The do’s and don’ts of masturbation for sexual health
Jerking off. Rubbing one out. The five-finger shuffle. Spanking the monkey. Punishing Percy. These phrases hardly scratch the surface of the seemingly endless list of words that we use to talk about male masturbation. Yet, it’s a bit ironic that despite the hundreds of euphemisms that we have at our disposal, so many of my own clients become intensely uncomfortable as soon as we start discussing masturbation!
Despite society’s reluctance to own up to and talk about what goes on when we’re alone, masturbation can and does affect our health. The real problem is that most people don’t realize that “wrong” masturbation, could actually lead to sexual dysfunctions such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. For this reason, we need to be discussing it! That’s exactly what we’re going to be doing today in this comprehensive guide to healthy self-stimulation. Read on to discover what you need to know about masturbating in a way that adds value to your life, rather than taking from it!
How can masturbating incorrectly cause harm?
Premature ejaculation is a diagnosable sexual disorder which involves a man lacking control over the timing of his orgasm and ejaculation. Can masturbating in a certain way cause premature ejaculation? The answer is yes: if you’re masturbating in a rush, you may be putting yourself at risk.
Most people start masturbating as teens or even during childhood. Adolescents tend to carry a lot of shame about this; and most teens would rather sit detention for a decade than have their parents find out that they’re pleasuring themselves!
Unfortunately, because adolescents are often anxious about being walked-in on or overheard, this leads many to rush through the process to get it over with as quickly as possible. As adults, we may also hurry the process. Some of us feel, for example, that it’s not necessary to last long unless we’re with a partner. Others are simply focused on having an orgasm and getting on with their day.
By speeding things up, however, we’re essentially training our brains and bodies to ejaculate as quickly as possible. This becomes rooted in us, often causing sexual dysfunction in the form of premature ejaculation. Because this is a habit that has been hard-wired over many years, it can be hard to change; but not impossible! If you think you may have unintentionally trained yourself to ejaculate prematurely, fear not: there are effective treatment options available!
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For many of us, porn and masturbation go hand-in-hand, so to speak. In fact, the allure of porn combined with the powerful dopamine rush that accompanies masturbation means that masturbating to porn can progress into a serious compulsion. Over time excessive porn watching desensitizes men to intense sexual stimuli. In such cases, you’re not able to become aroused by anything other than porn, and you may find your work life and relationships suffering because you’re spending large amounts of time and money accessing new material.
Furthermore, the internet really doesn’t help this situation. New, exciting, horrifying and mind-bending sex videos are more accessible now than they have ever been before. Why is this a problem? Apart from the risk of addiction, overusing porn has been linked with various sexual health concerns, including performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction.
Remember, masturbation doesn’t cause these problems in and of itself. But if you’re pairing masturbation with porn, you may be putting yourself at risk. Continue reading to learn more about how masturbating to porn might be causing your sexual dysfunction.
Performance anxiety involves being excessively worried about being able to get it up, stay hard or bring your partner to orgasm. At times, performance anxiety can have a paralyzing effect. The anxiety makes it nearly impossible for you to perform sexually, regardless of what was going on in your body before that.
How does masturbating with porn lead to performance anxiety? Porn exposes us to unrealistic standards for what is normal when it comes to our looks, relationships and sex lives; and this can lead us to develop self-esteem issues. Because, let’s face it: the only people who look and behave like porn stars are usually the characters they play.
Porn can also lead us to have unfair expectations of our partners. For example, we might find ourselves wishing that they were as over-sexualized or as animalistic as the people we have watched having sex online. Often, this can create a sense of disconnection between couples; and we may also blame ourselves for not being able to elicit that sort of passion in our partner!
Performance anxiety is often thought of as the psychological pre-cursor to premature ejaculation (which we discussed above) and erectile dysfunction (which we discuss below). As such, this sort of anxiety can be crippling for a person’s sexual health and overall wellbeing. Fortunately, there are effective ways to overcome performance anxiety. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind that porn-based masturbation and performance anxiety are closely linked.
Erectile dysfunction is a condition that makes it difficult to get it up and stay hard long enough to have sex. There are two aspects of masturbation that could lead to erectile dysfunction: Porn overuse, and excessive masturbation
Researchers have good reason to believe that porn use changes the brain. The limitless variety and potential for easy escalation to more extreme material could condition sexual arousal to aspects of porn that doesn’t exist with real-life partners. Porn is relatively new, and the human brain is not equipped to deal with this kind of intense stimulation. Watching too much porn could increase the levels of stimulation required for you the get and keep an erection.
Masturbation in and of itself doesn’t cause erectile dysfunction. But, when porn is used to aid masturbation, you may find that the only thing which arises when you’re about to have sex is your anxiety. Clinical reports suggest that terminating porn use is sometimes sufficient to reverse these negative effects. But sometimes, the performance anxiety is already there, triggering erectile dysfunction from a different angle.
