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MASTURBATION

Masturbation is the deliberate stimulation of one's sex organs to achieve pleasure. It may or may not result in orgasm. Masturbation comes from the Latin masturbare, which is itself a running together of two Latin words, manus (hand) and stuprare (to defile), in the sense of "to defile with the hand." The built-in notion of defiling has remained with us, even though masturbation causes no physical or mental harm. Masturbation is second only to sex with a partner as our most important source of sexual pleasure, and yet it is still surrounded by guilt and anxiety. This is partly due to ignorance of the fact that masturbation cannot be harmful and partly due to centuries of religious teaching that masturbation is sinful.

The first real facts about who masturbates were discovered by Kinsey and his associates. They reported that 58 percent of women and 92 percent of men had masturbated to orgasm at some point in their lives. By 12 years of age, 12 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys had masturbated, and by age 20, 33 percent of women and 92 percent of men had masturbated. Between the ages of 20 and the mid-50s up to 58 percent of women masturbated. The proportion of men masturbating decreased after the late teens.

Recent data indicate that masturbation among women has increased since the Kinsey study and that among men it has continued at over 90 percent. Morton Hunt's analysis of data collected in the 1970s shows an increase in masturbation among single males aged 18 to 24 as compared to Kinsey. Hunt's analysis also suggests more active involvement in masturbation after the teen years and into the 20s and 30s. Hunt's analysis indicates that 60 percent of women aged 18 to 24 masturbate, and by the late 20s and early 30s, 80 percent of women had masturbated. This is a large increase when compared to the Kinsey data of 30 years before. Hunt also found that 70 percent of married men and 68 percent of married women masturbated. This too is a significant increase.

The Redbook survey of 100,000 married American women in the mid1970s showed that 68 percent of them masturbated, often (16 percent), or occasionally (52 percent); 80 percent of those masturbating found masturbation to be satisfactory (always 31 percent, sometimes 49 percent). Shere Hite reported that 82 percent of her sample of over 35000 women masturbated. Ninety-six percent of them had orgasm regularly.

In the Kinsey data it was indicated that masturbation was less frequent among men and women from lower socioeconomic classes, poorer educational background and higher religious devotion. Current reports indicate that it is only religious devotion that continues significantly to inhibit masturbation. But masturbation brings harmless pleasure, and is a valuable way of learning about one's own sexual responses. Sex therapists use this idea to treat people who have problems in their sexual relationships. The purpose of the therapy is to learn about the body, and discover in a relaxed way what is pleasurable. Understanding the facts about masturbation and how the body is aroused are important parts of this process. Learning how to have an orgasm in a comfortable way is achieved by following guidelines offered by the therapist. Programs vary from therapist to therapist and from clinic to clinic ' but they are reported to be highly successful in teaching women how to have an orgasm more regularly, either alone or with a partner, and teaching men how to achieve and maintain an erection and control ejaculation in a reasonable way.

Q. "Can a person masturbate too much?"

A: "No. Each individual decides how much is appropriate - there are no set levels. No physical or mental harm will come to you regardless of your frequency of masturbation unless it is a compulsive behavior. In this latter case, when masturbation is preferred over all other outlets including relationships, the person has a problem of which masturbation is a symptom not a cause. 'Too much' is meaningless in this context."

Q. "Isn't it weird for a person sometimes to enjoy masturbation more than intercourse?"

A: "No, it isn't weird at all. Masturbation has certain advantages over intercourse: it is simple, can be done quickly and you don ' have to be concerned with the desires and needs of a partner. Some people find the intensity of orgasm from masturbation greater than through intercourse. In the end, however, most people prefer sex with a partner - they find it more fulfilling. Masturbation becomes a problem only when a man or woman uses it exclusively and compulsively, and rejects sexual relationships. "

Q. "What sort of lubricant is best for masturbation?"

A: "Whatever makes it feel good for you. Some women use an artificial lubricants for women designed for intercourse, while others use their own natural lubricant for masturbation." Natural oils are good, especially coconut and grape seed oils, but be careful not to overuse them as they can make the skin vulnerable to the growth of yeast infections. Simple home remedies for yeast infection are available, if you need them, but the best over-the-counter-remedy is probably the antifungal agent Canesten, which is available without prescription.

Q: "Just what is a compulsive masturbator?"

A: "A compulsive masturbator is a man or woman whose only sexual outlet is masturbation, who feels driven to do it, and who rejects all other forms of sexual release. Compulsive masturbation, like all other compulsive behaviors, is a sign of an emotional problem and needs to be explored by a mental health specialist."

Q: "As a woman, I come easily when I masturbate or when my partner masturbates me. I can't ejaculate during intercourse nor can I orgasm."

