It is a subject that has provoked a host of myths, from causing blindness and insanity to the loss of vital organs.
Now two academics are on a mission to set the record straight about masturbation – and highlight all the health benefits it can bring.
Anthony Santella, a public health scientist at the University of Sydney and his colleague Spring Chenoa Cooper, a senior lecturer, say self-pleasuring can ward off a host of illnesses, from cystitis, diabetes to prostate cancer.
They say that 94 per cent of men admit to masturbating, as do 85 per cent of women – and that it’s something even babies do from the time they are in the womb.
Writing for The Conversation, a website where academics write opinion pieces, they say: ‘For women, masturbation can help prevent cervical infections and urinary tract infections through the process of “tenting,” or the opening of the cervix that occurs as part of the arousal process.
‘Tenting stretches the cervix, and thus the cervical mucous. This enables fluid circulation, allowing cervical fluids full of bacteria to be flushed out.’
They add that engaging in self-pleasure can also ‘lower the risk of type-2 diabetes (though this association may also be explained by greater overall health), reduce insomnia through hormonal and tension release, and increase pelvic floor strength through the contractions that happen during orgasm.’
Then there is cancer prevention. Studies have shown that men who regularly have sex may have a lower risk of prostate cancer – perhaps due to the release of toxins from the prostate gland – and they say that masturbation achieves this same effect.
The Australian pair also argue that it can help prevent depression, due to the ‘happy’ endorphins produced and cause a slight hike in levels of the hormone cortisol, which may give the immune system a boost.
They add that masturbation is also ‘the most convenient method for maximising orgasms’ – and that people who orgasm regularly have ‘reduced stress, reduced blood pressure, increased self-esteem, and reduced pain’.
Last, but not least, they make the point that there’s also no risk of disappointing a partner – of the dreaded performance anxiety. And there’s no risk of unwanted pregnancies or STIs.