Whether you’re choking the chicken, spanking the monkey or flicking the bean, you’re engaging in the natural and healthy form of self-pleasure being highlighted this May with National Masturbation Month. Needless to say this makes it one of my favorite months of the year… as if I needed another reason to masturbate.

This year marks the 19th anniversary of the month-long awareness raising campaign started by San Francisco-based sex shop Good Vibrations. It began in 1995, shortly after Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was fired from her job for stating that masturbation should be part of sexual education for adolescents. They wanted to open up a dialogue about the importance of masturbation as part of healthy sexual exploration and help end some of the stigmas about it. Almost everyone in the world masturbates, many of us on a regular basis, but no one was really talking about it in an open and shameless matter.

Historically, masturbation was a degrading act believed to cause exhaustion and weakness while depleting the body of the precious, seemingly finite resource of sperm. While science has helped to dispel that myth, masturbation is still seen in some circles as an immature substitute for so-called “real” aka partnered sex instead of a natural part of a person’s sexual life.

Using the cheeky hashtag #maywerub on social media, Good Vibrations is sharing tips and interesting facts about the importance of self-love. In the spirit of fun facts, here are some of the prime benefits of masturbation:NationalMasturbationMonth2

1 – It’s safe, incredibly fun and free!

Sexual pleasure is something that is innate in each and every one of us, and masturbation is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to indulge in this. It’s also the ultimate form of safe sex, seeing as you can’t get pregnant or catch an STI from masturbation (mutual masturbation, or masturbation with a partner is also very low risk although any time there are fluids and exposed genitals, the risk of catching something, however nominal it may be, is present)

2 – Increased sexual awareness of your own body helps with other kinds of sex

Ultimately, no one knows your body and how it likes to be touched better than you do. Watching your partner masturbate can let you in on all the little secrets and tricks of their body. Also women who reach orgasm via masturbation have been known to have an easier time letting go with a partner.

3 – Relives depression and boosts immune system

There’s nothing better than a big, crashing orgasm on particularly stressful day. The deepening contraction of the muscles and that feeling of letting go and surrendering to the waves of endorphins have been known to relieve depression. Additionally, the post orgasm release of the hormone cortisol helps to boost the immune system, keeping you healthy enough for rounds two, three and four, and so on.

4 – Reduces risk of prostate cancer

A 2003 study found the men who ejaculated frequently (five times a week) reduced their risk of prostate cancer by up to 33%. Now if only you’d had that statistic under your belt that time your mom caught you in the shower…