Masturbation

From our earliest days, we men are interested in our penises. As a very obvious symbol of masculinity it attracts our fascinated attention from boyhood to old age. And although we cannot ejaculate until puberty is fairly well advanced, we can masturbate to orgasm from a very early age. No wonder, then, that masturbation is such a fascinating subject to us males: almost instant pleasure, available from our most prized asset, with no need of help from anyone else. A compelling formula indeed!

One of the interesting questions about masturbation is why it has been seen as such a sin over the years. It's almost certainly because of a religious influence, an attitude that basically suggested "spilling" one's seed for any reason other than reproduction was a crime against some higher power. Of course we can now see this for what it is: our bodies are our own to use as we see fit, and we can enjoy the sexual pleasure they provide without shame or embarrassment.

At least, that's how it would be in an ideal world. The reality is that only a very small number of people in the fundamentalist Protestant or Catholic or Muslim world see masturbation as a normal part of a healthy adult sex life. And few women like the thought that their man is masturbating without their knowledge, or at least without her being a part of his experience. (Which makes me ask: does a penis belong to the couple?)

And in truth, of course, though almost all boys masturbate, many of them are very conflicted about it and suffer great shame and anxiety when they do so. What's more, even a half of all the adult men and women who masturbate experience some shame or guilt about doing so (or so the Sex In America survey of 1994 claimed). This despite the positive words that masturbation has evoked from the medical profession and sex therapists alike in recent times.....or, then again, maybe it's not so surprising.

In 1994, Jocelyn Elders, the American Surgeon-General, lost her job when she suggested that masturbation should be part of the sex education curriculum. This attempt to silence her only mirrors a long history of suppression: in 1800's and the early 1900s, various devices which could be attached to a boy's penis to stop him masturbating or having wet dreams featured in mail-order catalogues (see here for some examples). This kind of puritanical madness was based on the belief that masturbation led to lunacy. 

Even as late as the 1970's the myth that masturbation could lead to blindness, hairy palms, weakness, spots - just about anything bad, in fact - was still peddled in school playgrounds. And what of the insult "wanker"? Why should a word which speaks of self-pleasuring remain an insult even now, in our supposedly enlightened age?

Presumably the obvious reason is that masturbation is a solitary pleasure, so anyone indulging in it is seen as a loser. And yet, as we now know, almost all boys masturbate, and most girls too. So the association of a healthy practice with an insult is probably another reflection of our society's widespread shame and guilt about masturbation.

And masturbation is a healthy practice. It boosts the immune system (probably because it makes you more relaxed), it can relieve tension and anxiety, it can help you get to sleep at night (many men masturbate in bed each night before falling asleep since the hormones released by the brain after a man has reached orgasm induce sleep), it keeps your penis and testicles in good working order, and it can help you understand your body and sexual responses. This might not be something science has studied in great detail for men, but the benefits of masturbation are clear.

(They're even clearer for women, since a self-induced orgasm can relive menstrual cramps and provide relief from pain. And if a woman's pre-orgasmic, it's most likely she's going to learn how to come from masturbation. Even if she's in a sexual relationship, it's most likely she's going to get her orgasm from masturbation or oral sex during foreplay rather than from intercourse itself.) Should you use a traumatic method of masturbation, and find yourself with delayed ejaculation in adult, life, unable to masturbate to orgasm easily, and probably unable to reach orgasm during intercourse, check out possible solutions to retarded ejaculation.

Besides which, if men didn't masturbate, what would they do with all that sexual energy? The Sex In America survey suggested that the majority of men masturbate from their early teen years right up until their 50's. About half of the men over 50 continue to masturbate on a regular basis. In the teen years, the frequency of masturbation can be very impressive - some lads are masturbating twice or three times a day.

(One survey claimed that the most masturbation happens among 11 year olds.) By the time we're in our twenties, the average frequency is probably between five and ten times a week; then in our thirties, perhaps a couple of times a week. But these figures are more impressionistic than anything, for how often guy brings himself off probably depends on many factors including whether or not he's getting sex with a partner.

So what of the sense of shame and guilt that some men experience? Overcoming the guilt is difficult, as even the foremost proponent of masturbation, Dr Betty Dodson, acknowledges, because it's deep down in the psyche, from the times when mommy removed her little boy's hand from his penis - yet whose penis is it, if not his, to touch?

If you've been in the habit of masturbating quickly and surreptitiously to orgasm, try something different. Try doing it slowly, sensuously, using oils and long strokes of your hands over your penis, abdomen, testicles and nipples. Bring yourself to the edge of orgasm and back off. Repeat several times, then, at the moment of orgasm, take a deep breath and relax as you let it out. The more physically relaxed you are when you come, the more intense and enjoyable your orgasm will be. And remember, masturbation is wonderful, and you have every right to enjoy it!

A big change from our usual attitude to masturbation is to think of it as making love to yourself. This, as you can imagine, takes time. Not many men take the time to enjoy the feeling of just stroking their penis while it's still soft, or just having an erection - there always seems to be an impetus to ejaculate.