Another scenario is finding it hard to get an erection after masturbating excessively (with or without porn) over a certain time period. It takes time for the male body to become ready for sex the second time round. If you masturbate too often, you might find it hard to get it up again.
When you fail to get it up, this can create powerful feelings of shame and inadequacy that may persist for years. It’s exactly these sorts of feelings that have the potential to cause erectile dysfunction. Often, you’ll end up in a vicious cycle whereby erectile problems feed your performance anxiety, which then makes your erectile dysfunction even worse! To learn more about performance anxiety, and how to overcome it, click here.
What are the benefits of masturbation?
Now that we have covered the potential health hazards of masturbating incorrectly, let’s explore some of the health benefits of “right” masturbation.
For your body and mind:
We all know that it feels good. But did you know that it can actually do wonders for your health? For example, one study has shown that it can lower your risk of developing prostate cancer by up to 20%. Other research suggests that masturbation may boost your immune system!
Additionally, having an orgasm – by yourself or with a partner – changes the levels of chemicals and hormones that are active in your brain. Sexual pleasure is linked to increased serotonin (the happy hormone), dopamine (the pleasure hormone), oxytocin (the love hormone) and endorphins (which give you that sense of euphoria).
Furthermore, orgasms are known to lower your cortisol levels – a stress hormone linked to weight gain, high blood sugar, inflammation, immune problems and lowered libido. So, what does this all mean? Masturbation may create a powerful and pleasant chemical cocktail in your brain. This has the potential to improve your mood and stress levels whilst also increasing your pain threshold and improving your sleep!
For your sex life:
Masturbation is a great way to release pent up sexual energy. This can be extremely helpful for singles and people in long distance relationships. This can also help with couples who struggle with a desire discrepancy – a common phenomenon that places a lot of strain on relationships due to one person wanting sex more frequently than their partner.
Apart from that, a recent study found that people who masturbate frequently also tend to have more sex! The idea here is that masturbation involves thinking about sex more often, meaning that you’re priming your body and mind for sexual intimacy, thereby making it more likely that you’ll actually end up having intercourse.
You also stand to gain from masturbation by becoming more explorative, self-aware and comfortable with your own body. Self-stimulation gives you a chance to explore your physicality, giving you a better sense of what you like and what you don’t. If you’re able to use this awareness to communicate with your partner, you’re able to benefit from higher levels of intimacy, (s)exploration and sexual satisfaction in your relationship!
But if I’m masturbating, doesn’t that mean that there’s a problem in my relationship? The answer is no, not necessarily. The idea that people only masturbate when they’re unhappy in their relationships is a myth: it’s perfectly normal for people to be pleasuring themselves individually even when they’re in a relationship or marriage!
Having said that, however, if you’re masturbating instead of having sex with your partner, this might leave them feeling disconnected and inadequate. If you feel that you might be addicted to masturbation – to the point that it’s impacting on your relationships and day-to-day functioning – this might be a good time to reach out to a psychologist or sex therapist for some support.
How to practice healthy masturbation
We said earlier that “wrong” masturbation could lead to sexual dysfunctions. And that “right” masturbation could be good for you. So let’s examine how to masturbate correctly.
Take your time
Rule number one of healthy masturbation is to slow down: you’re not running a race! Often, this is a matter of remembering that true sexual satisfaction is about more than just the end-goal of having an orgasm – it’s about learning to enjoy the whole process!
If you notice yourself rushing through it, make a concerted effort to take a break and pay some sensual attention to other parts of your body, such as your nipples, stomach or thighs. When you start up again, try to stroke at a leisurely pace.
Taking it slow in this way will help re-train your body to last longer when you’re with a partner. This way, you’ll not only avoid conditions such as premature ejaculation, but you’ll also stand to benefit from more time spent having sex which equals more pleasure, satisfaction and intimacy for all parties involved!
Set the mood
With a partner, we spend time and energy on setting the mood before sex, right? The same should apply for having sex with yourself: it’s important that you create an atmosphere that makes you feel comfortable and ready for a sensual and satisfying experience!
Be sure to choose a space that’s comfortable and private, free from distractions and interruptions. The rest is up to you: play your favorite music and pour yourself a glass of wine (or Kombucha, if you’re that way inclined). If you like, you can dim the lights or even use some candles to reduce your stress levels and allow you to properly connect with your body.
Focus on your responses
While masturbating, pay attention to how your body is responding. For example, try directing your attention to your breathing: is it fast or slow; shallow or deep? If you’re able to, listen for your heartbeat as it quickens and slows. Also notice areas of your body that are holding any tension or pleasure: where does it feel good?
