Masturbation

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Auto-erotic asphyxiation

Dear Reader,

Auto-erotic asphyxiation (AEA) is the practice of cutting off the blood supply to the brain through self-applied suffocation methods while masturbating. By limiting the blood supply to the brain, AEA can induce cerebral anoxia, a deficiency of oxygen in the brain. Oxygen deficiency in the brain is thought to intensify sensations, producing feelings of giddiness, lightheadedness, or exhilaration that can heighten the orgasmic experience. It's also possible that the helplessness and self-endangerment inherent in the AEA enhance sexual gratification for some people.

Of course, this same self-endangerment that may provide a thrill to the person carrying out AEA also weakens one's self-control and judgment, which can result in accidental death. Because of taboos surrounding AEA, the practice almost always remains a secret until a person dies accidentally. Although a death from AEA may often be labeled as a homicide or suicide, It's estimated that between 500 and 1000 deaths occur annually in the United States from this type of masturbation. Both men and women can participate in AEA. 

Depending on how long the brain and body are deprived of oxygen, brain damage could occur even if death does not.  A person participating in AEA also risks lacerating, cutting, or bruising their neck, depending on the suffocation or strangulation technique used. 

Auto-erotic asphyxiation is a dangerous activity because of the risk of death and brain damage. For those interested, a safer option would be to fantasize about suffocation, rather than trying to walk the fine line between heightened sensation and serious brain impairment.        

Alice

Don't dismiss masturbation myths!

Dear Reader,

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, or worse yet, dismissive of your concerns, the real "harm" here is not physical. It's all the worry, shame, and conflict attached to masturbation by so many men, women, and children, thanks to negative associations with all kinds of sex — done by one's self and with others. These messages come from so many influential places — often for most of one's lifetime. It may not be true for you, but this cloud that hangs over many masturbators might send some looking for physical "harm" from this popular practice. It can be a way of justifying any bad feelings and beliefs about masturbation that might never allow going it alone totally okay.

That said, your "blame-it-on-masturbation" reasoning is understandable. If one sprouts hair in "strange" places, sports dark circles under the eyes, and says goodbye to those always reliable erections during and after stretches of solo-sex, one could easily conclude that these unwanted reactions came on as a result of whacking off. Then, could it not also be said that hair loss, far-sightedness, and love handles also owe it to masturbation? And what about greater self-confidence, career changes, and the urge to buy property? The point: is it possible that all of these occurrences stem from something besides genital stimulation? Might aging also be the culprit?

It may not come up 'round the copier and coffee table, but many twenty- and thirtysomethings now include unsightly nose and ear hair plucking in their regular grooming routine. They'd also put down difficulty with getting it up and keeping it there as a getting older symptom. Bags under the eyes? Yep, that's on the list, too.

If you're not convinced that masturbation doesn't play a direct role in the physical "consequences" that you're now experiencing, how about conducting an experiment? Masturbate less often, or refrain from doing it for a few months, and see if your symptoms disappear. NOTE: not "relieving" yourself for an extended period of time may lead to other unwanted physical and psychological situations, including irritability, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and wet dreams. Now, it is possible that any stress, guilt, disgust, etc. with your personal sex play is making it harder to get and stay hard — these feelings are frequently powerful obstructions to sexual arousal. Also, if you're masturbating past your bedtime, dark circles may stare back at you the next morning.

It sounds as though you've read at least some of the archived Q&As on this subject; for those who have not, below is a partial selection, with some varied perspectives on the big M.

Alice

May 9, 2004

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Dear Alice, I have masturbated since I was a child and still continue to do it today with no ill effects to my health. I am now sixty-six years old and find that I still enjoy it. I have had medical...
Dear Alice, I have masturbated since I was a child and still continue to do it today with no ill effects to my health. I am now sixty-six years old and find that I still enjoy it. I have had medical problems due to colon cancer and it has left me with an erection problem while having sexual intercourse with my wife; however, I find that although I lose my erection while inside my wife, I can achieve an erection by masturbating. My wife encourages me to do so to avoid frustration. As I said, I find masturbation to be both enjoyable and an outlet for my tensions. I have never tried to hide the fact that I am a masturbator. There's an old saying that says: "Ninety per cent of all men masturbate, the other ten per cent are liars."

