Sex
Masturbation feels so good because it lights up the pleasure centers in your brain.

Touching Yourself Has 7 Wild Health Benefits, According To Sexperts

Self-care just got sexier.

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Masturbation. Solo sex. Touching yourself. These are just a smattering of the imaginative names that we’ve given the act of self-pleasure — of bringing ourselves to orgasm using nothing but our own two hands. (OK, our own two hands plus maybe a vibrator, some anal beads, a butt plug, some porn, and some erotic 18th-century literature.) In 2018, Cision PR Newswire reported that “78% of adults in the world masturbate,” which includes 92% of American men and 76% of American women, according to the TENGA 2018 Global Self-Pleasure Report. But of those six billion global pleasure-seekers, how many could truly answer the question: Why does masturbation feel so good? I mean, orgasms, duh. But there’s got to be more to it than that. For the biological explanation behind why masturbating feels good, I turned to the (s)experts.

Toronto-based sexologist Dr. Jessica O'Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, explains that in your brain during orgasm, "the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental areas [aka, the parts of your brain that process reward to pleasure] are activated, and the center of reasoning and behavior shuts down entirely during the heights of pleasure.” So, basically, all the pleasure sensors in your brain are on duty while your reasoning goes on a mini vacation.

“Research suggests that the pelvic nerve transmits sensations from the vagina and cervix … and the rectum and bladder,” Dr. Jess elaborates. “The vagus nerve communicates signals from the cervix, uterus, and vagina, bypassing the spinal cord; the pudendal nerve carries information from the clitoris … and the hypogastric nerve transmits data from the uterus [and] cervix.” Got all that? The nerves from your groin and abdomen are firing messages of pleasure, and your brain responds by lighting up all its pleasure centers. Your body basically becomes the Vegas strip of amazing sensations. So yeah, masturbation rules.

And while your pleasure centers are all throwing a party in your brain, Dr. Jess says various nerves in your body are also getting in on the action — so it’s no wonder a killer orgasm leaves us all shook.

If that weren’t enough, Dr. Adeeti Gupta, NYC-based OBGYN and founder of Walk IN GYN Care, adds yet another cherry on top of the orgasmic brownie sundae that is solo sex. “Masturbation or satisfying sexual experiences help balance out stress hormones” by “balancing cortisol levels.” Anxiety? Never met her.

But the physiological pleasure of masturbation is only the half of it. Read on for more about why masturbation feels so good — and is so good for you.

Masturbation Leads To Better Partnered Sex

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As Dr. Jess explains, a sure-fire way to have better partnered sex is to masturbate first and figure out what really gets you going.

"Masturbating is the best way to get to know your body, so it’s no surprise that most women learn to orgasm during a solo sex session," she explains. And all that homework really pays off. "Those who masturbate may report higher levels of orgasmic response during intercourse and greater sexual satisfaction," she explains. Experimenting on your own means that you’re more familiar with whatever feels amazing for you, and consequently you’re able to "better direct [your] lover during partnered sex."

It Feels Good Because There’s No Pressure

Masturbating on your own is a one-person show for a one-person audience, aka you — and tonight you’re throwing roses and yelling for an encore. If you’ve ever had stage fright with a sexual partner, whether there’s been pressure for you to climax or you’re still trying to work out some newer fantasies, Luke Thao, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (LMFTA) and member of the PNW Sex Therapy Collective based in Seattle, explains that masturbation feels good because you don’t have to explain anything to anyone else.

“With solo sex, you’re by yourself, the stakes are low, you’re using toys or however it is you achieve that orgasm on your own terms, which is often pleasurable and accessible in the sense that there’s no one else there,” Thao tells Elite Daily. “Partnered sex can be very exciting and thrilling but can also create pressure or anxiety, and can lead to not having an orgasm at all, sometimes because of performance anxiety or fear or all these things that are inserted ... because there’s another person introduced to the situation.”

Masturbation feels good because it’s freeing.

Masturbation Increases Your Sex Drive

If you feel like your libido is dropping, Dr. Jess prescribes some quality alone time. "Masturbation is elemental to increasing desire in many cases, as it helps us to learn about our own bodies and reactions," she explains. She also says that self-pleasure increases your likelihood of orgasm, which is great for self-esteem, which in turn is good for your libido. What a glorious cycle.

Masturbating is also a great brain chemistry hack. "As your body relishes in the dopamine and endorphin release, you are more likely to [experience] an increase in desire for sex," she says. Who knew the silver bullet for lower libido is actually, ya know, a silver bullet?

It Promotes Body Positivity

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All too often, the messages we receive about our bodies are negative, but Dr. Jess says masturbation can give us some necessary perspective.

"Masturbation not only fosters a positive connection with your body, but it can boost self-esteem," she explains, adding, "When your body performs (through a sport, a dance or a session of pleasure), you experience an increase in confidence and tend to focus on its strong points as opposed to its 'problems.'" (FYI, there’s nothing problematic about your bod.)

Get out of your head and into your bed.

Masturbating Regularly Makes Your Orgasms Stronger

Mind-melting orgasms sometimes need a little personal training. That’s where masturbation comes in. As Dr. Jess says, it's all about buffing up that pelvic floor.

"Masturbating can tone your pelvic floor muscles which can increase the intensity and ease of orgasmic contractions," she explains. "Your pelvic floor is activated (and works pretty hard) during the plateau stage of orgasm, so keeping it in shape should increase your chance of reaching climax during intercourse." Talk about gains.

It’s Good For Your Heart

It’s imperative to integrate heart-healthy behaviors into our lives from a young age, and that includes masturbation. (You’re welcome.)

"Masturbation can also have health benefits that facilitate orgasm: It increases circulation in the area which promotes clitoral erections (part of the sexual response cycle that leads to orgasm) and is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases which can hinder orgasm," she says. So, yeah. This vibrator is my medicine.

It’s Good For Your Mental Well-Being

There is one more organ that benefits from you getting up close and personal with yourself, and that's your brain. Yep, Dr. Jess says masturbation makes your brain feel good too, even beyond lighting up those pleasure centers.

"Masturbation helps you to relax, de-stress, and enjoy a good night’s sleep — all of which will only serve to benefit your intimate relationship with a partner (e.g. fewer fights) and your sex life (more energy and confidence for sex)," she says.

Masturbation is really incredible. It's this thing you can do whenever you want (within reason folks, don't be reckless) that can improve your mental and physical health. It can help your self-esteem and lead to even more mind-blowing orgasms. Masturbation rocks, and anyone who tells you differently can just go f*ck themselves. As we've learned, it will actually do them a lot of good.

Experts:

Dr. Jess O’Reilly, sexologist and author

Dr. Adeeti Gupta, NYC-based OBGYN and founder of Walk IN GYN Care, the nation's first walk-in center for complete women's health

Luke Thao, MA, LMFTA (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate)