5 things about masturbation women may not know:
1. “Normal” masturbation in women takes many forms.
Most women, like men, have masturbated at least once in their lives, research suggests. Frequency varies, and there’s no “normal” for that. There’s no ”normal” cutoff age, either, with the practice continuing into the 80s and beyond.
Women may feel guilty about it, especially if they are in a committed relationship, but there’s no need for guilt, sex therapists say. Sometimes a partner could just be tired, out of town, or otherwise unavailable.
Fingers and vibrators are two common methods of women’s masturbation. More than half of 2,056 women, aged 18 to 60, used a vibrator either during masturbation or intercourse, says Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, Bloomington, who led the survey.
Other women who masturbate report they use the back of a vibrating toothbrushhead, the handle of a hairbrush, or water jets in the bathtub, Joannides says.
Although some experts worry about side effects from vibrator use, such as genital numbness or pain, less than 30% of the women in Herbenick’s vibrator survey said they had experienced them.
But another expert, Frank Sommers, MD, a Toronto psychiatrist, worries that excessive vibrator use during masturbation could desensitize women to orgasms with a partner. “I tell my patients, ‘Look on a vibrator as whipped cream — you wouldn’t want to eat it every day.’’’
He believes too much vibrator use ‘’habituates your autonomic nervous system to such stimulation that a human could not duplicate it.”
2. Masturbation can improve your mood — without the ”obligations” of partnered sex.
However a woman chooses to masturbate, it can improve her spirits. “It can improve a depressed mood,” says Kathleen Segraves, PhD, a sex therapist and associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University and a therapist at Metrohealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “Not clinical depression, but the ‘blue funk’ days.”
“With solo sex, there is no distraction, and you can focus on your own experience without making sure someone else is having a good time,” she says.
It doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner, maybe just that you need to think only about yourself sometimes, experts say. “The woman doesn’t have to be outside her head, wondering, ‘Am I taking too long?'” Segraves says.
3. Masturbation can improve your sex life with your partner.
Women who masturbate on a regular basis learn what feels good for them, Segraves says. “It helps build sexual confidence,” she says. “It helps you guide the partner when you have a partner.”
You can say, for instance: “Please put your hand here,” and not be embarrassed, she says.
Women who use a vibrator during masturbation tend to have better sexual functioning with a partner, Herbenick says.
Sex therapists typically recommend masturbation for women who have a difficult time reaching orgasm. It can help them learn about their body and feel less self-conscious.
“We know that women compared to men have a harder time learning to orgasm,” Herbenick says. Masturbating can help, and masturbating with a vibrator may help even more, she says. “Using a vibrator, for reasons we don’t understand, helps women orgasm.” The survey is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Those who used a vibrator, she found, even if it had been a year since the last use, “had better sexual functioning in terms of vaginal lubrication, desire, arousal, and ease of orgasm, and they tended to have less pain or discomfort during intercourse.”
But “it may be that those who don’t find sex painful tend to use a vibrator,” she says.
4. Masturbation can help you relax.
Women are more apt than men to over-analyze a bad day and think: “How could I have done this better?” They are more likely than men, some researchers have found, to replay an argument or bad interaction with people in their head. It all adds up to excess stress.
Researchers call this rumination, and it has been linked in numerous studies to depression.
“If you can start pleasuring yourself, that will often interfere with ruminations,” Segraves says. “Not all the time,” she says. But it may help.
5. Masturbation can provide pain relief.
Masturbating to orgasm may help migraine, too. Although orgasm has sometimes been found to trigger a migraine headache, it may also relieve it, according to some research. Scientists speculate that some factor associated with orgasm (by yourself or with a partner) may suppress pain or actually suppress the migraine process.