May is international masturbation month: An entire month devoted to self-love and self-pleasure.

It all started in 1995, when a San Francisco based sex shop, Good Vibrations, inaugurated Masturbation Month, in response to the firing of then-Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders who suggested masturbation be included in youth sex education programmes. “We were astounded. It was one of the most sensible things we’d ever heard a government official say – and it cost Elders her job!” They also write,  “Of all the kinds of sex people can have, masturbation is the most universal and important, yet few people talk about it freely. Worse, many people still feel it is “second best” or problematic in some way. Masturbation Month lets us emphasize how great it is. It’s natural, common, and fun!”

I know, living in South Africa which is one of the most conservative countries in the world, masturbation is not something we really talk about. So, let’s break the ice of frigidity and get going!

The word masturbation is used to describe self-stimulation of one’s genitals for sexual pleasure. People masturbate for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is to relieve sexual tension, but masturbation also holds in credible value as a means of self-exploration. I often tell my patients that if you don’t know how to please yourself, you can hardly expect your partner to know what works for you. People can learn a great deal from masturbation about their sexual responses. Self-stimulation can help women learn to experience orgasms, while men experimenting with their response pattern can learn to increase ejaculatory control. For some people masturbation also helps them fall asleep at night.

An American survey found that 48% of teenage girls and 73% of teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 17 had masturbated. The difference between the percentages of females and males who masturbate lessen for people in their 20s. Almost 85% of women and over 94% of men between 25 and 29 masturbate. A Swedish study had similar outcomes and also found that the average age of first masturbation was 13 years for girls and 12 and a half years for boys.

Masturbation is part of normal sexual health. It is a universal sexual right and therefore also a basic human right. Why not get the most out of the month of May and embrace your sexuality? Learn to love yourself. It’s not shameful, it is beautiful!

Health benefits of masturbation
  1. It improves mood and decreases stress.
  2. It helps you sleep better.
  3. It improves your immune system.
  4. It can improve period pains in women.
  5. It can decrease the risk of prostate cancer in men.
Random facts
  1. One in seven women have never masturbated.
  2. Women are more likely to use sex toys when masturbating.
  3. Girls and boys first masturbate in their early teens.