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Self-pleasure: A Tool of Sexual Health

By: Jessica VerBout, M.A., LMFT, CST

Self-pleasure (aka: masturbation or solo sex) is a natural and common aspect of human sexuality that has been a topic of both curiosity and taboo for centuries. While it may have faced stigmatization and misunderstanding in the past, modern research and a more open dialogue have shed light on its numerous benefits. As we navigate towards a more sex-positive society, it's crucial to discuss the positive aspects of self-pleasure and its potential impact on physical and mental well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the surprising benefits of self-pleasure, empowering individuals to embrace self-care and understanding their bodies in a healthy and judgment-free manner. Self-pleasure is just one fun way to help manage various "life-isms."

Stress Relief and as a Coping Mechanism

In today's fast-paced world, stress and anxiety have become pervasive concerns. Self-pleasure offers a safe and effective way to release tension and promote relaxation. When individuals engage in self-pleasure, the body releases endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin, all of which are powerful neurotransmitters responsible for enhancing mood and reducing stress. This natural "feel-good" chemical cocktail can lead to a sense of well-being, reducing anxiety and even aiding in depression management. Research abound is showing more and more that self-pleasure is a way people cope with stressful, anxious, and even depressive thoughts and states; showing that those who use self-pleasure as a coping skill (of many), may even have some general resiliency against the negative impacts of life stress (Leonard, A., 2010)

Improved Sleep Quality

Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep can be incredibly frustrating and detrimental to one's overall health. Self-pleasure can help in this regard as well, as research shows some impacts of self-pleasure lead to a better experience of sleep (Lastella, M., O'Mullan, C., Paterson, J., and Reynolds, A., 2019). The release of endorphins during climax can induce a feeling of calmness and relaxation, promoting better sleep. Additionally, the physical exertion and sense of satisfaction can contribute to a more peaceful slumber.

Enhancing Sexual Knowledge and Pleasure

Self-pleasure provides individuals with the opportunity to explore their bodies intimately. This self-exploration is essential in understanding one's sexual preferences, desires, and boundaries. (It is also one of the more fun homework tasks I encourage my client to help them gain more of an understanding of what they want from their partner(s), as often, people struggle knowing what feels good to them to then convey this to their partner(s).) By knowing what feels good for oneself, individuals can communicate more effectively, leading to more fulfilling sexual experiences.

Treating Orgasm Difficulties

Regular self-pleasure, particularly in individuals with vaginas, can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles play a crucial role in bladder control and sexual function. A strengthened pelvic floor can lead to reduced risks of urinary incontinence and enhanced sexual pleasure through improved muscle tone (though formal treatment for the pelvic floor is best diagnoses, reviewed, and worked on with a specialized physical therapist). Self-pleasure is a treatment method to help individuals with vulvas and vaginas to treating orgasmic dysfunctions (LoPiccolo, J. Ph.D. and Lobitz, W.C., 1972), such as difficulty reaching orgasm.

Empowerment and Body Positivity

Embracing and engaging in self-pleasure can promote a sense of body positivity and empowerment. By exploring their bodies and experiencing pleasure, individuals can develop a healthier and more positive relationship with their physical selves. This self-confidence can extend beyond the realm of sexuality, influencing various aspects of life.

Self-pleasure, a natural and healthy aspect of human sexuality, offers a plethora of surprising benefits (not all were even listed here!) that promote overall well-being. From stress relief and improved sleep quality to empowering self-discovery and better sexual experiences, there are numerous reasons to embrace self-pleasure as a form of self-care. It's essential to approach the subject with an open mind, devoid of shame or guilt, and engage in a sex-positive dialogue that encourages individuals to explore their bodies safely and responsibly. Working with a Certified Sex Therapist can help you to understand the blocks of accepting self-pleasure as self-care in your life, and help you to discover ways to use self-pleasure as a tool, of many, for improving your sexual self. (Including creating more balance with self-pleasure and life.)

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