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back to ba(sex): masturbation is healthy, mmkay?

Image: Tom Morris

Image: Tom Morris

Join Lip’s Sarah Iuliano for her new fortnightly column on all things, sex, sexuality, sexual health, and more!

Now men can add jacking off to their list of healthy habits, with Hot Octopuss’s Pulse ‘guy-brator’. Hot Octopuss is seeking to penetrate the market by honing in on the health benefits of its masturbation aid for men which – similarly to the female-marketed product, WeVibe – can be used solo or during intercourse. The device is supposedly being hailed by sexologists as helping sufferers of erectile dysfunction. In the six months since its release in Australia, the company has sold 10,000 units, with distributors comparing its rapid uptake to the Rabbit vibrator popularised by Sex and the City in the late 1990s.

It’s not wise to detract from men’s health, especially when on in five Australian men suffer from erectile dysfunction and 70 per cent of these won’t head to the doctor to discuss it. June 9 – 15 is Men’s Health Week after all. But why aren’t women’s sex toys also marketed as a healthy plaything? I’ve scoured for articles on promotion strategies, I’ve perused adult store websites and found… well, very little to show sex toys designed for women are marketed in a similar way.

With the exclusion of ben-wa balls, the health aspects of many women’s sex toys are ignored beyond increasing libido or a mention of being phthalate free (nobody wants nasty chemicals near their lady parts.) Often there’s a premise of men’s satisfaction – particularly with the aforementioned toys – by tightening pelvic floor muscles: ‘Imagine how surprised he’ll be when your buff kegels “grab” his erection!’ Err, um, but what about you?

For women, health benefits of vibrators – or, you know, just masturbating full stop – are numerous. Vibrators were developed in the late 19th Century to treat hysteria, a distinctly gendered condition which saw men categorise women’s nervous behaviours – likely related to sexual frustration – as an illness. Similarly, the guybrator draws on oscillating technologies used to treat spinal conditions.

A 2009 study of American women’s health and vibrators found a correlation between device aided self-pleasure and consciousness of sexual health. Of the 53 per cent of women who said they’d used a vibrator at least once in their lifetime, they were more likely to have sought or performed their own gynaecological exam. You go, girls!

Female masturbation – vibrator or not – has been linked to alleviating the symptoms of menopause (most notably, vaginal dryness) and the nasties of menstruation, as well as clearing the vagina of bacteria due to increased lubrication. Can you say: goodbye UTIs? It’s not just from the waist down that women are benefited by masturbating. Flicking the bean – or however you care to do it – also improves cardiovascular health, lessens your risk of diabetes and can help with relaxation and insomnia. One gynaecologist even prescribes vibrator use to cancer patients.

The American sex toy industry was estimated at $15 billion in 2011, booming due to online sales and economic busts seen in the Global Financial Crisis. Condom manufacturer Trojans even entered the vibrator business based on estimates that their product sales could become worth more than double that of condoms.

Despite this, sex toy marketing is a tricky subject. Many products must be advertised in the back most pages of print publications, in late night time slots for broadcast, or solely on websites aligned with porn or sex advice. The first daytime adult store television advertisement in the United Kingdom only aired in 2011. Even then, the campaign for multimillion dollar online company Lovehoney didn’t feature images of toys, instead opting to connote sexual happiness with a heterosexual couple lingering in a passionate kiss before going their separate ways for the day.

Taboos surrounding sexuality, as seen to be negotiated in this ad by removing masturbation and promoting strong heterosexual unions, are still particularly true for female libido and autoeroticism. The health benefits of sex in relationships are readily sung out in mainstream media. Perhaps if distributors highlight again the health benefits of vibrators for women – more consensually a creatively than in the days of “hysteria” – it could do wonders for the public image of female masturbation. Regardless of commercial products, shouldn’t there be wider campaigns proclaiming how healthy it is for ladies to touch themselves?

Sarah will be back in a fortnight with Back to Ba(Sex): Lip’s guide to sex, sexuality and sexual health, asking How does what you earn impact the experiences you have in the boudoir?
Stay tuned, Lipsters!

One thought on “back to ba(sex): masturbation is healthy, mmkay?

  1. Pingback: Back to Ba(sex): Sexercise | Lip Magazine

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