Women still need some encouragement when it comes to dialing the rotary phone. Picture: Pexels

For those of you who don’t know, May has been unofficially dubbed Masturbation Month, or at least that’s what it’s been called, thanks to a massive marketing campaign dreamed up by the folks at sex toy company Good Vibrations.

It’s not like you need an excuse to practise some self love, right? Well, if studies and old wives tales are anything to go by, women still need some encouragement when it comes to dialing the rotary phone.

So why is it that in the age of feminism and sexual liberation that some of us are embarrassed by the mere mention of the word?

It comes down to two things, thinks sexpert and owner of an intimacy boutique, Jenni Holdsworth: upbringing and shame. “Some people spout rubbish such as you’ll go blind if you masturbate or it’s a sin, or you’ll go to hell,” she said. “This deters a lot of people from doing it. And if they do it anyway, they are consumed by guilt and shame.”

Holdsworth explains the irony in this “because the majority of our fantasies are shame based”. This is the other reason why some women are too embarrassed. “They don’t realise or accept that it is completely natural, and just because you fantasize about something, doesn’t mean you want it to happen in real life,” she observed.

The health benefits

Dr Eugene Viljoen, a clinical psychologist and sexologist based in Pretoria, says that for both sexes, regular masturbation contributes to mental and physical wellbeing.

He refers to a Massachusetts Ageing study that found men are more likely to die of heart disease if they have one orgasm per month, as opposed to those who have two or more orgasms per week. “It can therefore lengthen your lifespan,” commented Viljoen.

And if it’s the key to eternal youth you’re after? Well, checking the undercarriage can get you there. “Regular orgasms improve the glow in the skin, as the blood flow to the skin increases during orgasm. The rise in the hormone oxytocin released through orgasm lowers inflammation, making acne and rashes less noticeable,” he added.

For those who suffer from insomnia, some DIY time “helps you to fall asleep and have a better quality of sleep following an orgasm before going to bed".

Viljoen also noted that masturbation increases the cortisol hormone, which helps in small doses to regulate and maintain your immune system, while for men who suffer from premature ejaculation, it might help to last longer when you have sex with your partner.

Feeling down? There’s a natural remedy for that as well. “The release of neurochemicals and hormones like dopamine and oxytocin during orgasm can boost your mood and make you feel emotionally good,” he said.

And here’s a goodie for the guys: “Masturbation can make you harder. The concept of ‘use it or lose it’ applies. If you have frequent stimulation of the genital area, it helps to strengthen the whole genital area.”

We’ve kept the most important and fun part for last. Masturbation helps you to know your body and the sensations that accompany touch. “It's always helpful to try new things and give yourself a refresher course in what your penis or vulva likes,” concluded Viljoen.