Self-love is, undoubtedly, where it’s at. And taking it in its literal form—providing yourself with “love,” known simply as masturbation—is the ultimate form of it.
Despite being a normal aspect of human sexuality, we’ve been taught that self-pleasure is anything but pleasurable; instead, we’re taught to feel guilty and shameful. But little did we know that there are plenty of science-backed benefits of masturbation.
“It’s not taught in schools; it’s not talked about by our medical professionals; it’s not discussed in polite society,” says Dr. Amy Killen, an integrative and regenerative physician who specializes in aesthetics and sexual medicine, in The Science of Great Sex Quest on Mindvalley. “So, of course, we feel ashamed, guilty, and indulgent when we do it.”
Whether flying solo is already part of your self-care routine or if you’re curious to know, remember that there is no shame in loving your genitals. Truth be told, there’s power in it.
7 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Masturbation
The topic of self-pleasure has long been shrouded in taboo, shame, and secrecy. It’s no wonder we’re often left wondering how to do it and even why we should.
Surprisingly, a 2018 Global Self-Pleasure Report found that more than 90% of men admitted to masturbating, and for women, about 70% admitted to doing so. As Dr. Killen declares out loud and with authority, “masturbation is normal, healthy, and not something you should be ashamed of doing.”
The reality is, it’s not solely about sex. The health benefits of masturbation are numerous and varied, from physical to mental to emotional to spiritual. So let’s get into what they are.
1. Relieves stress and pain
There’s a scene from There’s Something About Mary where Woogie tells Ted to “flog the dolphin” before his big date with Mary—and it’s with good reason. Masturbation relieves stress and pain.
One good example is for vulva owners who may experience decreased levels of pain during menstruation. It’s one of the benefits of female masturbation.
Self-pleasuring releases a variety of hormones, including endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine. Here’s how each of them contributes to this health benefit:
- Endorphins are natural painkillers that can help alleviate physical stress.
- Oxytocin helps lower stress hormones, like cortisol, to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
- Dopamine is associated with pleasure and reward, which can help boost feelings of well-being.
So when you’re charged up with so much sexual energy, it makes sense to find that release for “an orchestra of healthy, feel-good chemicals that can have immediate and lasting effects,” as Dr. Killen puts it. “It’s a powerful medicine, and, best of all, it’s free and available to all of us!”
2. Improves sleep
As you enter the stress-free, relax-mode-on zone, you may find that it’s easier to fall asleep.
According to Dr. Killen, you get a dose of serotonin just after orgasm. This calming hormone helps mediate happiness and satisfaction, giving you a sense of well-being. It also improves memory and sleep.
In fact, a 2019 study surveyed 778 adults to see if there was a relationship between sexual activities, sleep quality, and sleep latency. Its results found that orgasms from self-stimulation were “associated with the perception of better sleep quality and latency.”
3. Boosts mood and improves self-esteem
“Sexual activity promotes the release of four key chemicals,” says Dr. Killen, “which not only create intense pleasure [but also] improve your mood.” And as your mood improves, so does your perception of yourself.
Exploring your own body and becoming comfortable with your own sexuality can improve your confidence. Moreover, it gives you permission to heal shame and trauma and gives you the boost you need to reclaim your sexual power.
Furthermore, science has shown that there’s a correlation between your mood and your self-esteem. As related in a 2017 study, “better emotional abilities promote the experience of positive emotions, an increase in self-esteem, as well as a higher level of satisfaction with the quality of interpersonal relationships and perceived social support.”
4. Better sexual function
One main benefit of masturbation is that it does wonders for your pelvic floor muscles. When you self-stimulate, you engage these muscles as well as other muscles in the genital area, much like doing Kegels.
Here are a few more ways it can help:
- Increases blood flow to the genital area, which can improve the health and function of the pelvic floor muscles, and
- Increase muscle tone and strength, which can reduce the risk of pelvic floor problems, such as urinary incontinence.
“Your pelvic floor muscles not only support your sexual organs, but they are also intimately involved in how you experience arousal and orgasm,” explains Dr. Killen. And according to a 2020 study of the correlation between pelvic floor muscle strength and sexual function, sexually active women as well as those who have orgasms showed better pelvic floor muscle endurance than non-sexually active ones.
In short, the stronger the muscles in your genital area, the more aroused you are and the more you desire sexual pleasure.
5. Improves your sex life
Self-pleasure can absolutely improve your sex life, as one study suggests. “It’s a great time to learn about yourself, to figure out what you like and don’t like, which you can then communicate with your partner if or when you have one,” says Dr. Killen.
As you become more familiar with your body and what feels good to you, you become more aware of your sexual preferences and desires. It’s no longer about being the first one to the finish line; rather, it’s about having a conscious sexual experience with your partner.
While sexual self-pleasure is a solo sport, there is one plus point Dr. Killen points out: “There’s no risk of disease, pregnancy, or emotional entanglements with solo sex.”
