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Masturbation is the self-sexual stimulation of the genitals for sexual arousal or other sexual pleasure, usually to the point of orgasm. The stimulation can be performed using the hands or fingers, everyday objects or dedicated sex toys. Mutual masturbation, mutual manual stimulation of the genitals between partners, can be a substitute for sexual penetration.
Studies have found that masturbation is frequent in humans of both sexes and all ages, although there is variation. Various medical and psychological benefits have been attributed to a healthy attitude to sex in general and to masturbation in particular. No causal relationship is known between masturbation and any form of mental or physical disorder.
Masturbation has been depicted in art since prehistoric times and is mentioned and discussed in very early writings. In the 18th and 19th centuries, some European theologians and physicians described it as "heinous", "deplorable", and "hideous", but during the 20th century, these taboos generally declined. There has been an increase in discussion and portrayal of masturbation in art, popular music, television, films, and literature. Present day religions vary in their views of masturbation; some view it as a spiritually detrimental practice, some see it as not spiritually detrimental, and others take a situational view. The legal status of masturbation has also varied through history and masturbation in public is illegal in most countries.
In the West, masturbation in private or with a partner is generally considered a healthy and normal part of sexual enjoyment, as various health authorities have expressed in leaflets and in their policies. Animal masturbation has been observed in many species, both in the wild and in captivity.
Masturbation involves touching, pressing, rubbing or massaging a person's genital area, either with the fingers or against an object such as a pillow; inserting fingers or an object into the anus (see anal masturbation); and stimulating the penis or vulva with an electric vibrator, which may also be inserted into the vagina or anus. It may also involve touching, rubbing, or pinching the nipples or other erogenous zones while masturbating. Both sexes sometimes apply lubricating substances to intensify sensation.
Reading or viewing pornography, sexual fantasy or other erotic stimuli may lead to a desire for sexual release such as by masturbation.
Some people get sexual pleasure by inserting objects, such as urethral sounds, into the urethra (the tube through which urine and, in men, semen, flows), a practice known as urethral play or "sounding". Other objects such as ball point pens and thermometers are sometimes used, although this practice can lead to injury and/or infection. Some people masturbate by using machines that simulate intercourse.
Men and women may masturbate until they are close to orgasm, stop for a while to reduce excitement, and then resume masturbating. They may repeat this cycle multiple times. This "stop and go" build-up, known as "edging," can achieve even stronger orgasms. Rarely, people quit stimulation just before orgasm to retain the heightened energy that normally comes down after orgasm.
Female masturbation involves the stroking or rubbing of a woman's vulva, especially her clitoris, with an index or middle fingers, or both. Sometimes one or more fingers may be inserted into the vagina to stroke its frontal wall where the G-spot may be located.
Common positions include lying on back or face down, sitting, squatting, kneeling or standing. In a bath or shower a female may direct tap water at her clitoris and vulva. Lying face down one may use the hands, one may straddle a pillow, the corner or edge of the bed, a partner's leg or some scrunched-up clothing and "hump" the vulva and clitoris against it. Standing up, a chair, the corner of an item of furniture, or even a washing machine can be used to stimulate the clitoris through the labia and clothing. Some masturbate only using pressure applied to the clitoris without direct contact, for example by pressing the palm or ball of the hand against underwear or other clothing. In the 1920s, Havelock Ellis reported that turn-of-the-century seamstresses using treadle-operated sewing machines could achieve orgasm by sitting near the edge of their chairs.
Male masturbation techniques are influenced by a number of factors and personal preferences. Techniques may also differ between males who have been circumcised and those who have not. Some techniques which may work for one individual can be difficult or uncomfortable for another.
The most common male masturbation technique is simply to hold the penis with a loose fist and then to move the hand up and down the shaft. This type of stimulation is typically all that is required to achieve orgasm and ejaculation. The speed of the hand motion will vary from person to person, although it is not uncommon for the speed to increase as ejaculation nears and for it to decrease during the ejaculation itself.
For males who have not been circumcised, stimulation of the penis in this way comes from the "pumping" of the foreskin, in which the foreskin is held and slid up and down over the glans, which depending on foreskin length, is completely or partially covered and then uncovered in a rapid motion. The glans itself may widen and lengthen as the stimulation continues, becoming slightly darker in colour, while the gliding action of the foreskin reduces friction. This technique is also used by some men who are circumcised who have excess skin left from circumcision.
For circumcised males, on whom the glans is mostly or completely uncovered, this technique creates more direct contact between the hand and the glans. To avoid soreness from this resulting friction, some may prefer to use a personal lubricant, masturbation cream or saliva during masturbation.
The shaft skin can also be slid back and forth with just the index finger and thumb wrapped around the penis. A variation on this is to place the fingers and thumb on the penis as if playing a flute, and then shuttle them back and forth. Lying face down on a comfortable surface such as a mattress or pillow, the penis can be rubbed against it. This technique may include the use of a simulacrum, or artificial vagina.
There are many other variations on male masturbation techniques. Men may also rub or massage the glans, the rim of the glans, and the frenular delta. Some men place both hands directly on their penis during masturbation, while others may use their free hand to fondle their testicles, nipples, or other parts of their body. The nipples are erogenous zones, and vigorous stimulation of them during masturbation usually causes the penis to become erect more quickly than it would otherwise. Some may keep their hand stationary while pumping into it with pelvic thrusts in order to simulate the motions of sexual intercourse. Others may also use vibrators and other sexual devices more commonly associated with female masturbation. A few extremely flexible males can reach and stimulate their penis with their tongue or lips, and so perform autofellatio.
The prostate gland is one of the organs that contributes fluid to semen. As the prostate is touch-sensitive, some directly stimulate it using a well-lubricated finger or dildo inserted through the anus into the rectum. Stimulating the prostate from outside, via pressure on the perineum, can be pleasurable as well. Some men also enjoy anal stimulation, with fingers or otherwise, without any prostate stimulation.
A somewhat controversial ejaculation control technique is to put pressure on the perineum, about halfway between the scrotum and the anus, just before ejaculating. This can, however, redirect semen into the bladder (referred to as retrograde ejaculation).
Mutual masturbation is a sexual act where two or more people stimulate themselves or one another sexually, usually with the hands. It is practiced by people of all sexual orientations, and can be part of a full repertoire of sexual activity. It may be used as foreplay, or as an alternative to sexual penetration. When used as an alternative to penile-vaginal penetration, the goal may be to preserve virginity or to prevent pregnancy. For some people, non-penetrative sex is the primary sexual activity of choice above all others. People may also find masturbating with friends helps lift the stigma they feel surrounding the act. This may help them develop their orgasm, increase its pleasure, and may inspire them to masturbate on a more frequent basis.
Mutual masturbation can be practiced by males or females in pairs or groups with or without actually touching another person as indicated by the following examples of contact versus non-contact scenarios:Non-contact mutual masturbation
Two people masturbating in the presence of each other but not touching.Contact mutual masturbation
One person touching another person to masturbate. The other person may do the same during or after.Non-contact group
More than two people masturbating in the presence of each other in a group but not touching each other.Contact group
More than two people physically touching each other to masturbate as a group.Mutual masturbation foreplay
The manual stimulation of each other's genitals where the session eventually leads to sexual intercourse.