Masturbation | Better Health Channel
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Masturbation

Summary

Masturbation is touching and rubbing your penis or clitoris, vulva and breasts for sexual pleasure. It is a normal and healthy way for people to explore their own bodies. How often a person masturbates is not a problem, unless it is linked to an obsessive compulsive disorder where the same activity must be repeated over and over.

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Masturbation is touching and rubbing your penis, clitoris, vulva or breasts for sexual pleasure. It is a normal and healthy way for people to explore their own bodies and to find out what feels good, where and how they like to be touched and how to have an orgasm.

Masturbation can also happen between two people (mutual masturbation). This can be a very intimate experience, especially for people who do not feel ready for sexual intercourse.

Even though it is normal, some people feel ashamed or embarrassed about masturbation. This is partly because it has been wrongly labelled as deviant, harmful or sinful over the years, and many of these out-dated myths still exist.

In relation to young people, it can also be because many feel nervous or unsure about their developing bodies and sexual feelings. Mixed messages and misinformation about masturbation from parents, friends and the media can make them more anxious.

Some people think that only people without partners masturbate, but most people with regular partners still masturbate throughout their adult life. The assumption that adults who masturbate must be sexually deprived or inadequate is simply not true.

Other terms for masturbation include self-pleasuring, playing with yourself and wanking.

Myths about masturbation


Masturbation has been wrongly blamed for a range of health problems, including:
  • blindness
  • mental health issues
  • sexual perversion
  • reduced sexual function.

Frequency of masturbation


A common concern, especially among young people, is the frequency of masturbation. ‘Normal’ ranges from several times a day, week or month to not masturbating at all. How often a person masturbates is not a problem, unless it is linked to an obsessive compulsive disorder where the same activity must be repeated over and over.

Sexual health benefits


Some of the known sexual health benefits of masturbation include:
  • It is a safer form of sex that carries no risk of sexually transmissible infection or unplanned pregnancy.
  • It releases sexual tension and lets people explore their sexuality by themselves.
  • It may suit those who do not have a partner, are not having sex with their partner or are abstaining from sex.
  • Being familiar with your own sexual responses helps you to communicate your wants and needs to your partner.
  • Masturbation is a common treatment for sexual dysfunction. For example, women who do not reach orgasm can learn how to by masturbating, and men who experience premature ejaculation can use masturbation to learn control.

General health benefits of masturbation


Some of the general health benefits of masturbation may include that it:
  • relaxes your muscles
  • helps you to fall asleep
  • promotes the release of the brain’s opioid-like neurotransmitters (called endorphins), which cause feelings of physical and mental wellbeing
  • reduces stress
  • enhances self-esteem.

Masturbation in young children


Young children pick up on their parents’ attitudes towards masturbation from an early age. If parents react negatively to body exploration, self-soothing behaviour or nudity, the child can feel ashamed of their body, sexual feelings and behaviours. Studies show that their reaction can also impact on their child’s sexual attitudes and behaviours in adulthood.

Tips for parents include:
  • Remember that children masturbate for many different reasons, including curiosity, exploration and sensory pleasure.
  • Reassure yourself that masturbation in children is normal.
  • Try to focus on the setting, rather than the activity itself. For example, if your child is masturbating in public, you can tell them that what they are doing is fine, but it is a private behaviour that they can do in a private place (like toileting).
  • Understand that children may turn to masturbation in times of stress. If your child’s masturbation is affecting playtime and other activities, you should find out what is making them anxious or upset.

If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour, you should talk with your doctor or paediatrician.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Paediatrician
  • Family Planning Victoria Tel. (03) 9257 0100 or 1800 013 952
  • Family Planning Victoria’s Action Centre (for people aged under 25 years) Tel. (03) 9660 4700

Things to remember

  • Masturbation is a safer form of sex that carries no risk of sexually transmissible infection or unplanned pregnancy.
  • Being familiar with your own sexual responses helps you to communicate your wants and needs to your partner.
  • The way parents react to their child’s masturbation can impact on the child’s sexual attitudes and behaviours in adulthood.

You might also be interested in:

Want to know more?

Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.


This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:

Family Planning Victoria

(Logo links to further information)


Family Planning Victoria

Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: May 2012

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.


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Masturbation is touching and rubbing your penis or clitoris, vulva and breasts for sexual pleasure. It is a normal and healthy way for people to explore their own bodies. How often a person masturbates is not a problem, unless it is linked to an obsessive compulsive disorder where the same activity must be repeated over and over.



Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your qualified health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residence and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

For the latest updates and more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

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