Learning how to love is a complex set of equations. Knowing how to love is no more an inborn skill than being able to compute algebraic equations. Physical loving turns these basic math facts into the complex calculations, which keeps the physical universe together.
Seen in this light, masturbation is like learning our basic math facts; our physical and sexual anatomy is at once universal and individual. Gaining an understanding of the functionality of our own sexual organs and discovering reliable pathways to pleasure is prerequisite for any possibility of a paired enjoyment.
Although saying the word masturbation will successfully silence conversation in almost any room, the truth about masturbation is that it is the most common sexual practice the world over. Since the 1950s repeated studies have shown that the percentage of men who masturbate is close to 100% and for women are not far behind, at 82%. Besides that, masturbation for those who allow themselves the practice is one that is enjoyed throughout our lives. It’s too bad we refuse to discuss the subject, even with our partners and closest friends.
The silence and shame that shadow masturbation have long and deep roots. Beyond religious condemnation, the practice was not long ago considered an affliction for which medical doctors used the cruelest of instruments and techniques to control. Yet women with “hysteria” were also medically treated by being masturbated by the physicians who eventually built elaborate room sized vibrators to take over the handwork of bringing women to orgasm.
Back in 1995, Good Vibrations launched National Masturbation Month to protest the firing of Clinton appointed U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn 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.” Getting over our discomfort with masturbation and healthy sexuality is not just important for ourselves, but even more so for the next generation. Opening the dialogue with the young people in your life and normalizing the language of sexuality is one of the most important steps you can take to build sexual health into your family’s future.
Sigmund Freud once said, “The only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly.” Indeed, masturbation is one of the healthiest behaviors we can add to life. It helps maintain genito-urinary health and teaches us to become and remain responsive sexual partners. Learning how to experience pleasure alone can have a meaningful impact on a number of sexual problems between couples.
Perhaps the best reasons to let go of all the judgment and history surrounding this normal sexual behavior is because having access to your own pleasure and orgasm teaches a profound inner lesson, which is that the ability to orgasm is your own. No one else gives it to you or has power over you having it. Having the knowledge and confidence to know what feels good to you allows you the space and courage to share that most intimate information about yourself with someone else. Accepting the full responsibility of our own sexual nature, needs and preferences is the gift you bring to a healthy sexual relationship with someone else.