A: "The majority of women probably reach orgasm more frequently and more quickly by masturbation than through intercourse. The reason is that generally the clitoris needs to be stimulated for orgasm to occur, and intercourse is not the most effective way to do it. After all, most women choose to masturbate by stimulating the clitoral area, not by putting something in the vagina."

Q: "I heard somewhere that women who masturbate before marriage have good sex during marriage more often than those women who do not."

A: "It is true that studies suggest orgasmic experience prior to marriage has a positive effect on sex in marriage. This does not mean that only those women who masturbate before marriage will have happy, responsive sex lives after marriage; it simply suggests that the chances of that happening are greater among women who were sexually active before they married."

Q:  "Every once in a while, I masturbate to relieve a pressure I feel when I don't have an orgasm with my lover. Is there something
wrong with me?"

A: "No, nothing at all. When you are sexually very excited. the blood vessels in your pelvis become engorged with blood. Orgasm allows the blood to flow back, but if orgasm doesn't occur in your lovemaking, you may well feel an uncomfortable fullness and tenderness. Masturbating to orgasm immediately relieves the congestion and the uncomfortable feeling it gives you. Men, too, feel a congestion and tenderness in their testicles (sometimes called 'blue balls') when they are sexually excited and do not have an orgasm; masturbation relieves it quickly and simply."

Q: "What is a circle jerk?"

A: "A circle jerk is a masturbatory practice reported among some adolescent boys. The boys gather in a circle, and at the command begin to arouse themselves and to masturbate. The boy who ejaculates first is declared the winner. Because speed is rewarded, circle jerks are not helpful. When these boys grow older they may find that it would have been better to cultivate the reverse skill - that of slowing down ejaculation - if they are to control their ability to come with a partner."

Q. "Sometimes when I masturbate I see some blood in my come. Do I have a disease?"

A: "Probably not. A little blood in your semen occasionally (called haematospermia) is not an indication of a disease, especially if there are no urethral, prostate or bladder problems. The cause of infrequent haematospermia is not known; it is not related to masturbation, wet dreams or sexual desire and activity. But see a doctor if you regularly find blood in your semen."

The following commonly held beliefs about masturbation are false:

  • masturbation causes tiredness
  • married people or those in relationships don't masturbate
  • you can get hooked on masturbation
  • old people don't masturbate
  • masturbation is for people without partners
  • masturbation causes poor eyesight
  • women don't masturbate
  • all religions teach that masturbation is a sin
  • too much masturbation causes a man to run out of sperm
  • masturbation is a sign that a person is unable to form relationships.

Masturbation is a feature of most people's sexual expression at some time in the life cycle. Many people indeed will masturbate from infancy to old age. Babies clearly derive pleasure from touching their genitals, though of course they do not masturbate methodically. Children, almost whatever they are told by adults, will fondle their genitals and derive pleasure from doing so. At around the time of puberty, both boys and girls become much more purposeful about manipulating their genitals and begin to masturbate to orgasm.

Kinsey, in the 1930s, found that male teenagers and young single men had the highest masturbatory rates: they masturbated more than older men and more than women at any age (whereas over 90 percent of men had masturbated by age 20, only 33 percent of women had done so). He also found that the frequency of masturbation increased in women as they got older. In the 1970s, by contrast, the disparity between the sexes seemed to be evening itself out.

Both Morton Hunt and the Redbook survey found that masturbation seemed to be starting earlier, continuing longer and was practiced equally by adult men and women. Approximately three quarters of married men and women now masturbate.

With some gerontologists encouraging the elderly to masturbate as they used to when they were younger, it seems that masturbation is now acceptable at all stages of the life cycle for both women and men.

Feelings about masturbation

"When I finally was able to accept masturbation as normal, I began to enjoy it."

"I don't masturbate now, and masturbated rarely when I was a kid. With all the talk about it, I feel abnormal."

"It certainly feels good physically, but I still feel a bit of guilt there."

"Masturbation has improved my sex life with my partner. I know more about my body, and I know what I like."

"It's nice to be able to satisfy myself when I want to and not have to worry about pleasing someone else too."

"When I was a teenager it was OK, but now I feel it's second best."

"I have feelings of guilt, shame and fear of being discovered. How can such a simple act lead to so much difficulty?"

"I wouldn't admit it if a friend asked me so I guess that identifies my true feelings."

"Even though I don't masturbate often, it's important for me to feel that I am in control of my body and my pleasure."

"Sometimes I wonder what my wife really thinks about me masturbating. "

Feelings about masturbation are part of the fabric of our personalities and at times can affect us deeply. They come from various sources: age-old religious beliefs have influenced us in a negative way; medical and psychological teaching used to be negative but has now become positive; parents often communicate negative messages about masturbation. The cumulative effect of these influences is usually confusion and/or guilt. The confusion may be dispelled as the person grows, but the guilt is likely to remain in some degree.