6. Improves the immune system
There are health benefits to masturbation, but the question is, does it improve the immune system? Some studies seem to suggest so.
One popular study, in particular, looked into whether self-stimulation impacts the immune system in men, with eleven male participants masturbating until they had an orgasm. Its results found an increase in the number of inflammatory components, including leukocytes (white blood cells).
It’s important to note that more research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms of how masturbation impacts one’s immune system.
“I like to think of masturbation as just one more tool in your self-care armamentarium,” says Dr. Killen, “right there next to daily exercise, meditation, time in nature, and bubble baths.” All of which may not directly impact the health of the immune system, but supports it, nonetheless.
7. May lower the risk of prostate cancer
One of the many benefits of male masturbation that Dr. Killen mentions in her Quest is that “frequent ejaculation seems to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.” The idea is that ejaculation can help flush out any toxins or impurities that may have accumulated.
One piece of evidence comes from a 2016 study in European Urology that looked into the correlation between frequent ejaculation and the risk of prostate cancer. Its findings reported that men who ejaculated more than 21 times per month had a 20% lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those who did less so.
Frequently Asked Questions About Masturbation
Things we’re unfamiliar with, like everything else in life, will undoubtedly raise questions. Here are a few common questions about masturbation, with insights from Mindvalley experts.
Why does masturbation feel so good?
Among the aforementioned health benefits, it’s important to understand that stimulating yourself has no agenda. There’s no one else to please, no kama sutra position to try, and no pressure to get them to the finish line.
As Bibi Brzozka, conscious sexuality coach and trainer of Mindvalley’s Waves of Pleasure Quest, points out, masturbation is about you. She says, “When you learn to give and receive conscious erotic touch, you can experience different types of deep pleasure.”
Can masturbation harm the body?
Self-pleasure is generally considered safe. However, rough or excessive masturbation can cause physical discomfort or injury. So it’s important to remember to be gentle with yourself.
It’s about “creating an intimate connection with your body,” according to Bibi. It’s where you can “consciously feel your touch with healing energy, with love, with compassion, and [with] tenderness.”
How much masturbation is too much?
There are a number of myths about masturbation, such as how it will cause blindness or leave you with hairy palms. They’re called myths for a reason because, in truth, masturbation is healthy.
However, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, as the saying goes. That goes with self-satisfaction as well.
“If you are finding you are having difficulty getting aroused by your partner, or your refractory period between periods of arousal is longer than you’d like, backing off of the masturbation is a good idea,” Dr. Killen suggests.
As with any addiction, people who engage in excessive or compulsive masturbation may find that it interferes with their daily lives. And, if necessary, get professional help.
Can sex toys help with masturbation?
Vulva owners are often known to use sex toys for masturbation. However, it’s applicable to penis owners as well. What matters most is that they’re great additions to your sexual and sensual self-exploration.
It can enhance pleasure by providing unique sensations during masturbation. Additionally, it can help you discover what feels good and what doesn’t.
And that kind of sensual discovery can boost your confidence, allowing you to awaken your inner sex goddess.
What is tantric masturbation?
Much like tantra massage, tantric masturbation puts emphasis on the connection between the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the human experience. The main goal of it is to connect with and explore your own sexuality.
It uses breathwork, visualization, sensory focus, and mindfulness to focus on the sensations and feelings that arise during the self-pleasuring experience.
But it doesn’t limit itself to the genital area; rather, it “expands your pleasure map by incorporating the stimulation of the extra-genital erogenous zones.” For example, part of your exploration could be a sensual breast massage to stimulate the areolas and nipples.
If this sexual practice is something you’re curious about, it’s important to approach it with curiosity, openness, and a willingness to explore.
Master-bation for a Thriving Sex Life
Jenny Block, author of OWow, probably said it best:
“Have a migraine? Masturbate. Feeling stuck creatively? Masturbate. Feeling blue? Masturbate. Can’t sleep? Masturbate. Mired in stress? Low self-esteem? Sex drive in low gear? Chronic pain? Masturbation is good for what ails you.”
Pleasure is, no doubt, an art form—one that a handful of experts at Mindvalley are authorities on. Here’s where you can find them:
- The Science of Great Sex Quest with Dr. Amy Killen.
- Waves of Pleasure Quest with Bibi Brzozka.
- Neo-Tantra: Activate Your Sexual Energy for Ultimate Pleasure Quest with Layla Martin.
- Tantra Touch Quest with Psalm Isadora. (Unfortunately, Psalm passed away in 2017, but her teachings are still available on Mindvalley.)
From the science of it to how to enjoy the pleasures of it to the techniques of it, you’ll find there are plenty of things to learn for the benefit of your well-being.
And when you sign up for a Mindvalley account, you can get a sneak peek at their first few quest lessons, so you can see just how sexuality and sensuality truly radiate in every corner of our lives.
When it comes down to it, masturbation is just a case of self-love. Regardless of what people say, there’s no shame in that.