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Masturbation is the safest form of sex, not abstinence

Why doesn’t public school sex ed focus more on masturbation as a form of risk-free sexual activity?

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Image Credits: Alexa Tarrayo

Eighth grade me watched in amusement as the girl on the TV screen pushed her boyfriend away. “Abstinence is the safest form of sex,” the narrator’s voice boomed through the speakers, and the message began to settle in the sex ed class. After high school, it stayed with me for a long time. For the next five years, “abstinence” was my automatic answer when someone asked about the safest form of sex. I realized only recently that masturbation might actually be the safest method of sex, and that abstinence is not a form of sex at all.  

I realized this a few months ago, when I read someone’s rant on the Internet about abstinence. The author was complaining about the amount of focus abstinence gets in sex education, even though it’s not even a type of sex. Being abstinent means that a person won’t engage in sexual activity — with anyone, including themselves. Doesn’t that disqualify abstinence as a sexual act?

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that abstinence is a great way to avoid both getting pregnant or catching an STI. A person won’t catch anything if they don’t have sex, just like they won’t get hit by a car if they don’t walk down the street.

But is there a way to relieve oneself of sexual thirst without being contaminated?

Uh, yeah: masturbation. I am shocked at how little we talk about masturbation as a safe sexual practice, because the simple matter of fact is that no one can catch a disease simply by masturbating, nor can they get pregnant. However, masturbation is still a type of sex, and it’s probably the only type of sex that is 100 percent STI-free.

No one can catch a disease simply by masturbating, nor can they get pregnant.

Why, then, aren’t we talking more about masturbation in sex education classes?

Maybe it’s because many public school sex education programs are concentrated more on protection than pleasure. If there needs to be a conversation about abstinence, there doesn’t need to be a lot of talk about pleasure. Just don’t have sex. Conversation over.

If students follow these instructions, they’re safe. They won’t catch an STI, and they won’t be popping out babies. If they don’t want to follow the instructions, then they’re already educated enough on forms of sexual protection, so at least they’ll be safe. And masturbation? It’s an untapped resource just left on the sidelines.

As an enthusiastic supporter of sexual pleasure, I’m bothered by this. Learning about abstinence is helpful — it could be the right thing for some people, and it’s great that they will have this information. However, parading abstinence around as the only form of safe sex completely overlooks the fact that masturbation allows people to engage in safe sex.

I would love to see masturbation become more of a conversation topic in public school, and eventually be taught alongside abstinence as an option for those who are trying to avoid STIs and children. In the meantime, all we can do is argue about the state of our sex ed, and masturbate.

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