Masturbation: Myths and facts!

Masturbation is a normal behaviour in human sexual development. It is defined as self stimulation of one’s genital organs for sexual pleasure. It is often associated with negative attitudes and connotation in developing country like India as compared to developed countries.  The myths and misconceptions associated with masturbation are reason for emotional distress during the adolescent age group. Masturbation usually starts in adolescent age group and can continue for the rest of life in both sexes. The frequency of masturbation increases with age from adolescence in both the sexes. Studies show that about 7 out of 10 adult men and more than 5 out of 10 adult women masturbate. However, the prevalence of masturbation is more in males as compared to females. According to India-Today MDRA Sex survey 2013, only 28% female respondents resorted to masturbation for seeking pleasure. As per National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour by Indiana University, 80% of 17-year-old males reported ever having masturbated. Masturbation was associated with numerous partnered sexual behaviours in both males and females.

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Masturbation is a safe way of attaining sexual pleasure without vaginal penetration which would otherwise lead to an unintended pregnancy. Masturbation lifts your spirit and mood by releasing the feel good neurotransmitters like endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin. An orgasm is the biggest non-drug blast of dopamine available, and benefits your health in more than one way. Self stimulation through masturbation has no risk of transmission of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases. A hypothesis suggest masturbation prevents premature ejaculation prostate cancer in men. Masturbation is advocated as effective and safe method deriving sexual satisfaction when partner is pregnant or not available.

A common myth prevalent in India is masturbation leads to loss precious semen in males in turn leading to fatigue, malaise, fatigue, depression and decreased virility. The myth is reinforced by the thought that one drop semen is made up of many drops of blood (the count has increased from 60 drops to 200 drops over the years!). In fact, the process of semen production in male genital organs is on from adolescence to old age continuously day and night. Amongst females, cultural taboo influences the practice of genital self stimulation for sexual satisfaction.

Men may stimulate the penis, scrotum and perineal areas. Women may stimulate clitoris, inner or outer labia, the vaginal opening or canal, and perineal areas. Direct stimulation of glans penis in males and clitoris in females leads to intense sexual stimulation. Women and men may also touch other erogenous zones all over the body to experience pleasure by touching places like the breasts, nipples, or thighs. Sex toys like vibrators and dildos during masturbation to enhance pleasure. Sex fantasies (thoughts or images) enhances sexual excitement, either alone or during mutual masturbation.

Compulsive masturbation is impulsive-compulsive excessive sexual behaviour. Compulsive masturbation disorder refers to the condition in which a person will have an irresistible urge to masturbate continuously, with or without using pornography. It is associated with depression, anxiety, obsessions and relationship problems. There are no defined criteria for the frequency in compulsive masturbation, but inability to fulfil social roles and relationship due excessive masturbation vouches professional help from mental health professional. A person cannot resist genital stimulation due to strong urge to do it and stops it only after genital injury or social pressure. He/she spends most of the time of day in repeated excessive masturbation but does derive pleasure at the end of it leading to psychological distress.

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Dr. Chetan Vispute

Psychiatrist Counsellor

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