20/03/2015 13:06 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 06:59 BST

Ten Things You Need to Know Before You Joke About Masturbation

1. Despite scientific consensus that masturbation is normal, safe and healthy, it is rarely, if ever, alluded to in sex education. Research shows that young people view masturbation as "taboo", "dirty", "a cause of embarrassment", "a joke" and a "substitute for proper sex" (Watson & McKee, 2013)

2. Supporting positive attitudes towards masturbation is important because the explorative aspects of solo sex allow young people to gain a better understanding of their own bodies and their sexual desires.

3. Research shows that women who masturbate have "higher levels of sexual subjectivity and feel more entitled to sexual pleasure through masturbation, are more efficacious in achieving pleasure, and reflect more on the sexual aspects of their lives" than those who don't masturbate (Hogarth and Ingham, 2009).

4. However, women are, and always have been, reluctant to masturbate. In fact, a wealth of research has consistently confirmed that masturbation is the biggest difference in sexual behavior between men and women.

5. The discrepancy was first identified in the 1950's when Alfred Kinsey's research revealed that 92% of men masturbated, compared to 58% of women.

6. Those figures have been revised downwards several times since. In 2007, Aniruddha Das from the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center at the University of Chicago studied data on masturbation from the National Health and Social Life Survey. He found that 61% of men and 38% of women aged 18-60 reported masturbating in the preceding year.

7. Research into self-report of sexual activity has indicated that males tend to over-report whereas females tend to under-report (Alexander & Fisher, 2003).

8. Because masturbation has previously been considered taboo, it is possible that women have historically under reported this behavior because they felt that it might not be in keeping with social expectations for their gender.

9. In 2010, Debbie Herbenick from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, conducted a large-scale study of sexual behavior which included questions on masturbation. She found that 55.7% of men and 28.3% of women aged 50-59 had masturbated in the last month.

10. Those figures are roughly in line with Das' 2007 data, but Herbenick's study offers some reassurance that in people under thirty, attitudes towards masturbation are changing and the gender gap is finally narrowing. In her study, data from younger people contrasts dramatically with her findings for older people; 68.6% of men and 51.7% of women aged 25- 29 had masturbated in the last month.