May is the month of many awareness days, in particular National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. But did you know that May is also National Masturbation Month? It’s ok. Many people don’t know because, like masturbation itself, no one wants to acknowledge something that’s so commonly practiced.
How did National Masturbation Month come about?
According to EmpowHer, National Masturbation Month was coined in response to the 1995 resignation of United States Surgeon general, Dr. Joycelyn Elders. During a 1994 World AIDS Day event at the United Nations, Dr. Elders, in response to an audience member’s question about whether masturbation can be instrumental in delaying the onset of early sexual activity in young people, said: “I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught.”
Things didn’t fair well for Dr. Elders, who later was forced to resign in 1995. But the positive is that Dr. Elders is still highly revered and vocal about discussing “taboo” and “difficult” subjects, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality. Another positive is that we have National Masturbation Month! The purpose of National Masturbation Month, for the people who coined it, was to not only raise awareness about the firing of Dr. Elders, but to also get people talking about something that people refuse to acknowledge that they do: masturbate.
What are some of the myths about masturbation?
One of the reasons why masturbation is such a taboo thing to discuss is due to shame and stigma associated with self-pleasuring. Here are some myths I’ve heard along the way about masturbation:
You’ll go blind.
Your mental health will be compromised.
You’ll grow hair on your hands.
You’re some kind of pervert.
It’s only something you do if you’re not in a relationship, and if you do it too often, you’re screwing (no pun intended) up your sexual functioning.
You won’t be able to perform sexually with another person.
Now that we have those myths out of the way, what are some benefits to masturbation? There are plenty! Here are some physical and psychological reasons:
It’s a stress reliever and tension reducer: Masturbation can help calm you down. It can help to relax your muscles, reduce stress, and can even help you fall asleep.
You get to learn your about body: Masturbation can help you learn about your body, what kinds of touching excites you, the speed of your liking, whether you prefer sex toys or using just your hand, and can also help you to strengthen the relationship you have to yourself . It’s a form of self-care. You’re taking the time to find out what makes your body tick, what makes you comfortable. Additionally, you’re learning about your body’s functioning. You can learn to tell if something doesn’t feel right and it can encourage you to seek medical advice from a doctor or a medical professional that specializes in women’s bodies.
It can protect you against pregnancy and STIs: Outside of abstinence, it’s the safest way to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly if you’re masturbating by yourself. If you decide to participate in mutual masturbation with another partner, make sure to take the necessary precautions to prevent bodily fluids from making unwanted contact.
The myth that you need someone to pleasure you is busted (no pun intended).: It’s more than ok to masturbate by yourself, and masturbation proves that you don’t need the assistance of another individual to pleasure you. Masturbation is a personal decision, and there are many people who believe that sexual pleasure is best left for a committed relationship. The question now becomes, how can we allow for someone to show us what our body likes?
It can help to relieve urinary tract and prevent cervical infections: In her book Sex: A Natural History, Joann Ellison Rodgers discusses how masturbation can help to remove acidic bacteria in the cervical fluid, thus helping to move “better” bacteria and more fluid to move from the cervix into the vagina. The flush being pushed out can help to lubricate the vagina, and flush out dangerous bacteria that can cause an infection.
It helps to build a connection with your partner. What better way to begin a healthy sexual relationship with your partner than being able to tell her/him how to best to pleasure you? Knowing what your body likes before you become sexually active with another individual is empowering, and showing that person how to pleasure you is even better.
So, what can you do this month (and every month) to decrease the stigma associated with masturbation?
Go to your nearest sex toy shop: If you want to use some sex toys, many adult shops like Babeland have excellent workshops that help participants decrease their anxiety over partner sex and self-pleasure, and many of these workshops often are for couples as well. Go by yourself, with your partner, or with friends. Many people start off by purchasing the silver bullet (pictured above) as their first sex toy, and gradually go up based on their preferences and what they want to be stimulated. The cool thing about the silver bullet is that it can be used on virtually any part of the body to increase pleasure. Also, if your partner mentions that s/he is interested in purchasing a sex toy, get out of the mindset that masturbation means you’re not satisfying them. Just because your partner has purchased a few sex toys doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.
Get yourself into a comfortable space and frame of mind: Take a bubble bath, light some candles, put on some music that you love, and quiet your mind. If that’s not what you want to do, at least be in a space or frame of mind in which you won’t be easily startled of aggravated.
Be more understanding of children: According to Better Health, when children masturbate, it’s typically an act of exploration, not like us older teens and adults who often fantasize while masturbating. If you find your child or young sibling masturbating, don’t be too reactionary and punish them. Take off those adult lenses. Understand that they are exploring their bodies and that it’s natural. If they’re out in public, you can encourage them to focus more on being in the privacy on their bedroom as opposed to in public. Do note this: Your desire to be more understanding and engaging may not be shared by the rest of society.
If it weren’t for Dr. Elders being forced to resign, there may have never been a National Masturbation Month. This is another example of not only a negative turning into a positive, but also a prime example of how women of color continue to raise their voices.