Sexologist Dr. Martha Tara Lee shares how masturbation helped her through her puberty.
I know it sounds like an exaggeration — masturbation saved your life, woo, you know... But this is actually really how I saw it. This is really how I felt in my core what masturbation did for me.
I didn't always look the way I look now — with long hair, contact lenses on occasion, relatively acne-free complexion, and an okay figure. I started having my first period when I was about eight — way earlier than all my peers. Nobody was talking about menstruation when I had mine. I developed a lot of acne as result of hormones gone amok and, of course, with little knowledge about nutrition and diet and self care, I developed severe acne. I also needed glasses since I was 6. They were thick geeky looking glasses.
I started to swim as part of my extra curriculum activity, and after-school activities. As a result, I also developed bad hair, and worse skin, because of all the chlorine and hot sun. At that time, I just didn't know how to protect my skin and neither did my parents. And I was swimming as much as three times a week — sometimes under the direct noon sun!
My mom had this idea, "You two (my sister and I) will look cool if you go and perm your hair." I ended up with wild unmanageable poodle-like hair. It was actually my teacher who asked me in front of the school why I went and got this poodle hair... and it stuck. Because of all the swimming I was doing, I ended up with spilt ends and had to chop the lot off. Mom actually convinced me to do this not once, but twice!
To this day, I am very weary of perming my hair. With baby fat, bad skin, and geeky glasses, I became a a prime subject of bullying, called the ugliest girl in school, and was utterly miserable at school. There was one boy — he would look for me after school, and once he actually punched me in the arm. It doesn't sound like a big deal now but back then, bullying was unheard of, and being punched in the arm by my classmate — somebody I saw everyday, a boy no less, whom I considered bigger and stronger — was actually traumatic.
I felt very, very, very, ugly on the inside. My acne problem didn't go away even all through puberty. Medication from skin doctors alleviated the problem but would return when I stopped treatment. There was no end at sight. I battled acne for a long time. I see now how it's largely attributed to my diet and the sensitivity of my body.
Now, let's not even talk about getting male attention. I had a lot of crushes. But no guy would never look twice at me because I looked and felt ugly. When people look at the me now, they ask, "What do you know about body image?" They have no idea where I've been! They have no idea how hard it was for me growing up — being called the ugliest girl in school, being punched in the arm, keeping my head down and just not trying to attract any attention whatsoever.
This is why masturbation saved my life. I was still too young to be able to articulate, get, or have the confidence to seek out a romantic partner. I was eight when I had my first period! Even at 12, I still had baby fat. There were girls in school who at the ripe age of 12 already had boyfriends and I envied them. I suffered from low self-esteem and had my first boyfriend at 19. It was a long-distance relationship and lasted a year.
Masturbation helped me through my teenage angst because when I would masturbate, feel-good hormones were released and relieved sexual tension within my body. It helped to balance out my mood swings. It was my private thing that I could return to. It was my sanctuary, and refuge. I knew how to get tension out of my body.
I was worried that because I masturbated, it would inhibit my relations with my future partners. I worried that my clitoris would become numb. I worried that I couldn't have an orgasm in any other ways. But I didn't know what I could do about my situation because I didn't have a partner and couldn't get one.
I didn't know this until later on that being able to sexual by myself actually allows me to be more comfortable with my body and go on to being more relaxed when sexual with somebody else. Masturbation helps create neuroconnections between the mind and the body. With strong neuroconnections, it's actually easier to get orgasms. And even when you masturbate in a particular way, your body is actually much more adaptable to learning how to have orgasms in different ways. Later on, when I became sexual, I was able to attain orgasm relatively easily with other partners.
All through the puberty, I did feel guilt and shame around masturbation even though I was not religious. I felt sad, even pathetic, because I don't have a partner. While masturbation may bring up sadness if one doesn't have a partner, I realise now it was better than the alternative — suppressing, repressing and shutting down my sexuality.
Masturbation is not a bad thing. It helps with hormonal balance, cramps, stress and tension. You can choose to express your sexuality by yourself , and learn about your body — even when you don't have a partner. And even if you have a partner, it's also okay to continue to learn about your body by expressing your sexuality by yourself.
Let go of your negative feelings around masturbation. Breathe.
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Dr Martha Tara Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexuality educator with AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), as well as certified sexologist with ACS (American College of Sexologists). She holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality as well as certificates in practical counselling, life coaching and sex therapy. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia and beyond. For more, visit www.ErosCoaching.com.
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This article was originally published at Eros Coaching. Reprinted with permission from the author.