Synopsis: How masturbation and healthy, real love interface and can be intertwined beneficially; when masturbation is and is not a good thing; issues of differing training, genders, religions, etc.; and love relating involving masturbation are openly and refreshingly dealt with in this mini-love-lesson.
Martha’s First OrgasmMartha was 72 when she proudly learned to masturbate and had her first, glorious orgasm. She was one of my older, widowed, sex therapy clients who said she just had to learn to climax because it was on her bucket list and her physician cajoled her into doing something about it. Seven sessions later she was celebrating and referring several of her golden age, female friends.
Martha had been severely religiously trained against sex as a child and had overcome most of that on her own, but she never learned how to orgasm in or out of her marriage. Recently from her physician, she learned it was still possible and subsequently got referred to me because in my relational work, I had a subspecialty in sex therapy and a record of success.
Basically, I just did what many sex therapist do. We talked some about healthy self-love, self-care, what is natural and masturbation as a part of that. We also talked about romantic and sexual fantasizing, vaginal lubrication, I introduced her to vibrators and sent her home with some sexual exploration, experimenting and masturbratory homework assignments. She was a diligent and eager student. She readily fulfilled her assignments though some were fairly difficult for her. After her seventh session and success, she thanked me and said she was going home to play erotic catch-up for 50 years of lost time at sex and self-love. Healthy, real self-love and masturbation were the main pathways to Martha’s success.
The Great Therapist’s Tool That Is MasturbationMartha illustrates one of the great, good and healthy truths about masturbation. Because it is one of nature’s easy ways of teaching us about our own body and our natural systems, it is great for helping people with all sorts of sex and other difficulties. Consider those with serious physical disabilities that prevent couples from having sexual intercourse. Especially, think about wounded war veterans, serious accident victims and those with debilitating illnesses. It often is masturbation and mutual masturbation with a spouse or love mate that provides these people a way to still have a healthy sex life and with it, a satisfying and growing life of love.
Masturbation also is a fantastic, therapeutic tool for helping a wide variety of sex problems to get better. That is true for both individuals and couples and even the occasional throuple ( see “Throuple Love: a Growing Worldwide Way of the Future?”). Without using masturbation techniques, many sex problems might never get fixed or, if they do, it takes far longer than it needs to. That partly is because guided masturbation techniques are basically a more efficient way to work with our own strong, healthy, natural, psychobiological sexuality systems. Whenever we work with mother nature and not against her, things get easier.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?Love and masturbation go really well together. With healthy, real love, masturbation can be far more beneficial and positive in its effects, than without love. Even without love, masturbation can be quite healthy, as is true of most forms of sexuality. Two major forms, or focuses, of love relationship are involved here. The first has to do with healthy, real, self love. The second has to do with healthy, real, couples love. Sometimes a healthy love of life and nature are involved and important here.
Notice, we keep emphasizing sex with healthy, real love which is so different from false love and it’s 12 identified major forms (see “The Huge Hidden Reason So Many Fail at Love”). Also, sex with healthy, real love is very different from loveless sex. So, as a reminder helper, here is the short version of our working definition of healthy, real love:
Healthy, real love is a powerful, vital, natural process of
highly valuing, desiring for, often acting for, and
taking pleasure in the well-being of the loved (see “The Definition of Love” ).
Masturbation with love, therefore, is a powerful, vital, natural process involving high valuing, a desire for, doing actions for, and taking pleasure in the erotic well-being of the loved. The loved one can be another or oneself. Without love, masturbation can be okay, even wonderful, but not nearly as beneficial and important as with love.
Some of the Many Benefits of MasturbationIn the health fields and the sciences which support them, masturbation has been researched. The preponderance of resulting evidence finds masturbation to be natural, very broadly healthful and widely beneficial in a variety of ways. Like anything humans do, occasionally it can be mildly to moderately problematic and once in a rare while, worse. We will not list all the ways masturbation can be good for a person. You can go online and look up the copious information available on that. However, here is a short sample list of some of those so far discovered and the deduced benefits.
