October 23, 2021

The top masturbation question people had during the pandemic

May is National Masturbation Month, and we’re celebrating with Feeling Yourself, a series exploring the finer points of self-pleasure.


When in doubt, Google it.

Turning to a trusty search engine for answers to burning questions has been a popular practice for decades, but during the coronavirus pandemic people took informative Googling to a whole other level.

Since March 2020, when the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, people have searched unexpected germ-related questions like “How do I make my own hand sanitizer?” and “Do we still have to disinfect our groceries?” But over the past year we’ve also turned to Google for guidance on pandemic-related dating, sex, and masturbation.

In celebration of National Masturbation Month, we took a look back at the top masturbation-related questions people had during quarantine and found one common (slightly concerning!) trend.

After researching the term “masturbation” into Google Trends, we learned that between March 2020 and May 2021 people around the world were wondering if masturbation had any impact on their immune systems.

The top breakout masturbation-related query between March 2020 and May 2021.

The top breakout masturbation-related query between March 2020 and May 2021.

Image: google trends

“Masturbation affect immunity”

The top masturbation-related query on Google since March 2020 (both in the U.S. and worldwide) was “masturbation affect immunity.” The phrase was marked “Breakout,” which, per Google Trends, indicates that there was a signifiant increase in the search, “probably because these queries are new and had few (if any) prior searches.”

And the curiosity of a link between masturbation and immunity link didn’t stop there.

“Immune system” and “immunity” were also the top two masturbation-related topics searched in the U.S. and worldwide from March 2020 to May 2021, and a number of related queries that touched on the connection between masturbation and the immune system popped up as well.

The top masturbation question people had during the pandemic

Image: google trends

After searching the top 25 masturbation-related queries in the United States and worldwide from March 2020 to May 2021, we found that people also asked the following:

  • Does masturbation build immune system

  • Masturbation increases white blood cells

  • Does masturbation make you weak

  • Is masturbation healthy for women

  • Is masturbation harmful

  • Does masturbation lower blood pressure

  • Does masturbation reduce immunity

  • Can masturbation cause infection

Though we’ll never know what exactly inspired these searches, the fact that they took place during a global pandemic is a good indicator. It’s clear people were curious if masturbation was beneficial or harmful to their bodies. But because they wanted to know if masturbation could help them build immunity during a global pandemic, one could assume they were specifically inquiring as to whether or not masturbating could help build immunity against COVID-19.

An expert’s analysis

We reached out to Dr. Felice Gersh, an award-winning OB/GYN who specializes in women’s health, to ask about a possible link between masturbation and the immune system. She confirmed what we thought to be true: There hasn’t been enough research on the topic to confidently answer the question.

“I don’t think you’re going to get a definitive answer [because] it’s not a subject that has undergone any sort of real study,” Gersh said in a phone interview with Mashable.

For those wondering if masturbating will prevent you from contracting COVID-19, however, she can confidently say that’s not the case.

“You can’t say, ‘Oh my gosh, masturbation every day will prevent COVID.’ That’s definitely not going to happen.”

“You can’t say, ‘Oh my gosh, masturbation every day will prevent COVID.’ That’s definitely not going to happen,” she explained. “But you can say ‘It’s certainly not going to create harm.'”

While masturbation might not make you immune to COVID-19, Gersh noted that masturbating and having orgasms provide a slew of other mental and physical benefits for both men and women.

“For women, there are certainly physiological benefits to having an orgasm, even if you don’t have a partner,” Gersh explained. “It increases the output of oxytocin, which can reduce stress. There are also contractions of a pelvic floor muscle, which is good for pelvic floor health.”

“For some people, [masturbating] even helps them to fall asleep. And of course, we know insomnia is like at epidemic levels,” Gersh continued. “So it helps people to relax… and maybe in a world of pain, and stress, and worry, they just feel better for a few minutes — they feel a little bit calmer.”

Masturbating certainly benefits women, but Gersh says it’s crucial for men who aren’t sexually active to masturbate as well. 

“It’s really essential for men’s overall health that they get rid of old sperm through ejaculation. It’s really important for prostate health. So if they don’t have a partner, then that’s really what they should do,” she explained.

So what’s the verdict?

At the end of the day, Gersh has no reason to believe masturbation significantly impacts one’s immune system. She does, however, give everyone the green light to masturbate and encourages people to learn more about their bodies.

“I think the takeaway message is that there are no negatives from [masturbating].”

“You could self-monitor — that’s what all these little devices are for. Why don’t you see for yourself what happens with your pulse or your blood pressure? If you’re monitoring your sleep, look to see if you have more REM sleep after you do masturbation at night,” she said. “These are interesting questions, and each individual may have a unique response. So it’s worth doing a little self-hacking and seeing what your own individual response might be to masturbation.”

Ultimately, Gersh says, masturbation is healthy.

“I think the takeaway message is that there are no negatives from it,” she explained. “People shouldn’t feel guilty. They shouldn’t feel bad about it. It’s a natural thing.”

Just please don’t expect it to protect you from deadly diseases, OK? 

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