NOTE: This column provides the second installment in The VOICE’s new sex ed feature. Based on sad findings in a sex survey of Mercer students taken in the fall 2012, the editors worked together to devise a way to address the shamefully inadequate education our students have received about how to care for their sexual health. Our Student Health reporter is Jaqueline, an Honors student and Mercer athlete. While the column can never take the place of talking to a medical profession about any health concerns, we hope it will provide useful information and food for thought and discussion.
When the topic is masturbation, it seems to me that we are living in the Victorian Era. We need to be able to talk candidly about masturbation, in part because there is so much information surrounding the practice.
Jimir Brown, a 22 years-old Criminal Justice major at Mercer, told The VOICE, “Growing up, my older brother used to tell me if I masturbate, I would go blind. I grew up thinking blind people were bad” he laughed.
In fact, masturbating has many health benefits for those who do it often.
“It’s totally safe and harmless. It’s healthier than brushing your teeth every day,” said Dr. Gloria Brame to Men’s Health News in their December 2011 article “5 Health Benefits of Masturbation” by Maridel Reyes.
The Men’s Health article explains that it is healthy for men to masturbate. It prevents prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, and incontinence; improves self control, helps to build up the immune system, and it makes the practitioner feel good.
There are benefits for women, too. The Planned Parenthood website offers a lot of free and reliable information on questions answered by Dr. Vanessa Cullins, MD, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“Masturbation can enhance our physical, mental and sexual health, and the health of our sexual relationships. Masturbation may reduce stress, release sexual tension, relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension, strengthen muscle tone in the pelvic and anal areas, reducing women’s chances of involuntary urine leakage and uterine prolapse,” Dr. Cullins writes.
Data collected in PSY 215 Human Sexuality class at Mercer, from spring 2010 to Ssring 2013, demonstrates that 74 percent of the men answering the survey, strongly approved male and female masturbation. By contrast, while 70 percent of female students approve of male masterbation, only 43 percent approve of female masturbation.
Fabiola Pincay, a 19 year-old Biology and Chemistry major at Mercer, holds views that match the statistics above.
“I understand the physical and mental health benefits of masturbation but I don’t do it because I don’t feel comfortable,” she said, continuing, “People have different needs and desires. I do not masturbate and I do not feel bad about it. I can get health benefits from other sources such as yoga and zumba classes.”
Interviews with male students showed they felt far less inhibition. Stefan Middleton, a Liberal Arts major at Mercer, said, “Masturbation is a self fulfilment. It is a way to find out who you are and learn to love yourself.”
Wendy Wright, a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in Princeton, has more than 18 years of experience working with college students. In an interview with The VOICE she said she tries to help her clients understand themselves and their needs.
“Feeling comfortable with one’s sexual desire is key…Many young people were taught that masturbation is inappropriate and bad. Talking openly about it is important. People can have a healthy sex life if they learn that it is okay to explore alone,” Wright explains.
Need one more reason to initiate your practice? I will give you two!
First, masturbating helps prevent insomnia because it releases oxytocin and endorphins, which are calming hormones that help to have a good night sleep, after orgasm.
Second, it strengthens the core of your body, the pelvic floor, which is responsible for balance and movement.
You would think men have the advantage here because they can lock themselves up in any restroom and do the job, but it’s not really true. Did you know that some women can masturbate without using their hands? The key? Tight jeans.
So stop judging yourself and start taking care of your health.