Masturbation, when compared to non-masturbation, has been found to be associated with stress reduction, improved sleep, menstrual cramp relief, stronger pelvic muscles, improved cardiovascular health, having preventative and anti-cancer effects especially for prostate cancer, improved brain health and brain functioning, the production of natural brain anti-depressant and anti-anxiety neurochemistry, reduced irritability, reduced anger, reduced sudden violence proneness, improved genital and gynecological health, improved orgasmic ability, more general happiness and longer life.
Quite a few other benefits are suspected to exist and research to find them, while limited, is continuing. So, from the health and sciences point of view, masturbation increasingly is being seen as a great blessing.
When Masturbation Is Not a Good ThingIt is a truism that everything used is also misused and that can be said of masturbation too. One big problem with our natural drive to masturbate is that it can be coupled with anti-sex training and used to influence people into feeling guilty, ashamed, inadequate, fearful, embarrassed and sinful. Each of these feelings can then be used for controlling, suppressing, and subjugating people. These anti-sex trainings are especially powerful in manipulating people to work against and even sacrifice their own natural tendencies to know and act for their health and well-being.
A similar but different problem occurs when people have been taught masturbation is bad, sinful or sick which affects them more intimately and relationally. That problem occurs when anti-sex conditioned people give-in to their natural masturbation desires and then feel miserable and conflicted about it. Frequently, they hide this from their spouse and that deception may cause emotional distancing and a disruption of a couple’s love sharing. Mistrust, loneliness and inadequacy feelings then may grow. In couples counseling, it is not uncommon to hear both partners reveal these kinds of feelings and then confess to each other that they both secretly masturbate. Mutual, shared masturbation may then become part of their cure.
Anti-sex trained individuals without partners who have healthy, strong sex drives frequently become emotionally conflicted, disturbed and even self-destructive when trying to fight their natural, healthful sex feelings. Physical self punishment, self mutilation, addiction relapse and even suicide is not unknown with these cases. More common is energy draining, ongoing, inner conflict and troubling confusion which interferes with self love development .
Physically, the most common thing that goes wrong with frequent masturbation has to do with painful rashes and rawness. Psychologically there are cases of addictive, compulsive masturbation that can result in a negative social consequences. Masturbating in public gets people arrested, if at work it gets them fired and if it is a substitute for interpersonal connection it may contribute to interpersonal isolation. Other underlying psychological problems usually are suspected of being involved and/or at the root of these difficulties.
Masturbation and Healthy Self-LoveDr. Ian Kerner, a psychotherapist and sex counselor, who leads an noted self-care effort after years of study and treating people with all sorts of psychological and sexual problems, drew an uncommon conclusion. He posited that for good, healthy self-care, regular masturbation should be part of everyone’s health regimen. He and colleagues like him, who have examined the research-based available evidence, might view regular masturbation as belonging right up there with a healthy diet, exercise, 8 hours of sleep, weight control and yearly physicals.
One of the major reasons masturbation can be good for everyone is that it causes the release of prolactin and serotonin which, in combination, can bring people into healthy, happy, resting states of excellent relaxation. Another reason masturbation is good self-care is it can result in improved hormone health, especially for females. Medical reasons like these are mounting, while opposing rationale is increasingly undercut by science and the professional opinions of a growing number clinical practitioners. Increasingly, masturbation is accepted, recognized and recommended as a healthy self-care and self-love behavior.
Religion, Masturbation and Healthy Self-LoveNaturally, healthy self-love involves lots of healthy self-care. Masturbation can be a part of that healthy self-love, self-care. However, this view is widely fought against, condemned and vilified mostly by conservative religionists in many parts of the world. Conservative religions are generally quite negative about masturbation and often toward self-love as well. Of all the world’s sizable, major religions only Wicca, the Hindu Tantrists and some Taoists sects can be said to have had a positive view about masturbation from early in their history. However, today many faiths are conflicted over and/or revising their teachings about both masturbation and self-love. One of my theolog friends commented “who would’ve ever thought that masturbation would enter into the discussion of what’s involved in the great commandment love others as you love yourself?”
If you are religiously troubled about the yeas and nays of masturbation and/or about self-love, you may wish to carefully seek out guidance from one or more clerics of your own faith, or perhaps someone in the interfaith or ecumenical movements. I recommend that you consider choosing someone known to be loving along with being well-versed in your religious traditions. Someone being knowledgeable in psychosexual and health science’s research also might be helpful.
