Masturbation is when people touch, stroke or rub their own body (penis, clitoris, vulva or breasts etc.) for sexual pleasure. People masturbate in lots of different ways; touching your own body for sexual pleasure is different for everyone, depending on what feels good.
People use many different terms for masturbation; ‘playing with yourself’, ‘wanking’, ‘flicking the bean’ or ‘jerking off’ – are just a few.
Many people still feel ashamed or embarrassed about masturbation, or think that it’s something ‘losers’ do because they can’t get a girlfriend or boyfriend. However, it is normal and healthy for both girls and guys to masturbate; there is absolutely nothing wrong with exploring your own body and many people with partners will still masturbate, either alone or together, during their relationship.
When two people masturbate together, this is called mutual masturbation. Communicating with your partner about what feels good can help you both learn about your bodies, as well as how and where you like to be touched. This can be a very intimate experience between partners, especially if they do not feel ready for sexual intercourse.
Why do people masturbate?
Mainly because it feels good! Touching your body can be pleasurable and a way to relieve sexual tension. It is also a great way to get to know your own body and explore what you like, what turns you on and how to achieve sexual pleasure.
Other common reasons for masturbating include: to reduce stress, relieve muscle tension (including pre-menstrual cramps), to get to sleep, increase self-esteem, and a way to have sex when partners are unavailable.
Does everyone masturbate?
Not everyone masturbates and this can be for many different reasons. Of those people that do masturbate, some do it often and some hardly at all! The kind of things that affect if someone does or does not masturbate may include cultural or religious beliefs and values, fear, lack of understanding, or just personal preference. Some people feel uncomfortable touching their own body, or do not have any desire to; other people may find they feel more comfortable exploring their body once they have started having sex or are in a relationship.
People can start masturbating from a young age; or may start masturbating later in their adult life; or may never masturbate. All are completely normal. It’s up to each person to decide when or whether they want to masturbate or not.
Are there any risks with masturbation?
Masturbation is a safe activity with practically no risks associated with it. There is no risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unplanned pregnancy from masturbating on your own; or with your partner (providing you are only touching yourself and not each other, and not sharing unprotected sex toys such as vibrators).
You are unlikely to damage or harm your body by masturbating. There is a possibility of soreness or bruising from masturbating too roughly or very frequently. Using a lubricant (lube) can help masturbation feel more comfortable and reduce chance of skin irritation. Be aware of long or sharp fingernails that may cut or scratch the sensitive skin of the genitals. If you are using sex toys use those according to the instructions to avoid any injury (don’t use DIY toys or foreign objects like vegetables).
Lastly, remember to always masturbate in a private place – although it’s totally ok to masturbate, masturbating in public is against the law.
Most of this is common sense – as long as what you’re doing feels good and masturbating isn’t getting in the way of your everyday activities, there’s not much to worry about.
If you are concerned masturbation is interrupting your everyday life, or if you just have more questions, you can call Family Planning NSW Talkline 1300 658 886 for information and advice.