A Helping Hand: The History and Benefits of Masterbation
Masterbation is not often talked about. It’s taboo and seemingly shameful to discuss with others, but more recent studies show there are actually many benefits to masterbation, so maybe there are some benefits to talking about it more openly too. The idea of masterbation has not been left out of historical stories and research. In fact, there is a legend of the Milky Way or our atmosphere that comes from a myth from “Mesopotamia or Egypt, [where] the god Apsu, or Atum(sic), “copulated with his fist” to fertilize himself” (2, Knowles). Therefore, one of the oldest myths alludes to the creation of the Milky Way as the outcome of a god masterbating. While it is a common misconception that females don’t masterbate, the hero of the aforementioned myth paves the way for equality in masterbation as Atum, in some texts, represents the embodiment of both sexes (Geller).
Throughout time there were many beliefs about masterbation and the consequences of the action. Entering into the 19th century, physicians believed that masterbation actually caused “idleness, abnormal sexual passions, gluttony, [and] sedentary employment” which could be prevented with certain measures, one of which was eating cereals cold rather than warm (Knowles 5). Bet you always wondered why Kellogg's Frosted Flakes were invented!
While this is perhaps one of the more interesting and comedic ideas, there were a lot of more intense and dangerous preventative measures put in place to try and prevent masterbation from happening. These measures went so far as genital mutilation, circumcision, and clitoridectomies (Knowles 5).
Today, our research of masterbation and its consequences – or rather, benefits, is more understood.
There are several positives to come out of this once-taboo act. In a 2002 study, researchers discovered that masterbating actually “stimulate[s] endorphin production, allowing better oxygen metabolism and more efficient cell functioning throughout the body." Two years prior, they discovered that it serves as a good workout for the inner pelvic walls which, later in life, will “reduce the chances of involuntary urine leakage and uterine prolapse” (Knowles 11). Outside of these more physical-health-related benefits, there are some positives in terms of mental health too. Let’s be real, orgasms are a stress reliever, a confidence booster, and they help you to better understand your body in terms of pleasure (Knowles 11). And it’s beneficial to understand how you like to be touched so that, if you choose to be sexually active with a partner, you can guide them so you are both satisfied.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding masterbation, there is no doubt about it. 50% of men and 50% of women recorded in a study in 1994 stated that they felt guilt for having pleasured themselves through masterbation (Knowles 11). It is reported that “many young people have internalized the more prevalent taboos, as evidenced by their tendency to report feeling guilty and fearful of being exposed” (Ray & Afflerbach 3) but there are important things we can learn through discussing it or educating ourselves on the topic now. Jasmine Ray, a researcher at Minnesota State University, did a study and wrote her findings in a report called Sexual Education and Attitudes Toward Masterbation where “the results of this study indicate[d] that if an individual is taught positive lessons about masturbation, specifically during high school by parents or guardians, then they are more likely to have positive attitudes toward masturbation at the present” (Ray & Afflerbach 10). These findings show that the taboo of masterbation is developed by how people talk, or don’t talk, on the subject.
To conclude, the understanding and discussion surrounding masterbation and sex has changed drastically over the last centuries, but we shouldn’t stop here! Educating ourselves on these topics, whether it be through open discussions with health professionals, teachers, parents or guardians, partners, whoever, will bring us closer to normalizing these conversations and topics. The normalization of these topics creates a safe space for everyone involved.
Knowles, Jon. “Masterbation - From Stigma to Sexual Health.” Planned Parenting. 2002
Geller. “Atum - Egyptian God of Creation” Mythology.net
Jannine and Afflerbach, Shelby (2014) "Sexual Education and Attitudes toward
Masturbation," Journal of Undergraduate Research at Minnesota State University, Mankato: Vol. 14, Article 8. Available at: https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1052&context=jur
Written by: Megan McKague