December 7, 2001

20391
Dear Alice, Amen to you for your "blame-it-on-masturbation" response. I learned a while ago what life was like without masturbation when I fell and broke both wrists. Being a healthy male with...
Dear Alice, Amen to you for your "blame-it-on-masturbation" response. I learned a while ago what life was like without masturbation when I fell and broke both wrists. Being a healthy male with apparently normal sex drive, I nearly went nuts without the ability to slam the old digit (I was sadly single at the time, too). I could have hurt myself dearly with some of the ways I tried to get some relief. Not only did my aging process triple its rate, but I also gained weight and became a miserable person to be around. Since I've had my wings back in working order, I have returned to a normal and well-balanced individual who enjoys masturbation for stress relief and recreation. I know for certain that some people have no need for masturbation or sex. My wife, for example... sign me, "King of the Tallywackers by Necessity"

Pumping pillow with penis for pleasure?

Dear N.B.,

You're welcome, and thank you for reading.

Pretending that pillows are sex partners, or getting intimate with them because they're soft, warm, form fitting, and always available, is probably as normal and common as changing the sheets and putting on pajamas. Equally normal is "making love" to the mattress, the ol' penis between the mattress and box spring trick, and humping the whole damn bed! And these masturbation options aren't exclusive and exciting to guys; women do their fair share of rubbing, bouncing, and squeezing, too.

Although beds can be a bountiful source of stimulation, varying one's modes of masturbation is important, to have more than one way to orgasm and/or ejaculate. Indeed, hands are handy, and you can use them in many different ways: applying differing amounts of pressure, using your less dominant hand, moving at different speeds or changing the rhythm, using lotion or lube, etc. This way, if/when one has sex with another person, his or her body will be more likely to respond to the more varied kinds of stimulation.

Hats off and sweet dreams to all who masturbate "out of the box." You know that hands will certainly suffice, but the bed, bath, and beyond can be really, really nice — for a change.

Alice

Beatless in Seattle: Masturbation stops when relationship begins

Dear Beatless In Seattle,

It's great that you are in a relationship in which you're sexually satisfied! Your thoughts (thanks for sharing) touch on a couple of issues. Masturbation is not mandatory — you may choose not to "beat off" while with your current girlfriend or with future partners, but doing so is not "silly" or dirty. Masturbating and being in a loving relationship are not mutually exclusive, and many people in relationships use masturbation, alone or with a partner, as a healthy release of sexual energy — just as they did when they were single.

Solo sex is not a shameful betrayal of one's partner and is not reserved for one gender. Rather, masturbation is one of the many kinds of sexual activities that people enjoy. Like intercourse, masturbation is healthy, enjoyable, and normal. Of course, if masturbation replaces sex between partners without mutual consent, or if its popularity with one partner leaves the other sexually dissatisfied, partners may need to talk about what would constitute a sexually satisfying relationship.

Guilt before, during, and/or after masturbation is not uncommon among "beaters" of all ages, and may stem from moral, religious, and/or social doctrines that disapprove of it. Breathing a huge sigh of relief when you have a new partner because it replaces a need for self-pleasuring may be problematic. After all, the frequency of sex with a partner may vary widely in cases of illness, stress, or even travel that separates partners. When a partner is not in the mood, or when your mate is "away," it doesn't mean that your dominant hand shouldn't play. As such, you may want to consider asking yourself some questions that may help you better understand why you came (pun intended) to the conclusion that you did about self-gratification:

  • What were you taught about masturbation? Who taught you about it?
  • When did you first discover masturbation?
  • How did you feel before, during, and after masturbating, i.e., guilt, excitement?
  • If applicable, how does your community (social, religious, etc.) regard masturbation?

