Is Masturbation Good for You? Decoding the Science and Stigma Behind Sexual Wellness in Women

Ladies, it’s time to crank the engine, step on that accelerator, and drive the car all the way to the finish line, because we are nearing the end of May, the International Masturbation Month.

Since 1995, the month of May is celebrated every year as the International Masturbation Month

An annual celebration kicked off for the first time in 1995 by sex-positive and women-friendly American retailer Good Vibrations, May has since been marked internationally as the month to promote self-love and drive home its significance as an alternative to safe sexual expression. The idea is to bust myths and do away with the taboo that exists around masturbation, sexual awareness, and wellness. And to put this into effect, brands and wellness experts have come together, over time, to steer the change in the right direction.

But why do we need an international observance – is it a glorification of one’s private affairs? 

Oddly enough, sex, and anything to do with self-exploration, is still considered a closed-door conversation that is supposed to be kept hush-hush than written, talked, and celebrated about. And this is despite the scores of scientific and empirical evidence which suggests otherwise.

Masturbation and other forms of self-exploration have been shrouded in misinformation, shame, and judgement. It’s looked at as something immoral and reflective of an individual’s personality (depending on what gets you off) rather than as an essential part of the sexual wellness routine. More so, if you are brought up in a religious family – “impure thoughts” then are a one-way ticket to hell.

Do you agree – are sex and self-pleasure incorrect?

Masturbation and other forms of self-exploration have been shrouded in misinformation, shame, and judgement

“Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, a strict, fundamentalist religion, I was taught early on that masturbation in all forms is a sin. There was a lot of talk about how and why we should fight the ‘urges of the flesh’. The act itself was called ‘self-abuse’, so a lot of internal guilt was attached to it,” shares John Kumaran (name changed), a Bengaluru-based marketing professional.

He explains, “Self-pleasure and exploration was, without a doubt, a strict no-no. The subject was taboo, and we were told that it reflects poorly on our character. Sexual pleasure is only reserved for married couples, so masturbation was seen as a sin because of this, according to the JW doctrine.”

The truth is, talking about sexual health and wellness is itself considered a taboo in India. Right from a young age, girls and boys are taught about how it’s wrong, and are guilted into feeling a deep-seated embarrassment just at the mention of the word. When in truth, self-pleasure is but the first, truly private form of sexual expression.

To understand the stigma further and to decode how people – both men and women – perceive masturbation and related concepts, Makers India conducted a poll. We asked our readers if they watched pornography and if yes, what do they think about it. More than 5,000 people participated in this survey – click here to vote and view the results – yielding results that are interesting to say the least.

Why the shame – what the statistics show

A whopping 31 percent of the 5,659 votes cast (as of writing this), believe that watching pornography is normal – they said that they indulge around once a week. However, an even larger percentage – 39 percent of the participants – were of the view that porn could be “a stress buster”, they added that they watch it sometimes. 

Makers India conducted a poll to understand the stigma behind sexual expression

Others taking part in the survey highlighted certain interesting facts – 11 percent believe that watching pornography is not weird, but that doesn’t mean they are interested in it. Another 16 percent revealed that porn-watching is morally incorrect, they voted for “I don’t watch, nor would I recommend it to anyone”. And only 2 percent said that watching sexually stimulating adult entertainment makes them “feel insecure about my body, how I look”.

A lot of this insecurity can be traced back to the lack of sexual awareness. This is a surprising connection, especially in India where sexual expressions have long been a part of the history and traditions.

“India has been the land of Kama Sutra, so then how did we go from talking or depicting on our temples so openly to speaking about it as if we have committed a sin,” questions Dr Sejal Ajmera-Desai, Sr Gynaecologist and Director of Indian Academy Of Vaginal Aesthetics, Mumbai.

“I think it has all developed with men trying to overpower women. Somewhere around the second Vedic period, women started losing their importance and they were only treated as something that society had to possess, typically the men,” she continues, explaining how it moulded the mindset, leading to a point where sex is looked down upon.    

Sejal also attributes the suppression of sexual desires and sexual expression in women to mainstream films and television shows.

“A lot of Bollywood has also gone into this,” she says, “if you look at the heroines of older movies, the girl who runs away from sex and kissing is supposed to be a very good girl. And if you see a vamp, she is supposed to be ready to be physically active or she wears clothes which are more revealing.”

It is the years of conditioning that has made people look down upon sex, according to the gynaecologist. And the same goes for masturbation and other forms of sexual expression. Just because most people don’t know what happens scientifically – as is with menstruation, which is looked down upon or called “dirty” in many parts of the society – sexual discourses have also been stigmatised.

Gynaecologist suggests that masturbation is normal

Masturbation is, however, normal. And it has no real health hazards.

“It just should not become an obsession,” Sejal says, adding as long as you are careful, not injuring yourself, and your cleanliness is good and no infection is caused by it, “regular masturbation has zero things to be worried about.”


(Edited by Kanishk Singh)


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