Happy May-sturbation Month

Along with flowering trees, warmer temps, and sunshine in most parts of northern America, we also have one more thing to celebrate in May. May is also International Masturbation Month. May-sturbation month if you will. In contrast to No Nut November*, this month we honor the body and the pleasure it is capable of experiencing.

Masturbation, or solo sex, is surrounded with a whole lot of stigmas, as all things sexual are. It seems, however, that solo sex is often attacked from every angle possible. Some religious groups say the Bible condemns it. John Harvey Kellogg, a Victorian era physician, called it a “solitary vice”, “vile practice” and suggested procedures that ranged from silly to downright barbaric, some of which included genital mutilation. Media tells us it is only for desperate lonely people, something to hide from others, or a shameful addiction. I’m sure many of you have heard the claims that solo sex causes hairy palms, blindness, lower desire, weakness, infertility, genitals to fall off, mental illness and the like. I’m not sure about you, but the only unwanted hair I have growing on my body is far from my palms. And certainly, isn’t from solo sex.

In her book, Sex for One, Betty Dodson tells us “Masturbation is the ongoing love affair that each of us has with ourselves throughout our lifetime.” (Dodson, 1974, pg. 3) Let me start by saying, for anyone that needs to hear it, you have full permission to love on yourself, sexually or otherwise. Solo sex isn’t dirty, inappropriate, reserved for singledom, or sinful. It is just something people can do to feel good. And that’s OK. The best part, though, is that there are a lot of benefits to solo sex. Let’s dive in and take a gander at a few of them.

Getting to Know You

Solo sex is a great way to both connect with your body and learn about what feels good in your body. Both are important for experiencing pleasurable sex, both solo and with others. When you take time to explore your whole body and try different things, you can then begin to build your pleasure palette, something I coined in a previous blog. Basically, it is building your own personal repertoire of things you know you enjoy. You can then pull from them, mix and match them, and use them to create the type of sex you want to have in the moment. It can change from experience to experience, creating a host of unique combinations. Many people develop a go to method to get off, because our brains develop habits around the rewards we receive when we do things. But routine can get boring, because it becomes more about the destination and not the journey to get there. Imagine though, what it would be like to have a whole list of habits to experiment with. It’s kinda like taking the backroads instead of the highway. Needless to say, the more you get to know yourself through solo sex, the better it all gets.

Mental and Physical Health Benefits

Solo sex helps you relax, releases lots of fun happy chemicals in the brain, helps release sexual inhibitions and fears, and builds sexual confidence. It can help you sleep, and better sleep means better mental health. For male bodied individuals it helps keep the prostate healthy. If early ejaculation is a concern, solo sex prior to partnered sex, at least an hour or so, depending on your personal refractory timeframe, can reduce urgency or rushing. For female bodied individuals it can help relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension. Concerned about the potential for sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy? Solo sex is the ultimate in safe sex and birth control. Some studies have found that it may even improve immunity by boosting white blood cells in the body and rebalance cortisol levels. Finally, it relieves stress and lowers blood pressure.

Mutual Masturbation

Let’s not forget that masturbation doesn’t always have to be solo. We also have mutual masturbation. While penis in vagina (PIV) is, frustratingly, dubbed the default for sex, sex encompasses many things for many people, including mutual masturbation. It is one way same sex couples engage in and experience sex. For partnerships in which PIV is the default, it offers an alternative to PIV sex. Mutual masturbation comes with its own set of benefits. It offers the opportunity to slow down and explore your partner(s) whole body, instead of zeroing in on just the genitals. Mutual masturbation gives you the chance to communicate with a partner(s) about where, how, when, you like to be touched. When communicating verbally about our desires is difficult, physically showing someone provides a different, sometimes easier, way to communicate those desires. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to learn what your partner(s) like too. Mutual masturbation is also a form of safer sex.

Not Just for Singles

Some people say that once a person is in a partnership with one or more people, that there is no need for solo sex. Ideally, it is up to you to decide what your preferences are. It is important to remember that, in healthy relationships, engaging in solo sex does not mean you care or love your partner(s) less. Nor do they care or love you less if they engage in solo sex. When utilized in the ways noted above, solo sex can help partnerships improve. In addition, situations where there is uneven desire, illness/injury that prevents partner sex, a separation, or disability, solo sex is a valid alternative to partnered sex. It should be noted that attention should be paid to situations where solo sex is being used to replace partnered sex in a relationship. There may be some deeper concerns there that need to be addressed.

Whether solo or mutual, masturbation is completely normal. No matter what life looks like for you, no partner, one partner, many partners, masturbation offers many benefits. I invite you to take some time this month to celebrate your sexual relationship with yourself. Love on your body! And, as always, it’s OK to talk about it. Peace, love, and pleasure to you!

*It should be noted that No Nut November is merely an internet trend, targeted toward men, and not an internationally recognized event.

“Solo sex is a great way to both connect with your body and learn about what feels good in your body.”

Carli Guzowski is a Certified Sex Coach, Clinical Sexologist, Sexual Health, and Wellness Educator, and Pleasure/Kink Activist. She is owner of Unwinding Pleasure, where her main mission is to spread messages of peace, love, pleasure, and acceptance for all. She supports her clients in recognizing the role pleasure plays in leading a more fulfilling, empowered, healthy, and joyful life. She offers Sex/Intimacy Coaching, and Sexual Health/Wellness Education and Workshops. In her free time, Carli enjoys gardening, fast cars, adventures with her family, and sparkly boots.