Stress can wait, masturbate

Masturbation should not be viewed as forbidden or inappropriate, but as the key to success

Janna Marnell, Creative Director

Masturbation is not something people want to talk about. We almost expect men to do it, but what about the women who have to keep their pleasure on the down low? Masturbation has existed since basically forever. The great American author, Mark Twain, even said, “Give me masturbation or give me death” in his lesser-known novella ,“On Masturbation.” 

As college students, we tend to indulge in risky behaviors like recreational drugs and alcohol to alleviate stress. Some students turn to sex for relief, but this can be particularly risky and comes with the potential to contract and spread sexually transmitted infections (STI) and cause unwanted pregnancies.

The magical question: What is a cheap, easy way to reduce stress that doesn’t encourage students to engage in risky behaviors? 


Graphic made by Janna Marnell

When comparing college campuses on television to Quinnipiac’s campus culture, we can see similar trends of students abusing marijuana, ADHD medication and alcohol to reduce stress or for artificial focus to fuel all-nighters at the library. 

The “simple” advice for college students to get through their four-year degrees is by meditating daily, relieving stress with hobbies off campus or going to New Haven conveniently shutting our brains off. But who has time for that? When students have to focus on upcoming exams and projects that they haven’t worked on because they’re  drowning in other assignments –– there’s no time to meditate. Not to mention the part-time jobs and the sleep students’ need.

According to a 2001 independent study from Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, only 11% of college students consistently sleep well. 

Quinnipiac University has 7,425 undergraduate students, that translates to roughly 814 students who consistently sleep well. 

According to, adults ages 18 to 64 are supposed to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation symptoms begin to show in college students who get fewer than suggested. These symptoms include mood swings, depression, irritability and lack of motivation. Loss or lack of sleep can also alter students’ attention and the ability to focus, which can cause accidents like car crashes.

But students don’t have to search far for a solution, the answer is just behind a closed door. Sexual exploration like masturbation can benefit not just students but everyone’s busy life.

 “Studies have shown that sexual intercourse can also improve sleep,” according to “After an orgasm, the body also releases higher levels of a hormone called prolactin, which is known to play a key role in sleep.”

Prolactin and oxytocin, a hormone released after orgasms, can decrease the effects of high cortisol levels, which can cause increased stress levels. Prolactin can also raise dopamine levels which helps with sleep and decreases pain. 

Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) and sex therapists agree that masturbation encourages a healthy lifestyle, according to

Kelley Kitely, the LCSW and Chicago-based women’s mental health expert, encourages readers to remember the best orgasm, or non-orgasmic, experiences they’ve ever had. Then remember what they were thinking in that exact moment. She emphasized that the thought was not about the stress of a job or a to-do list. Sex and masturbation can help alleviate stress and focus on pleasure.

Board certified clinical sexologist, Debra Laino Ph.D, also said orgasms can improve behavior and lifestyle. 

“Orgasm issues often have their roots in stress, anxiety and negative self-talk. Leave all stress at the (bedroom) door by doing something that relaxes you,” Laino said. “You can try yoga, meditation or whatever gets you in the zone. That should prep you (and your libido) for anything.”

Brown University’s student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, did its own research. Since discussing masturbation can be uncomfortable and private to the respondents, the newspaper kept its polls anonymous.

Through anonymous polls, the Brown Daily Herald found that 26% of students said they masturbate once or twice a week, while 17% of students masturbate three to five times a week.  

Graphic made by Janna Marnell

Cosmopolitan independent writer, Krista McHarden, documented her own experience in, “I Masturbated Every Morning Before Work, and Wow, Was It Amazing.”

Every morning McHarden would masturbate before work and said she felt instant relief. She said some mornings she wanted to crawl back into bed after.

Before she began the experiment, McHarden said she was too stressed to remember her orgasms, even with her husband. But by the end, McHarden noticed her posture improved and her increase in confidence. When bad things happened, she didn’t go to the bathroom to cry, but hoisted herself up and confidently finished her day. 

Masturbation should not be taboo, especially for women. McHarden’s self research shows that masturbation can clear the mind and even help with posture, which can improve anyone’s stressful day, making them more productive and confident.

As college students, sex can be especially risky, and comes with the potential to contract and spread sexually transmitted infections (STI) and cause unwanted pregnancies.

Some sex education programs preach abstinence as the best form of birth control. Nonetheless, not having a partner won’t stop you from feeling the bliss of relief. You can masturbate.

And choosing not to masturbate is totally cool, too. But some of the alleged downsides or side effects of masturbation are myths — hairy palms, blindness and infertility — and have been proven false by various studies. 

These stereotypes can cause people who grew up with strong cultural or religious beliefs to feel guilty after masturbation. But remember, masturbation should not be a shameful act, but rather a self-positive experience. 

That is not to say there are no negative effects of masturbation. Excessive masturbation, for example, can cause decreased sexual sensitivity. 

However, learning how your body works can improve your confidence with your body. Through masturbation you discover what you like and do not like. You can learn how to love every inch of yourself. This self-confidence can have a big impact in college and beyond.

In “On Masturbation,” Twain’s character, Queen Elizabeth, called masturbation a “bulwark” or the security of virginity. Twain also quotes the immortal Franklin expression, “masturbation is the best policy.”

Masturbation should not be considered bad or dangerous — but rather stress-relieving and a natural way to improve sleep, especially for college students.

The next time you are feeling overwhelmed about that big exam or five-page essay, remember that you have a helping hand.