Masturbation now theres a loaded word (no pun intended). The subject is not really dinner time fare and most people dont want to talk about it because then they might have to own up to doing it. Men do it, women do it, chimps do it and even toddlers and porcupines do it, but talk about it? Nah. I mean, admit it, when did you last say that word out loud? The problem is, the less we talk about it, the more secrecy there is and where there is secrecy, there is invariably guilt and shame. All we want to know as humans is that we are normal. Different and special of course, but just like everybody else.

Oddly enough, before the 18th century, masturbation doesnt seem to have been a big deal. The ancient Greek world was replete with erect penises in legends, decorations and daily life. Masturbation was accepted in both men and women, who were segregated most of the time. Greek women had dildos, made from bone, leather and wood, as did women in ancient China, but theirs were made from jade, bronze or other metals. By the time the Renaissance rolled around, dildo making was quite the art form. The name dildo comes from this era and is derived from the Italian word diletto, meaning to delight.

Fast forward to the beginning of the 18th century, by which time masturbation had acquired a reputation of being sinful. Then the great masturbation anxiety began to unfold, according to Thomas Laqueur. This was fueled by the publication of Onania, or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution in 1710 and really picked up speed with Tissots Onanism: Essay on the Ailments Produced by Masturbation, published in 1758. Masturbation went from being a sin to a serious mental and physical health hazard that could end in death. It supposedly drained energy from males but drove females to a frenzy. The cures were cruel, ranging from hand tying and spiked penile rings for boys to avoiding horse riding and clitoridectomies for girls.

The New Religion

By the 19th century, religion had begun to lose its grip but medicine was beginning to take its place as the new religion. However, at that time medical authority greatly outstripped capability. Instead of admitting their limitations, doctors could use masturbation as the multipurpose and very convenient fall guy for every condition that they could not explain or successfully treat.

Nowadays, religion is fairly conflicted on the matter. Even though there is no explicit condemnation of masturbation in any of the original texts of the major religions, from Christianity to Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, this does not stop some authorities from condemning it anyway. They do this by drawing convoluted conclusions from scanty bits of evidence and then offer a cure for those who struggle with masturbation, as if it was a disease.

No wonder masturbation is still associated with so much negativity and guilt. The myths persist masturbation, even now, is labeled as dangerous, dirty, sinful, self-abuse and just plain bad. So basically anyone who deems masturbation to be wrong is saying that touching certain parts of your body, i.e. your genitals, is taboo. You can wash em or scratch em but heaven forbid that you get any enjoyment or pleasure out of them. And if you happen to experience an orgasm, well thats disgusting.

Ninety-eight percent of us masturbate, and the other two percent are liars.

If you believe the old wives tales, masturbation will make you go blind, deaf, sterile, impotent or mad, give you acne, round shoulders, leprosy, epilepsy and hair on the palms of your hands. Additionally, a doctor will know that you indulge, presumably because it will show up in bright neon letters flashing across your forehead. Given that the vast majority of people, in every society across the ages, have masturbated at least once and many, many people do it regularly without their lives falling apart, all of this is obviously nonsense.

George Carlin said: If God had intended us not to masturbate, He would have made our arms shorter. But is it good for you? That would be a resounding yes and I will tell you why. To be clear, we are not talking about obsessive behavior that you have no control over or that might be interfering with other areas of your life. Thats an addiction and an entirely different subject. We are talking about a very common, healthy human urge to explore and pleasure your own body.

Our sexual organs are like every other part of the body in that they need exercise. The erectile tissue for men and women need to get regular and maximal blood flow to keep the arteries and tissues healthy and functioning well. Maximal blood flow is achieved through orgasm natures best stress reliever. Having an orgasm helps you sleep better, is profoundly relaxing and releases endorphins like dopamine and oxytocin, which make you feel pretty darn good.

Feeling good for the sake of feeling good is an underestimated way to health. Dr. Chritstiane Northrop says: The pursuit of good feelings is not an indulgence. Its is a life-affirming necessity! Pleasure in all its many forms literally stokes our life force. She points out that when women experience pleasure in the clitoral area; their bodies are flooded with the all-important nitric oxide which has profound health benefits.

Its a bit of a feed-back loop too. Sexual function is dependent on adequate levels of nitric oxide but you need to have sexual activity to keep the levels up. If you are not in a sexual relationship, masturbation keeps the pump primed, so to speak.

Whether you have an orgasm with a partner or by yourself, it doesnt matter. Masturbation is not substitute sex or second hand sex, its just different sex. Solo sex is just as valid as any other kind. In fact it can be even more satisfying than sex with a partner, especially for women, because they can concentrate on what turns them on without worrying about pleasing somebody else at the same time. You cannot have an orgasm when you are tense or preoccupied. Masturbation allows you to set your own pace and teaches you to relax completely. It puts you in touch with your own body and lets you hear what is going on with it without interference.

