Medically reviewed by Dr. Barb DePree
Don’t get us wrong - partnered sex is phenomenal, and has innumerable benefits . But masturbation itself has some specific advantages, aside from the obvious fact that you don’t need to get another person involved.
We’re well aware that it’s a topic that many of us would rather keep behind closed doors, something private to say the least (read A Sexual Revolution after 60). And for many of us, self-stimulation can feel unsatisfying, or like a poor substitute for partnered sex.
If we feel awkward, get in our heads, and kind of uncomfortable physically (especially with age), it can sometimes feel like - what’s the point?
We’re here to tell you that touching yourself is 100% worth it. For women over 50 experiencing pain, discomfort, dryness, and loss of libido, the health benefits are almost too good to pass up. Read on for the dirty (wrong word - it’s not dirty at all) details: 7 Reasons Women Over 50 Should Masturbate.
1. Improve tissue health
A variety of factors lead to poor muscle tone and tissue health as we age - changes in our hormones and lack of sexual activity, to name a couple. Healing massage has been employed for soothing stiff and painful muscles for at least 3000 years. But massage is proven to do much more than just make us feel better, according to a paper out of Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Massage (in this case, up close and personal massage in the form of masturbating) can actually help repair muscles after severe injury. When it comes to the common, painful issues of vaginal and clitoral atrophy, intentional self-massage can not only bring relief, but also improve muscle function and tone over time.
2. Inspire natural lubrication
Dryness, and the resulting discomfort, is one of the more disruptive results of the hormonal changes that occur during menopause. The good news? According to Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a leading OB/GYN with Yale University, vaginal lubrication is produced as a result of increased blood flow, and masturbation is great for increased blood flow. No orgasm required, just using a vibrator on your vulva and in your vagina on a regular basis increases blood flow, helps thicken the vaginal walls, and keeps the lubrication system functioning. Experts with the Georgia Center for Menopausal Medicine recommend trying it every couple of days for 15 minutes at a time, or as often as is comfortable.
3. Boost your body image
Only 12% of women over the age of 50 are satisfied with their bodies, according to a study from the Journal of Women and Aging. While you can’t expect masturbation to eliminate general societal pressures, you can make a difference for yourself and your own self esteem by spending some quality time exploring your own body. One study from the Centre for Sexual Health Research at the University of Southampton shows a distinct correlation between masturbation and self-esteem. By breaking the stigma around masturbation on a private, personal level, you can learn to enjoy your own body without giving space to negative thoughts about it.
4. Increase libido
Tabu advisor Dr. Heidi Gastler loves to say that sex begets sex (link to instagram post). This applies in oh so many fashions, but one particularly interesting application is that masturbating…makes you want to…masturbate more. A study from the Queen’s University at Kingston actually shows that women who take time to touch themselves can develop a higher libido in as little as three months. An increased libido can be especially helpful for sparking new life into a sex-starved relationship. It also makes everyday existence a little more exciting (in our opinion).
5. Get familiar with your body
Even though we spend our whole lives living in them, a lot of women don’t know their bodies that well. According to Dr. Barb DePree, GYN and midlife women’s health expert, in one study, 10 percent of women couldn’t identify a diagram of female genitalia, 25 percent missed the vagina, 46 percent didn’t know where the cervix was, and 60 percent misidentified the uterus. Now, you may have taken a hand mirror to look at yourself once or twice, but self-exploration can be even more educational when you involve more than one of the five senses. In this case, we’re recommending touch. Get to know your whole region – the vagina, clitoris, labia, vulva – like the back of your hand, and you might just fall in love with yourself.
6. Learn what makes you orgasm
That’s right - masturbation can actually help you learn how to have more satisfying partnered sex, according to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Women that bring the body positions and stimulation styles used during solo sex to their sexual encounters with a partner are more likely to be able to achieve orgasm when having sex with a partner.
While orgasm ISN’T THE GOAL, it sure is nice (and has some plush health benefits of its own [read more here]). According to data from urologist and sex educator Dr. Kelly Casperson’s new book You Are Not Broken, only 20-30% of women EVER orgasm from penetrative sex alone.
7. Let yourself feel fantastic.
I think we can leave it there, right? / no citation necessary. / totally anecdotal. Totally true. / prove us wrong.
Editor’s Note: Try to read the word masturbate out loud. If you can, you’re more comfortable with it than our writing team, who quite literally talks about this daily and still can’t say the word without blushing and derailing our meetings.