While there is little mention of self-stimulation in
historical record, what can be found tends to be negative: mentions of the
‘sin’ of Onan, talk of spilling seed (and thus committing acts of wastefulness,
infanticide and general diminishment of fertility) and ideas that masturbation
causes slothfulness, indolence, mental weakness and physical impairment are
relatively plentiful. Of course, these were not true, they were told in a bid
to prevent youth from pleasuring themselves when they should have been working
hard at their studies or their job or trying to impregnate their wives. Of
female masturbation the only mentions, and damned few of those exist, speak of
depraved women who are all but the devil and who are so far beyond redemption
that they should be locked up forever or executed for the good of the
The reasons for not masturbating were essentially a way for society to control people: often religious establishments rely on controlling their flock’s behaviour in order to keep them in line. Masturbation has never caused blindness, it does not deplete energy levels, and while millions of sperm might well be wasted the body produces hundreds of millions of sperm and will barely notice the loss – it certainly does not affect fertility.
In fact, masturbation is a healthy pastime. Not only does it release stress and ease tension, it can boost mental well-being too. It also, let us be honest, feels pretty good. It is also a useful way to manage sexual desire: having a wank every now and then restores your good mood and makes you able to concentrate on your job, your studies, even your partner will benefit from you being more patient and less urgent when it comes to bedtime.
In fact, so negative are the associations with the word ‘masturbation’ compared with how positive the benefits can be, that sexperts are now trying to rename the practise. The new suggested names promote the positive effects of the activity and take some of the sting of loneliness out of it. Solo sex and self love are just two of these names – and they both sound like fun and rewarding pastimes.