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Masturbation Q and A

What is masturbation?

The act of touching your genitals for the purpose of feeling good or receiving pleasure is called masturbation. It is based on the fact that pleasure centers are found in various parts of our bodies. When we touch these centers in various ways, we feel good! Humans have specific pleasure centers in genital parts-such as the penis and testicles, the breast nipples and the vagina. These areas have highly specialized nerve endings, which, after being stimulated by touching, can send signals to the brain that result in a sense of well-being or pleasure. If you touch your genitals for the specific purpose of feeling good, it is called masturbation or masturbatory activity. Sometimes the person does not use his/her hands, but uses various objects that touch and stimulate the genitals.

The use of the word masturbation usually suggests that the person is manipulating his/her genitals to the point of intense pleasure, called, orgasm. Orgasm refers to a period of intense excitement in which genital muscles enter in to a series of highly-pleasurable contractions or movements; this involves release of sperm by the male during ejaculation or movements of the vagina and other genital parts in the female. Parts of the genitals that are particularly sensitive to touch include the tip of the penis in the male and a structure in the front of the vagina in the female, called the clitoris. The word masturbation itself also implies that the pleasure is obtained by genital touch or manipulation and not sexual intercourse or penis-vaginal penetration, called coitus.

Is masturbation normal?

Yes, it is normal for you to masturbate as a way of pleasuring yourself. However, society has placed many restrictions around the whole issue of masturbation. Why? For many reasons! Here are some, and you will encounter others as you read about this topic and hear from others. Behavior that is considered sexual, including masturbation and coitus, produces much concern in society. This is a natural reaction that has occurred over thousands of years-or as long as humans have been around! Because masturbation can lead to ejaculation and the spreading of sperm, society has many concerns about this activity. If this sperm is placed inside a female's vagina, pregnancy can result. If you only practice masturbation and not coitus, pregnancy will never result. In any event, masturbation can be an important part of your own expression as a sexual being, and various attitudes about this and other forms of sexual expression, have developed over thousands of years. Religions have looked at this behavior and developed various rules that allow or discourage masturbation.

It is a normal behavior from a medical viewpoint. However, it is important for you to be aware of the teachings of your culture, religion, parents, and others about this subject. If you engage in this behavior so much that other important aspects of your life are being affected, or if you use such force that injury results, then it is not normal.

I heard if you masturbate too much, you'll go blind or have hairy palms. Is this true?

No! Masturbation has nothing to do with becoming blind or developing hairy palms! If there is no medical truth in this, then why has this myth been around for so long? It is based on issues raised in question and answer number two. Because masturbation is part of sexual expression and because sexuality is an intimate part of procreation ("making babies"), society (including various religions) has expressed sincere and deep concern about masturbation. A wide variety of opinions have emerged over the past many centuries in regards to sexual expression and its consequences; this includes masturbation, pregnancy, birth control (pregnancy prevention) and abortion (pregnancy termination). Sometimes deep concern results in opinions being formed that later are discovered to be not accurate-such as linking blindness or hairy palms to masturbation.

A famous Roman physician, Galen, wrote this in the later part of the second century, about a male who masturbated: "Watch carefully over this young man, leave him alone neither day nor night... When he has contracted this fatal habit (masturbation), the most fatal to which a young man can be subject, he will carry its painful effects to the tomb-his mind and body will be enervated (weakened)." Well, Galen was quite wrong about this. However, many people have believed him over the past centuries! Perhaps the prediction of blindness from masturbation developed as a way to tell people not to do this. Perhaps the prediction of hairy palms was started to warn people that touching your genitals in this way would result in a way of "identifying" people who did-since hairy palms are not a normal finding!

It is important to note that, if your religion states that masturbation is "wrong," you can examine your beliefs to learn what you believe is wrong or right. However, if someone says that masturbation is wrong because it will make you blind or give you hairy palms, that is incorrect. It does not!


Does masturbation cause the penis to grow?

As the myths of the effects of masturbation have developed over the past thousands of years, some of the myths have noted that masturbation will cause harm while others have claimed positive effects. For example, it has been stated again and again that manipulating the penis will stimulate it to grow. This claim comes from the idea that touching one's genitals causes pleasure and may result in the penis developing an erection, thus enlarging! When the male becomes sexually stimulated, engorgement of the penis with blood, or an erection, is a normal result. However, the erection is not a permanent event (fortunately!) and eventually the penis will return to its "normal" state, with or without an ejaculation (release of fluid from the genitals through the penis). The hope of some is that continued masturbation will cause the penis to become larger than it otherwise would be. Some have wondered if the penis could be stimulated to become its normal adult size sooner if masturbation occurs.

The answer is no in both cases! The size of your penis is determined by factors inherited from your parents-much like various other traits you inherit from your family. When you become a teenager and various hormones are increasing in your body-your body then changes from a child's body to an adult's body-over several years. Your penis will develop into its adult size as you go from a young teenager to an older one. The size will not be affected by masturbation. If you develop an erection, the penis will get larger for a period of time, and then return to its normal non-erect (flaccid) state. However, though you cannot affect its size, you can injure your penis by very rough manipulation and/or by using dangerous instruments as part of the masturbation act.

I heard if you masturbate a lot, you can use up all of your sperm. Is this true?

This is another myth which, though might make some sense to some, is not true! When you use the term masturbation, you usually imply that orgasm occurs--in the case of the male, that means ejaculation and release of sperm as well as other genital fluids. Males often fear that they only have a very limited amount of sperm and that it is easily used up, making them less of a man. It is also another example of myths that have developed indicating a negative result from masturbation. Over the past centuries, doctors and various members of society were so convinced and worried that masturbation was harmful, that doctors developed various "treatments" for those who masturbated. These treatments included removing the testicles, placing the person's penis in a ring with spikes in the center to cause terrible pain during erection, and other very harmful measures.

Well, it is important to point out that masturbation is a normal aspect of one's sexual behavior and does not harm you unless you do it to the exclusion of other behavior and/or injure yourself because you are too rough. Most males have plenty of sperm and masturbation (with ejaculation) will not cause a decrease in their sperm. If someone is touching their genitals a lot, it may be because of medical problems, such as having certain infections or a severe itch for some reason. This is sometimes found in young children who touch themselves a lot because of a constant genital discomfort. But, do not worry that masturbation will affect your sperm count or your ability to someday have children. It will not!

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 28). Masturbation Q and A, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/sex/men/masturbation-q-and-a

Last Updated: June 27, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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