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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

Dry hump on chair

Dear In love with chair,

Looks like you've discovered a pleasurable way to shine the wood! This method is perfectly normal. In fact, the dry-hump method of masturbation is used by many men. There is no risk to your groin area (unless, of course, you're rubbing against spiked furniture). Every once in a while, though, you may want to masturbate manually with your hand and a lubricant, so that if or when you have intercourse, you will know the feeling and be able to be stimulated in the more "usual" way. It is possible to get so used to one method, that a particular stimulation becomes necessary for your enjoyment. You may want to check out the related Q&As for more information. Keep on groovin'!

Alice

Wants girlfriend to masturbate

Dear Argh,

Research shows that women learn to masturbate later than men, often during or after college rather than during puberty. This process includes two parts: learning to orgasm and learning to feel good about it. In the 1970s, women would meet in women's groups with safety, humor, and support to talk about many things, including orgasm -- having them, not having them; how to have them, how to have them more frequently; what works, what doesn't work; how to have them with partners; and, their feelings about orgasm. Ironically, this is not happening today. So for similar information, she can check out some of the materials, videos, and books available at woman-sensitive, sex-positive bookstores, such as Eve's Garden based in New York City and Good Vibrations in San Francisco.

Your girlfriend is not alone. There is plenty that she can do to learn (you can learn, too!), if this is truly a path your girlfriend wants to take! She may need privacy and time alone to explore her own body and to experiment, learning for herself what sensations are pleasurable. Sometimes, a nonallergenic lotion, a lube, or a vibrator can make a difference. Practice, information , and pleasure go a long way in minimizing feelings of "dirtiness" and guilt.

Alice noticed that you signed your letter "argh" and wondered about that. What is causing your frustration? Why is it so important to you that your girlfriend learn to feel comfortable masturbating? What would change in your relationship if she were to masturbate? What would change for you? What would change for her? (These are questions to ask yourself, and the answers may prove interesting.)

If your girlfriend doesn't have an orgasm when she's with you, or has never had an orgasm in her life, read the following questions found in Alice's Sexuality archives: No orgasms for girlfriend, No orgasms with boyfriend, Am I having an orgasm?, No orgasm with intercourse (female), and Easing orgasms for women.

Alice

March 22, 2012

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Alice. When you asked why it was important that his girlfriend learn to masturbate, that actually struck a small chord with me. I would like my girlfriend to do that, too. She and I have had this...
Alice. When you asked why it was important that his girlfriend learn to masturbate, that actually struck a small chord with me. I would like my girlfriend to do that, too. She and I have had this discussion before. She has no idea where any of her "spots" are, and it crosses my mind that it could possibly make it easier for both of them to reach a "mutual climax", aside from a physical one, if they both knew what they were doing and "where" to go. I think Argh wants this because it could possibly bring him and his girlfriend closer, it could be a turn on, and it really could help him to get to "know" his girlfriend, too. Sincerely, ~Low Flyer

Surprise! It's Masturbation!

Dear Reader,

Is it common? Yes. Movements that give pleasurable sensations are common for youngsters (as well as for oldsters). For years, sexual arousal and orgasm have been observed and recorded in young children. Similarly, sex play, such as "doctor," is also common since children are naturally curious about their bodies.

Can it cause orgasm? Yes, yes, yes! If the sensations are intense enough, muscle tension and/or clitoral pressure can and does cause arousal, pleasure, and orgasm.

Alice

April 16, 2004

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Alice, I remember thinking, when I was about four or five, that sitting on a fence with my legs spread and wiggling a little bit felt really nice. At the time, I had no idea this was connected to...
Alice, I remember thinking, when I was about four or five, that sitting on a fence with my legs spread and wiggling a little bit felt really nice. At the time, I had no idea this was connected to anything sexual. Anyway, it's nice to know I'm not the only one out there who did this sort of thing unknowingly as a child.

Interval training for multiple orgasms

Dear Jerky Boy,

Each of us is the only expert on ourselves. Interval training, such as described above, seemed to make sense for your friend and provide him with the results he wanted. Only YOU can tell whether this regimen will also work for you. Try it and see, and let others know your results!

Multiple orgasms for men can also be had by teaching your body to extend the period of high arousal BEFORE you ejaculate. Also called karezza, men can learn to experience peaks of pleasure without ejaculating. The way to do this is to masturbate to high arousal and then before you ejaculate, change the stimulation — switch hands, change the rhythm, the fantasy, the position, or exhale and inhale more slowly to release some muscle tension. Then when you feel the immediate pressure to ejaculate subside, bring yourself to the brink again, and then backtrack, as described.

As for your other question, force and amount of ejaculate are determined by a number of factors, including age and the length of time since the last ejaculation. So, to increase your ejaculate, you would have to wait until you got a bit older, or wait for long periods between ejaculations. However, as you probably know, if you do not ejaculate through masturbation or sex with a partner, you may have wet dreams (nocturnal emissions), since the body tends to seek its own form of release.

