Masturbation

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Don't dismiss masturbation myths!

Dear Reader,

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, or worse yet, dismissive of your concerns, the real "harm" here is not physical. It's all the worry, shame, and conflict attached to masturbation by so many men, women, and children, thanks to negative associations with all kinds of sex — done by one's self and with others. These messages come from so many influential places — often for most of one's lifetime. It may not be true for you, but this cloud that hangs over many masturbators might send some looking for physical "harm" from this popular practice. It can be a way of justifying any bad feelings and beliefs about masturbation that might never allow going it alone totally okay.

That said, your "blame-it-on-masturbation" reasoning is understandable. If one sprouts hair in "strange" places, sports dark circles under the eyes, and says goodbye to those always reliable erections during and after stretches of solo-sex, one could easily conclude that these unwanted reactions came on as a result of whacking off. Then, could it not also be said that hair loss, far-sightedness, and love handles also owe it to masturbation? And what about greater self-confidence, career changes, and the urge to buy property? The point: is it possible that all of these occurrences stem from something besides genital stimulation? Might aging also be the culprit?

It may not come up 'round the copier and coffee table, but many twenty- and thirtysomethings now include unsightly nose and ear hair plucking in their regular grooming routine. They'd also put down difficulty with getting it up and keeping it there as a getting older symptom. Bags under the eyes? Yep, that's on the list, too.

If you're not convinced that masturbation doesn't play a direct role in the physical "consequences" that you're now experiencing, how about conducting an experiment? Masturbate less often, or refrain from doing it for a few months, and see if your symptoms disappear. NOTE: not "relieving" yourself for an extended period of time may lead to other unwanted physical and psychological situations, including irritability, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and wet dreams. Now, it is possible that any stress, guilt, disgust, etc. with your personal sex play is making it harder to get and stay hard — these feelings are frequently powerful obstructions to sexual arousal. Also, if you're masturbating past your bedtime, dark circles may stare back at you the next morning.

It sounds as though you've read at least some of the archived Q&As on this subject; for those who have not, below is a partial selection, with some varied perspectives on the big M.

Alice

May 9, 2004

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Dear Alice, I have masturbated since I was a child and still continue to do it today with no ill effects to my health. I am now sixty-six years old and find that I still enjoy it. I have had medical...
Dear Alice, I have masturbated since I was a child and still continue to do it today with no ill effects to my health. I am now sixty-six years old and find that I still enjoy it. I have had medical problems due to colon cancer and it has left me with an erection problem while having sexual intercourse with my wife; however, I find that although I lose my erection while inside my wife, I can achieve an erection by masturbating. My wife encourages me to do so to avoid frustration. As I said, I find masturbation to be both enjoyable and an outlet for my tensions. I have never tried to hide the fact that I am a masturbator. There's an old saying that says: "Ninety per cent of all men masturbate, the other ten per cent are liars."

December 7, 2001

20391
Dear Alice, Amen to you for your "blame-it-on-masturbation" response. I learned a while ago what life was like without masturbation when I fell and broke both wrists. Being a healthy male with...
Dear Alice, Amen to you for your "blame-it-on-masturbation" response. I learned a while ago what life was like without masturbation when I fell and broke both wrists. Being a healthy male with apparently normal sex drive, I nearly went nuts without the ability to slam the old digit (I was sadly single at the time, too). I could have hurt myself dearly with some of the ways I tried to get some relief. Not only did my aging process triple its rate, but I also gained weight and became a miserable person to be around. Since I've had my wings back in working order, I have returned to a normal and well-balanced individual who enjoys masturbation for stress relief and recreation. I know for certain that some people have no need for masturbation or sex. My wife, for example... sign me, "King of the Tallywackers by Necessity"

Pumping pillow with penis for pleasure?

Dear N.B.,

You're welcome, and thank you for reading.

Pretending that pillows are sex partners, or getting intimate with them because they're soft, warm, form fitting, and always available, is probably as normal and common as changing the sheets and putting on pajamas. Equally normal is "making love" to the mattress, the ol' penis between the mattress and box spring trick, and humping the whole damn bed! And these masturbation options aren't exclusive and exciting to guys; women do their fair share of rubbing, bouncing, and squeezing, too.

