In case you were wondering, May is National Masturbation Month. The celebration of May as National Masturbation Month began in 1995 in San Francisco as a response to the forced resignation of then U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.
After a speech at the United Nations World AIDS Day in 1994, an audience member asked Elders about masturbation's potential for discouraging early sexual activity. She answered,"I think it is something that is part of human sexuality and a part of something that perhaps should be taught."
That was the end of Elders' career as America's first black Surgeon General, but the spark for National Masturbation Month. Offended by Elders' ouster, the ever progressive, pro-sex staff of San Francisco's sex toy and education company Good Vibrations decided to find a way to keep the focus on Elders' unjust firing, and to bring talk about masturbation into the mainstream in just the way Elders had envisioned.
Realizing that large number of folks lacked support and advice to help them enjoy the simple, basic act of masturbation, Good Vibrations sought to provide support, advice, and reassurance for people looking to open their own personal sexual horizons.
And so was born National Masturbation Month. Among the first steps Good Vibrations took was to promote masturbation as healthy, safe and natural way to express one's sexuality, thereby removing much of the shame and stigma have so long colored the act masturbation.
So, is it true, as so many believe that masturbation is so commonplace, natural, pleasurable and healthy that "ninety-eight percent of us masturbate, and the other two percent are liars?" If so, why do we need an entire month to educate people on something they're already enjoying?
The answer is twofold: First, to help those already enjoying themselves to delve further. Second, and most importantly, it looks like plenty of people might still benefit from some encouragement and education.
A recent cross sample study of American adults asked the question: "On average, over the past 12 months, how often did you masturbate?" Only 38 percent of women said they'd masturbated at all during the past year, while 61 percent of men had done so.
A 2007 article in Sexual and Relationship Therapy notes that masturbation may help men improve immune system function, build resistance to prostate gland infection, promote overall prostate health. Moreover, Australian researchers have shown that frequent masturbation may lower a man's risk of developing prostate cancer.
A survey of men found the more frequently a man masturbates between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to get prostate cancer. In fact, those who masturbated more than five times a week were one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer.
These findings were the subject of a 2003 Doonesbury panel by Pulitzer Prize-winning Garry Trudeau. In the panel, one character alludes to masturbation as "self-dating." Nearly half of the 700 papers which normally syndicate Doonesbury did not to run that strip, proving that public discussion of masturbation is still a thorny issue for some, and perhaps attesting to the need for an observance like National Masturbation Month.
Earlier studies have shown that rates of masturbation are higher for both men and women with higher education, more frequent sexual thoughts, sexual experimentation before puberty, and more lifetime sexual partners. Moreover, masturbation has documented physical benefits for both men and women, to say nothing of likely emotional and psychological benefits.