Masturbation is a normal physical function. “It’s as natural as going to the bathroom or breathing air,” says Susan Kellogg-Spadt, PhD, the director of female sexual medicine at the Center for Pelvic Medicine in Rosemont, Pennsylvania.
And yet for some people, there’s still a stigma around masturbation that has led to misinformation and numerous masturbation myths. Read on to learn what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to solo sex.
Myth 1: People in Relationships Don’t Masturbate
Reality: “People masturbate whether they are in a relationship or single,” says Justine Marie Shuey, PhD, a board-certified sexologist in Philadelphia. “Some get jealous when their partners masturbate because they feel it’s cheating, or that their partner is masturbating because they aren’t good enough [in bed]. But it’s important to understand that people have different levels of sexual desire — all are totally healthy and normal, and some involve masturbation.”
Myth 2: Excessive Masturbation Can Lead to Erectile Dysfunction
Reality: “Erectile dysfunction does not result from masturbation,” Dr. Spadt says. “What can happen with either men or women is you masturbate frequently and become used to a certain touch, whether it’s vibration or your own hand.” Because of this, she says, “You may become habituated to that sensation and find it more difficult to have an orgasm with your partner.”
Myth 3: Masturbation Is Not a Normal Part of Sexual Development
Reality: A study published in JAMA Pediatrics that involved more than 800 teenagers ages 14 to 17 found that 74 percent of boys, and more than 48 percent of girls, masturbate — and that’s a good thing, according to Dr. Shuey. “It’s totally healthy for people of all ages to masturbate,” she says.
Myth 4: There Are No Health Benefits of Masturbation
Reality: “Masturbation has a number of health benefits,” Shuey says. “They include better sleep, reduced stress and tension, fewer headaches, improved concentration, increased self-esteem, a more youthful appearance, and better fitness.” There are also a number of specific sexual health benefits for women — particularly older women — including less vaginal dryness and pain during sex.
Myth 5: You Can Masturbate Too Much
Reality: Masturbation only becomes excessive if it serves as an escape from problems in your relationship, if it begins to affect your health, or if it turns into a substitute for real-life experiences. Additionally, if masturbation causes physical soreness, emotional issues (you can’t think about anything else), problems with your relationship, or habituation issues (when only the type of stimulation you engage in during masturbation will lead to an orgasm), it may be a signal to cut back, Spadt says. But very few people ever get to this point, she notes.
Myth 6: People Only Masturbate When They’re Alone
Reality: “Some people masturbate together, and they incorporate masturbation into their sexual repertoires,” says Spadt. Some couples enjoy watching each other masturbate, and some like to masturbate themselves to orgasm after other forms of sexual contact. Mutual masturbation is also a great way to have safe sex and prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Myth 7: Masturbation Will Make You Go Blind
Reality: “Many myths about masturbation, such as this one, come from back when people believed sex was only meant for procreation,” says Shuey. Because masturbation isn’t for procreation, it was considered problematic. “People also believed masturbation could lead to insanity, tuberculosis, hairy palms, and death,” she says. “Obviously, none of these things are true.”