Finally, you may want to consider discussing this issue with your girlfriend. Does she share the same beliefs about masturbation? What does she think about masturbation in a relationship? How would you (and your girlfriend) feel about including mutual masturbation during sex? Having this discussion is up to you, but you may find that discussing desires and new ways of giving pleasure may positively affect your sex life with your girlfriend.

Perhaps it would be helpful to learn more about masturbation and other ways of achieving sexual pleasure. You may want to check out the responses in the Go Ask Alice! sexuality archives (there is a section devoted to masturbation).

Remember, partner sex may rock your world, but this doesn't mean that beating off needs to take a beating…

Alice

Erection detection

Dear J,

Simply put, no. Neither your past masturbation and porn viewing, nor your refusal to sexually stimulate yourself again (despite your possible desire to do so) is directly causing your erections. Your body is paying attention to emotional and physical stimulation — and you're right, sometimes you don't even have to be consciously thinking about sex in any way for an erection to arise. This also means that getting an erection shouldn't mean to you (or your partner) that sex is your goal. Erections — frequent or few-and-far-between — mean that you're mentally and physically responsive, chock full of naturally produced, stimulating hormones, alive, and, yes, very normal! For sure, releasing your sexual energy by going back to masturbation may reduce the frequency of your erections when you are with your partner — but of course, that decision is up to you.

When, or if, you tell your partner that your hard-ons hardly mean sex, you might suggest that she take them as a compliment — evidence that you're truly happy to be with her. If you're not up for chatting about your excitements just yet, you might make them less obvious by wearing brief-style underwear that allows for preventive penis positioning. In other words, when an erection comes, your pants will bulge like an igloo, instead of a tee-pee.

Underwear monitoring, as well as suggestions to think about your school work, something sad, or another turn-off that encourages flaccidity, seem like a lot of energy to expend on something that's as natural as yawning when you're tired. Your belief that masturbation is wrong — when in or out of a relationship — may produce tension within yourself, and between you and your partner. Perhaps some of that anxiety is encouraging your immediate concerns about erection detection. To help decide potential directions for the future, you may also want to take a look at the related questions. Regardless of how you choose to proceed, remember that you're quite normal. Happy dating!

Alice

Dr. Do Diddle: Pre-med masturbation and productivity

Dear Reader,

You don't have to be a doctor to know that masturbation (whether once per week, or once per hour) does not cause memory loss, decreased brain power, fatigue, or depression — that is, unless you're doing it instead of school work, socializing, eating, sleeping, bathing, etc. Your stress about your normal masturbation pattern, combined with the energy you use "trying not to do it," might even decrease your productivity far more than playing doctor with yourself would. It would be surprising to learn that Einstein, Curie, and Spock didn't take stimulating study breaks themselves. And look what masterful work they accomplished!

Remember, energy is neither created nor destroyed. So go ahead and release that sexual energy. You might even be able to convert it into an "A" on that anatomy test!

Alice

Masturbating roommates

Dear straight,

You have strong friendships, you're in school, you're able to feel and express affection, and you can clearly consider and communicate your feelings. And sometimes you masturbate with your roommate. You're as normal as a one-dollar bill. In fact, your willingness to reach out for information is evidence that you are able to address with your concerns in a healthy way.

Are you the only straight masturbating friends on earth? Well, since this topic has been raised by plenty of past Go Ask Alice! readers, the answer is clearly NO. The fact of the matter is that masturbation is normal and healthy, whether you're next to your roommate or solo. However, considering the negative messages that many people receive about masturbation and homosexuality, your angst is understandable. It may help to consider why you are concerned about masturbating with your roommate. Could your concern stem simply from guilt you feel about masturbation itself, whether it's alone or with someone else? (The guilt issue is discussed at length in the masturbation section of the Sexual and Reproductive Health archive.) Or, are you wondering whether you might now, or later, be bi or gay? You could also be wondering what your roommate and best friend thinks of your dual diddling; have you had a chance to discuss it with him?

