Masturbation is the sexual act involving the self-sexual stimulation of the genitals for sexual arousal or other sexual pleasure, usually to the point of orgasm. The stimulation can be performed using a hand or fingers, as well as everyday objects or a sex toy. Mutual masturbation, mutual manual stimulation of the genitals between partners, can be a substitute for sexual penetration.
Studies have found that masturbation is frequent in humans of both sexes and all ages, although there is variation. Various medical and psychological benefits have been attributed to a healthy attitude toward sexual activity in general and to masturbation in particular. No causal relationship is known between masturbation and any form of mental or physical disorder.
Masturbation has been depicted in art since prehistoric times and is mentioned and discussed in very early writings. In the 18th and 19th centuries, some European theologians and physicians described it as "heinous", "deplorable", and "hideous", but during the 20th century, these taboos generally declined. There has been an increase in discussion and portrayal of masturbation in art, popular music, television, films, and literature. Today, religions vary in their views of masturbation; some view it as a spiritually detrimental practice, some see it as not spiritually detrimental, and others take a situational view. The legal status of masturbation has also varied through history and masturbation in public is illegal in most countries.
In the West, masturbation in private or with a partner is generally considered a normal and healthy part of sexual enjoyment. Animal masturbation has been observed in many species, both in the wild and in captivity.