Masturbation tends to be a taboo subject. Can you recall the last time you discussed the issue? For most readers it will be never. For those who have, probably only with a select few intimates. I suspect this blog-post will be considered #nsfw. It ought not to be, as various research has demonstrated the health benefits of regular masturbation.
It is often averred that ninety-nine percent (99%) of men masturbate and the other one percent are lying. It is a truism to be sure: but the fact is most men do masturbate at some point in their lives. The statistics for women (wimmin) vary considerably. I suspect this is in part due to the questions put to them.
A very narrow definition of masturbation is the sexual stimulation of one's sexual organs. Babies and toddlers can often be spotted playing with their genitalia. As a trainee-teacher I recall an embarrassing P.E. lesson in which a young girl sitting in front of me had her hand up her knickers and was quietly playing with herself whilst the class & I were discussing the children's achievements. On that occasion, I chose to ignore what was happening as the child was not being observed by other children and was causing no disruption - other than to my cheeks! However, in the four years I was studying for my honours degree, the topic of masturbation in the classroom was never discussed, mentioned or even cited.
I am going to suggest that masturbation is more than genital stimulation; indeed, it is about self-pleasuring. Masturbation, especially but not solely amongst women, is about exploring what are one's turn-ons: caressing an inner thigh; tweaking a nipple; stroking a throat; and so on… This kind of broader definition leads us to an understanding as to why masturbation is good for one psychologically, let alone explaining the release of endorphins over a much longer period than the race to ejaculate - the essence of many men's definition of masturbation, the wank.
As discussed in a blog-post several years back (here), ejaculation and orgasm are not one and the same thing: one can ejaculate without orgasming; one can orgasm without ejaculating.
These endorphins are also released when we contemplate pleasurable fantasies. Fantasising is a creative type of thinking, it uses our imaginations. It is also a means to exploring different sexual activities and whether or not one wishes to partake. For all too many sufferers, actual sexual activity is beyond us for a multitude of reasons; so for us sexual fantasy is the only sex with a partner/s we shall experience.
Apart from the psychological benefits inherent in this broad definition of masturbation, there are also physical ones. For men, one of the health benefits of regular self-pleasuring is supposedly a lower risk of prostate troubles. From my layman's comprehension, I am assuming this works along the notion that muscles need exercising and failure to do so leads to wasting, etc.
So, finally getting to the nub of this post, what does masturbation have to do with myalgic encephalomyelitis? The reader is probably aware (if not, please click on the word in the list below to be referred to further articles on the subject) that ME's major symptoms include inter alia unrelenting fatigue and lack of energy. Many people with ME (PWME) learn to pace themselves by working out how much energy they have and calculating how much energy they need for each task or activity.
It is this lack of energy and, perhaps, even fear of the repercussions of exercise, (such is masturbation and even thinking, for all activities use the body's energy & resources) that prevent PWME from masturbating. The thinking involved in fantasising can bring on painful headaches. The act of masturbation can drain one's energy. There is also guilt to contend with: how can I pleasure myself, when I have not done anything to help in the home today; and similar reasoning. And then there is embarrassment: what about one's carer/s; they will have to perhaps change the bedding, remove a wet towel or clear away stained tissues.
I counter - and I am talking as much to myself here - that PWME need to masturbate. Our collective amour-propre is constantly under attack from relatives & friends, who do not or choose not to empathise, to the mostly unsympathetic, neo-liberal media. To heck with fear, guilt & embarrassment! We need to feel good physically, emotionally & spiritually.
Using the wider definition of masturbation as outlined, we PWME can self-pleasure everyday: lightly brush a forearm; gently rub one's lips with a finger; fondle a breast; dab the back of a hand; and so on. These are small sensual actions; but cumulatively can stimulate those wonderful hormones and build up one's sense of self-worth and stimulate sexual self-esteem.
Masturbation & ME? A resounding YES!
[Image description: the writer skinny-dipping in a spa-pool
enjoying the caress of the warm wavelets -
well, what did you expect!]
Today is International ME Awareness Day (#IMEAD2017). This blog-post is published to co-incide with this event in order to highlight the many needs of PWME. Please consider donating money, time or energy to an ME charity. Thank you.