Gender, Masturbation and Healthy Self-LoveFor women, sexual self pleasuring seems to be especially good for developing healthy self-love. Masturbating females tend to have more self-confidence, self-esteem, and a more positive emotional outlook on their lives and on themselves, all of which provides evidence for healthy self-love. In my practice, I counseled quite a few women who learned to sexually pleasure themselves at home. As they did so, they overcame sex hangups quicker and more completely, improved their body image, developed more pride in being female, grew a greater sense of personal power and integrity, felt more lovable and reported becoming more loving to others.
For many but not all men, masturbation often is experienced with worries about their own sexuality, masculinity, adequacy, comparative potency, embarrassment and moral/religious conflict. Time and maturation seems to solve these issues for most modern males. For many of the men I treated where these difficulties were more severe, these issues were overcome by learning simple, self acceptance and self affirmation love coupled with singular or joint masturbation practices. Some older males seem to continue to be troubled by these inner conflicts apparently because their anti-sexual upbringing was more pervasive and severe. The expectation that aging will diminish sexuality also plays a role, but that seems to be lessening in many more progressive parts of the world. In some places, males are learning masturbation is positive self-care and it is coming to be more linked to healthy self-love.
For bisexuals, transsexuals and other gender and lifestyle variations of all types, healthy self-love is especially needed to go up against all the opposing negative forces arrayed against them. Self-care masturbation can be a great tension reliever, safe escape and safe sex aid in dealing with the extra pressures, threats and complications involved in being and living other than by “the standard”.
Masturbation and Couples LoveFor lots of different reasons, couples and also throuples show their love for each other while engaging in co-masturbation practices. Consider soldiers, sailors and Marines as well as others forced to stay apart from their spouses for lengthy periods. No small number of them visually connect with distant partners on-line can keep their mutual sex life and their love life active by talking sexy and romantically while enjoyably watching each other masturbate. For many this is a profound way of sharing their love. Many others use phone sex the same way.
Couples living together often masturbate side-by-side because they are too exhausted from the day’s work to have intercourse. Still others take turns lovingly bringing each other to the big O using sex toys and vibrators because intercourse just does not do it for one or both of them. Some couples find it easier to masturbate while they share, create or read intimate fantasies to each other or watch porn. For a host of couples in which one or both have medical conditions making intercourse unadvisable or impossible, mutually pleasuring each other via sundry masturbation practices allows them to keep having a loving sex life together. Then there are those who masturbate separately often because of scheduling conflicts or just the structure of their lives. Later, they lovingly and enticingly might review their separate experiences with each other so it becomes an intimate love-sharing event. Frequently, that also then leads to more sex – together.
Of course, there are other couples who just prefer masturbating each other, or side-by-side masturbation, but who still lovingly touch each other, look at each other and talk to each other as they do so. A good many couples lovingly mix having intercourse and masturbating. This is especially common among couples who sexually dance or otherwise perform for each other. After the performance they may fall into each other’s arms, have intercourse and then bask in the joining afterglow of the total experience. For these couples, it usually is much more about the love than the sex, even though the sex can be very passionate and extremely erotic. Many couples have found that not being so intercourse-focused or intercourse-dependent affords them a much richer and more variety-filled sex life to share together (see “Intercourse Absent Lovemaking, a Love Skill”). Especially does sharing masturbratory behaviors, thoughts and feelings add to the ways couples can very intimately love one another.
To Learn MoreThe mini love lessons at this site titled “Ever Think Seriously about Real and False Love?”, link “Lasting Sex and Lasting Love” and Our E-Book Real Love or False Love Which Is Yours? may Help You and Yours.
To learn more in depth about the science and health of masturbation you may wish to check out studies published in the journals of Sex Education and Therapy; Sex and Relationship Therapy; Sex Research and Psychology; and Human Sexuality. The archives of the magazines Psychology Today; and Prevention have some good summary articles to consult.
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As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Quotable Question: How much of what we are taught to be against is just what the teachers secretly feel inadequate about handling?