It's 2019, and somehow, it still feels like there's a stigma when it comes to masturbation. And because of the stigma surrounding sexual self-love, all of the benefits of masturbation can be easily overlooked. A new study took a deep dive into the world of self-pleasure and highlighted the impact it has on the lives of people across the country and around the world. The sex toy company TENGA surveyed 10,000 people from nine different countries to see how much masturbation has influenced their lives, and the short answer is, a lot.
For starters, 84% of Americans have indulged in self-pleasure at one point or another. (That's about 275 million people!) Anyone who has partaken in a self-love session or two has had their reasons, whether they were bored, horny or they just freaking wanted to. When asked why they masturbate, the study participants responded with three main reasons: to satisfy sexual urges (31%), to achieve sexual pleasure (25%), or to simply just relax or relieve stress (21%). If the third reason surprises you, it shouldn't. 74% of Americans surveyed said they use masturbation as a form of self-care or therapy, while more than half said it improves their mental wellbeing. And when asked to rank the most stress-reducing activities, having sex came in at number one, closely followed by masturbating.
Not only is self-pleasure a major stress reliever, the majority of Americans who took the survey also think it has a positive effect across multiple aspects of their lives, including their mood, health, and self-confidence. Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D. and host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast, echoes that sentiment, and agrees that masturbation has loads of benefits: better sex, letting go of sexual shame, improved body image, and a stronger libido, to name a few. "Masturbation can help you to learn more about your body and the way it responds to stimulation," she tells Elite Daily. "If you learn how to pleasure yourself, you’ll likely be better at asking for what you want with a partner."
The study also found that people who masturbate at least once a week (which, BTW, is more than half of the Americans surveyed) are more sexually satisfied and confident. There's something about getting yourself off and having no shame about it that seems to translate into how you carry yourself in other aspects of your life, including in the bedroom. "When your body performs for you, you tend to like it more and focus on its function, as opposed to its supposed deficiencies," Dr. Jess says. As it turns out, women have gotten so good at pleasing themselves, they tend to find masturbating more pleasurable than sex, while men are the opposite.
Though more men would rather get off with someone than by themselves, they've had a long time to perfect their self-loving. According to the study, the majority of men who masturbate started at the age of 13, as did 94% of the LGBTQIA participants. Women, on average, started two years later, at 15 years old. As a whole, 88% of millennials began their self-pleasure journeys right smack in the middle at 14 years old.
So, while there still appears to be a taboo surrounding masturbation, more than half of the Gen Z, millennial, and Gen X participants of the study agree that society would benefit from talking about it more openly. Compared to TENGA's 2018 study, the 2019 study revealed that fewer Americans answered "Never" when asked if they've ever spoken openly about masturbation. 78% of the people surveyed even said that they think masturbation should be covered as a topic in sex education. That's progress, people — bringing self-loving to the light, one step at a time.