Why are we so shy about masturbation? Why is this specific form of pleasure considered taboo or dirty? I mean, how many times have we eaten something delicious in public and then audibly moaned with pleasure without an ounce of shame? Many times. I mean, what even is an ice cream parlor if not a public sex dungeon for your tastebuds? Am I right? So, let's make a pact to stop being shy about masturbation, because it's freakin' awesome. Agreed? OK good. Glad we're on the same page. But have you ever stopped to wonder why masturbation feels so good? I mean, orgasms, duh. But there is more to it than that, right? To help answer that question, I reached out to Dr. Jessica O'Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast.
The first thing Dr. Jess explained is why masturbation feels so good, literally. OK, now stay with me here, things are going to get a bit science-y. (Yes, that's the technical term, ahem.) Dr. Jess 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 firing, and all your reasoning goes on a mini vacation. (That explains some choices I’ve made in the past. But that's another article.)
Dr. Jess explains that while your pleasure centers are all throwing a party in your brain, various nerves in your body are also getting in on the action — and honestly, no wonder a killer orgasm leaves you shook.
“Research suggests that the pelvic nerve transmits sensations from the vagina and cervix … and the rectum and bladder … 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," Dr. Jess tells Elite Daily. Got all that? OK, so, in other words, all 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.
But it’s not just because of the literal pleasure, because, as Dr. Jess explains, it makes you feel good in all kinds of unexpected ways.
It makes sex better in general.
If you want to make your partner's sexual journey better, Dr. Jess suggests heading out on plenty of solo missions in order to chart some unexplored orgasmic territory.
"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. That's because by experimenting you've learned what feels best for you, and you are able to, "better direct [your] lover during partnered sex."
It increases your libido.
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. But it's also a great brain chemistry hack.
"As your body relishes in the dopamine and endorphin release, you are more likely to crave more, resulting in an increase in desire for sex," she says. Who knew the silver bullet for lower libido is actually, ya know, a silver bullet?
It's great for body positivity.
All too often, the messages we receive about our bodies are negative, but Dr. Jess says masturbation is a great way to reinforce just how incredible our bodies really are, and how deserving of self-love we are.
"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.'"
It makes your orgasms stronger.
Want to make your orgasms stronger and better? Well then, masturbation is just the, ahem, personal training you need. 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.
Taking care of your heart is really important, but unless you are one of those people who just loves to exercise, then it's not exactly fun. However, Dr. Jess is about to change all that.
"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. Boom, masturbation is good for your heart. Who knew?
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. Not just the whole pleasure center situation I described before, but it actually helps you to feel good mentally.
"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.
When you think about it, 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.