Masturbation is about as taboo as a topic can get. Men may discuss the topic in a joking manner and ladies may whisper about it among each other after a few glasses of wine, but in actuality serious conversations on the subject are few and far in between. Taking the shame out of masturbation is the first step to fully understand this equally unique and healthy human activity.

The Science Bit

What makes us human? A lot of things could be used to answer this question, but for the sake of this topic, the fact that we masturbate quite a lot is another distinctively human trait. Although other animals have been observed practicing self-pleasure, none do it to quite the same extent as man.

Masturbation is here for a reason. In males, the younger and more fresh the sperm sample is, the more likely it is to be accepted by the female reproductive tract and result in a fertilized embryo, Scientific American reported. Evolutionary biologists Robin Baker and Mark Bellis took samples of female “flowbacks," the post-coital sperm that is rejected by the woman’s body, exiting around 5-120 minutes following sexual intercourse. It was found that the longer a man went without masturbating, the higher the number of sperm in their partner’s “flowback.” Based on this finding, they labeled male masturbation as a natural way to shed old sperm and make room for new, fitter sperm.

In females, orgasms, which are often obtained through masturbation, are also attributed to higher sperm retention. It is also believed that orgasms give women an incentive to have more sex, and therefore increase their chances of procreating.

The Benefits of Masturbation

Although there may be an evolutionary reason for why the habit of masturbation has stuck around for so long, the lists of benefits from the act of self-pleasing do not end with fertility. The orgasm so often achieved as a result of masturbation releases endorphins into the body. These hormones can help to relieve stress, relieve sexual tension, help offset insomnia, and boost metabolism, Everyday Health reported.

Orgasms, achieved by oneself or with the help of a partner, were also found to suppress the pain of a migraine and at times even halt the actual migraine processs altogether, LiveScience reported. “There's a [portion] of patients with migraines, about one-third, who experience relief from a migraine attack by sexual activity," said study researcher Stefan Evers, a neurologist and headache specialist at the University of Münster in Germany. Alexander Masukop, a neurologist and director of the New York Headache Center added to LiveScience that “having an orgasm in any way shape or form” will help with migraine relief.

What About Hairy Palms and Acne?

The good news is that masturbating will not give one hairy palms, make one go blind, or ruin future experiences of sexual intercourse. In fact, most experts will agree that moderate masturbation will lead to more satisfaction in one’s sex life with a partner. The old wives' tale that masturbating gives you acne may be based a tiny bit on truth, for men at least. Male arousal results in the surge of male hormones, the same hormones that are also known to be responsible for the formation of acne. Theoretically, the long-term abusive masturbation can result in acne because of an imbalance of androgen hormones, which cause an increase in acne. However, most dermatologists regard this link as being very strained.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Excessive masturbation — that is masturbating every day several times a day for several years — can stimulate acetylcholine/parasympathetic nervous functions. The result of this is an overproduction of sex hormones and neurotransmitters. Possible bodily side effects can be fatigue, hair loss, memory loss, blurred vision, and groin pain. It can also lead to sexual exhaustion, which is exhibited in the form or impotence or erectile dysfunction.  Askmen also reported seminal leakage as another common problem associated with extreme masturbation.

Just like any other obsessive compulsive behavior, such as alcohol abuse or gambling, extreme masturbating can interfere with an individual’s personal relationship and professional life. At this point, the National Health Service suggests taking a break from the act may serve as a good thing. For those who seriously experience problems with controling their masturbation habits, there are programs such as Sex Addicts Anonymous that may prove helpful.