002 advisory in the annual journal
Clinical Reference Systems.
The advisory states that up to one third of preschool-age children
discover masturbation while exploring their bodies. They often continue to
masturbate simply because it feels good. Some children masturbate
frequently because they are unhappy or under stress or are reacting to
punishment or pressure to stop masturbation completely. Once a child
discovers masturbation, he or she seldom stops doing it completely,
according to the advisory. It is not abnormal or excessive unless it is
deliberately done in public places after age five or six, when most
children learn discretion and masturbate only in private.
"It is impossible to eliminate masturbation in a child. Accept the
fact you're your child has learned about it and enjoys it,"
the advisory states. "The only thing you can control is where he or
she does it. A reasonable goal is to permit it in the bedroom and bathroom
only. . . . If you completely ignore the masturbation, no matter where
it's done, your child will think he or she can do it freely in any
As a child grows, masturbation to orgasm becomes more and more likely.
Researchers and experts disagree on how many children masturbate before
. Most children seem to have the biological capacity to derive pleasure
from self-stimulation. Masturbation becomes almost universal at
in response to normal surges in sex hormones and sexual drive. Most
studies suggest that approximately 94 percent of teenage males and about
70 percent of teenage girls admit they masturbate. The actual number of
youngsters who masturbate is believed to be higher, since the use of the
word "admit" in surveys can imply wrong-doing.
Most males learn to masturbate during adolescence; fewer females do. Some
sex therapists believe that girls who do not masturbate miss an important
step in their sexual development, since masturbation provides an
opportunity to learn how one's body responds to erotic stimulation.
Because boys usually masturbate and girls often do not, boys are more
likely to learn a sexuality that is genitally focused. Boys learn their
sexuality in a context with other boys who bestow a sense of esteem on
them. Boys often masturbate with another boy or group of boys. This in
itself does not imply
. Girls who masturbate almost always discover it alone. Girls generally
talk among themselves about masturbation but do not perform with other
girls or in front of others. There is no peer support for sexual
exploration or reward for teaching orgasm. Boys emerge from adolescence
both sexually advantaged and disadvantaged. They are practiced at having
orgasms and comfortable with the physical aspects of sex. They are less
adept at handling emotional relationships with girls.
There is no credible scientific or medical evidence that manual
masturbation is damaging to either one's physical or mental health.
The exception to this includes some cases of Peyronie's disease in
which aggressive manipulation, such as inversion during adolescence, and
bending or twisting of the penis, results in a localized benign tumor,
distorting the erectile appearance.
Contrary to popular myth, masturbation does not make the palms hairy or
cause blindness or genital shrinkage. It has also been alleged that
masturbation can reduce sensitivity in the male penis. This statement is
also false. The only side-effects recorded are that repeated masturbation
may result in tiredness or soreness, which tend to make repeated
masturbation self-limiting in any case and that the volume of ejaculate is
temporarily reduced in men after multiple ejaculations until normal semen
volume is regained in a day or so. Also, people from a socially
conservative or religious background may experience feelings of guilt
during or after masturbation.
Studies show that kids who feel they can talk with their parents about
masturbation and other sexual issues—because their moms and dads
speak openly and listen carefully to them—are less likely to engage
in high-risk behavior as teens than kids who do not feel they can talk
with their parents about the subject. Parents should explore their own
feelings about sex and masturbation. Parents who are uncomfortable with
the subject should read books or articles on masturbation and discuss
their feelings with a trusted friend, relative, physician, or clergy
member. The more parents examine the subject, the more confident they will
feel discussing it. If a child has not started asking questions about
masturbation, parents should look for a good opportunity to mention it.
While children need to know the biological facts about masturbation, they
also need to understand that sexual relationships involve caring, concern,
and responsibility. If parents discuss with their children the emotional
aspect of a sexual relationships, the children will be better informed to
make decisions later on and to resist
—A surgical procedure, usually with religious or cultural
significance, where the prepuce or skin covering the tip of the penis on
a boy, or the clitoris on a girl, is cut away.
—The most sensitive area of the external genitals. Stimulation of
the clitoris causes most women to reach orgasm.
—The process by which semen (made up in part of prostatic fluid)
is ejected by the erect penis.
—Refers to the sexual or reproductive organs that are visible
outside the body.
—The masturbation by infants, also called gratification disorder.
—Another word for sexual climax. In the male, orgasm is usually
accompanied by ejaculation but may be experienced as distinct from
—A disease of unknown origin which causes a hardening of the
corpora cavernosa, the erectile tissue of the penis. The penis may
become misshapen and/or curved as a result and erections are painful.
—The external genital organs of a woman, including the outer and
inner lips, clitoris, and opening of the vagina.
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Masturbation: It's Time to Talk.
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