Masturbation used to have a bit of a bad reputation. Even now some people think it’s dirty or perverted, or something a bit sad – what you do if you can’t get a girlfriend or boyfriend. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Masturbation and religion do not go hand in hand (no pun intended).  Masturbation – was seen as amoral and amounted to self abuse. Indeed, it was widely understood that not only was masturbation wrong but it could cause hair to grow on the palms of your hands and even lead to blindness. Worse than this, at times they even used to lock away men and women who had a high appetite for sex and were caught masturbating in asylums as mental health patients. Generally it wasn’t a very nice or encouraging time for people to be exploring their sexuality.

Fortunately, we now know that masturbation is actually a healthy part of who we are. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a play every now and again. In fact, masturbation has been proven to releases endorphins in the brain, these are feel good chemicals which help to combat stress and boost your immune system. However, this doesn’t make it an easy topic for schools to tackle – especially religious schools.

Generally, masturbation comes up as a topic during puberty talks – or through conversations around appropriate touching – public/private behaviours and the like.

You will never be expected to tell young people how – to masturbate. However, your attitude to masturbation can have a massive effect on how young people feel about the subject. If you treat it as something perfectly natural and are able to answer young people’s questions without embarrassment or falling into the pitfalls of gender stereotypes and myths – you can promote young people having a healthy relationship with their own bodies, and prevent them from developing a guilt complex when it comes to sex.

Remember, masturbation is not something that only boys do – girls do it too. This does not make them perverted or slags.  Not all lads are obsessed with or watch porn addictive abandon – however, some girls enjoy watching porn again this does not make them nymphomaniacs.

Not all women own a vibrator and masturbation is not something that people do when they can’t find a partner. It is perfectly natural for people in relationships to masturbate – regardless of how fulfilling their sex life is.

One thing that is certain – we need to avoid being judgemental when we talk about masturbation.

People masturbate in a variety of ways – and for a variety of reasons. It is up to the individual to find a way that works for them and use it as an opportunity for them to explore their own fantasies and sexuality.

Masturbation is not always about being horny. It can be a way of getting to sleep, a coping mechanism to deal with stress or anxiety or about comfort.

The general rules when it comes to masturbation is about privacy – the right time and place – Masturbation should be something that is done in a safe space where you will not be disturbed and where you are not making other people uncomfortable. This is where important talks about public and private spaces come in.

Indeed, when we are talking to young people in the early stages of puberty (those in years 7-8 for example), it is always worth reviewing private spaces in the home – their bedroom and bathroom for instance – these days many families have open door policies in their bathrooms for their younger children – they may have been perfectly use to their parents or siblings popping into the family bathroom when they were in the shower -however, once you start puberty often your personal boundaries change and you become more self conscious – suggest that they might want to review these boundaries at home and prompt conversations with parents around these topics.

As long as masturbation is not becoming compulsive and taking over your life – and stopping you from interacting or getting things done then it can be seen as a perfectly healthy and normal part of a persons identity and nothing to be ashamed about or need moralising.

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