“I Always Feel like Somebody’s Watchin’ Me”: How Social Media Affects our Judgments of Masturbation

BY: Katherine Haus, B.A.

In days of yore, masturbation was thought to cause a broad range of illnesses and afflictions, both mental and physical (Madanikia, Bartholomew & Cytrynbaum, 2013). Popular religions, health practitioners and yarn spinners alike condemned the practice, but as the world continued to turn, researchers gradually found that it indicates normal sexual function, sexual health, and possesses benefits untold (Coleman, 2002). Modern research and medicine frequently confirm this to be true, and a large majority of adult men and women report masturbating (Coleman, 2002).

 
Despite these strides forward, many people report feeling guilt or shame from masturbation, and it is still highly stigmatized within our society. As such, there were no recent studies assessing judgment towards masturbation. In order to do so, myself and a faculty member at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) employed the use of hypothetical vignettes depicting either a man (Jeff) or a woman (Amy) engaging in masturbation (Haus & Thompson, 2018). A total of 525 participants (256 women, 269 men) were recruited to read one of these vignettes, and then complete a Sexuality Judgment Scale (SJS) indicating their perceptions of Jeff or Amy’s sexual history. Participant ratings on the SJS revealed that female participants rated Jeff higher on the SJS than Amy, an indication that men who engage in masturbation are seen as having more extensive sexual histories than women who masturbate. Interestingly, this same trend was not true for male participants.

 

Image result for hiding in sheets

 
Although these results are surprising, it is possible that this judgment may be modeled by media portrayals of masturbation. As masturbation is considered to be an uncomfortable topic by parents, educators and researchers alike, the primary source of learning about masturbation comes from media sources (Kaestle & Allen, 2011). One of these sources is social media, where allegations of sexual misconduct among men in Hollywood are rampant amidst the wake of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp.

 
These movements are driven by empathy, and are focused on women’s consequences as a result of men’s actions. Other social media campaigns are centered around solidarity among women with slogans like “women supporting women” or “girls supporting girls.” It is possible that the increase in camaraderie among women has also increased the connection that women feel as members of a group, causing them to rate the other members of their in-group with less severity.

 
Although these movements are promoting positive changes geared towards equalizing our society, it is important to recognize all areas of issue caused by misconduct in order to minimize stigma and negative sexual experiences held by both men and women in our society. So next time you find yourself questioning someone’s sexual behavior a little to intensely, just take a step back and think for a moment. Why the hate? Just masturbate.

References

Coleman, E. (2002). Masturbation as a means of achieving sexual health. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 14, 5-16.

 
Haus, K. R., & Thompson, A. E. (Under Review). Feelin’ Myself: An Examination of the Endorsement of the Sexual Double Standard and the Backlash Effect related to Masturbation.

 
Kaestle, C. E., & Allen, K. R. (2011). The role of masturbation in healthy sexual development: Perceptions of young adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 983-994.

 
Madanikia, Y., Bartholomew, K., & Cytrynbaum, J., B. (2013). Depiction of masturbation in North American movies. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 22, 106-115.

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Ridin’ Solo: The Benefits of Masturbation

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

Many of us have likely heard the old wives’ tale that masturbation will make you blind and result in hairy palms (particularly among men). Despite what your parents might have told you, I am here to report that research on solo sexual activity actually indicates that masturbation can result in a variety of HEALTHY and BENEFICIAL outcomes.

Although not all occurrences of masturbation result in orgasm, many do. Consequently, research on the benefits of orgasm reveals that the physiological byproduct associated with an orgasm is the release of endorphins into the body, which can help to reduce stress, relieve sexual tension, reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer in men, and improve issues associated with insomnia (Haake et al., 2004; Rao, Aswinidutt, Anil, Dhananjaya, & Hasan, 2009). In fact, there are some studies that have indicated the masturbatory orgasms can even help reduce nasal congestion (Zarrintan, 2008) – sorry Kleenex and Puffs!

Image result for masturbation cartoon

However, not all benefits of masturbation are linked to orgasm, just the experience of sexual arousal can be beneficial. In fact, research suggests that stress/tension reduction can result from sexual arousal ALONE (regardless of orgasm; Murphy, Seckl, Burton, Checkley, & Lightman, 1987).

KEEP IN MIND – there can be too much of a good thing. In fact, is Rirare cases, some people’s masturbation habits may create distress for oneself or one’s relationship. That being said, for the vast majority, masturbation is associated with much more positives than negatives. So, forget what your grandma told you and feel free to have a little fun!

References

Haake, P., Krueger, T. H. C., Goebel, M., Heberling, K., Elsenbruch, S., & Schedlowski, M. (2004). Orgasm-induced redistribution of leucocytes and lymphocytes subsets in males. Neuroimmunomodulation11, 293-298.

Murphy, M. R., Seckl, J. R., Burton, S., Checkley, S. A., & Lightman, S. L. (1987). Changes in oxytocin and vasopressin secretion during sexual activity in men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism65, 738-741.

Rao, P. J., Aswinidutt, R., Anil, K., Dhananjaya, S., & Hasan, F. (2009). Sex as a cure for insomnia. Medical hypotheses72, 760-761.

Zarrintan, S. (2008). Ejaculation as a potential treatment of nasal congestion in mature males. Medical hypotheses71, 308.