A minority of more fortunate people are either not subject to so many negative influences or they manage to rid themselves of anxiety and guilt. They learn to live with their feelings and feel entirely free to masturbate when they choose. It appears that this attitude is becoming more common today, even though masturbatory mythology remains potent in many places.

Q. "When I was a kid I used to masturbate, but now I'm not interested. There's so much fuss about it being good for you to masturbate that I'm beginning to wonder if I'm normal."

A: "I think I understand your position. A great deal has been said and written in favor of masturbation in the last few years in order to try and get rid of centuries of misinformation and debilitating guilt. Having made your decision to suit your needs I can see that you may feel on the wrong end of a barrage of propaganda. Responsible experts are actually encouraging people not to go and masturbate but to feel free to do so. Masturbating is normal and so is not masturbating."

Masturbation has different meanings throughout a person's life cycle. During early childhood the sensuousness associated with touching the genitals is a universal experience. During adolescence, learning about the body, experiencing the surging sexual feelings, the thrill and anxiety associated with private, secret and taboo acts are all part of the developing process. Much of this changes when relationships are formed.

 "If  my wife masturbated it would be a real blow for me."

"I know my husband masturbates when he wants sex and I don't."

"When a person has a partner, why should you need to masturbate?"

"If our relationship gets tense, I masturbate more."

"It's a real turn-on for me to watch my lover masturbate."

In some relationships, masturbation may be mutually acceptable. Done alone or in the presence of the partner the act is pleasing and appropriate and is not a sign of rejection. For other couples the act of masturbation may be a sign of anger, alienation or displeasure with the way the relationship is progressing. The meaning could be that the partner who masturbates values his or her own body more than the partner's. Both candor and sensitivity are required in these situations, with perhaps the guidance of a qualified therapist or counselor. In a great many relationships, of course, mutual masturbation plays a significant role as part of the lovemaking repertoire. It may be an end in itself or a part of the buildup to other sexual acts - either way, if both partners are at ease about masturbation it can be mutually satisfying.

Masturbation that is associated with high levels of guilt and shame can spoil the pleasure that a boy gets from his body. Although I am not certain any research has been conducted n the subject, it would not surprise me to learn that boys who are taught that masturbation is shameful or who suffer guilt because of it, are the predominant group who develop traumatic masturbatory syndrome, a primary cause of retarded ejaculation in adulthood. Should you happen to be a man who suffers from retarded ejaculation and you would like to explore more about retarded ejaculation, Click Here for treatment options.

CULTURE AND RELIGION

Our Western view of masturbation as something harmful, degrading and shameful came from our religious traditions and was powerfully reinforced by the medical profession. In 1767 S. Tissot wrote A Treatise on the Diseases Produced by Onanism and gave a pseudoscientific gloss to traditional religious teaching. Tissot's book, which was widely translated, attributed almost every known disease and disorder to loss of semen, either through masturbation or through intercourse. The chief disease - Batchelor's Disease or spermatorrhea - was said to lead to destruction of the body and the mind.

Throughout the nineteenth century and until World War 1 the preoccupation with masturbation, its symptoms and effects, was astonishing. Physicians produced sex manuals and marriage guides that described the dread disease they called "self-abuse," "self-pollution," "the solitary vice," and "the soul and body destroyer." Women who masturbated (they said) would develop tell-tale marks on their faces, softness of the spine and hollow cheeks; they would also become highly irritable and bald. Bicycle riding for women was strongly condemned because the angle of the seat would give rise to "friction and heating of the parts where it was very undesirable, leading to dangerous practices."

Men had to be safeguarded against masturbation as it caused every disease and disability from death and idiocy to plague spots, those bluish semicircles we now call bags under the eyes. Masturbation caused muscles to weaken, blood to become diseased and nervous disorders to appear. Parents were urged to watch for the danger signs of self-pollution in their children. Pure-minded parents watched their children while they slept, bathed and played. Love of dancing, sliding down poles and wearing tight clothes were sure signs of self-polluting tendencies in young people. The dreadful consequences of failing to protect growing boys from self-abuse were described in
1875 by the English physician Dr William Acton: "The frame is stunted and weak, the muscles under-developed, the complexion sallow, pasty or covered with acne. The hands are damp and the skin moist. The boy shuns society - his intellect is sluggish and enfeebled - he is on the way to becoming an idiot.

Treatment for self-abuse varied widely. Hand-tying at bedtime was encouraged for boys who masturbated. Cold water cures of various sorts were prescribed by doctors. One such was to get a specially made chair with a partially open seat on which the afflicted man or boy sat. Using a special unit the male could spray his genitals with a refrigerant fluid whenever he felt these "unnatural" urges.

