Masturbation: Here’s what you need to know
What is it, who does it and is it normal?
Masturbation should be something everyone feels comfortable talking about, after all it's natural and nothing to be ashamed of! Here we help you get to grips with the facts...
The facts on masturbation
- Masturbation means the stimulation of the genitals (penis, testicles, vagina, clitoris) for pleasure.
- You can masturbate for your own enjoyment (self masturbation) or you can masturbate with someone else by giving each other pleasure (mutual masturbation).
Why do people do it?
Most people masturbate in order to have a sexual release known as an orgasm.
- The majority of men will touch or rub their penis and the surrounding area (testicles, anus) while it’s erect (or to get an erection). They continue doing so ('wanking') until they 'come' (have an orgasm).
- You can find out what happens to men when they have an orgasm and get more information about semen and wet dreams in our Men's Health section.
- Women touch or rub their clitoris and the surrounding areas (vagina, labia, anus) to become sexually excited and come (have an orgasm).
- For more information about the female orgasm and the clitoris head to our dedicated fact sheet.
- Everybody is different and it can take some people more - or less - time to have an orgasm.
- Masturbation is also seen as a way to get to know your body better; and to understand what you like and don't like. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment by yourself.
What's mutual masturbation then?
Masturbating together, usually as a couple, is a common way for people to enjoy sex.
- Erotic massage: Some couples enjoy arousing one another with body massage. They stimulate each other's genitals with their hands, bodies or mouths.
- Remember, if you perform oral sex on each other there is a risk of infection so it’s important to use a condom or dental dam to practice safer sex.
- Body rubbing: Many couples rub their bodies together, particularly their genitals, for sexual pleasure and orgasm. If there are visible warts around your partner's genitals, it's best not to avoid any contact and get tested for STIs.
- Heterosexual couples should be careful to avoid semen or pre-cum being spilled near the opening of the vagina as there is a chance that it could lead to pregnancy.
- Some couples treat mutual masturbation like foreplay because they can both add to sexual excitement and pleasure. The difference is that foreplay tends to lead to intercourse. Mutual masturbation may also add to a couple's desire to take a risk and have intercourse. Couples who use mutual masturbation as an alternative to sex have to be very careful about giving into that impulse.
- If you plan to have intercourse, make sure you know about safe sex and contraception. It’s always best to practice safe sex to avoid catching/spreading STIs or becoming pregnant.
Should I be worried about masturbating?
Absolutely not, but only do it if you feel comfortable doing it.
Assuming you're not spending all of your time masturbating and you don't masturbate in public places, it is perfectly healthy and enjoyable.
It’s also important that you treat your genitals gently and keep everything that you use to masturbate clean, so as to avoid infection. And never share sex toys.
Never mind the myths
- Masturbation is not dirty or dangerous. It’s a healthy and natural form of enjoyment.
- Masturbation will not make you go blind or bald.
- Masturbation will not drive you insane or crazy.
- Both men and women masturbate.
- You can learn more about your own body and what you enjoy during masturbation.
- It is a very personal thing and is normally done in private or with a partner.
- Masturbation relaxes you by releasing endorphins (pleasure hormones).
- Not everybody masturbates. Never feel as though you have to. It’s entirely up to you.
Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.