Masturbation is the self-stimulation of the sex organs, most often to the point of orgasm. Sixty to ninety percent of adolescent boys and 40 percent of girls masturbate. Although people’s attitudes about masturbation differ widely, there is no evidence that masturbation is in any way physically, psychologically, or emotionally harmful. For many young people, masturbation is an opportunity for private sexual exploration before deciding to engage is sexual activity with another person. It is also considered the safest form of sex in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Masturbation allows a healthy way to express and explore one’s sexuality and to release sexual tension without the associated risks of sexual intercourse, according to many healthcare providers.
They also agree that masturbation is a natural, normal, and healthy way of self-exploration and sexual expression. It is increasingly recognized among mental health professionals that masturbation can relieve depression and lead to a higher sense of self worth. Masturbation can also be particularly useful in relationships in which one partner wants more sexual activity than the other, in which case masturbation provides a balancing effect. Many conservative religious groups teach that masturbation is a sinful practice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2352, lists masturbation as one of the “Offenses against Chastity” and calls it “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action” because “use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” It goes on to caution that extenuating factors could exist, such as immaturity, habitual, or psychological problems. The discussion of masturbation has been controversial for hundreds of years and still is to some extent in the early 2000s, more so in the United States than Europe and other Western nations. Children caught by their parents masturbating are often punished and told it is a sin. In fact, there is no mention of the word “masturbation” or “self-pleasure” in the Bible. Children are also often told it is wrong or unhealthy, myths that are not supported by medical research. In the early 2000s, masturbation has become more accepted for both males and females yet there is still a stigma about discussing it openly. College courses on human sexuality include materials and discussion of masturbation, and many parenting manuals deal with ways to affirm a child’s self-pleasing habits rather than degrading or punishing the child. Many sex therapists believe that to have better sexual experiences with a partner, an individual needs to learn to masturbate first since it is the best way to learn what one likes and does not like in his or her sex acts. Most people think of masturbation as a very personal and private act involving using only the hands to manipulate the genitals. Ways of masturbating common to both males and females include pressing or rubbing the genital area against an object, inserting a finger or other object into the anus, and stimulating the penis or clitoris with electric vibrators, which can also be inserted into the anus or vagina. Some males and females enjoy touching, rubbing, or pinching their nipples while masturbating, and both sexes also sometimes use lubricants, such as hand lotion, to improve the sensation.