These attitudes and some of the practices continued until the 1930s and 40s, when physiological and some psychological evidence indicated at masturbation did not cause these terrible things at all. Then in the 1950s, 60s and 70s the mythology was clearly undone, and even religions began to reevaluate their views on this once dreaded practice. Perhaps as years pass and fewer people are taught that masturbation is "wrong" we will as a society rid ourselves of the guilt and anxiety that many people ill suffer. It is however a very deep rooted attitude. In Genesis 38: 7-11 Er died childless. His brother Onan was then bound by sacred duty to impregnate the widow and bring a child into the world to carry on the family name. Onan did not complete the sex act, spilled his seed on the ground and was killed by the Lord.

The traditional Jewish interpretation of this event is that since Onan's spilling of his seed was punished by death, all spilling of semen - and therefore masturbation - must be immoral and contrary to the wishes of the Lord. Later interpretations attribute Onan's death not to the spilling of the seed, but to his failure to fulfill his sacred duty. It has also been proposed that Onan was punished because he used a contraceptive method - withdrawal. The strict Orthodox teaching about the immorality of masturbation is in keeping with the prohibition against touching the genitals. In the Talmud there is reference to women being allowed to examine their genitals in order to determine the onset of their periods, but for no other purpose.

Men were not supposed to touch their penises at all, even when urinating (the penis had to be guided by lifting the scrotum). The absence of specific reference to women and masturbation in Jewish teaching may be attributable to the ancient Jewish belief that the male sperm was the generative seed while the woman provided only the growth place. There was also an assumption that women were sexually passive and therefore less likely to wish to masturbate. of course, a good sex life prevents the desire for masturbation - so why not have sex in as many sexual positions as possible, as often as possible?

Though the teachings of Judaism forbid masturbation, in practice the modern Jewish attitude is much more permissive. The position on autoeroticism generally and masturbation specifically is that the behavior is acceptable as long as it is not neurotic and not harmful to a relationship. There seems to be less religious anxiety about masturbation for the majority of Jewish believers than for their traditional Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant counterparts. Protestant groups take widely different attitudes to masturbation. Some fundamentalist Protestant believers see masturbation as indicative of poor control and action against the Lord's will and as an immature, selfish act, lacking self-control and emotional problems. Other groups see masturbation as appropriate throughout the life cycle and best evaluated, if it needs evaluation at all, in the context in which it takes place. Some liberal Protestants see masturbation as normal and healthy at all ages; they do not see that it requires religious analysis and interpretation. Although masturbation is not expressly prohibited in the scriptures, the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on masturbation has been clear for centuries: masturbation is grievous if done with knowledge and consent. A fairly recent Vatican pronouncement, On Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (1975), stated that masturbation is "... an intrinsically and seriously disordered act." It goes on to say that masturbation is a disorder in the eyes of the Church even though psychological and sociological evidence may show it to be a normal developmental phenomenon. This view is adhered to by many Catholics throughout the world, but probably many more do not follow these guidelines. Do you see anything about the idea of grace or pleasure in there? You have to think people who write like this are desperately in need of psychological help.) Thoughtful Catholics are questioning whether every act of masturbation constitutes a grave offense. Catholic women and men do recognize that acts of masturbation can have many meanings, and that some of these acts are responsible and integrative, not selfish, alienating or self-destructive. Furthermore, some Catholics view masturbation as just another form of sexual expression, and sexual expression is in fact one of God's gifts to all people. The tension within the Church and some of its adherents over masturbation is very real. Numerous believers are in conflict with themselves and it is important that discussions continue if eventually a greater understanding is to be reached.

Q. "My priest told me masturbation was a sin and must be confessed and controlled. My friend's priest asked my friend about the circumstances and how he felt about it, and he told him it wasn't a sin. How do you explain that?"

A: "This is a rather common example of the different ways priests approach the issue of masturbation. Your priest adheres to the formal Roman Catholic teaching that sexual acts are appropriate within the marital union and should be focused on procreation. Your friend's priest didn't say masturbation wasn't a sin until he understood the nature of the situation in which masturbation occurred. After doing so, he felt the occurrence was not sinful. The implication is that in a different context he might have found the act of masturbation to be sinful. A number of priests now share your friend's priest's view, but it is still counter to the Church's teaching and your friend's priest would at least be cautioned if his pronouncement came to the attention of Church officials. In any event, many reasonable, concerned Catholics are confused. Many of them are having to examine their consciences carefully before discussing the issue with a spiritual advisor and then trying to form their consciences in a way that is true both to their religious convictions and to their individual needs."

Q. "A friend of mine was not brought up religiously and he has no guilt problems with masturbation. Is he just lucky?"

A: "Research shows that men and women not raised within a specific religious system are less guilty about masturbation. Also, nonreligious men and women masturbate more often than religious men and women. The evidence indicates that religious beliefs generally inhibit the frequency of masturbation."


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