May is internationally known as Masturbation Month, and was declared so to protect people’s right to masturbate. Not everyone likes to admit it, but many of us do masturbate, and there is no shame in that. Mention the word masturbation and it is likely that it will be met with shy giggles, or even vehement denials. Statistically though, up to a third of us masturbate weekly, men and women included.

Masturbation has a long history of being frowned upon, with myths surrounding the consequences abound. Men, in particular, have been told that masturbation will make them go blind, or have hairy palms. In fact, a well-known cereal was once even promoted as decreasing interest in sex, therefore curbing masturbation. However, whether we like it or not, masturbation is a normal and natural part of being human and it’s high time the shame that surrounds it is tossed aside (no pun intended.)

There are many good reasons to masturbate, not least being that it allows you to get in touch with your sexuality and get to know your body better. Using masturbation as a means to understand your sexuality and how to receive pleasure is the first step towards having a fulfilling sex life. After all, how can someone else know what turns you on and gets you off if you don’t even know yourself? This is the confounding aspect about sexual relating, there is this expectation that sex will fulfill our every desire, but without masturbation, it’s very difficult to understand how your body works.

Many women who see me shy away from the suggestion that masturbation may assist them in getting to know what makes their body respond sexually, and my argument is that without masturbation, it is unlikely that they will ever find out. Taking the time to get to know your body, and your genitalia in particular brings you directly to the source of your pleasure. When women see me because they have never had an orgasm, my first suggestion is to get out the hand mirror, have a good look at their vulvas, and explore the pleasure sensations held within. Often this is met with distaste, but the reality is that without self-connection, it is very difficult for another to know how to connect with you physically.

Masturbation will often bring you to orgasm, which in itself has a host of physical and psychological benefits. Orgasm promotes relaxation, often assisting people to sleep or wind down after a stressful day. Having an orgasm is also great for pain relief. Masturbation and orgasm can also make you feel better about yourself, both physically and mentally. Offering yourself the gift of time and space to self pleasure may allow you to feel better about yourself. Knowing that you have taken the time and space to be with yourself in such an intimate manner reminds you that you and your sexual needs are just as important as those of others.

While our culture is seeing a shift away from the belief that sex is shameful, masturbation is still a topic that remains secret and often shameful. By shedding those beliefs and remembering that masturbation is healthy and natural, we might learn more than just what turns us on. It may lead to feelings of increased self-love and self-esteem, along with a good dose of self-acceptance. Take some time out of your busy schedule to explore your body with love and recognition. Honour your body in May, and throughout the year, to experience the raft of perks that loving your body and masturbation can bring you.