Editor’s note: Sex and relationship advice columnist Yana Tallon-Hicks is currently on maternity leave. While she’s gone, we’re reprinting some of her best columns of the past several years, and are looking forward to her return in September. In the mean time, she’s still interested in getting your questions about sex, relationships, pregnancy, and after-baby, too.

Originally published May 19, 2012

Women and queer people masturbating solo is practically unseen, unheard, and unacknowledged by pop culture representations of sex. Big whoop? Big whoop! Without representation, it’s harder for folks with vaginas to feel like they deserve pleasure, can access pleasure, or see their pleasure normalized by having it reflected back to them.

Practicing on ourselves, for ourselves, is an important part of our holistic sex lives. So, call it jilling off or muffin’ buffin’, or keep it proper like Oprah and call it “self-cultivating,” but here are 15 reasons to drop trow, lick those beat-spinning fingers and DJ your own pants dance. Right here. Right now.

1.) Orgasms help prevent cervical infections and can relieve existing vaginal discomforts such as UTIs. The cervix contracts during the big (or little) “O”, releasing trapped, stagnant fluids (yuck!), flushing the cervix and vagina with fresh fluids and promoting the growth of healthy bacteria.

2.) Apparently it cultivates the self.

3.) It beats counting sheep. Leading up to orgasm, the happy hormone dopamine is released, followed quickly by a post-climactic shot of oxytocin, which is basically an organic, naturally-occurring sleeping pill.

4.) Because you’re watching any porn, any porn at all, that stars Jiz Lee.

5.) It keeps your vagina… perky! A long self-loving session increases your pelvic floor’s strength, leading to later-life incontinence prevention, great birthing preparation, a tighter vaginal squeeze and more frequent, multiple and stronger orgasms. While pelvic-toning beads like Luna Balls or Je Joue Ami beads are all the sexual maintenance rage, rubbing one (or more) out is cheaper and probably easier than sticking walnut-sized orbs up your you-know.

6.) Because you just woke up from a sex dream and that, in my opinion, is the best possible time.

7.) It improves your mood and relieves stress. Show me a grouchy person worrying about their credit card bill payments post-masturbation. You can’t.

8.) No strings attached! My second favorite word after “masturbate” is “master-plan.” I’m nowhere near writing off our partners, but sometimes a quick, efficient handful of self-induced orgasms is just what the neurotic go-getter doctor in me prescribes when the dayplanner is looking packed. No foreplay. No cuddling. No reciprocation. No democratic sex-toy voting process. Just a selfish five minutes and you’re good to go.

9.) Orgasms can relieve PMS symptoms and tension headaches and decrease menstrual cramps.

10.) No risk of STIs or pregnancy!

11.) It’s quality you-time. Masturbating puts us literally in touch with our own bodies and sexualities, making it the perfect way to learn new things about ourselves sexually, explore new fantasies and feel sexy during a particular mirror-avoiding phase.

12.) Because you got your hands on Ryan Gosling’s cover issue of GQmagazine. (C’mon, I know that one’s not just me).

13.) For those struggling with harnessing their “O” during partner play, reaching for the multiple gold, or trying to find the little bugger at all, practice makes perfect.

14.) It increases your libido. For many, giving yourself a cookie when you’ve got a sexual partner to feed it to you seems unnecessary. Too many partnered people see masturbating alone as “wasting it” on yourself, as if orgasms are literally cookies and you’ve only got a limited stash that you should share.

Psshhh. Especially during a dry spell, masturbating can take the sexual tension out of an already tense sexual relationship, it can get your mind (and that of your partner) rightfully in the gutter (especially if you let them know of your dirty deeds via text), and it quite literally gets the juices flowing, giving you the final little push you need to fall back into the sack with your sweetie.

15.) Whether you’ve just masturbated, haven’t in years or never have before, do it now — if not for the 14 perfectly good reasons above, just because you’re one of hopefully many people who reads this column and we could all have an epically good week in the Valley, starting today.

Seriously, do it.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.