Why we need to talk about masturbation

WARNING: Sexual content.

URBAN myths about it abound: Blindness, hairy palms, insanity, infertility … though once thought to be a major sin and the cause of countless diseases, in reality masturbation not only feels good, it has countless health benefits too.

So, if there's a holiday you can really get behind then Masturbation May is it. Yep, you read correctly. Masturbation May - an entire month dedicated to self-pleasure.

"It's getting much less taboo than it was," says sex and relationship expert, Tracey Cox. "But even though everybody does it (and if they don't, they should!) few admit it and very few discuss it."

A recent survey conducted by online sex toy brand Lovehoney about self pleasure was eye-opening, to say the least.

For a start, we're a nation of dedicated masturbators. Rather than opting for a quickie, Aussies like to take their time - women in particular. From the study, close to 50 per cent of men admitted to masturbating for an average of 10 minutes, compared with 33 per cent of women who did it for longer than 15. And combined, 10 per cent of us spend a whopping 30 minutes plus pleasuring ourselves.

"I was surprised about that statistic," comments Tracey. "But then, masturbating and holding yourself on the brink of orgasm is a highly pleasurable place to be. Why wouldn't we want it to last longer?"

While sex toys have long been regarded as a girl's best friend (81 per cent of women prefer using them), nowadays blokes are increasingly getting in on the action, with 21 per cent admitting to using sex toys at least once a week.

"That's an extraordinary jump," says the Cox. "Men are becoming far more exploratory - toys were female dominated for such a long time and now there are a myriad of products out there for men. It greatly enhances the experience and it's easier to fantasise someone else is doing the touching when there's a barrier between you and your hand."

But while the number of Australian men dabbling with toys is increasing, women are still ruling the roost (only 10 per cent of women have never used a sex toy compared to 30 per cent of men) and the number of toys we own is also on the rise. Close to 60 per cent of Aussies own more than five and nearly a quarter of the population own more than 11.

"It's because there simply is no better way to stimulate the clitoris than with a vibrator," explains Tracey. "81 per cent of women preferred masturbating with a sex toy for that very reason. It's also quick. Most women can orgasm with a vibrator within a few minutes - in the same time it takes to make a cup of tea!"

So there you have it. But it's not just about getting off, as various studies have shown going solo between the sheets has a number of health benefits too. Here are five masturbation bonuses that will surprise you.

IT CAN MAKE YOU HAPPIER

Releasing 'happiness' endorphins at orgasm, masturbation has been shown to make you less stressed and happier at the same time.

IT CAN FIGHT MALE CANCER

Scientists have reported that men who masturbate regularly are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 70.

Echoing this was a Harvard Medical School survey, which discovered that men who ejaculated 21 or more times were 22 per cent less likely to develop the disease compared to those who ejaculated between four and seven times.

IT KEEPS YOU HEALTHY

The big 'C' aside, there's other purported health benefits to regular masturbation. Studies have found that it can help women be less prone to type-2 diabetes and can help prevent urinary tract and cervical infections.

It can also help reduce menstruation pain and regulate the functioning of the immune system. Plus, increasing blood flow, which is great for both your skin and hair.

IT HELPS YOU SLEEP

Having trouble sleeping? Try rubbing one out. It's a tried and tested insomnia solution for good reason. Masturbating deeply relaxes you, which leads to a better nights slumber.

IT HELPS YOU HAVE BETTER SEX

Paradoxically masturbating more means that you're likely to be more sexually active. According to the University of Chicago, those that do it frequently have more sex.

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