Although beds can be a bountiful source of stimulation, varying one's modes of masturbation is important, to have more than one way to orgasm and/or ejaculate. Indeed, hands are handy, and you can use them in many different ways: applying differing amounts of pressure, using your less dominant hand, moving at different speeds or changing the rhythm, using lotion or lube, etc. This way, if/when one has sex with another person, his or her body will be more likely to respond to the more varied kinds of stimulation.

Hats off and sweet dreams to all who masturbate "out of the box." You know that hands will certainly suffice, but the bed, bath, and beyond can be really, really nice — for a change.

Alice

How do you spell relief without masturbating?

Dear Reader,

Since your sexual tension may, understandably, be mixed with the emotional weight of your spouse's absences, an ongoing dialogue with him about how his time away affects you might ease some of your load. And don't wait to chat when he's home -- use the Internet as a vehicle for frequent conversations if he has easy access. If plain loneliness is part of his travel fallout, think about increasing your contact with friends, relatives, and others who may be in your same boat.

On the physical side of the divide, massage immediately comes to mind. Since longing for your husband's intimate touch is surely tied up in your sexual tension, a professional rub down might just satisfy some of your "skin hunger." No, a licensed massage therapist (LMT) won't (and shouldn't) maneuver like your Colonel, but massage therapy can serve up the right combination of touch and tension relief to get you through his tours of duty. For more info on how to find a masseur or masseuse in your area -- including ones for military wives on a budget - read Seeks massage therapist in Alice's General Health archive.

Yoga, meditation, tai chi, and other attention-focusing practices may bring you mental and physical peace, dissipating your sexual strain by releasing your bottled-up energy and directing it elsewhere. Merely relaxing and getting your mind off of, well, getting off will no doubt result from these kinds of techniques. For that matter, a hobby or volunteering could do the same. Good old-fashioned exercise is an option, too -- nothing like a hundred push-ups or a run in the park to spend the sexual energy. Even some sensual Latin, Mediterranean, or freestyle dancing in the privacy of your living room could do the trick. Alice would be A.W.O.L. if she didn't say that it's possible for all of these suggestions to produce the opposite of the desired effect, sending your urges to even higher altitudes.

If, for you, masturbation means self-stimulation that includes orgasm, then would self-stimulation that stops or pauses before climax be an option? It is possible to be satisfied sexually even if you decide to forgo the "big O." Another alternative is self-massage, using lotion or during a hot bath or steamy shower. After you've pondered or pursued these suggestions along with your own ideas, you may conclude that finding a release valve equal to private time with your husband is mission impossible. But this doesn't mean that answering and enjoying your natural desires can't be a mission accomplished.

Alice

June 15, 2007

21249

Dear Alice,

Don't forget casual touches!

If you have a group of friends that you're close to, just sharing some small touches, like hugs, handshakes, and general brushes against each...

Dear Alice,

Don't forget casual touches!

If you have a group of friends that you're close to, just sharing some small touches, like hugs, handshakes, and general brushes against each other can be a great relief. I notice that contact of any kind is desired when we're lonely, whether it's sex or just good conversation with a friend. Having a good time with friends can make you feel a lot less lonely, and sometimes help stave off that extra tension.

Masturbation inhibits growth?

Dear Reader,

Nope, masturbation does not stunt growth. Neither your penis or vulva, nor any other part of your body, including your height, is affected. Masturbation also does not cause blindness, hairy palms, or insanity, as some people have heard.

In fact, masturbation is normal and even healthy! While masturbation can be many different things to many different people, typically, it causes pleasurable, soothing, exciting, orgasmic, and, ultimately, relaxing sensations.

For more information on masturbation, check out the Go Ask Alice! masturbation archives.

Love,

Alice

Masturbating friends

Dear Masturbating friends,

It’s terrific that you have a friend with whom you may be yourself and explore your personal needs. Your question’s a great example of individuals being comfortable with their own sexuality. So, yes, simultaneous self-stimulation, also known as mutual masturbation, is "normal," natural, healthy, and safe whatever your sexual orientation, gender, or age.

It’s very common for someone in her or his late teens and early twenties to explore and define her or his sexual identity. This may include experimenting, either by yourself or with someone else, to discover what feels good and what doesn’t. As long as your sofa squirting doesn't surf from an occasional sideline sport to a full-time hobby that preempts work, school, exercise, dating, or any other activities from which you might benefit, playing with your remotes will likely bring you continued high ratings.

