We have all heard the jokes, right? “If you masturbate you will go blind!” Or, “If you masturbate too much, hair will grow on your palms and everyone will know you were touching yourself!” Why are there so many negative connotations attached to self-pleasure? Why do parents shy away from acknowledging the normal sexual development of their children that includes masturbation? Why do some religions preach against self gratification? All of this negative press causes many people to believe that masturbation is, in itself, bad! Even in adulthood we sometimes struggle with our desires to self pleasure, the amount of masturbation we want to engage in, or our partners may make us feel bad for “still needing to masturbate when you have a sexual partner!” There are so many misconceptions regarding masturbation that it is necessary to explore them. At the end of this article you should conclude that masturbation is NOT bad in any way!
IT’S NATURAL – WE ALL DO IT: Do you know that babies who are still in-utero (not born yet) are already playing with their parts? Boys especially start to touch their penises before they are even born! Then, after birth, babies will sometimes self soothe with very remedial masturbation. They do not know why they are doing what they are doing, but they know that it feels good and it helps to calm them down. Then, as children grow older “accidental” masturbation begins to occur. I am sure you can all remember seeing a small boy (maybe 5-8) with his hand firmly attached to his penis! He is not really “masturbating” but he is gently playing. Why? It feels good. Girls are the same, but it often happens with a rubbing of too tight panties or while sitting astride something. Again, they do not know WHY they are doing it, but they know it feels good. As children grow, this innocent “playing” or rubbing becomes more what we realize is masturbation. Now, this is where things get a bit tricky for the mental assessment of whether masturbation is wrong. How our parents react when they see us masturbating is an important moment in shaping how we ultimately feel about whether masturbation is right or wrong. If our parents tell us something like, “STOP THAT! That is gross.” Or the ever popular, “you are being a bad boy/girl – stop playing with your parts!” OR there is even this one, “You will go to hell if you keep doing that!” No, God will not smite you for masturbation, I promise. This is a parent’s bad response and attempt to get you to quit masturbating in front of them. Many parents do not know how to properly handle this. The correct way would be to explain that it is a natural event but something to be done in private. No other explanation is necessary. However, most parents do not do this, and as a result their children become “hiding in the bathroom and taking long showers” kids who feel that their self-pleasure is wrong. So, you see the issue here, right? Something that is natural, that EVERYBODY has done, now becomes something with a negative stigma that causes shame and embarrassment to the child and the parent. This negative connotation carries on to later in life and causes some children to question why they feel that way and, in some cases, if they will go to hell because of it.
IT HAS POSITIVE MENTAL / PHYSICAL RESULTS: As I have already alluded, masturbation is something that can be extremely calming to an infant or young child. It can also have the same soothing effect on an adult! Medically speaking, masturbating with or without orgasm can reduce stress, relieve tension and even lower blood pressure. Orgasm is also a physiological event that releases hormones that relax muscles, calm the brain, relieve headaches and overall improve our mood. In short: masturbation is GOOD for your body! Our body will actually tell us when this sexual release is necessary. In puberty, it may be much more necessary as our bodies are flooded with hormones and we have desires and urges that we do not quite understand. Being allowed to freely express these sexual urges is important to personal development. When a child who has been shamed for self-pleasuring is not allowed to take care of his physical manifestations of sexual arousal (like getting a hard on) then he gets a build up of tension. This sexual tension can then shift focus to general anxiety or aggression. Oftentimes, children who are very antsy in school or who act out may have pent up sexual energy. This is not the case with every child who acts out, but it does contribute. Furthermore, a child who is forced to hide and skulk to relieve sexual tension is faced with the double-edged sword of “good feelings versus bad feelings.” Masturbation feels good, but the negative thoughts associated with it make them feel bad. It is hard to get gratification from something you THINK is wrong. Or, while the activity is being done the thoughts are not present, but as soon as climax occurs, the negative thoughts become pervasive. This is not a healthy thought process for any person – child or adult. Oftentimes, these feelings carry on into adulthood. Both men and women will often hide their masturbation from people they date or marry. This negative association has now affected normal, sexual pleasuring in some relationships.
