On the fence about self-love? Shake off your squeamishness about getting down with your bad self – because who's ever regretted an orgasm?
Masturbation: it’s the best way to get to know your sexual likes and dislikes, and – bonus – you don’t even need to get out of bed. So surely we’re all at it, right? But the results STELLAR’s recent sex survey, in which 30 percent of you confessed that you never gave yourselves the kind of physical love you reserve for others, left us a bit gobsmacked.
If you’re not comfortable enough to get handsy with yourself, how can you expect to have a fulfilling sex life with someone else? “I’m shocked at that figure,” says psychosexual therapist Margaret Dunne. “It’s amazing. And yet, in another way, I’m not surprised.” In the course of her work with couples and individuals, Margaret comes across “quite a lot” of women who don’t regularly masturbate. “They’d say that they don’t do it, or that they had tried it when they were teenagers, and stopped…”
In 2015, we’re more sexually active than ever before. We lose our virginity, on average, at age 17, and we’re also far more likely than, say, our parents, to have more than one (or two, or three – no judgement) sexual partners in our lifetimes. Why, then, are we still shying away from solo sex?
Margaret reckons that a long-held sense of shame (Catholic guilt, anyone?) could be to blame – but, ironically, masturbating can actually help solve that very problem. The biggest hurdle will be getting over your reluctance and, Nike-style, just doing it.
“It can help women get in touch with their bodies, with sensations that they like,” she says. “It helps them feel more positive and connected to their bodies, and kind of removes that sense of shame about their bodies. The idea that, ‘there’s something down there but I don’t know too much about it.’”
In Margaret’s experience, not knowing very much about “it” can be really common – “women wouldn’t be very familiar with what’s going on down there.” Anecdotally, that sense of not knowing is something that we may just be instilling in women from a very young age. Rachel, a primary-school teacher from Cavan, recalls trying to teach her baby infants class about anatomy.
“You have to do it now, to tell children what’s what, so that they have the words to express if someone’s touching them inappropriately, or if something’s going on that they’re not comfortable with,” she explains. “But when I had a class of kids, and I asked them what they call their ‘down-there’ area, the girls didn’t have any words for it. The boys were all like, ‘oh, my willy’ or ‘my winky’ or ‘my mister’ – I could go on!” she laughs. “But the girls were so confused, going, ‘my bum?’ When I’d say, ‘no, the other part’, they’d go” – she makes a puzzled face – “’eh, my front bum?’ It seems like parents just don’t talk to their girls about their anatomy.”
Margaret confirms that men, “for whatever reason, are a lot more comfortable with their bodies, touching themselves, and they’re more familiar with what they like and don’t like.”
Quite aside from the boost to your sex life, Margaret says that masturbating can have a whole host of other benefits worth bearing in mind. “I mean, firstly, it’s very enjoyable!” she laughs. “Then, it helps people feel more positive about their bodies. You’re more connected to your body and having pleasurable experiences with it.”
Here comes the science bit… “Also, orgasm – whether by masturbation or through clitoral stimulation during intercourse – releases endorphins and oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone. It also relieves stress, because it lowers cortisol in the body.”
So masturbation can improve your sex life, increase feelings of positivity towards your body, relax you and relieve stress and, oh yeah, feels deadly. Still unconvinced? Why not take feminist author (and our ultimate fantasy BFF) Caitlin Moran’s word for it: “[Masturbation] is amazing. It doesn’t cost anything, I don’t have to leave the house, and it isn’t making me fat.” What’s not to love?
Psst! This article first appeared in STELLAR’s November 2015 issue. Our January/February issue is on shelves now!