Excerpt from the PPRSR monthly queer women's health column, The Vagina Dialogues, published May 2009 in Rochester's The Empty Closet. See the full article here.
May is National Masturbation Month. Yup, there’s a whole month dedicated to getting down with yourself! Like we need an excuse… Unfortunately, many people were taught that masturbation is dirty and bad. Or worse, believe in a “masturbation myth.”
Myth #1: Masturbation is unhealthy. At some point, you probably heard that masturbation makes you blind, makes you infertile, or damages your sex organs. These things aren’t true. But it can be hard to shake the feeling that masturbation is bad for you. Truth is, masturbation is not physically harmful in any way. In fact, it has a number of physical and mental health benefits—here are just a few: Masturbation releases stress and physical tension. Many people masturbate to relax, and it can help some people fall asleep. Masturbation is the most effective kind of safer sex. Solo masturbation puts you at no risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Even mutual masturbation with a partner is close to no-risk if everyone keeps their hands to themselves and doesn’t share sex toys.
Myth #2: Only people who can't "get any" masturbate. I am deeply offended for all you sexy singles out there; I’ve heard this one a lot. Most everyone masturbates, whether single or partnered, hetero or queer, regardless of gender. It’s normal to masturbate and has nothing to do with being lonely, having poor self-esteem, or being unattractive. There’s also the myth that if you are in a committed relationship, you shouldn’t need to masturbate. Here’s the real deal—people who have regular sex partners actually masturbate more often than those who don't. Yup, it’s true. People masturbate when their partners are unavailable, or use masturbation as foreplay, or simply enjoy the act of masturbating. It can actually improve partner sex, because if you are an expert on what turns you on or off, you can communicate that better to a sexual partner.
Myth #3: Women don’t (or aren’t supposed to) masturbate. Some people think that it's normal for men to masturbate, but that women shouldn't. Reality is, our society is more comfortable with men expressing their sexuality than with women, so many girls are taught not to masturbate—or not to admit to doing it—from a very young age. But quite frankly, girls and women do masturbate, and there's no reason they shouldn't. In fact, one study showed that women who masturbate may have better self-esteem than those that don’t.
Myth #4: It's bad to masturbate every day. Some people masturbate every day—or even more than once a day. That's fine. So is there such a thing as "too much" masturbation? According to counselors, it's only when masturbation gets in the way of daily activities — like going to school or work, or meeting friends — that it would be considered "too much." And not many people have that problem. Also, some people worry that masturbating frequently will affect fertility. It doesn't. How often one masturbates is different from person to person. You may masturbate daily, weekly, once a month, once a year, or even less. It’s also normal to not masturbate. Some people do not find it sexually arousing. Others don’t masturbate because they feel guilty about it, not because they don’t find it pleasurable. It can take time and patience to get over guilt or fear about masturbating. Most people find it to be a positive sexual experience once they let go and try it.
If you want more info on masturbating, consult one of these great books: Felice Newman’s, The Whole Lesbian Sex Book, or Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller’s, I Love Female Orgasm. You can get comprehensive masturbation info from Planned Parenthood.