The Masturbation Shame Game

Masturbation, solo sexuality, is often relegated to a secondary position behind partnered sex.  Our lack of concern for the quantity and style of sex with a girlfriend or husband elucidates our partnered sex bias, as though adding an Other valorizes and makes a sexual scenario “healthy”.  The psychology field and sexual/relationally based 12step worlds often put limits and complete avoidance on masturbation while leaving partnered sex to roll on any way it wants. If a specific level of masturbation is villanized as abnormal, that same level should apply to partnership.  The importance and serenity of solitary sexuality is due to it being a meditative and nourishing experience.  It is a boundary-less space where socialization, shame, and pathology are rendered irrelevant and authentic full representation of ones sexuality is allowed to creatively run free.  The complexity of partnered sex is obsolete, the concern of judgment about ones sexual desire, fantasy, and interest are absent, and the constraints of time, place, and reciprocity do not exist.

Anna Freud spoke about our “central masturbation fantasy” as providing the “key to our psychological life”.  Within our fantasies reside our strengths, goals, and histories.  It is the purest form of our sexuality, untainted by socialization, law, culture, and reflection.  Do not let an institution or sponsor (plumber or dentist) breed this last vestige of freedom and creativity out of you.

The psychological, biological, and social benefits are vast and great.  Masturbation is an accessible antidepressant, stress reliever, and self esteem booster.  One is able to engage in their full sexuality in comfort, undeterred or interrupted by the responsibilities of a partner or relationship.  Shame of sexual self is decreased as one finds a world supporting the vast array of all the parts of their arousal constellation.  For those partnered, healthy relationships allow for a separate self to exist, and a sex life that is one with oneself is a powerful enactment of this truth that relationship does not mean the loss of ones selves. The solitary world of solo sexuality demonstrates the beauty of privacy and boundaries even while married or committed.  One does not relinquish control of their sexual self to an Other, as erotic imprisonment.

Healthy sexual development includes exploration of various sexual behaviors, interests, scenarios, partner types and situations, object use, forms and levels of stimulation   This is how one builds confidence and worth of self by liberalizing their attitude towards sex and allowing all parts of their arousal constellation to flourish. Disowned sexual parts coalesce as shame and create a tension that does not allow one to feel safe with self or Other.  Shame is reduced first at the proximate individual level by accepting and caring for ALL parts of oneself.  Until this occurs, one is not able to present themselves sexually or often at all, to an Other.  Partnered sex involves this presentation of self to an Other

One’s views and relationship with their own and others masturbation is a large indicator of how comfortable they are with sexuality.   Sadly I have heard clients, therapists, and 12 step sponsors erroneously saying “one doesn’t need to masturbate”, “I haven’t masturbated in years and I’m fine,” etc.  My first thought is, “how boring.”  Solo sexuality, fantasy, and use of pornography are healthy and safe ways to stimulate ourselves and expand our pleasure.  Biologically, masturbation and orgasm are necessary(and needed quite frequently).  It keeps sperm fresh, vaginal muscles tight, and pelvic floor muscles toned and functioning.  It keeps the vaginal cavity lubricating, greatly reduces the risk of cancers, and relieves headaches.  It relaxes, reduces stress, eases muscle pain…the list goes on and on.

This blog may sound repetitive or redundant, but many people still feel a need for permission to masturbate, even while married, in a committed relationship, or in recovery from “sex or love addiction.” None of the aforementioned need to take away the joy and benefits of solo sex.