Masturbation is good for you.

Studies have shown masturbation (and the subsequent orgasms that follow) can help relieve symptoms of depression, improve sleep quality, and even make you more likely to engage in partnered sex (and find that sex more satisfying).

Contrary to the sex shame-y cultural beliefs we have around sexuality, masturbating when you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy sex with your partner. In fact, studies have shown that people think about their partner most often when engaging in masturbation.

That’s right. Engaging in solo play is healthy (and normal!) even when you’re in a partnered relationship. And new data confirms this theory: According to a new study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, solo sex is very good for you, no matter your relationship status.

Pretty much everyone is masturbating.

Since there is little research into masturbation, especially when it comes to women, the study sought to provide a basis for more research into female solo-sexual behaviors to be done in the future. It provides a baseline other researchers can build upon. Researchers surveyed 425 women, 61% of whom were in committed relationships, about their masturbatory and sexual habits.

What the results show is that almost everyone masturbates: 95% of participants had masturbated at some point during their lives. Further still, the 26% of study participants reported masturbating on a regular basis, at least once per week, while 27% reported masturbating two to three times per week.

A whopping 91% of women said they masturbated while in relationships. About 9% of participants reported they actually prefer masturbation to partnered sex, and 21% even preferred it to receiving oral.

Masturbation: We’re all doing it.

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The top reasons women masturbate are pretty illuminating.

“The reasons cited for engaging in masturbation were manifold, ranging from sexual desire to relaxation and stress reduction,” write the study’s authors. The main reasons women masturbate were pretty widespread. While the top reason to masturbate was fulfilling sexual desire (76% listed this as masturbation motivation), 23% cited stress relief, and a notable 44% used it for relaxation.

The jury is in: The reasons for masturbating are nearly limitless.

Of the 5.5% of women who reported never masturbating in relationships, they cited, “I hardly ever feel sexual desire” and “Sex is a partner-only thing” as their reasons.

In other words, it’s women who have low desire and those who don’t understand the benefits of masturbation (and the pleasure it brings) who don’t do it. Now, if you want to engage only in partner play because it’s your preferred way of receiving pleasure, that’s totally OK. It only becomes a problem when you’re refraining from masturbation because of underlying shame you have around enjoying your sexuality for yourself.

Masturbation is not replacing sexual partners.

According to the study’s authors, “For many women, masturbation does not represent ‘a partner substitute’ to seek sexual pleasure but rather is a stress coping and relaxation strategy.” Solo play is its own self-care activity, not a replacement for partnered experiences.

Masturbation and orgasm release a wave of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. Oxytocin has been shown to help with sleep, calm the nervous system, and relieve pain. Sometimes you don’t want to go through the bells and whistles of partnered sex and would rather have some time to yourself with a nice, self-induced orgasm.

This is perfectly normal and healthy. Orgasms are nature’s Xanax.

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