Masturbation is one of life's greatest, albeit underrated, gifts. But more often than not, it remains a taboo topic of conversation, ranking up high on "what not to discuss at a dinner party" list. Sure, celebs like Anna Kendrick, Nicki Minaj and Sarah Silverman don't mind publicly dishing about their solo experiences, but in less glittering circles, this type of talk is discouraged if not outright banned.
Why? Perhaps, despite its ubiquity, the topic is still plagued by a general air of misunderstanding. Myths about who's doing it and why, not to mention outright lies about its supposed health risks, cloud our perception of masturbation. But they shouldn't.
We bust nine of the craziest self-love fallacies to prove that masturbation is normal — and we should probably all be doing it more.
1. Masturbation is the plight of the single person.
People in relationships masturbate too. As Dr. Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood told Refinery 29, "People who have regular sex partners are more likely to masturbate than people without sex partners."
What's more, marriage isn't the death knell for self pleasure: 70% of married people admit to masturbating. Married individuals shouldn't think of masturbation as a substitution for sex with their partner of course, but rather as a complementary activity.
"Your masturbation forays aren't diminishing your desire for your husband, they are rejuvenating you," expert and author Anne Semans noted.
2. It will make you go blind.
Somehow this outrageous myth hasn't died off. But it should, because there is no medical or scientific basis for believing that self-induced orgasms will affect your sight.
"I suppose that these worries stem from the almost universal guilt that people seem to feel about masturbating — guilt that makes it a secretive practice, that makes them vow to stop doing it and that is then multiplied when they start doing it again," Dr. Michael Ashworth wrote. "With so many people doing it, medical science would certainly have had a lot of opportunity to determine if the practice causes any medical problems, and in fact, no blindness, misshapen penises, infertility, mental illness or other problems large or small have ever been attributed to masturbation."
While we're at it, masturbating also won't make your palms grow hair.
3. Eating Kellogg's Corn Flakes will help control your masturbatory urges.
This one's a doozy. There are a lot of rumors flying about this particular myth. What we do know for sure is that John Harvey Kellogg was a fierce opponent of masturbation and spoke publicly about ways to stop it. According to PsychCentral, Kellogg also created foods, including the brand's famous Corn Flakes, in an attempt to decrease a man's interest in sex — and similarly, masturbation — which he believed to be an abomination. Cold cereal in general was believed by some at the time to "steady" a man, making him less prone to hypersexuality and other improper behaviors.
Shockingly, these attempts to eradicate masturbation through cereal didn't work.
4. Masturbating uses up all of your orgasms.
This argument seems to be based more in adolescent fears than science. In fact, humans aren't born with a predetermined number of orgasms. As sexuality expert Michael Castleman assures us in Psychology Today, "There's no limit on the number of orgasms people can physically experience."
5. Masturbation causes male infertility.
This myth, which pops up from time to time on parenting and fertility blogs is a scary one for young men hoping to start a family. But according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, there's more fear than substance. Frequent masturbation isn't likely to have any affect on a man's ability to impregnate his partner: "Research suggests that men who have normal sperm quality maintain normal sperm motility and concentrations even with daily ejaculation," the experts say.
6. Masturbation causes erectile dysfunction.
Not so, says Susan Kellogg Spadt, director of sexual medicine at the Pelvic and Sexual Health Institute in Philadelphia, who says, "Erectile dysfunction does not result from masturbation."
In fact, the real causes of erectile dysfunction are numerous, ranging from heart disease to prescription medications, stress, depression, obesity and diabetes, among others.
7. Women can become addicted to vibrators.
This worry isn't backed up by any real science, however. As Cullins told Refinery 29, "Using a vibrator for masturbation or sex with someone else can be a fun addition to your sex life. Some women may be worried that using a vibrator will somehow spoil sex with a partner, but don't worry — you won't become addicted to your vibrator."
8. Masturbation kills your sex drive.
No, no, no. If anything, masturbation helps you explore what you do and don't like, which you can in turn communicate to a partner for better sex. And more often than not, sex begets sex — even if some of that sex is with yourself.
9. Only dudes masturbate.
Although masturbation folk lore would have you believe this is true, it is far from the truth. While men tend to masturbate more than women, they don't have a monopoly on the market. According to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, more than half of women ages 18 to 49 reported masturbating during the previous 90 days. And 5% of women between the ages of 25 and 29 are frequent masturbators, going at it more than four times a week.
This is all to say that masturbation is a normal, healthy component of sexuality. Men and women alike engage in self pleasure and for good reason: It feels great and even has health benefits. It is something to be celebrated and discussed, not shamed or kept secret.
Let's make 2015 the year we throw out these self-defeating myths once and for all — human sexuality is a beautiful, healthy, empowering thing. Why keep it hidden under the covers?