It may often seem like some moral, social, or ethical rules prohibit or shun masturbation (including the idea of touching yourself in the presence of others), but it isn’t considered abnormal, harmful or illegal as long as it’s consensual and done in a private space (i.e., someone’s home, and not a shopping mall, school, or any other public place). If those rules are followed, you may rest assured that it’s still okay to play with your friends, even if you’re not a kid anymore!

Alice

February 4, 2000

20339

Alice,

I'd like to respond to MASTURBATING FRIENDS. I too routinely masturbated in the company of friends from a young age. I thought it was normal. I stopped...

Alice,

I'd like to respond to MASTURBATING FRIENDS. I too routinely masturbated in the company of friends from a young age. I thought it was normal. I stopped when I went to college and began to wonder if it was normal and doubted myself. I masturbate a lot and so it was no wonder that in my first year my roommate caught me. Rather than being shocked, he apologized and asked that I go on as if he wasn't there. After seeing me enjoy myself, he got hard and asked if I wouldn't mind if he too masturbated. We now masturbate openly and sometimes mutually yet we are still straight.

Optimizing solo-sex

Dear Minute Waltz Boy,

You are not a Minute Boy — you are a Five Minute Man. What's wrong with that? Rather than quantifying your solo-sex as a set number of seconds, try to think about how great it makes you feel. This way, instead of worrying about a five minute countdown, you can enjoy every second of tantilizing sensation. What pleasure you'll get!

Second, it seems that those five minutes of heaven are pre-filled with anticipation and excitement. How could you expect to last any longer than that, given these parameters? Perhaps you'd like to stay in the ring for a couple of rounds. You can designate the first time to just getting your rocks off, in the best and quickest five minutes possible. Then, you can go for it again! Time number two is the time to change hands, try it with lube, change your fantasy, change your stroke, and/or change your touch points, not touching the good spots as often or as hard. Or, you can tell yourself to try to come as fast as you can and see what happens. The main point is that the more times you do it "in one sitting," the longer it usually takes to orgasm the second and third times. This goes for partner sex, too.

Last, but not least, you can try the shower, where there is more privacy. Try using soap as a lube to go to town as much as you want... minus any evidence.

Alice

Morality of masturbation

Dear Reader,

Biologically and psychologically speaking, masturbation is as right and normal as sneezing, coughing, laughing, eating, and yawning. It carries no health risks but does carry benefits. It can help alleviate insomnia, get you in touch with what turns you on sexually, and be a stress–reliever (of course, if you're worrying about the morality factor, it may not be much help with that last one).

The morality of masturbation, as it relates to your religious, cultural, or spiritual beliefs, is something you will have to decide for yourself. Many people seek the help of family, friends, books, life experience, and/or clergy or other religious leaders. You mention feeling too embarrassed to talk to your priest about it. Is there perhaps another individual you would feel more comfortable tos talk with who also shares your religious beliefs or background? The answers don't have to come today, but arriving at conclusions about sex-related matters that you can live with may be one way to say good-bye to guilt.

On guilt, psychiatrist R.D. Laing said "True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be or assume that one is." What do you suppose makes you feel guilty about masturbating? For many people, societal or family messages about masturbation being "wrong" or "dirty" can stick in our consciousness even when we "logically" no longer believe such declarations. Others may have had a parent "discover" them masturbating at a young age and still carry shame from a disapproving parental reaction. If your religion says masturbation is wrong, what are the reasons given? And how do those reasons sit with you?

If it turns out that nothing about masturbation seems to "rub you the wrong way," it may be worth working through the guilt so that you can continue to enjoy this pastime that is enjoyed by so many others. But if it begins to feel morally questionable to you, stopping may be the best route for you. On such decisions, Sting once said: "Let your soul be your pilot. It'll guide you well."

Alice

Beatless in Seattle: Masturbation stops when relationship begins

Dear Beatless In Seattle,

It's great that you are in a relationship in which you're sexually satisfied! Your thoughts (thanks for sharing) touch on a couple of issues. Masturbation is not mandatory — you may choose not to "beat off" while with your current girlfriend or with future partners, but doing so is not "silly" or dirty. Masturbating and being in a loving relationship are not mutually exclusive, and many people in relationships use masturbation, alone or with a partner, as a healthy release of sexual energy — just as they did when they were single.