Keep this in mind: normal, monkey-spanking men come in all sexualities. Normal, monkey-spanking roommates also come in all sexualities. If you enjoy masturbating with your roommate, and it's not interfering with your friendship, school, or work, go ahead. If you stop enjoying sharing this type of activity, you can stop. Either choice would be normal and healthy, as long as you feel comfortable.

Alice

December 15, 2008

21501
Thanks a lot Alice.

You saved my friendship. Very recently, me and my friend were watching porn together and got so excited that we both started masturbating together. But after that, both of us...

Thanks a lot Alice.

You saved my friendship. Very recently, me and my friend were watching porn together and got so excited that we both started masturbating together. But after that, both of us were feeling guilty and out of embarrassment we were not talking to each other. After reading this article I felt a great relief and talked about it to my friend. Now both of us are back in our normal relationship. Thanks a lot once again.

March 7, 2008

21414

Thanks Alice.

I was worried about this until I read your advice. My roommate and I stopped hiding our masturbation from each other out of necessity. Our need is very big but our room is...

Thanks Alice.

I was worried about this until I read your advice. My roommate and I stopped hiding our masturbation from each other out of necessity. Our need is very big but our room is very small. We became very comfortable with it and sometimes even help each other out now. Sadly for him, he often has difficulty reaching orgasm and needs help. This has also helped me enjoy masturbating much more. I was very unsure of myself but he assured me it was very common among roommates and had nothing to do with sexual preference. I see he was correct. I thanked him for helping me see this and allow myself to enjoy it. Thank you too.

May 9, 2004

20637
Alice, on masturbating roommates: i am a nineteen-year-old male. my roomie and i masturbate each other. we have no problems. we are both str8. we are just best buds and want...
Alice, on masturbating roommates: i am a nineteen-year-old male. my roomie and i masturbate each other. we have no problems. we are both str8. we are just best buds and want to make each other feel good.

May 9, 2004

20638
Alice, In the first place, there's a lot of masturbation in college dorms all over the country, not just here. Guys who are roommates generally develop an understanding about this. My roomie and I...
Alice, In the first place, there's a lot of masturbation in college dorms all over the country, not just here. Guys who are roommates generally develop an understanding about this. My roomie and I are comfortable enough with each other so it's no big deal. We are both straight, real-guys who deal with the realities of nature together. Stuff like that is endemic on every college campus. Greg, 19

June 14, 2002

20433
I was worried and read MASTURBATING ROOMMATES and several responses. I was worried because I did this, too. I did it regularly with my bunkmate at summer camp. He was much...
I was worried and read MASTURBATING ROOMMATES and several responses. I was worried because I did this, too. I did it regularly with my bunkmate at summer camp. He was much older and knew a lot more, so he made me feel comfortable about it. But later, I felt guilty and thought it might mean I was gay or strange since I enjoyed it so much and so often initiated it. I have been doing it with a neighbor after school all this year. Knowing how common, normal, and even healthy it is has lifted my doubt and guilt. I am enjoying my need and sharing the experience with a friend of similar need. Thanks.

Masturbating stats: Are there gender differences and why?

Dear Wants to learn more,

Many women masturbate, but they haven't beaten the men when it comes to solo sex frequency... at least not yet. Statistically speaking, various studies of the sexual behavior of men and women detailed connections between gender and self-stimulation. The authors of The Social Organization of Sexuality (Edward O. Laumann, John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels; University of Chicago Press, 1994) gathered information about masturbatory practices from face-to-face interviews and self-administered questionnaires of 2,969 men and women ranging in age from 18 to 59 years. The researchers found that 41.7 percent of women and 63.3 percent of men masturbated during the year studied. According to The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior (Samuel S. Janus and Cynthia L. Janus; John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1993), based on a large-scale, nationwide survey of adult Americans ages 18 and up conducted between 1983 and 1992, 10 percent of women reported masturbating frequently (several times weekly or daily) vs. 25 percent of men. Similarly, 38 percent of women reported masturbating on a regular basis (monthly to daily) in comparison to 55 percent of men. The Kinsey Institute also published statistics about gender differences in masturbation. They were compiled from renowned sex researcher Alfred Kinsey's studies on the sexual behavior of men and women. According to Dr. Kinsey's 1948 and 1953 studies, based on detailed interviews with white American adults, 92 percent of men and 62 percent of women reported that they had masturbated.

