Health

All the Reasons Masturbation Is Good for You

Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Masturbation is one of those rare activities that everyone does, but no one talks about -- and if, for whatever weird reason, someone asked why you masturbate, you’d probably answer something like, "'Cause it feels good," or, "What else am I supposed to do with all this coconut oil?" 

Of course, most people don't have this conversation, because there's a ton of shame associated with autoeroticism, and sex in general -- women in particular are conditioned to sublimate their sexuality. And while male sexuality isn’t as taboo, it’s not like men sit around trading masturbation tips.  

Pleasure is definitely the most obvious and immediate benefit of masturbation. But guess what?  Masturbation is actually GOOD for you -- as in, science has shown that there are actual health benefits associated with masturbation. Let’s look at some of the best ones.  
 

It's a proven stress-buster

You know how people always say exercise improves your mood? It’s annoying, but you know they’re right. The reason for that post-workout mood boost is because working out releases brain chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel happier and less stressed out. 
 
Well, having an orgasm is kind of like exercising, except much more intense. Orgasm stimulates a flood of hormones and neurotransmitters, including oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins. All of these chemicals are associated both with pleasure and stress reduction, and explain why you might feel like spaghetti after getting off. Sometimes, solo sexy time may even make you sleepy -- which is a good thing for the insomniacs out there. 

All of this means masturbation is therefore a viable way to relieve stress, so you can choose to masturbate instead of meditating or doing yoga if that kind of thing is more up your alley

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It's a good way to amp up your sex life

Jason Biggs' encounter with a dessert in American Pie pretty much summed up the shameful stereotypes about masturbation -- that it’s embarrassing, something only sad, lonely virgins do.

In reality, masturbation is a great way to make partnered sex healthier and more fun. What's more, people in sexless relationships are less likely to masturbate, while participants in sexual relationships masturbate more.  

There are a variety of reasons for this, and it’s possibly a chicken-and-egg scenario. If you’re having good sex, you have good fodder for fantasy and getting off. When you masturbate more, you're more aware of what you like and don’t like, and are more likely to be a communicative, curious, and engaged sexual partner. The bottom line? Having more orgasms means your sex life is better, whether or not you have a partner.
 

It will make you feel sexier and/or generally better about yourself 

Masturbation has been associated with higher levels of self-esteem in women, and while there hasn't been equivalent research showing a relationship between better self-esteem and masturbation in men, come on, why not? Women are probably more likely to be studied because they have a lot more cultural BS to deal with when it comes to destigmatizing sexuality, and it's not like you need a PhD to tell you that guys like jerking off. 

The relationship between self-esteem and masturbation makes sense. Masturbating means you're taking the time and energy to get more connected to your body and what makes you feel good. By extension, feeling connected to your body and more aware of what's pleasurable makes you feel sexier.

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It may help fend off disease

Regular masturbators have a decreased risk of prostate cancer (men only, obviously), which should be the only excuse you need! Another recent study showed that women who masturbated regularly were able to flush old bacteria from their cervix, which is associated with decreased risk of urinary tract infections. So masturbation definitely means you'll never get cancer or a UTI! 
 

It's one of the rare times you get to focus on the moment 

This one's important, in part because masturbation is an essential part of self-exploration regardless of whether or not you climax. Pop-culture places way too much emphasis on orgasm when it comes to representations of sex -- but orgasm isn’t the only point of feeling sexy. In fact, there’s no "point," unless you're a militant evolutionary biologist. 

The thing about masturbating is that it doesn’t have a prescribed goal -- a rare find in our fast-paced, competitive world. It simply feels good to get to know yourself, to be present in your body, and to work those concentration muscles. The benefits of mindfulness include everything from lower blood pressure to weight loss to improved sleep and more -- and the definition of mindfulness is, put simply, the practice of "being present." How often do you get to do that, aside from when you're masturbating? 

So it’s time to step away from your computer (unless porn is your thing!) and get present with yourself. Prioritize it like going to the gym... but maybe don't put it in your Google calendar, because that would be weird.

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Charlotte Lieberman is a writer who's pretty stress-free and feels good about herself. Follow her on Twitter: @clieberwoman.