Be sure to pay close attention as you approach the point of orgasm. Are your muscles tightening? Has your breathing quickened? What are you thinking? Are you feeling pleasure, desire, sexual tension or all of the above? What are you feeling in your stomach and what’s going on in your chest?
Becoming familiar with your body and its sexual responses will translate to improved sexual self-awareness and confidence. The more in tune you are with your body, the more control you will have over your sexual functioning.
Edging, also known as the stop start technique, is a powerful strategy for improving your sexual control. This involves masturbating up until up until the point orgasm – but then you stop before ejaculating and give yourself a break of two minutes before starting again. Repeat this process as many times as you’re able to. You may find this challenging initially, which is ok, as it takes time and practice to build up the necessary stamina.
This technique is used frequently by sex therapists (and in our own premature ejaculation program) to help men who struggle with premature ejaculation. Nonetheless, edging is helpful for anyone in that it trains your body to delay climax, keep an erection for longer and experience more intense orgasms.
Use your imagination
How can your imagination bring about positive changes in your sex life? The answer lies in brain science’s exciting new discovery of mirror neurons. These are particular brain cells that light up in a specific way, regardless of whether we’re a) performing an activity or b) thinking about performing an activity.
Where am I going with this? Let’s say that you want to perfect your golf swing. By imagining yourself doing this, your brain circuits that are responsible for playing golf will start to strengthen, in the same way that they would if you were actually practicing your swing in real life!
Yes, you guessed it: the same rule applies for sex and masturbation. If you can stimulate yourself mentally by picturing yourself having intimate, engaging and satisfying sex, you are essentially training your brain for the real thing. Due to mirror neurons, using your imagination during masturbation may lead to a better sexual performance and increased sexual satisfaction for you and your partner! If you’re relying on porn for stimulation, on the other hand, you’re likely to miss out on this powerful benefit.
Extra tips for making masturbation more fun
Now that we have looked at some ways to ensure that our masturbation routine is safe and healthy, let’s think about some tricks that we can use to make self-stimulation that much more pleasurable.
Use varied positions
Changing things up can help you to unlock different types of pleasure. Why not experiment by masturbating whilst standing, sitting, lying down or positioning yourself on your hands and knees?
Swapping to the non-dominant hand can change what you feel – and this variation can make self-pleasure that much more exciting. Notice how using a different hand can feel different
Use your hips
Whilst masturbating, keep your hand still and let your hips do some of the work. Try moving your hips back and forth, in a circular direction, or whatever other motion feels good. Don’t be afraid to experiment – you’re on your own after all and this is your time to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Try different strokes
Increase your pleasure by varying the rate and depth of your stroke. Start soft and increase the pressure as you progress. Slow things down and then gradually build up the pace – but remember rule number 1 of healthy masturbation: not too fast!
Explore beyond the penis
Men: there is more to our sexual anatomy than just the penis! In fact, erogenous zones are spread widely across the body. Experiment by paying some attention to the testicles: sexual organs which are rich in nerve endings. Try with a gentle tug or stroke.
Beyond that, the perineum – which is the skin between the testicles and anus – is extremely sensitive and can also be caressed to increase stimulation. If you like, you can mix things up by touching the penis with one hand and the testicles or perineum with the other.
Try a toy
Have you ever considered using a vibrator? Yes, these are not just for women – up to 16.6% of men enjoy using a vibrator. Using such a toy to stimulate the penis or testicles can increase pleasure and one study has shown that men using vibrators had the highest levels of sexual desire, erotic excitement, post-coital satisfaction and even improved erectile function!
But if a vibrator doesn’t tickle your fancy, you may want to consider using a male masturbation device. These are artificial and portable vagina-like devices (they look light a flashlight on the outside) that you can use to liven up your masturbatory experience.
Use a different medium
We have already discussed some of the dangers of using internet-based porn. So, if you’re looking to broaden your sexual horizons somewhat, why not consider drawing inspiration from erotic literature and/or audiobooks, both of which are available online?
These can help to stimulate your sexual imagination and lead to an invigorating masturbatory experience. The added benefit of this sort of medium above porn, for example, is that you’re still required to engage your own creative mind. Unlike porn, which allows you to remain passive, literature and audiobooks keep you connected to the process of sexual stimulation.
Masturbation: nearly everyone does it, but not enough of us are comfortable to speak openly about it. But we need to be discussing it, because the way in which we tug the slug has very real implications for our health and well-being! If we’re doing it right, we can make our bodies, brains and relationships healthier. If we’re masturbating incorrectly, however, we may risk self-esteem issues and serious sexual dysfunction.
At the end of the day, how you pleasure yourself is up to you. But if you’re able to implement the pointers for healthy self-stimulation that we have discussed here today, you truly stand to benefit from an experience that is not just amazingly pleasurable, but also nourishing and protective when it comes to your sexual health!