Without a doubt, this is a very sensitive topic and issue. Our goal here is not to make anyone feel uncomfortable but rather to answer as honestly and medically as possible the questions you may have had about masturbation.
According to an analysis of Indiana University’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) FiveThirtyEight, 71.5% of women and 81.5% of men from age 25-29 in the United States masturbate at least once a year (1). Another research found that among adolescents aged 14–17 years in the United States, around 74% of males and 48% of females masturbate (2). Among older adults, roughly 63% of men and 32% of women between 57 and 64 years masturbate (3).
So, to answer your first question, no, you’re not alone.
What is Masturbation?
Masturbation means to stimulate by touch or feel your genitals to get sexual pleasure which may lead to an orgasm or not. There are a number of reasons why people masturbate. They include fun, pleasure, stress release, and as part of foreplay during sexual intercourse with a partner.
How true are the myths about masturbation?
There are a lot of myths and stories surrounding masturbation that have not been proven. There’s no scientific evidence that shows that masturbation will cause blindness, hairy palms, impotence much later in life, shrinkage of the penis, curving of the penis, mental illness, low sperm count, or infertility.
Perhaps the most damaging myth of all is that masturbation (for couples) is a pointer to the fact that something must be wrong in your relationship.
The fact is that most guys masturbate (4). They masturbate if they’re single, in a bad relationship, or in a great relationship. It’s just something they do that has nothing to do with their partners.
Masturbation isn’t only about sex, Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., a sexologist and sex educator says. For many, it’s a routine way of relieving stress, clearing your head before work, or going to sleep. And as a matter of fact, it can help your sex life, because you can discover what you like during sex.
What’s the right way to masturbate?
There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do this. Some guys use their hands, some guys suck on their penises, and some have a partner do it for them. Whatever makes you feel the most alive and comfortable is fine.
How often should I masturbate?
This would vary from person to person and is determined by each person’s sex drive. Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., a sexologist and sex educator, says, “guys can get hung up on whether they masturbate too much. But it’s not how many times you masturbate in a week (or day) that really matters. It’s how it fits into your life.”
Suppose you masturbate many times a day and have a healthy, satisfying life, good for you. But if you masturbate many times a day and you’re missing work or giving up on sex with your partner because of it, consider seeing a sex therapist. (4)
As a general rule, you should listen to your body and masturbate only when you want to and not because it has become a duty or pastime. It is possible to become addicted to it, and addiction of any kind is not ideal.
If you find that you’re addicted to masturbation, next time you have the urge, you could try: going for a run, writing in a journal, spending time with friends or in public spaces, or going for a walk. Anything to get your mind off things would be helpful.
Can masturbation help to get better orgasms?
Definitely! Whether or not you’re partnered up, masturbation can help us learn a lot about our bodies and discover our sexual needs, desires, and pleasures. It’s one of the best ways to feel sexual, and it’s an exceptional opportunity to really understand your physical body on a deeper level while exploring various things that may help or enhance orgasm (9). This can also lead to experiencing new sensations that you’ve not had before.
Does masturbation have the same health benefits as sex?
Masturbation doesn’t have the health benefits that sex does (4). Tobias S. Köhler, MD, MPH, an associate professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, says that “it appears that not all orgasms are created equally.” (4)
Study after study shows that intercourse has all sorts of benefits for men — for your blood pressure, heart and prostate health, pain, and more (4). You’d think that masturbation would, too. But it doesn’t.
No one is sure why but interestingly, the makeup of semen is different if you masturbate from when you have sex (4).
Does masturbation have any risks?
If any, it’s low-risk, and this is because it’s the safest form of sex possible. No one ever gave themselves an STD or got themselves pregnant by masturbating. But like other low-risk activities (eating, taking a walk), it still has some risks.
Frequent or rough masturbation can cause minor skin irritation. Forcefully bending an erect penis can rupture the chambers that fill with blood, a rare but gruesome condition called penile fracture (4).
Köhler has seen guys with it after vigorous masturbation. “Afterward, the penis looks like an eggplant,” he says. “It’s purple and swollen.” Most men need surgery to repair it (4).
Does masturbation have any side effects?
Masturbation is harmless. Some people may experience chafing or tender skin if they are too rough, but this will usually heal in a few days (3).
Edema is a slight swelling of the penis, and it can happen if you masturbate too frequently and within a short window of time. This doesn’t last forever and typically disappears within a couple of days.
The other potential side effects will vary from person to person, and a few include:
This is more prone to happen to people who worry that masturbating conflicts with their religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs. Dr. Allan Schwartz states that in his psychotherapy practice, he has found that the sexual fantasies that accompany masturbation are the real source of the guilty feelings and not the act in itself.
If you feel guilty, it might help to discuss with a friend, healthcare professional, counselor, or therapist that specializes in sexual health. You would then be able to move past any feelings of guilt or shame that have been connected with masturbation.
Reduced sexual sensitivity
Aggressive or excessive masturbation techniques may lead to reduced sexual sensitivity (3). If you usually grab your penis too tightly while masturbating, you could experience a decreased sensation compared to what you normally experience. This is easily fixed by changing the way you get off.
Men who use an enhanced stimulator like a penis pump (the Penomet, for example) were reported to have improved erectile function (3).
The answers are not yet available as to whether masturbation increases or decreases the risk of prostate cancer. Researchers need to conduct more studies before they can reach a conclusion.
A 2003 study demonstrated that men who ejaculated more than five times each week during their twenties were one-third less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer than those who ejaculated less often (6). Researchers speculate that the reduced risk was because frequent ejaculation may prevent the build-up of cancer-causing agents in the prostate gland.
A similar link between frequent ejaculation and a lower risk of prostate cancer was discovered in a 2016 study (7). Researchers found that men who ejaculated 21 times per month or more had a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.
In contrast, a 2008 study found that frequent sexual activity during a man’s 20s and 30s increased his risk of prostate cancer, especially if he masturbated regularly (8)
Here are some masturbation tips:
- Wash your hands before touching your nether regions. Hygiene is very important, even while masturbating. You don’t want to spread germs to your penis, you should keep it healthy.
- To make your experience more comfortable, use a lubricant. Using a good lubricant will help to reduce friction, which will prevent tears and cuts in your skin.
- If you’ll use toys, be sure to clean them after every use. Bacteria can build up in them, causing an infection. If you share your toys with your partner or multiple partners, let them use a condom with it. If you use a condom, you don’t have to clean the toy after every use. Read the instructions on the package for how to clean your toy.
Remember, don’t share sex toys with multiple partners without cleaning or using new condoms every time. STDs can be passed through toys.
Masturbation is not new, uncommon, or strange behavior. Basically, when you masturbate, what you’re doing is stimulating your genitals for sexual pleasure.
Everybody has a reason they do this, and the reasons are as different as the people involved. In a nutshell, masturbation is a healthy, natural, and safe way to practice self-care and improve your health.
Masturbating may have many benefits for your mind and body. Despite the possibility of addiction, there are no harmful side effects.
Virtually all the myths about masturbation are false, and if you’re experiencing something unusual, it’s a good idea to seek medical help.
Like with most anything, it can become a habit and eventually an addiction. If you find yourself generally missing out on life because you’re getting ‘me-time,’ you should definitely cut back.