As promised, here are the answers to the quiz posted earlier this week! How many did you get right?

1. Many infants and young children discover that touching their genitals feels good.
Masturbation, or self-pleasuring (as the behavior is generally referred to in childhood), is common throughout childhood, beginning to occur from the age of six or seven months onward. Research shows that many one-year-olds have touched their own genitals for the pleasurable feelings this touch brings. Later in childhood, some children continue to masturbate, some begin to do so, and some stop and start again later. Young children may not understand the adult sexual meaning of this behavior, but they do learn from adults’ reactions, which likely affect their future feelings about the behavior.

2. Many boys and girls report masturbating during puberty.
During puberty, adolescents begin developing a strong sense of how their bodies function, including their sexual feelings and physical responses, and may begin masturbating more purposefully. In the United States, about one-third of adolescent females and about one-half of adolescent males have masturbated by age 13; three-fourths of males and 44% of females have done so by age 15; by age 18, the rates are 80% of males and almost 60% of females. On average, those who masturbate begin around age 13 (some earlier, some later, some never).

3. Masturbation can help people learn about their own bodies.
Masturbation can help people learn how they like (and do not like) to be touched, how physical and emotional feelings are connected, and how they can reduce tension and stress. It can help people feel more confident with their bodies and less anxious during sexual interactions.

4. For most females, masturbation involves deep vaginal penetration.
People report many different ways to masturbate. While some women prefer vaginal penetration during masturbation, female masturbation rarely resembles vaginal intercourse. Most masturbate by gently stroking the clitoris (the only body part whose sole purpose is sexual pleasure), the labia, vagina, and/or the breasts. As for males, most masturbate by stroking the shaft of the penis.

5. Masturbation always leads to orgasm.
For people of all ages, masturbation can be a pleasurable activity whether or not it causes a person to reach the stage of arousal called orgasm with its peak in blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and rhythmic muscular contractions. A person can begin and stop masturbating whenever he or she wishes; there is no goal or end point that a person must reach or always reaches.

6. Masturbation can make males run out of sperm.
This myth has been a cause of much worry in the past. If a male ejaculates several times close together, he may notice a slight decrease in the amount of semen (which is 99% of the fluid). However, there are still millions of sperm in the semen. A healthy male continues to produce millions of sperm daily from puberty throughout his life. Likewise, for females, masturbation does not affect fertility.

7. Married people sometimes masturbate.
Many married people, people who live with their partners, and other people who have regular sexual partners, masturbate, as do people without sexual partners and/or who live alone. Among young married men and women about three-fourths (70%) reported masturbating in the past year; in another study, 85% of males and 45% of females living with a partner reported masturbating in the past year. Researchers conclude that married people are not masturbating to make up for frustrations in their relationships, but as an additional means of enjoying their sexuality.

Masturbation can play a positive role in a relationship when partners’ orgasms occur at different times in a sexual experience. When couples have discussed masturbation, it can reduce the pressure one partner may feel about the need to provide satisfaction for the other partner. Masturbation can also help when one person is busy, sick, tired, pregnant, or simply not interested at a given time.

8. Masturbation is a behavior that occurs in societies throughout the world.
Masturbation has not been studied in every country in the world, but it is rare to find a culture in which no one has ever masturbated. According to current studies in 32 countries outside the United States, the range of people who report masturbating varies a great deal. For example, 16% of young Chinese women students report masturbating compared with 87% of young women in Australia; for young men the figures are 59% in China and nearly 100% in Sweden.

By comparison, in one U.S. study among adults ages 18 to 59, about 60% of men and 40% of women report having masturbated in the preceding year; in another, 90% of males and about half of females report masturbating from time to time. Research in the United States shows this incidence has not changed much for men in the past half century, but more women, including younger women, are reporting masturbating in recent years. However, it is important to note that most of this research relies on self-reporting. Since not everyone is comfortable being honest when reporting about masturbation, some percentages may be higher or lower in reality.

9. Some families and religions oppose masturbation.
Masturbation is not for everyone; some people will choose not to masturbate because of the beliefs and attitudes of their family, religion, or culture, or because of their own beliefs and attitudes. In the United States and in many other countries, attitudes and beliefs about masturbation can range from taboo to enthusiastic approval; however, attitudes are generally becoming more accepting of masturbation, at least for some parts of the life cycle.

Interestingly, the written teachings from each of the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism do not hold single unanimous positions about masturbation, although religious leaders of the first four have historically discouraged the behavior. As a result, there has been, and there continues to be, much debate about masturbation in some religious groups.

10. In the United States, education about masturbation can be controversial.
Although experts say that the topic of masturbation should be included in comprehensive sex education, in 1994 the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, was fired after she said that masturbation “is something that is a part of human sexuality and… it’s a part of something that perhaps should be taught.” This firing happened even though Dr. Elders clarified that she was advocating educating about masturbation, not educating how to masturbate.

11. Masturbation is an example of safe sex.
Masturbation has been described as “having sex with the only person whose sexual history you can trust completely.” A person cannot give or get a sexual infection or get pregnant just by masturbating.

12. Too much masturbation can cause health problems.
Frequent masturbation does not cause health problems. Generally people stop when they feel their bodies are sexually satisfied. In fact, research indicates that there may be many health benefits to masturbation, such as:
Reducing stress and tension
Avoiding sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy
Relieving menstrual tension and cramps
Making blood and hormones pump through the body faster, which helps the body produce cells better
Helping prevent disease by increasing the flow of white blood cells and building up resistance to infections
Strengthening muscles in the pelvic and anal area
Helping prevent breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other prostate problems

From Making Sense of Abstinence by Bill Taverner & Sue Montfort.
© 2005 by The Center for Family Life Education.