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It’s totally normal to masturbate (touch yourself for sexual pleasure) whether you’re sexually active with other people or not. Masturbation even has health benefits, like reducing stress.

Do most people masturbate?

Lots of people masturbate! Even if they don't talk about it, it’s common for people of any gender or age to do it. Even before puberty, children sometimes discover that touching their genitals feels good. If you have kids and notice them touching their genitals, let them know that masturbating is completely normal, but something they should do in private.

People masturbate for different reasons — it helps them relax, they want to understand their body better, they want to release sexual tension, or their partner isn’t around. But most people masturbate because it feels good. Many people think that masturbation is only something you do when you don’t have a sex partner. But both single people and people in relationships masturbate.  

Some people masturbate often, others rarely, and some people don’t masturbate at all. Different people masturbate in different ways, for different reasons. Masturbation is a totally personal decision, and there’s no “normal” way to go about it.

Is masturbation healthy?

You may have heard some crazy things about masturbation being bad for you, like it makes you grow hair in weird places; it causes infertility; it shrinks your genitals; or once you start masturbating you’ll become addicted to it. None of that’s true. Masturbation isn’t unhealthy or bad for you at all. Masturbation can actually be good for your health, both mentally and physically. And it’s pretty much the safest sex out there — there’s no risk of getting pregnant or getting an STD.

When you have an orgasm, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that block pain and make you feel good. The good feelings that accompany an orgasm happen whether you’re by yourself or having sex with a partner.

Plenty of research has shown the health benefits of masturbation. Masturbation can:

  • release sexual tension

  • reduce stress

  • help you sleep better

  • improve your self-esteem and body image

  • help treat sexual problems

  • relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension

  • strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas

Masturbation also helps you figure out what you like sexually. Where do you want to be touched? How much pressure feels good? How fast or slow? Learning how to have orgasms on your own can make it easier to have one with a partner, because you can tell or show them what feels good. And when you’re comfortable with sex, your body, and talking to your partner, you’re more likely to feel comfortable protecting yourself against STDs and pregnancy.

How much masturbation is too much?

Some people masturbate often — every day, or even more than once a day. Some people masturbate closer to once a week, once every few weeks, or every now and then. Some people never masturbate, and that’s fine too. All of these are perfectly normal.

Masturbation only becomes “too much” if it gets in the way of your job, your responsibilities, or your social life. If that’s a problem for you, you may want to talk to a counselor or therapist.

Some people learn when they’re young that masturbating is wrong or bad, so they feel guilty about doing it. If you feel that way, try to remember that most people masturbate. It’s perfectly normal, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Talking to a counselor or therapist may help if you have trouble getting over guilty feelings.

Is it OK to masturbate if you’re in a relationship?

Definitely. Lots of people in relationships masturbate. Masturbating when you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean your partner isn’t satisfying you. It’s a great way to figure out what you like and what makes you have an orgasm. Then you can show or tell your partner what feels good. Talking about sex with your partner can make it more fun and can even make your relationship stronger. Some people masturbate at the same time as their partner. It’s a way to be sexual together without having any risk of STDs or pregnancy.

More questions from patients:

What are some masturbation tips?

Masturbation is a great way to get to know your body. It’s totally healthy and normal — most people masturbate at some point in their lives.

There are tons of myths meant to scare you into thinking masturbation is wrong or bad. The truth is, it’s perfectly safe. Masturbating won't make you blind, crazy, or stupid. It won’t damage your genitals, cause pimples, or stunt your growth. It doesn’t use up all your orgasms or ruin other kinds of sex.

Here are some masturbation tips:

  • Wash your hands before touching your penis, vulva, vagina, or anus.

  • Use a good lubricant. It lowers friction, which helps prevent small tears in your skin and makes things more comfortable.

  • Clean your sex toys. Otherwise bacteria can build up and cause an infection. The best way to protect sex toys is with a condom that you change whenever the toy is passed from partner to partner or from one body opening to another — mouth, anus, or vagina. If you don’t use condoms, clean sex toys before and after every use. Read the instructions on the package for how to clean your toy.

  • Don’t share sex toys with multiple partners without cleaning/using new condoms every time. They can pass along STDs.

Is there a difference between male and female masturbation?

There are more similarities than differences between male and female masturbation. That’s because everyone masturbates differently and there’s no single “right” way to do it.

You might think that guys are the only ones who masturbate. But that’s just not true!

Regardless of your gender, masturbation is totally healthy and normal. It’s a great way to get to know your body and what feels good. It’s also 100% safe — no risk of pregnancy or STDs.

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