The way in which men masturbate varies, of course: men with a foreskin have more to play with, and less need of lube. Men with ample pre-cum may use a different stroke to those without. Some men will grip their penis with four fingers, their thumb out an angle, rubbing the entire body of their penis up and down. Others will use their thumb and first finger, focusing more on the area under the glans of their penis with their three other fingers held out to the side.

Making love to yourself means more than jerking off. Try putting your other hand behind your testicles and press into the muscles on your perineum. Or try pressing on your anal sphincter, or even putting a finger inside your anal canal. Making love is about taking the time to stroke and touch yourself anywhere on your body, not just on your sexual organs. Use lube or you may pick up a yeast infection due to the friction breaking the skin...

There is an unusual condition called traumatic masturbatory syndrome, in which a man conditions himself through vigorous stimulation of his penis only to be able to ejaculate under certain conditions. This often leads to a great deal of difficulty during sex later in life when the man finds that ejaculation during intercourse is almost impossible to achieve. This condition is known as delayed ejaculation - see www.male-orgasmic-disorder.com for more knowledge of this - and although traditionally thought of as difficult to cure, it is in fact amenable to treatment with a set of self-help exercises which will lead to complete orgasmic capacity during intercourse in a comparatively short time. There is plenty of advice for men wishing to help women become more orgasmic here, by the way.

The penis and masturbation 

Women can never understand the impetus to do something with our penises. It's an impulse that is stronger than our will - or at least it can seem that way - as testified by the well-known myth (or fact) that men think about sex every, well, twenty two minutes, five minutes, minute - whatever. There can hardly be a man alive who has not sneaked off from some kind of meeting, date, dinner, or movie show so he can masturbate in the toilets.

Of course this impulse gets its most vulgar display in the wolf-whistles of building site workers. That's definitely crude, an assault on women certainly, and no doubt very threatening, but here's the thing: if you're a well-bred man, you don't do it out loud, you do it internally. As Neil Strauss said in his book "The Game", if you're a woman there's almost certainly a man thinking about you in a sexual way right now - and it's not necessarily someone you know; it might be someone you saw in the street today.

It's this power of the male sexual urge which gives potency to the penis. The penis is, after all, an instantly accessible object - tug it out of your trousers, and there it is, ready for a bit of jerk-off action. And the interesting thing is that while women think being in a relationship should somehow stop a man masturbating, or at the very least they should be a part of it, no man alive would ever give up his right to a quick, impersonal, solitary wank. 

So why has masturbation been the object of such ludicrous attempts to stop it over the years? Make no mistake about it, masturbation was a sin that could send you to hell, at least in the eyes of much of 18th, 19th and 20th century society - and here's the irony: the men inventing anti-masturbation devices were no doubt doing it themselves.

Feverishly, I suspect, and then projecting their guilt upon the rest of the world in contraptions such as a wired harness that sounded a bell and delivered an electric shock if the unfortunate penis trapped within it became erect, a mechanical sheath which prevented an erection from developing, and a metal ring lined with spikes which penetrated the flesh of the organ should it dare to become erect. You can see these things here. Ouch! Almost as painful as a yeast infection, a yeast infection on your balls.... go here to learn more about yeast infection in men.

It took Alfred Kinsey, a strange and interesting sex researcher who apparently had sex with many of his young female students, to make masturbation respectable. Or, if not respectable, at least acceptable. His research revealed that most men masturbate - not such a shocking thing, you might think, but in the 1960's this was like a breath of fresh air blowing through the repressive atmosphere of the time.

And with this first public admission of what many of us might have suspected came a new awareness of the power of the process that takes men oh-so-casually from a sexy thought to an ejaculation in no time at all, a process men enjoy all the time.

But what of the more extreme forms of masturbation? What, for instance, of the circle jerk? Many of us learned to masturbate at such events - a group of horny teens wanking off together.

Now, search hard enough on the internet and you'll find the modern equivalent of the teens' circle jerks - a masturbation party you can attend on the way home from the office: not necessarily such a pleasant environment ("keep your shoes on" seems to be the recommended advice), but certainly one which testifies to the power of the male sexual urge. Apparently it takes no time at all to come when you're surrounded by erect penises and their owners enthusiastically tugging at them. 

And there are masturbation sites on the internet: prima inter pares of these is Jackinworld.com, a testament to the ingenuity of men (and, let it be said, teenage boys) in finding new ways to bring themselves to orgasm, preferably by using something that has a faint resemblance to the inside of a vagina....like zip-lock bags filled with warm water, for example.

And what of auto-fellatio? What indeed, for which teenager has not tried this? Some of the lucky ones, those who discovered they could indeed get their lips around their own penis (yes, that is a coy way of saying they could suck themselves off) have established an alternative career on the internet, setting up auto-fellatio sites, where for a few dollars, you can observe this most narcissistic form of penile pleasure.

It's never going to be a crowded job-market, though, for according to Kinsey, only two or three men in a thousand have a flexible enough back or a long enough organ (or both) to be able to accomplish this.

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Erection, orgasm, ejaculation problems
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Masturbation
Male sexuality and the penis
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Does a foreskin make masturbation easier?