Several reasons have been suggested to account for the lower percentage of women (vs. men) who have ever masturbated. Women are considered "good" when they adhere to their traditional sex role: to be sexually passive, naive, and dependent -- basically, to be nonsexual. Sexually experienced and independent women are frequently seen as threatening and "loose."

In addition, in many cultures, women are raised to believe that their genitals are repulsive and inferior to those of men. They're also encouraged to repress their sexual feelings until marriage, when sex is for the purposes of procreation and pleasing their husband. A woman learns that she is to receive sexual pleasure only from sexual intercourse (not from touching or oral sex, and especially not from masturbation) with her husband (not with anyone else or by herself). If a woman with a partner masturbates, it is often seen as though there's something wrong with her relationship. Likewise, if a woman is without a partner, masturbating is seen as an act of loneliness.

Not only is there a taboo for women to masturbate, but there's also a greater taboo against talking about it. No doubt, for some women (and some men), talking about sex can also be awkward, so shyness, as you mentioned in your question, may be another, though lesser, factor. It doesn't have to be this way. Masturbation is a healthy and natural part of sexuality. It enables people to learn about their own bodies and genitals as well as to recognize and develop their sexual responses or orgasms. It also helps to foster communication in intimate relationships by making it easier for partners to identify and express what feels good physically and sexually for them and to each other. Candid discussions about sexuality and sexual pleasure can help free women (and men) from the historically negative influences that have bound and prevented some women (and some men) from discovering, exploring, and enjoying their sexual selves. These conversations can make it easier to break the taboos and myths about masturbation and can encourage women (and men) to reach their healthy, sex-positive goals.

Here are some resources for more information:

Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving, by Betty Dodson

For Yourself: The Fulfillment of Female Sexuality, by Lonnie G. Barbach

Yellow Silk: Erotic Arts and Letters, by Lily Pond and Richard Russo (editors)

Alice's Sexuality archive (with a section about masturbation)

Alice

January 22, 2013

522166
Ha! I always wish I could be part of these studies! I'm a 26 yr old woman, and I've known that my genitals produced much pleasure ever since I was 5. Obviously, it wasn't really sexual til I got my...
Ha! I always wish I could be part of these studies! I'm a 26 yr old woman, and I've known that my genitals produced much pleasure ever since I was 5. Obviously, it wasn't really sexual til I got my period at age 10...then the feelings changed from "always relaxing" to "usually intense". For the past 6 years or so, I've masturbated at least 5 days a week. I'm very highly sexed...but my lover's job keeps him traveling a lot. Even when he is home, he thinks my masturbating is sexy, so we usually incorporate it into our regular sex sessions. Of course, I love watching him too! In my opinion, 62% of women admit to masturbating.

January 17, 2013

521844
This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. Thank you for sharing!
This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. Thank you for sharing!

June 29, 2009

21570
Dear Alice,

I am a female and I masturbate quite regularly, sometimes twice a day. I believe that women pleasure themselves often but just do not talk about because it has been percieved by...

Dear Alice,

I am a female and I masturbate quite regularly, sometimes twice a day. I believe that women pleasure themselves often but just do not talk about because it has been percieved by society as "dirty" for women whereas for men it's a given because society feel men are more sex focused then women.

September 25, 2006

21128
Alice,

I had such a rocky time when I discovered masturbation at the age of thirteen — I thought it was something dirty, and I was terrified that someone would walk in on me. I also was convinced...

Alice,

I had such a rocky time when I discovered masturbation at the age of thirteen — I thought it was something dirty, and I was terrified that someone would walk in on me. I also was convinced that I was the ONLY girl in the world who did masturbate and that made me even more ashamed of it. I don't even think I had a word for it the first year or so I was doing it.