Solo sex is not a shameful betrayal of one's partner and is not reserved for one gender. Rather, masturbation is one of the many kinds of sexual activities that people enjoy. Like intercourse, masturbation is healthy, enjoyable, and normal. Of course, if masturbation replaces sex between partners without mutual consent, or if its popularity with one partner leaves the other sexually dissatisfied, partners may need to talk about what would constitute a sexually satisfying relationship.

Guilt before, during, and/or after masturbation is not uncommon among "beaters" of all ages, and may stem from moral, religious, and/or social doctrines that disapprove of it. Breathing a huge sigh of relief when you have a new partner because it replaces a need for self-pleasuring may be problematic. After all, the frequency of sex with a partner may vary widely in cases of illness, stress, or even travel that separates partners. When a partner is not in the mood, or when your mate is "away," it doesn't mean that your dominant hand shouldn't play. As such, you may want to consider asking yourself some questions that may help you better understand why you came (pun intended) to the conclusion that you did about self-gratification:

  • What were you taught about masturbation? Who taught you about it?
  • When did you first discover masturbation?
  • How did you feel before, during, and after masturbating, i.e., guilt, excitement?
  • If applicable, how does your community (social, religious, etc.) regard masturbation?

Finally, you may want to consider discussing this issue with your girlfriend. Does she share the same beliefs about masturbation? What does she think about masturbation in a relationship? How would you (and your girlfriend) feel about including mutual masturbation during sex? Having this discussion is up to you, but you may find that discussing desires and new ways of giving pleasure may positively affect your sex life with your girlfriend.

Perhaps it would be helpful to learn more about masturbation and other ways of achieving sexual pleasure. You may want to check out the responses in the Go Ask Alice! sexuality archives (there is a section devoted to masturbation).

Remember, partner sex may rock your world, but this doesn't mean that beating off needs to take a beating…

Alice

Erection detection

Dear J,

Simply put, no. Neither your past masturbation and porn viewing, nor your refusal to sexually stimulate yourself again (despite your possible desire to do so) is directly causing your erections. Your body is paying attention to emotional and physical stimulation — and you're right, sometimes you don't even have to be consciously thinking about sex in any way for an erection to arise. This also means that getting an erection shouldn't mean to you (or your partner) that sex is your goal. Erections — frequent or few-and-far-between — mean that you're mentally and physically responsive, chock full of naturally produced, stimulating hormones, alive, and, yes, very normal! For sure, releasing your sexual energy by going back to masturbation may reduce the frequency of your erections when you are with your partner — but of course, that decision is up to you.

When, or if, you tell your partner that your hard-ons hardly mean sex, you might suggest that she take them as a compliment — evidence that you're truly happy to be with her. If you're not up for chatting about your excitements just yet, you might make them less obvious by wearing brief-style underwear that allows for preventive penis positioning. In other words, when an erection comes, your pants will bulge like an igloo, instead of a tee-pee.

Underwear monitoring, as well as suggestions to think about your school work, something sad, or another turn-off that encourages flaccidity, seem like a lot of energy to expend on something that's as natural as yawning when you're tired. Your belief that masturbation is wrong — when in or out of a relationship — may produce tension within yourself, and between you and your partner. Perhaps some of that anxiety is encouraging your immediate concerns about erection detection. To help decide potential directions for the future, you may also want to take a look at the related questions. Regardless of how you choose to proceed, remember that you're quite normal. Happy dating!

Alice

Dr. Do Diddle: Pre-med masturbation and productivity

Dear Reader,

You don't have to be a doctor to know that masturbation (whether once per week, or once per hour) does not cause memory loss, decreased brain power, fatigue, or depression — that is, unless you're doing it instead of school work, socializing, eating, sleeping, bathing, etc. Your stress about your normal masturbation pattern, combined with the energy you use "trying not to do it," might even decrease your productivity far more than playing doctor with yourself would. It would be surprising to learn that Einstein, Curie, and Spock didn't take stimulating study breaks themselves. And look what masterful work they accomplished!

Remember, energy is neither created nor destroyed. So go ahead and release that sexual energy. You might even be able to convert it into an "A" on that anatomy test!

Alice

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