According to science, it isn’t just down to pleasure that we should want to spend time in the sack, it’s pretty good for us all round!
We’ve come a long way since 1712 when masturbation was described as a “serious medico-ethical problem with dire results”. In Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation, Thomas W Laqueur reviews more than 2,000 years of thinking and writing about masturbation, and his conclusions are quite astonishing.
Masturbation as we know it, he claims, was invented in about 1712, born of a tract that named a new disease and singlehandedly created a “nearly universal engine for generating guilt, shame, and anxiety”. That tract was Onania; or, The Heinous Sin of Self Pollution, and all its Frightful Consequences.
Before the early 1700s, Laqueur argues, masturbation was not a subject of great interest or speculation. There’s a lot of spilled semen in Greek myth, but Laqueur claims that masturbation didn’t really matter in antiquity, and was not a fit subject for discussion and analysis, because the “cultural contexts that later gave it, or aspects of it, moral resonance were absent”. Satyrs and slaves masturbated, but that’s because it was all they could manage.
More and more the topic of sex is becoming an open conversation. Modern science has shown that having sex a couple of times a week increases your levels of Immunoglobulin A, an antibody in your mucous that binds to foreign matter (bacteria, viruses etc) and calls a signal for your white blood cells to get rid of it.
In men, ejaculation has been shown to increase leukocyte levels which are a type of white blood cell- this further increases immunity. It also keeps the shape and levels of sperm count healthy. For women a study shows that “coital vaginal deposition of semen” encourages menstrual cycles of the ovulatory (fertile) type as well as mood enhancement.
And it doesn’t stop there, the neuroscience behind getting frisky is pretty fascinating too. Brain scans show that the same parts of your brain that light up during meditation, also light up during sex.
The limbic system in your brain also has been shown to be activated during in MRI. This is the part that controls emotion, fear, aggression and memory. There is also a surge of nitric oxide in the body (yes that is laughing gas) which causes our arteries to widen, giving our body a flush in certain parts such as our nipples…. oh la la. Changes in the cerebellum cause our body to tense up, and blood pressure is elevated.
“Both sex and meditation help you to you feel at one with yourself and the world, your intuition is strengthened, you feel more creative and able to tackle problems with a relaxed mind.”Kim Anami, founder of Anami Alchemia and a holistic sex and relationship expert
The hypothalamus causes a rush of hormones to be released during climax. Oxytocin is one of them and has been coined the “love hormone” because of the role it plays in bonding and connection. It influences social interaction and how bonded people feel, and is released when people hug, kiss, when mothers breastfeed and even when you stroke your dog.
Oxytocin modulates the human “tend and defend” response, and an experiment done on moles showed that those who were administered with oxytocin were more likely to be monogamous than those who hadn’t.
Oxytocin is released during sex, and has even been shown to clear cortisol (a stress hormone) in the body which lowers our stress levels, which shows how effective an orgasm can be for wellbeing. Sexual activity also releases serotonin, which gives feeling of bliss and peacefulness, as well as dopamine which activates our reward systems.
So it seems sex is a scientifically valid way to regulate your moods and tend to your wellbeing (not that we needed science to prove that)……very nice!