Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
This article will center on the issue of male masturbation because of the large number of E. Mail questions I receive by men, both young and old.
I remember that during my early adolescence, my friends and I talked about masturbation and its effects. One guy said that rubbing your penis causes cancer!! That was terrifying. Then there was the fear of going blind? Could your penis fall off if you pulled too hard? Was that possible? Was it true that masturbating caused mental illness? Were we in danger? While none of us could stop this pleasurable activity, we worried constantly.
In fact, all of us were scared.
Perhaps worst of all was the threat of being caught doing it, especially by our mothers. That would be too mortifying, too shameful, too unforgivable. So, masturbation was always done in secret. A very few of us could talk to our fathers and receive information that was reassuring. However, most of sensed that there would be total parental disapproval, at the very least. The very worst was unimaginable!!!
Those men who write questions to me about this issue ask if there is something wrong with them for masturbating. They fear that they are doing it too frequently and that their sex drive is abnormally powerful.
Surveys and studies of male and female sexuality show that men and women masturbate throughout life. This happens regardless of marital status and some have commented that it enhances sex with their lovers. Even babies have been found stimulating their genitals. Male babies frequently have erections which cause them to discover their penises and its pleasures.
Usually, masturbation is thought of as “auto erotic.” This means that it is done without the presence of a partner. The individual stimulates the genitals until orgasm is achieved. In boys, this includes ejaculation. For most males, this is their first experience with sexuality and how their bodies work.
However, masturbation is not limited to someone who is alone. Intimate couples can either masturbate each other or can watch one another masturbate. For many, this increases the sense of mutual sexual excitement. Then, too, there are those people who engage in what is called euphemistically called phone sex. This is when two people who are either intimate partners and away from one another, or have just met or are using a form of telephone pornography, talk to one another in ways that are sexually explicit and graphic while simulating their genitals until orgasm is achieved.
In almost all of the reading I did for this blog, there were no suggestions that there is anything harmful about self stimulation. At worst, if a male is too vigorous in self stimulating the genitals, he can cause some soreness or injury to the penis. Therefore, the idea is not to eliminate this activity but to be more gentle.
Can masturbation be symptomatic of a psychological problem? The answer is yes, if the individual does it compulsively. There needs to be caution about this because one person’s definition of compulsive masturbation may be different from that of another person. Generally speaking, as in most obsessive compulsive behaviors, an individual is aware of their compulsiveness and wants to reduce its frequency. In this type of compulsive behavior, masturbation may serve as a way to relieve an anxiety that will not go away, represent some kind of ritualistic thinking (as in all compulsive behaviors) or defend against sex with a partner because frequency deprives them of the ability to function with a partner.
Many male patients discuss a strong sense of guilt about their masturbatory behavior. In my past psychotherapy practice, I found the sexual fantasies that accompany masturbation to be the real source of guilt feelings. Because these sexual fantasies are so raw that few would admit to them, they provoke self revulsion after ejaculation. In my opinion, Internet Pornography is so very addictive for some men because it exploits the male tendency to have these fantasies. It is needless to say that men who watch this material on the Internet are using it to masturbate. I want to add that there is nothing wrong with having sexual fantasies. However, like so much video and television, Internet and television pornography robs people of the imagination and mystery that accompanies real sex. Somehow, these photographs and movies create a sense of boredom after a while and that is why those who watch must go on to even more graphic web sites.
Am I saying that pornography robs men of the mystery of sex? You bet I am!
However, masturbation and fantasy can have the opposite effect by making the wish for sex with their partner all the more exciting. This includes the masturbation activities of those couples who choose to do it together.
This is a sensitive topic. Your comments are welcome but let’s have a discussion in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.
Your comments are encouraged,
Allan N. Schwartz