Have fun as you explore!

Alice

September 20, 2002

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Dear Alice, This is a response to Interval Training for Multiple Orgasms. To Jerky Boy, I'd say that trying for multiple ejaculations in a day is probably not going to do...
Dear Alice, This is a response to Interval Training for Multiple Orgasms. To Jerky Boy, I'd say that trying for multiple ejaculations in a day is probably not going to do much, except possibly make you very tired and put you off the whole idea altogether. I experienced multiple orgasms myself very recently. I didn't have them through multiple masturbations though. Instead, I took great care over the quality of attention I was giving myself. Whilst before I had tried to gain relief very quickly from a penis with very little sensitivity in it, leading to myself coming in less than 30 seconds, most of the time, I paid a little more attention to my settings. I won't go into the details, but I thought about taking it very slowly, and being kind to myself. After 25 incredible minutes, I was awarded with five consecutive orgasms. What works for your friend may not necessarily work for you. Whilst he seems masturbation crazy, and is apparently doing some serious power-jerking over there, you might benefit from just a little exploration of what you enjoy the most, and what will give you the most stimulation — conjure up a fantasy about an unusual partner, find somewhere new to touch yourself. You'll find that you'll get what you're looking for. ~Finally satisfied

Masturbation healthy?

Dear Hand boy,

Yes. Stroking the one-eyed snake, polishing your pearl, southern comfort… whatever you call it, masturbation is a healthy (and normal) sexual activity that people of any gender may enjoy. In fact, masturbation can be healthy in a number of different ways: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Masturbation can also be a healthy addition to solo, partnered, or group sexual encounters. Read on to find out why.

Masturbation is one way for you to enjoy your own body, and to give yourself sexual pleasure. It can also tune you in to your own sexual likes and dislikes. You then have the choice of sharing that information with a sexual partner(s) to enhance a sexual relationship. Mutual masturbation, when two people masturbate in front of each other, can also be arousing, and is a great alternative to intercourse without the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases or risk of pregnancy.

Believe it or not, quite a lot of research has been conducted on this subject. And the overall conclusion is that masturbation is universal across nearly all cultures, and that it can have a number of healthy outcomes, such as:

  • Relieving stress and releasing tension (including the obvious, sexual tension)
  • Providing a sexual outlet for people who are not having sex with a partner (whether by choice or by circumstance)
  • Alleviating pre-menstrual symptoms in some women
  • Helping to induce sleep, or conversely, helping to start the day with an energized calm
  • Strengthening muscle tone in the genital region
  • Promoting a couples' level of sexual satisfaction in their relationship
  • Providing treatment for some types of sexual dysfunction

One study even found a correlation showing that ejaculating more often (whether through partnered sex or masturbation) led to a lower risk of prostate cancer in adult men.

In case you're curious, there is also a great deal of information about who masturbates. The short answer is people of all kinds. But to flesh it out a little more (excuse the pun):

  • Infants — while not necessarily erotic, many infants touch their genitals once they learn that the stimulation feels good.
  • Children — again, not necessarily erotic, but many children also find self-stimulation pleasurable.
  • Adolescents — perhaps the classic group associated with masturbation. Many males and females masturbate regularly in their pre-teens and teens.
  • Adults — married, partnered, or single, adults ages 18-59 are actually more likely to masturbate than adolescents. What's more, people with regular sexual partners are more likely to masturbate than singles.
  • And then there are many people, from all age groups, who rarely or never masturbate.

While masturbation itself is normal and healthy, there are times when a person might have a negative relationship with solo sex. Certain cultures or religions place such a stigma on masturbation that some people feel guilt or shame after pleasuring themselves. On a different note, a few people feel the compulsion to masturbate so often that it begins to interfere with other life events and duties, such as working or going to school. For people who are concerned about masturbation, it may be helpful to discuss any quandaries with a counselor, health care provider, religious leader, or trusted friend.

To maximize your pleasure and safety, here are some tips to consider when getting a grip on yourself:

  • If you're using any objects to help get the job done (sex toys, cucumbers, what have you), throw a condom on first — especially if that object will be shared with someone else or enter more than one orifice (use a new condom for each "destination").
  • Plenty of lube = maximum comfort (and less chafing) — water-based lube is a universally good choice. Some men prefer using lotion on their penis, however women should avoid inserting lotion, oil, petroleum jelly, and anytying oil-based, into the vagina to avoid risk of vaginitis (irritation and/or infection in the vagina).
  • Masturbate when it's enjoyable to you. If you don't feel like it, don't worry about it. If you want to do it again, go ahead.
  • Try different techniques, positions, times of day, mood music, etc. to learn more about what feels best.
People sometimes wonder if a person can masturbate "too much." To this concern, the answer is: not likely. As long as you are still able to participate in your normal daily activities, you can feel free to masturbate none, one, or multiple times per day.
Alice

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