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A Pleasure Holiday

istock_000006508267xsmall“The only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly.” –Sigmund Freud

Whatever else the holiday weekend may offer, don’t forget to honor the fact that May has long been declared national Masturbation Month. Good Vibrations launched the annual celebration of self-pleasure in 1995 to protest the firing of Clinton appointed U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders. Conservative members of the administration blasted Elders when she responded to questions regarding safe sex by saying that, “Masturbation is something that perhaps should be taught.” This was a remarkably bold statement at the time, and although masturbation is considered one of the most common sexual acts on the planet, the silence and shame that shadow masturbation have long and deep roots.

Beyond the religious condemnation that has long been associated with self-pleasure, the practice was not long ago considered an affliction for which medical doctors used the cruelest of instruments and techniques to control young boys from experiencing any pleasure at all. So it is not surprising that the self-reporting of this behavior still hovers between 30- 70% depending on gender and age. Even with all of the benefits that this practice can bring to a couple’s sex life; this is still a behavior that many people are not comfortable sharing with their partners.

This is unfortunate, as there are many benefits to a healthy dose of solo sexual practices. It teaches both genders about their own sexual response and personal experience is an invaluable aid in communicating to your partner about what feels good or doesn’t. Uncovering the keys to your pleasure is empowering and allows you the freedom and courage to open up in new ways with a partner.

The practice of solo sex is helpful for men who may have issues with premature ejaculation, as it can familiarize them with the moment of inevitability, so that they can better master their sense of control. Masturbation can also be a great balancer for couples who may have a disparity in sex drive frequency. Solo orgasm, can provide great stress relief and serve as a sleep aid as well as partnered pleasure.

There are many health benefits that make a pleasure holiday all the more enjoyable. A 2007 study in Sexual and Relationship Therapy found that male masturbation might also improve immune system functioning and the health of the prostate. For women, it builds pelvic floor muscles and sensitivity and has been associated with less back pain and cramping around menses as it increases blood flow and stimulates relaxation of the area after orgasm.

The one caveat to the discussion is that everything serves us well in moderation. Becoming too obsessed with solo sex play, often enhanced by visual or digital connection has been known to backfire and losing interest in the complexity and intensity of partner sex can occur. There are also some forms of masturbation that can make partner sex less appealing because the form of self-stimulation is so different from what happens in the paired experience. If you are experiencing less desire or ability to respond to your partner then ask yourself what you can do to make the experience more compatible with your partner’s ability to stimulate you. It might also mean backing off from solo sex and focusing on rediscovering your paired responses.

Masturbation is one of the healthiest behaviors we can add to life. It can help to keep our genito-urinary tracts healthy into old age and teaches us to become and remain responsive sexual partners. Enhancing your experience of pleasure alone can have a meaningful impact on a variety of sexual issues in relationship. It is also an easy way to take a quick holiday with yourself.