The Psychology and Shame of Masturbation

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Have you ever had ‘that feeling’ after masturbating? You know the one. That sense of dread, or that feeling of guilty shame. Have you ever climaxed, looked at what you were watching and felt truly disgusted with your nasty gutter brain?

Well, it turns out, those feelings come from a bunch of different places. It can be psychological, trauma-based, cultural, or generational.  But somehow, so often, shame surrounds masturbation.

It’s human nature.

Bonobos, a close relative of humans, are the most sexually active primates. They engage in orgies, threesomes, same-sex coupling, and masturbate almost constantly. In ancient civilizations (like Rome, Greece, Egypt, and the Mongols), these practices weren’t uncommon. There are the lavish bacchanals of Ancient Greece, and same-sex practices were the ultimate signs of masculinity in Ancient Rome. Sex and masturbation were once totally normalized… But eventually, shame came into play.

The shame is real.

Which leads me to one of the major reasons we feel shame about masturbating and before masturbating: religious cultural practices. Superstitions and myths abounded in earlier times. They said that masturbation would cause blindness and impotence or that you’re breaking the rules by not saving yourself for your partner. By focusing sex on reproduction and ignoring pleasure and health for blind faith, people in power began placing shame on the ideas of masturbation. Then, when it’s reinforced generation after generation, it gets internalized.

Masturbation is for everyone.

When I was in sixth-grade Health Class learning about sex, the teacher talked about how boys masturbate. They made no mention of women. This ingratiation of the idea that women are not independently sexual outside of men creates a taboo around women masturbating.

By saying that women are only able to be sexually active when with a partner absolutely creates a stigma that creates a shame cycle. Following your body’s sexual impulses is not only natural, but healthy for the body’s natural chemical cycles.

Shame in a relationship.

Sometimes, shame can come from an actual partner in your life. There’s a stigma in some relationships that if a partner masturbates, then the other partner isn’t doing enough to satisfy the other. Sexual drives differ from one individual to the other. And by saying that if the other person in your life is masturbating because you’re not giving them enough attention, it is creating a sexually dependent relationship.

This then makes either partner feel shame for masturbating, and in turn creates a psychological inadequacy in the other partner. By finding a rhythm and understanding of each other’s sexual habits, we can help eliminate the shame and stigma in self-pleasure. 

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The psychology and shame of masturbation comes from many different places – cultural, social, personal. But by understanding where the shame comes from and how the psychology works, we can begin to look at masturbation as a vital part of our sexual health and enjoyment. So make sure to have fun, lube up, and get to using those vibrators, dildos, and Fleshlights! Have fun and stay safe :)

Lumi Park is a writer, foodie, and Capricorn, from the cornfields of Ohio. He once won a NYC bartending award, a Brooklyn-wide comic book Trivia Bowl, and went to nationals two years in a year for the sport of jump roping. He is oddly not competitive.