"Masturbation: the primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century it was a disease; in the twentieth, it’s a cure." ~ Thomas Szasz
Although there is no chapter dedicated specifically to masturbation in my new book Sex that Works, I refer often to why self-pleasure is so essential to moving towards a healthy relationship with pleasure itself. In fact, sex educators the world over call masturbation the cornerstone of all other sexual acts, because the more attention you have for your own sexual response the more sexually competent you become in partnered relationships.
Of all the sexual acts on the planet, masturbation leads the way as not only the most commonly practiced and safest, but also the one that most frequently and reliably ends in orgasm. Not terribly surprising when you consider who would know better than you, the mysterious pathway to your own climax.
For the record, masturbation is the most common sexual practice on the planet—and not just for single people. Survey research shows that people of all ages masturbate both in and out of relationships. Kinsey’s data reports that almost 40% of men and 30% of women in relationships masturbated. A study of Playboy readers found that 72% of married men masturbated, and a study of Redbook readers found that 68% of married women masturbated. Freud once wrote, "The only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly." Yet sadly, self-pleasure stubbornly remains a behavior cloaked in shame which people still hide from their partners.
If you are still on the fence about ramping up your own self-pleasure practice, here are three great ways to rethink your approach to cultivating a solid self-pleasure practice which is both healing and will make you a more empowered and sexier partner.
As you become more comfortable with exploring your own body and knowing the kinds of touch that make you light up, you become a more interesting and articulate lover. Women who lay in bed waiting for their partner to magically wake up their sexy, transmit that passive helplessness into their sexual partnerships. Sadly, they often end up defaulting to the tragically outdated and unsatisfactory pleasure response of, "well they liked it… which is good enough for me."
Learning how to please yourself makes you a much more engaging and exciting sexual partner. Among the most exciting prospects of becoming an accomplished self-lover is the ways that this knowledge can translate into all kinds of fantastical mutual masturbating techniques. Blurring the lines between who is touching who in any number of intriguing positions is a literal playground for a fantasy life that wants to expand. Taking turns with sex toys, hands or other body parts all get way less cumbersome; and the more comfortable and knowledgeable you are with your own sexual response.
Fuel for Fantasy
The more comfortable and exploratory you become with mutual masturbation, the more that it becomes a doorway into a fantasy life that will ignite your sexual desire like nothing else. Adding eye contact and verbal cues turns intimacy into something indescribably intense and immediate. Sharing even glimpses of your fantasy world in these fiery moments of mutual stimulation and letting your partner know what you want to do… well, try it and see if it isn’t explosive. Our hands are the most perfectly designed instruments to play our bodies.
The boldness that comes from giving yourself permission to want to know your pleasure response also serves to replace fear and shame with authentic curiosity and freedom, which are the key ingredients to a vital orgasmic response. Discovering and owning your own orgasmic capacity frees you from "needing" your partner to get you there. Instead it opens up the door to a passionate exchange that unfolds anew every time. The more curious you are about finding pleasure the more your partner has access to the same. Shared sexual discovery is magnetic.
“Our hands are the most perfectly designed instruments to play our bodies.”
Pain Relief, Stress Reduction and Better Sleep
I often say that you can’t be fully well without being sexually well and that evolving our sexual wellness also depends on our overall physical wellness. The connections there run deep. We often don’t realize how closely related our experiences of sexual satisfaction are with pain relief, but it turns out that the cascade of hormonal triggers that happen in orgasmic release also do a lot of good for the body as whole. Everything from sore joints, to menstrual cramps to headaches are improved.
Often our physical pain comes from stress and sleeplessness, and happily, self-pleasure has been found to help there too. One of the most potent remedies for both the stress and insomnia is literally right in your hands. A study released in 2000 showed 32% of women found masturbating helped them fall asleep. Like with pain relief the oxytocin and endorphins that are released with orgasm invite a restful state and probably better dreams too. Taking time to fall into your own private fantasy life is a great de-stressor and also contributes to you becoming a better lover.
Make the most of your orgasmic potential by embracing the truest love of all—with yourself. Your body will thank you and so will your spouse.
Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, "Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy," she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." The book is available on ebook. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13-23 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can follow her on Google+