In sophomore year, about four close friends of mine were sleeping over at my house, and as these things usually go, we didn't really sleep. Instead, we talked the entire night in my basement. That night, I discovered, to my great surprise, that every single one of my friends masturbated regularly. One of them had been doing it since she was a little kid and was amazed when she heard that I thought it was strange. Another was actively looking for new ways to find orgasms, and another had just recently started and was quite shy about it.

That was several years ago. I don't feel ashamed about masturbation anymore — why should I? There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to feel good — I often find that it relaxes my body and my muscles. It just feels wonderful.

I think that the ignorance and taboo that surrounds female sexuality is a definite problem. It pains me to think of other girls going through all that crap I put myself through because no one ever talks about women masturbating.

March 9, 2006

21042

Alice,

RE: Masturbating stats...

To the 72-year old gentleman, I hope that me and whatever woman I am with when I am 72 have as great of a sex life as you and your wife!! I'm already...

Alice,

RE: Masturbating stats...

To the 72-year old gentleman, I hope that me and whatever woman I am with when I am 72 have as great of a sex life as you and your wife!! I'm already jealous of you. In regards to masturbation though, us guys usually don't talk about that sort of thing, we all know we do it, but we will generally deny it because it's always a topic of joking/fun-poking/insults, etc. All of the girls that I've dated denied that they masturbate, so I think females are very unlikely to admit it in social settings, or even to a partner. To all the women out there, if you like to flick your bean, don't lie about it to your man! Tell him, he won't be disappointed. I personally think a woman who is comfortable enough with her body to masturbate and admit it is very sexy.

September 29, 2005

20977
Dear Alice,

Your assessment is correct in regards to the female's perceived historical roles. But, things are changing! I am 72-years-old and have masturbated all my life. My wife is open-minded...

Dear Alice,

Your assessment is correct in regards to the female's perceived historical roles. But, things are changing! I am 72-years-old and have masturbated all my life. My wife is open-minded, but from a sheltered upbringing, had never masturbated. We have an open and healthy sex life. I started by teaching her how to have an orgasm with my hand, then suggesting she try it. Very reluctant at first, but she did it and enjoyed later. Now she has a vibrator! Every time we have sex is a combination of intromission, masturbation, and sex toys. She is having the best sex of her life with multiple orgasms and free of HANG UPS!

January 24, 2003

20467
Dear Alice, I want to make a comment about MASTURBATING STATS: ARE THERE GENDER DIFFERENCES AND WHY?. I have always been curious about masturbation and what others thought about it. I have talked to...
Dear Alice, I want to make a comment about MASTURBATING STATS: ARE THERE GENDER DIFFERENCES AND WHY?. I have always been curious about masturbation and what others thought about it. I have talked to my friends about it (we're all girls) and it seems that I'm the only one who thinks it's totally normal. Some have said that they thought it was gross and said that masturbation was only ok for guys. These girls aren't religious either, so it's not that kind of thing affecting them. I've talked to my mom about masturbation and she's been really cool about it (she even bought me a vibrator!). Unfortunately, none of the eight people I've talked to about it, besides my mom, think that it's normal. They could have been lying because they were uncomfortable by the question, so I don't know. My best friend and I were talking about it one day and she told me that she wouldn't know how to even start masturbating because she doesn't know where anything is. I gave her a basic anatomy lesson and some tips, so maybe she has become better acquainted with herself by now. I am still so surprised that the general opinion among my friends is that masturbation is bad, gross, dirty, or whatever. Girls, feel free to masturbate! Touch yourself, find out what you like, have a good time. Also, don't worry if you don't orgasm your first couple of tries. I tried sporadically for a few years until I had an epiphany with one of those detachable showerheads. So, fellow females, try, try, try and practice makes perfect. Go and conquer your nether-regions with pride! :)

Masturbation: It's still okay

Dear Reader,

Assuming that by, "relieving oneself," you mean answering sexual urges then masturbation is a great way to experience self-pleasure. There are a lot of myths out there about the harm that masturbation can cause – excess hair growth on your hands, it will ruin “real” sex, or cause insanity – but these are just not true. There are no harmful side-effects to masturbation.

