A comment by the Jane the Virgin star puts the spotlight on a sex-related issue that's a lot more common than you'd think.

July 28, 2017

On her hit show Jane the Virgin, Gina Rodriguez plays a woman struggling to balance her sexuality with a cultural background that values purity. Now the actress is opening up about a similar personal struggles off-screen.

In an interview with Bust, Rodriguez reveals her history of complicated feelings when it comes to self-pleasure. “In all honesty, I used to feel guilty for masturbating,” she says. “Oh my God, this extreme guilt! And that lasted way too long. Or maybe I masturbated too much!”

RELATED: 7 Foods for Better Sex

But since then, the actress has changed her views on solo sex. “It’s okay to look back in retrospect and be like, it wasn't good that I felt bad about touching myself,” Rodriguez says.

While it's totally healthy and normal to masturbate, many women share the same problem as Rodriguez, shying away from self-stimulation because of the guilt they associate with it. To understand where these feelings are coming from, we reached out to Ian Kerner, PhD, a psychotherapist and sexuality counselor in New York City. 

“When I encounter shame or guilt [from masturbation], it's often from people from more conservative backgrounds,” Kerner tells Health

Cultural tradition isn't the only thing keeping many women from enjoying self-love. Some say no to solo sessions because they’re ashamed of what they’re fantasizing about, says Kerner. If a woman in a relationship has fantasies about someone other than her partner, her shame may prevent her from stimulating herself. “Sometimes it's the physical act of masturbation that's guilt-provoking, and sometimes it's the fantasy that induces guilt,” Dr. Kerner explains.

RELATED: How to Have Hotter Sex

Why does masturbation guilt take hold, even in a society that sends increasingly positive messages about sex and body acceptance? Kerner thinks it has to do with our need for privacy. Since most women approach masturbation as a private act, they can be embarrassed or ashamed to discuss it, even if they understand that self-love is perfectly normal.

Guilt can be a useful feeling, says Kerner, but guilt over masturbation is super unhealthy. To overcome it, he recommends experimenting with body exploration. “I would also encourage women to take the time to fantasize and to connect fantasy with the experience of touch,” suggests Dr. Kerner. The world is at your fingertips—literally.