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SEXUAL STIGMA: Oftentimes, masturbation gets wrapped up with a negative sexual stigma during religious education. Even though the Bible doesn’t discuss masturbation at all – the idea of “pre-marital sex” or that “our bodies are a temple” often becomes a confusing intertwining of sex and masturbation. For people who have grown up with religious teachings, specifically Catholicism, it can be hard to separate self gratification from all the other “sexual sins” that go along with it. The notion that sex or masturbation is “bad” or a “sin” often comes out of parental fear. Using God as the heavy hammer to stop unwanted behavior becomes a steamrolling effect that often leaves teenagers and adults wondering how something that feels so good could possibly be so bad. This type of holy intervention may work for a young child who is just trying to explore his body, but it ends up being confusing and a source of tension in teenagers and young adults. The idea that “God is watching you” doesn’t really fade away when a young man is exploring sexuality or a young woman is confused by wanting to self pleasure. There has to be a mental reconciliation between what you are told and what you actually believe. If the issue surrounding the evil of masturbation is a bad one, I would urge you to explore the idea of the body is a vessel that we are to take care of. Taking care of your body requires sexual release for overall health. In that light, is it not a good and fruitful exercise when done with the intention of nurturing oneself?
IMPURE THOUGHTS: In the Catholic religion there is a concept called “Impure Thoughts” or “lustful thoughts” which basically makes any sexualisation of someone not your spouse, or the lustful desiring of another person outside of marriage to be sinful. Furthermore, watching pornography or having sexual fantasies are clearly impure thoughts. The good news is, apparently you can confess these thoughts to a priest and receive absolution. I ask you, does this seem rational? Are we not taught to see beauty around us and to enjoy it? Having lustful thoughts that are sexual in nature and then pleasuring ourselves is not a sin, but a natural occurrence. Religions seem to want to pinpoint a culpability here that is non-existent. The problem is, when you are raised with these religious ideals your own human (and thereby flawed) nature is constantly fighting against them. This causes, again, a very negative stigma to be placed around the actions of masturbation and enjoying the ideas of sex and pleasure. It is hard to fight “the higher power” or the ideals of right versus wrong that have been in place since you were first sat in the pew at church. However, statistically, a majority of negative connotations and feeling of “badness” that surrounds masturbation is created here, in an environment that is supposed to be loving and protective. It is not to say that religious convictions are bad! Surely the ideals of honoring thy mother and father and not killing another human being are good ones. It just gets a little sticky when the notion is not to ever touch yourself while enjoying some abstract ideal called impure thoughts. If these were your teachings, and there are so many people where this is the case, I would urge you to think more abstractly about your religious teachings. Nothing can be literally taken in religion, no more than the concept that Zeus makes the thunder and lightning or Poseidon creates waves in the oceans. Religion is a good thing, a helpful thing – but, you have to enjoy free thought and self expression along with it.
WHEN IS MASTURBATION TRULY “BAD”: There are some instances where masturbation is a bad thing – and it is not about the activity but the frequency of this activity. If you are unable to have a job, friends, leave the house or otherwise are obsessed with masturbation, then you may have a problem. If you cannot stop watching porn or touching yourself, if you rub yourself raw, if you are continually doing it longer and longer, then it can become obsessive. There is no real hard and fast rule to “how much is too much” other than to say if you cannot function outside of your masturbation, then it is definitely too much. Having a real relationship with a person and allowing the sexual intimacy that comes between two people is necessary. This does not mean that masturbation stops, but instead becomes an addition to your relationship activities. If you feel you have a problem with excessive masturbation, then go to see a sexual therapist. There are often other reasons for the excessive masturbation. However, outside of this specific example, masturbation is a natural, normal, healthy and fun part of life! Enjoy it!
GO FORTH AND MASTURBATE: I hope this article has helped to dispel some of the negative stigmas associated with masturbation. Masturbation is a healthy part of life. Masturbation is important even if you are in a serious and monogamous relationship. Masturbation is not cheating on your partner and doing so does not mean you are unfulfilled, it just means you need a quick release. Masturbation is healthy to do together – and fun too! Finally, masturbation is something that will help your partner understand what techniques you like – so masturbate together. No one knows your body like you do! So, stop thinking that masturbation is bad or that you shouldn’t do it. Enjoy it – pleasure is a good thing!
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