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A bedroom door with the words do not disturb written on a makeshift sign.

Masturbation means: 'sexually stimulating oneself, or someone else, usually using your hands or fingers'. There are many other words to describe masturbation - 'wanking' or 'jerking off' or 'beating your meat' are just some of them.

Why do people do it?

The most common form of masturbation is stimulating yourself to orgasm. However, masturbating someone else is also very common - especially before people start to have actual penetrative sex. It is extremely common in young people and the reason is: it is very enjoyable and it does not do any harm. People masturbate because:

  • It is easy.
  • It is enjoyable.
  • It is controllable by yourself and you can find out what you like sexually.
  • It helps relieve feelings of sexual tension.
  • You do not get pregnant or get sexually transmitted diseases by doing it.

Is it normal?

Masturbation is usually seen as a very personal and private activity and, for many people, it is not a general topic of conversation. As a result, people sometimes think it must be wrong in some way. It is absolutely not wrong. It is totally normal and almost all girls and boys do masturbate (but that doesn't mean you're abnormal if you don't masturbate).

So why all the secrecy?

Nowadays the majority of boys are happy to admit, without a second thought, that they masturbate regularly and are just glad of the pleasure that it gives them. But for one reason or another (probably because of the way people considered masturbation in the past) some boys and girls do feel 'guilty', 'dirty', 'naughty' when they masturbate - THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO! There are still many adults, parents, teachers and others who find it hard to come to terms with the idea that children and young people masturbate (even if they do it themselves). Parents may well be embarrassed if they find their son or daughter masturbating and not know how to deal with it, other than expressing horror and using such words as 'dirty', 'wrong', 'sinful'. Masturbation is none of these things. Reacting negatively may be the way some people cope with their own feelings about sex, but that does not mean that you have to feel the same way about it.

How old do you have to be?

There is no special age when boys and girls normally start to masturbate, and most adults cannot remember when it first happened. It can start as young as six years of age (at this age children don't usually relate the feelings to sex - it just feels nice so they do it). People often go on masturbating over a whole life time for all the reasons given above.

What do boys do?

Boys usually masturbate by rubbing the skin of the erect penis up and down using their whole hand or just with their fingers so that the skin of the penis stimulates the underside of the end of the penis.

What do girls do?

In girls the commonest way of masturbation is stimulating your clitoris with your hand/fingers. Many girls find that they enjoy the physical sensation of masturbating but not so much the psychological effects. Psychologically some girls see it is a 'lonely', 'self absorbed' 'rather embarrassing', 'sad' activity. But other girls find that it gives them 'a sense of power', that it is 'liberating', 'gives them control.' Some have said that it is 'important because I don't have to be in a relationship to do it' and it 'taught me how to have an orgasm'. Other girls see it as 'a pure pleasure in itself'.

Can you do it too much?

There are no particular rights or wrongs about how often a person masturbates or whether you can do it too much. Some girls and boys will masturbate several times a day, others once a week, once a month or less. What is important is that you feel comfortable about it, and that it is enjoyable.