Masturbation is a well-known act. It is a very healthy activity , with great physical and psychological benefits, and few undesirable effects, relatively easy to avoid. In women, masturbation is associated with increased sexual desire, and greater and better lubrication . In men it is associated with a longer-lasting erection , although it can also generate, if performed too frequently, a temporary loss of sensitivity —something that can be solved by changing the rhythm or the way in which it is practiced. In both sexes, masturbation favors self-knowledge of one’s own anatomy, improving general sexual practice and experience .
Although this practice has been shown to reduce stress levels, improve sleep quality, and release sexual tension , it has long been considered taboo, sinful, and even demonized by certain cultures. This causes certain people to experience a feeling of guilt when they practice masturbation, which they perceive as something dirty or shameful . If this happens, it is best to talk to a specialist . There are also people who can develop an addiction that affects their own quality of life; psychological therapy is again the best option.
We humans are animals, of that there is no doubt. But we are by no means the only ones who masturbate. There are many species that practice onanism , and they often do so in contexts that may seem unseemly to us, modest victims of our society.
Bonobos employ… their congeners
Among bonobos , masturbation is a widely accepted social act , like many other sexual interactions. In general, younger individuals show a submissive predisposition to grant “sexual favors” to adults, thus favoring social cohesion.
Among females , direct masturbation by rubbing genitals against genitals is common practice. Generally the young female is placed under the dominant; one hanging from her body with her hind legs hugging her hips, while the other stands upright on all fours. Some specialists consider, in fact, that the position in which the external genitalia is found in female bonobos is evolutionarily favored for these practices.
When the dominant is a male , manual masturbation frequently occurs, by both males and females. It is also a social act that strengthens the ties of the community.
Of course, many of these interactions can lead to direct copulation.
When the female is dominant, she can perform penetration with her clitoris erect, or allow a submissive male to penetrate her. When the male is dominant, penetration is often either anal —both males and females— or vaginal.
Elephants use…the trunks of their lovers
Homosexual intercourse is very common in African elephants . When two males interact, these relationships are preceded by long affective rituals . In these preliminary games, they intertwine their trunks, and caress their partner’s mouth with them. They often get into mouth-to-mouth contact—like our kisses—and romp together. Sometimes they simulate combat games.
These acts end up causing an erection, and then, before mating , one of the males manipulates and sucks the other’s penis with his trunk , masturbating it.
Onanism has also been observed as a form of interaction between females or as a preliminary game to the copulation of a male with a female . An adult African elephant’s erect clitoris can measure over 16 inches (42 centimeters) , giving her lover plenty of room to stroke, rub, and suck with her trunk .
Specifically, the behavior between two females has not been observed so far in the wild, only in captive female elephants.
Dolphins use… other animals and objects
Many animals, such as primates, have hands that they can use to touch themselves or their companions. Elephants have a long trunk , and in other cases, the animals have some flexibility that allows them to access their genitals with their mouths . However, dolphins do not have any of these advantages .
And yet, they are animals with quite frequent masturbatory activity. Both male and female dolphins integrate masturbation as part of their games .
One of the ways to do it is as a couple —heterosexual or homosexual—, rubbing body against body , or even nose against genitals .
Although it is more common that they do it in another way. Most commonly , males rub against rocks smoothed by erosion, or against the seabed , for pleasure. Female dolphins have also been observed inserting and expelling rounded objects into their genitalia, thanks to the strong muscles of their vagina.
On other occasions they even employ other animals. There are, in fact, several observations of male dolphins masturbating using dead fish . Perhaps the most fascinating example is that of the Amazon river dolphins ( Inia geoffrensis ), in which males have been observed using the blowhole of another dolphin to masturbate! It is the only known case of nasal sex in the entire animal kingdom.
Bagemihl, B. 1999. Biological exuberance: animal homosexuality and naturaldiversity. St. Martin’s Press.Linden, D. J. 2014. The compass of pleasure: how our brains make fatty foods,orgasm, exercise, marijuana, generosity, vodka, learning, and gambling feelso good. Penguin Books.Zamboni, B. D. et al. 2003. Using Masturbation in Sex Therapy: Relationships Between Masturbation, Sexual Desire, and Sexual Fantasy. Journal ofPsychology & Human Sexuality, 14(2-3), 123-141. DOI: 10.1300/J056v14n02_08