Getting Some Answers on ‘Is Masturbation Harmful?’
The majority of clients I work with believe that pornography is unhelpful and something that they would rather find some way of stopping. However, in regards to masturbation, there’s a lot more variety of opinions. Men wonder ‘is masturbation harmful?’ and if they should stop. Here’s what the research says.
Pornography and masturbation
For some clients, masturbation goes along with pornography use. If they are going to stop using pornography, then they must also cease masturbation. For them, masturbation is just as much a part of the problem as pornography is.
However, for other clients, masturbation without pornography is quite acceptable. For them, masturbating using their fantasy life rather than pornography is a step towards sexual health. Masturbation makes the process of stopping using pornography much more achievable for them.
What the evidence says
There is little in the academic research to indicate that masturbation is actually a medical or biological problem for people. Kinsey’s study in 1948 found that 92 percent of men had masturbated (Kinsey, Pomeroy & Martin, 1948, as cited in Colman, 2003). One would expect that if there were negative effects, then these effects would be of epidemic proportions.
Additionally, our concerns about masturbation “…are mostly based upon ancient religious orthodoxy and mythology (Leitenberg, Greenwlad & Tarran, 1989; Money, Prakasam & Joshi, 1991, as cited in Coleman 2003) or that it “violates the ethics of many societies that require sacrifice and work for the common good. Thus, masturbation is perceived to be too selfish and too pleasure focused for the common good” (Coleman, 2003 p.8).
Is masturbation harmful
Further, “… contrary to traditional beliefs, masturbation has been found to be a common sexual behavior and linked to indicators of sexual health … it is widely used in sex therapy as a means of improving the sexual health of the individual and/or relationship” (Coleman, 2003 p.5) and “… improves sexual satisfaction between partners during sexual activity together” (Coleman, 2003 p.7).
Masturbation and sexual health
Coleman goes on to say that “[p]romoting masturbation as a means of a public health strategy for sexual health is highly controversial; however, there are arguments and evidence that suggest that this may be an important part of any public health approach to improving sexual health” and that “there are no general indicators of ill health associated with masturbation” (p.5) However, he found that if there was a negative associated with masturbation, it is our guilt about masturbation (and in some cases of paraphilias and compulsive sexual behaviors).
When you’re trying to control your pornography use, it’s your choice whether to continue masturbating or not. Your choice will depend on your history and your beliefs. For some people, it is part of the problem; for other people, it is part of the solution. However, whatever path you take there is no reason you should consider it to be a medical problem or that it is doing you any sort of harm. Rather, it’s a matter of belief and preference.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Now, read about Does Porn Cause Social Anxiety?
– Tim Hill
Coleman, E (2003). Masturbation as a Means of Achieving Sexual Health. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 14(2–3), 5–16. https://doi.org/10.1300/J056v14n02_02
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