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

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.

Bed humping = Bad habit?

Dear Anonymous,

By "bed humping," you no doubt mean masturbating with a little help from your mattress; i.e., rubbing your body/genitals against the bed, or plunging your penis (if you have one) between the mattress and box spring. You can sleep a lot easier knowing that guys and girls have been making love to their mattresses ever since they rolled off the assembly line — this is the way some experience their first orgasms. You're hard and/or randy, it's hard and ready, it's in the privacy of your bedroom, and you spend a third of your life sleeping with it. Are you abnormal? Certainly not! Do you need to introduce your form-fitting friend to anyone else? No. Will you end up marrying your mattress, giving birth to little sleeping bags, and living happily ever after without ever doing it with another human? Highly unlikely. Side effects associated with bed humping might include mattress burn and/or a restricted exit path for your ejaculate if pressure around the penis is king size. Mixing up masturbation methods increases the ways in which a person orgasms by him-/herself and/or with others. And aside from being walked in on, stains might give you guys away, but a tissue, towel, or condom can take care of this when the extra "s" is for semen.

Alice

December 10, 2014

594022
Only today I found out what it was I was doing against my bed. I cant believe other people do it too
Only today I found out what it was I was doing against my bed. I cant believe other people do it too

November 19, 2014

591693
Haha! I've been doing the same thing for many years now. It is so embarrassing but I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one.
Haha! I've been doing the same thing for many years now. It is so embarrassing but I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one.

July 9, 2012

513524
This is hilarious, but thank you so much for writing it. I thought I was alone in my oddness.
This is hilarious, but thank you so much for writing it. I thought I was alone in my oddness.

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!

Alice

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! Masturbation section of the archives (yes, an entire section devoted to self-pleasure!).

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,

Ahh… classic reflections on erections. Simply put, the answer to your question is no. Neither your past masturbation and porn viewing, nor your decision to stop sexually stimulating yourself is directly causing your erections. These uninvited arousals may be frustrating, but your body is simply paying attention to emotional and physical stimulation. Plus, the fact that you’ve got a special gal in your life who makes you (and your body) so excited may not be such a bad thing! Although erections can certainly be a cue for doin’ the deed, all they really mean is that you're mentally and physically alert, chock full of naturally produced, stimulating hormones, alive, and, yes, very normal.

For sure, releasing your sexual energy by choosing to masturbate may reduce the frequency of your erections — but that decision is entirely up to you. The good news is that you’ve got a whole arsenal of options for those times when you find yourself unexpectedly “standing at attention” downstairs. For example, if your girlfriend ever does notice a suspicious bulge, you could always spin it as a compliment: your erection is a reflection that you’re truly happy to be with her. If gabbing about gonads isn’t quite your style, though, a few other options you could consider include:

  • Wearing brief-style underwear that is a bit tighter to your body could keep your erection “under cover” (so that it would bulge more like an igloo instead of a tent).
  • Strategically placing a nearby bag, notebook, or other item on your lap or wearing a longer shirt or sweatshirt could help keep it out of sight.
  • Thinking about your school work, something sad, or another turn-off can encourage flaccidity.
  • When all else fails, divert her attention with a romantic (yet distracting) musing. Saying something like “Look at how beautiful the stars are tonight (they’re almost as beautiful as you)!” could keep her eyes averted elsewhere for a few precious moments, and also win you some sweet-guy brownie points.

It may also be worth thinking through how you and your girlfriend feel about erections and masturbation. You said that you’re not planning to have sex until marriage, but you might consider having an honest conversation with each other about what that will mean. For example, you can explain to her that just because you’re getting erections doesn’t mean that you’re trying to “get it on” with her at that very moment. Perhaps opening up with her about your past history with porn and masturbation could also help take some of the pressure off you (and your “manhood”). Keeping your feelings to yourself could lead you to only feel more emotionally (and sexually) frustrated. If you choose to masturbate, consider reading Beatless in Seattle: Masturbation stops when relationship begins to explore ways to think and talk about what role masturbation could play in your life even when you’re in a relationship. In the end, remember that spontaneous erections are a part of being a warm-blooded and healthy male.

Alice

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