When you think of self-care, you probably think of sheet masks, Sunday-morning meditation or Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast. You probably don’t think of masturbation. And yet, it can decrease anxiety, improve your sexual relationship with your partner, and help you sleep better. And, it turns out women may even enjoy it more than men.
In a new study by Trojan (yes, the condom brand) and the non-profit Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN), researchers surveyed 1,500 Canadians between 18 and 24 years old. They discovered that while men masturbate more often — twice as many men than women said they masturbate at least once a week (65% of men compared to 35% of women) — women were more likely to report their last self-love experience as very pleasurable (38% of women compared 29% of men). According to Robin Milhausen, a sexuality professor from the University of Guelph who worked on the survey, the male results could be a case of too much of a good thing (most men masturbate at least three times a week, she says). “I think that this generation considers it just another thing to do during the day without much thought," says Milhausen. "It’s just an itch to scratch, just part of their routine.”
In her experience, women, on the other hand, are more “planful and more thoughtful with masturbation,” says Milhausen. “It’s more of a special occasion since they are doing it less often. Women may be setting the stage more — maybe they are finding some erotica to read, maybe they are using a vibrator.” An assist from vibrators during the act is also why some women are getting the most out of masturbating: The study showed that 54% of women used a vibrator during their last self-love sesh and 46% of these vibrator users said it was very pleasurable.
Sex-educator, advice columnist, and founder of FindYourPleasure.com, Cynthia Loyst links the increase in women feeling comfortable to use toys and be open about masturbating to pop culture. “Over the past few decades, there’s been a huge surge in representation of female masturbation in mainstream media — from shows like Sex and the City, Girls, and You, to online magazines like Goop featuring sex toys and YouTubers giving full reviews [of vibrators]. Female self-pleasure has finally come out of the closet.”
There’s still work to do, she adds. The shame and stigma surrounding female masturbation is a reason both Loyst and Milhausen give for why women still masturbate less than men. For women who are still too embarrassed to engage in some solo fun, Loyst recommends reading erotica, watching ethical porn, sexting and investing in some lube as some easy ways to incorporate self-love into your self-care routine. Sheet mask optional.