When did you first hear of the word ‘masturbation’? Chances are, if you’re an average Indian man, it was whispered to you in the midst of giggles by that friend your parents warned you not to hang out with. If you’re a woman, the picture is even bleaker.
Owing to this, many of us have learnt to associate a sense of shame to masturbation, giving rise to myths that stay with us for a lifetime. There are a myriad of myths surrounding masturbation, from the idea that it contributes to erectile dysfunction, hair loss, or hair to grow in weird places, or that it shrinks your genitals. However, experts say that masturbation is the safest form of sex. There are no long term or short term health defects of masturbation.
Masturbation in relationships is a touchy topic. A lot of people feel uncomfortable with the idea that their partners masturbate, taking it as a personal attack on their attractiveness in the eyes of their partner. However, sexual pleasure is not simplistic. Many people in relationships masturbate, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t find their partner attractive. The need to masturbate is natural. Sometimes, the partner may not want to have sex when the other person wants to. Sometimes, people may masturbate because they’re attracted to the idea that they’re not comfortable sharing with their partner. Sometimes, masturbation is just a stress relief mechanism and may not be a representation of how a person feels about their partner. People masturbate to ideas. It is not a reflection or a rejection of the real, tangible relationships. There is a sense of stigma attached to masturbation. Most people don’t want to admit that they masturbate. Some may ask, what is the need to do that? While it is not incumbent upon people to advertise their masturbation habits, a lot of times, when people, especially women, masturbate, they are shamed for it. This shame is essentially the shame of playing with one’s bodies. This leads to an unhealthy relationship with their own body. It also empowers the idea that our bodies aren’t strictly ours and what we do with our own body needs to be policed or governed from the lens of morality. It leads to other prejudices that are harmful for society.
If we’re being positive about masturbation and the need to talk about it, does that always mean that it is okay to masturbate anywhere? While playing with yourself is your business, the context is important. There are many reports of people masturbating in front of other people without their consent. This is outright sexual harassment, and there’s no other word for it. When you make another person party to your masturbation without their enthusiastic consent, you’re sexually harassing them.
However, when done privately, masturbation has a lot of benefits. It acts as a stress reliever, helps relieve menstrual cramps and pain, helps you sleep better, improves your body image and self-image, and helps treat a lot of sexual problems too. Whatever the reasons for you masturbating are, we just want to let you know that masturbation is your private affair, and it’s completely okay.