In fact, masturbation has health benefits. Masturbation may:

  • Reduce stress and tension
  • Be a safer sex option to help prevent against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (just make sure to clean any toys or objects between uses)
  • Allow you to learn more about your body and what feels good to you
  • Reduce pre-menstrual and menstrual pain and tension in women (if using a tampon, you will want to remove it if you are going to insert an object or toy so it does not get pushed too far into the vagina)
  • Help you fall asleep
  • Be an option for those who don’t want to have vaginal, anal, or oral sex

As long as masturbating is not getting in the way of activities like going to school or work, spending time with friends or family, or eating and sleeping, then there is no harm in masturbating.

Hope this helps,
 

Alice

Can I get an STI from masturbating?

Dear Reader,

You cannot get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from masturbating on your own. This is true regardless of your gender and how you masturbate. It is useful to know how you masturbate, on the outside rubbing your clitoris, with penetration, or both. If you use penetration, then the swelling can be caused by vigorous stimulation of your vulva while masturbating. It might help to think about whether or not your solo sex style has changed at all recently. For example, are you masturbating in a new way? More frequently? With more intensity?

It is also possible that your vaginal opening or barrel is swollen from being aroused. Blood flows into the genital area when someone is aroused, and this causes the genitals to swell. (Think of an erect penis… Not very different if you consider the swelling!)

You said that you have never had sex. By this, do you mean sexual intercourse, penetration, no sexual contact at all, or something in between? One thing to keep in mind is that there are some STIs that can be transmitted through close intimate contact, even if there's been no penetration. Some, like crabs and scabies, can also travel on sheets and towels.

In some states, when minors (people younger than eighteen years) receive medical services, their parents are contacted for permission beforehand. Since you are eighteen, parental notification is probably not an issue. It's still understandable that you're concerned or scared to see a health care provider for fear of your mom finding out that you are masturbating. First, this is a private thing that your mom does not need to know about. Second, if residing in the United States, people your age as well as minors have rights to confidential reproductive health care. What this means is that unless you consent or give permission to your health care provider, s/he cannot disclose your medical records to anyone, including your parents (except for minors in the case of abortion services, which depends on your particular state's law). Last, it would be important to get things checked out with a health care provider (more on how to do this in a minute) if the swelling doesn't go away in a few days, or if you've noticed other changes in your genital area. If you experience itching, burning when you urinate, or a change in your vaginal discharge, let your provider know. S/he can check for signs of a yeast infection, STI, or other infection.

If you are worried about cost, insurance coverage, or your mom finding out by accident, you can make an appointment at Planned Parenthood or at another low-cost clinic in your area. Read the Related Q&As listed below for more information about finding services near you.

Maybe you're worried about simply explaining your need to see a gynecologist or other health care provider to your mom. If so, remember that you have a right to privacy, and you don't have to talk about the details of this situation if you don't want to. In reality, your mom has probably wondered at some time or another about her own reproductive health, and whether her "private parts" were normal. She may even masturbate, too! In other words, she might turn out to be a great resource for you. If you go this route, here are a few options of things to say:

"Mom, did you know that it's recommended that women start having yearly GYN exams at the age of eighteen? I think I'd like to go soon. Is there someone you'd recommend so that I can make an appointment?"

"I'd like to make an appointment to see a doctor. I just want to check in and make sure everything is okay with my personal health (or genitals, privates, vulva, 'down there,' reproductive parts, women's parts)."

"I've been reading a lot about women's health lately. I've decided that I want to learn some more by talking with an expert about my health."

In Enthusiastic masturbation causes swelling?, a male reader poses a similar question to yours. Check Alice's Sexuality and Sexual Health archives for more info about masturbation, STIs, and gynecological exams.

Alice

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