Shame-free: Let's talk about masturbation

Source: Max Pixel
Source: Max Pixel


Most of us do it, but almost no one talks about it. There is so much shame surrounding the topic of masturbation. Let’s break free and start the conversation.


Masturbation is completely normal and good for you. Nonetheless it’s not a common dinner party subject - a lot of shame surrounds sexual self-pleasure.


Shaming people for masturbating has a long tradition in many cultures. It is pretty hard to get it out of our heads that there is nothing shameful about masturbation.



Shame gets lodged in our bodies


Jaclyn Friedman writes on shame in her amazing book What you really really want. The smart girl’s shame-free guide to sex and safety (2011) that the shame we have grown up with is not just lodged in our minds, but even in our bodies. (p.48) The shame we’ve been socialised with impacts the way we live and love. The people we’ve grown up with, usually our parents, are the first people to project their moral values onto us (cf. p.48f). For many people the shaming therefore starts at a very young age. When a child touches their genitals, many parents stop them from doing it, sometimes even say that it’s “dirty” or similar. Children need to explore their bodies though and it is an important part of growing up and getting to know yourself. No reason for concern!


It is normal for children to masturbate


Most children start masturbating when they are quite little - though it isn’t the kind of masturbation we’re thinking about when we’re talking about teenagers or grown-ups. Children do not associate anything with touching themselves, like we do. They do not feel sexual attraction, that only starts in puberty. Children only touch themselves because they discover that it feels nice. Especially women often remember a moment in their childhood when they accidentally felt pressure against their clitoris that felt good, which they then repeated (some people argue that that’s the reason why horse-riding is so popular with girls…).


The Huffington Post published a really good article on the subject called “How To Talk To Your Kids About Masturbation In A Healthy Way” which is worth a read.


A way to connect to yourself


Back to grown-ups. Here we are, adults, sexual beings who have been raised in cultures that either think masturbation is sinful, dirty or not worth mentioning.


Generally speaking, masturbation is good for you. Many people masturbate before they fall asleep in the evening, because it helps them to relax. Others start the day with some self-pleasure in the shower. There are lots of ways and times to do it. If you’re enjoying yourself, doing it in private and not harming anyone, it is a beautiful way to connect with yourself.


The diverse world of masturbation


And there are lots of different ways to masturbate. They can involve all sorts of different sex toys, your hands or not even that. Masturbation doesn’t even necessarily include touching your own genitals. There are people who can make themselves come just by using their mind (e.g. some Tantra practitioners) and there are people who stimulate other parts of their bodies such as their ears. Some do this because that’s what they’re simply into, others have to find alternatives to their genitals, for example after an accident.


I suggest that we widen our view on and our definition of masturbation and simply think of it as giving sexual pleasure to ourselves.


Is masturbation only for single people? Hell no!


Someone once told me that their friend threw away her vibrator once she had gotten engaged. This anecdote is very telling. It isn’t unusual for people to think, that they shouldn’t masturbate if they are in a committed relationship. It is perfectly normal to masturbate, no matter whether you’re single or in a relationship.  


I would even argue that masturbating can improve the sexual relationship you are having with your partner. People who masturbate regularly usually know their bodies quite well and know what pleases them sexually. So they might be able to communicate their needs to their partners better than people who don’t masturbate.


Masturbation can fulfil different needs at different times. For some people it is the only form of sexual contact they have. For others it is an addition to the sex they are having with their partner(s), and for others sex with other people is seen as an addition to masturbation.


No matter if you’re enjoying a quick wank or a mindful self-exploratory session – have fun, be safe & don’t be ashamed. You deserve to feel pleasure.


About the author:

Ursula Spindler (MA Sexuality Studies) qualified as a sex counsellor (isp) in 2017.

She is currently studying integrative psychotherapy in London and loves snails, coffee and sex-positive feminism.