Menu
STI Clinic Finder >

Masturbation

Masturbation is a medium-risk activity for most sexually transmitted infections when practised between partners (mutual masturbation), but is a no risk activity if you do it alone.

Want to know how to reduce the health risks from masturbation? You're in the right place.

What is masturbation?

Masturbation means using your hands to stimulate your genitals or your partner's genitals. 

Many people masturbate on their own – it’s a good way to find out what you do and don’t like and where you like to be touched.

Partners can masturbate each other in turn or at the same time (mutual masturbation) or masturbate themselves while the other person watches.

What are the risks from masturbation?

Masturbating alone is normal and common and there is no risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection - despite rumours it won’t send you blind or give you spots either!

Some people masturbate whilst watching pornography (porn), if you do this make sure what you are accessing is legal and remember porn isn't real and you shouldn't expect real sex to be like the things you see in films.

It is possible to become addicted to masturbation. If you feel like you're losing control, or the need to masturbate is interfering with your everyday life or is causing injury to your genitals then you should cut down. If you are finding it hard to cut down then seek help from your GP or sexual health clinic.

If you masturbate your partner, there is a risk that any viruses or bacteria on your hands could be passed to your partner, especially if they have dirty hands or finger nails or have touched their own genitals. 

You don't need to touch your own genitals for this to happen - many infections can get into the body just as easily though the mouth or eyes or through any cuts, sores, or areas of damaged skin.

The longer masturbation goes on, the greater the risk that the skin on or around the genitals will become damaged. This makes it easier for infections to enter the bloodstream.

Visit the clinic to read more about sexually transmitted infections (STIs

How to reduce the risks from masturbation?

The risks of catching an STI through mutual masturbation can be reduced if both partners:

  • Use a condom or female condom
  • Be careful not to spill any semen or vaginal fluids
  • Use plenty of condom-friendly lubrication
  • Avoid touching the eyes, mouth, nose or any broken skin

It's very important also to wash your hands carefully with soap before touching your genitals, mouth or eyes if you've been masturbating your partner, or touching your partner's genitals, mouth or eyes if you've been masturbating yourself.

Both partners should wash thoroughly after masturbation and clean up any spillages.

What are the safer sex alternatives to mutual masturbation?

Sexting and online sex are both less risky in terms of sexually transmitted infections than mutual masturbation.

Find out more about safer sex alternatives.

back to top