Wise Words

If you are in a relationship, masturbation can improve your sex life immeasurably because it makes you more comfortable with your body. Instead of waiting for your partner to figure everything out, you can tell them or show them what you like. Self-awareness leads to self-confidence and nothing is sexier than that. If you are not afraid of touching your arm or your ear, you shouldnt be afraid of touching anything else. In Womens Bodies, Womens Wisdom, Chritstiane Northrup quotes what a wise woman once told her: If you cant give yourself the tenderness, the love and the caresses that you want another to provide for you, youll never find them anywhere else.

Its Complicated

For a man, sex is fairly straightforward erection, friction or penetration, orgasm and ejaculation. He can get his rocks off and impregnate a woman at the same time. For a woman, its a little more complicated. An orgasm is not necessary for conception and reproduction. Penetration is most likely not to result in one, despite what all the porn movies might portray. Most women do not experience orgasm from intercourse unless there is some kind of stimulation to the clitoris.

As some women dont even know where to locate their clitoris, masturbation is a handy way to find out. Doctors arent much help here by the way because believe it or not, many anatomy books, including the medical textbooks used by doctors, have it all wrong. Society is obsessed with female sexuality but amazingly ignorant at the same time. Self-cultivation seems to be the only solution.

So heres a quick anatomy lesson. The penis is hard to miss because it is so obvious and you know when it is aroused. The ins and outs and the ups and down of the penis have been studied in great detail for years but the workings of the clitoris, not so much. Truth be told, the clitoris has been scandalously neglected. Ill let you draw your own conclusions from that.

It turns out that it isnt just a neat little magic button sitting above the urethral opening and it isnt a tiny vestigial penis. It is actually wishbone shaped and extends about four inches downwards on either side of the vagina but on the inside. And get this: it is larger than an (unerect) penis and it is also a complex organ with at least eighteen distinct interacting functional parts including muscular, erectile, and sensitive tissues. Betcha didnt know that one.

Iceberg Organ

The clitoris then is like an iceberg the head, the part that you can see or touch, has more nerve endings than any other part of the body, some 8,000, compared to the 4,000 odd on the head of the penis. This tip is exquisitely sensitive and can get over stimulated which makes it shut down.

Every womans clitoris is unique. Some stick out, some are hidden under vulva tissue, some are big and some are tiny. Some respond to gentle touch and some like more pressure but this might change from day to day depending on hormonal and other changes. In short, your clitoris and therefore your sexual responsiveness, is largely unchartered territory unless you do a bit of self-exploration. If you cant find it, dont know what it respond to and dont know how to engage it, you cant expect somebody else to now can you?

Location, location, location

Women who reach orgasm more easily during sex with a partner tend to have clitorises that are closer to the vagina. Just half a centimeter north makes a big difference. On the plus side, the clitoris continues to grow in size after puberty and doesnt ever stop. From birth to post menopause, it can grow sevenfold. As long as the clitoris doesnt atrophy from lack of use, a woman can have great orgasms at any age, even when she is long past her reproductive years. The clitoris is also amazingly resilient and can be coaxed back to life after years of being ignored. The best way to do this is by, you guessed it, some self-love and attention.

Masturbation is having sex with someone who really loves you. ~ Woody Allen

Apparently the clitoris is the only organ that exists just for pleasure. It has no other useful function, or does it? There are no accidents in the design of the human body; its just the hubris of scientists to declare things like tonsils, the appendix, wisdom teeth and junk DNA as useless because they havent managed to figure out what they are for. The very facts that one, the clitoris is the seat of so much pleasure and two, it continues to grow, seem to indicate that it has evolved for a specific purpose.

In The Medical Need for Orgasms in Women, the author comes up with an interesting theory that the pleasure is not the purpose but the means to an end. The clitoris is actually like a reset button. Womens hormones fluctuate much more widely than mens do, so to prevent them from getting out of hand, nature has provided a safety valve in the form of the clitoris.

By having a clitoral orgasm, a large amount of oxytocin is released. This hormone is not at all essential to conceive, but is needed to regulate hormone levels impaired by stress and/or the menstrual cycle. Oxytocin deficiency enhances stress, obesity and psychotic behavior, impairs cognitive functions and increases breast-cancer risk.

Clitoral orgasms do not serve conception, and are not obtained through sexual intercourse. Clitoral orgasms serve physical health, and pleasure, and are obtained through specific clitoric stimulus.

So there you have it to maintain mental, physical and spiritual health, learn to love your body by getting to know it properly and enjoy it. You owe it to yourself and everybody around you to embrace your own sexuality with all the enthusiasm you can muster. Masturbation is the ultimate in safe sex and does the mind and body good.