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Dr. Prabhu
is a sexologist from Mumbai, India

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Also by Dr. Prabhu

Skills for adolescents






Is it normal ?

- Dr. Vithal Prabhu


Masturbation is stimulation of sex organs by self. It is a solo activity. When two do it to each other, it is called "mutual masturbation." About 93 to 98 per cent of men and 60 to 80 per cent of women do it. However, most of them do not disclose it. It is a normal step in the development of sexuality.

Contrary to common beliefs, masturbation is harmless. Those who masturbate find a sense of physical satisfaction and release of mental tension. It familiarizes oneself with one's own sexual responses.

A woman who has has learnt to have orgasm through masturbation can learn to orgasm through intercourse as well. Most of the men who do not have ejaculation/orgasm are found to have no experience of masturbation.

In many cultures, masturbation is a taboo and much stigma is attached to it. Because of wide spread myths about masturbation, boys are afraid that by doing masturbation, they become weak, get pimples, become insane and that their penis gets bent, decreases in size or get tilted.

Other very common myths are that masturbation causes impotence, makes semen watery or exhaust the stock of semen. None of these is true. Scientists say that masturbation is not at all harmful but is in fact beneficial. It is a safe sexual outlet. It does not cause any bad effect either on the penis or on the general health. Since it is a solo performance, it does not encroach upon anybody's freedom and it can be done at any time. It costs nothing.

Masturbation is the surest way to prevent STD and HIV infections. Sociologists feel that had masturbation not been there, the rapes, homosexuality, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS would have been on increase.

Boys are worried about the loss of semen which is supposed to be a precious and vital fluid. In fact semen is a fluid meant for throwing out of body. No harm is done if it is thrown out and no benefit is obtained if it is preserved in the body. Sperms and the constituents of the semen are continuously produced in the body. If the semen is not ejaculated at intervals either by masturbation or in sleep, it gets disintegrated and absorbed in the body.

Some boys are worried that they have done "too much" of masturbation and therefore, they have landed into some problems like impotence or weakness. The fact is that there is nothing like "too much." Like sleep, thirst, hunger, the body knows its requirements. The body craves only till the needs are satisfied. The need of sex-outlet is great during the adolescence. Since one cannot have sexual outlet just at will with the opposite sex, nature itself teaches the alternative method of sexual outlet, i.e., masturbation. Animals too masturbate by forelimbs or by rubbing their penis against the trees or such objects.

Not only unmarried men and women masturbate, but married persons also do it when their partner is not around or is sick. Elderly persons also do it. Intense desire for masturbation amongst boys is because of high level of the male sex hormone, testosterone. The frequency of masturbation is less in girls.

Boys masturbate by moving the foreskin of the penis to and fro by fingers or by the fist of the hand. Another common way is the rubbing of penis to the bed, by moving the hip forwards and backwards. In either way, the stimulation of the glans of the penis is continued to the point of ejaculation.

Is there a qualitative difference in the orgasms reached by masturbation and intercourse? In fact, masturbation is an imitation of the intercourse. In masturbation, the penis is steady and the hand moves; while in the intercourse the vagina is steady and the penis moves. In either case, the effect remains the same. (It is something like whether the barrel of the syringe moves or the piston moves, effect is same.) The brain perceives the sensation from the penis in the same way either through masturbation or through intercourse, and triggers the orgasm. Therefore, the quality of orgasm from both these activities remain the same. Hence, masturbation is a safe alternative for sexual intercourse.

Boys are under the impression that girls masturbate by introducing long objects like a banana in their vagina. The sensitive part in girls are the clitoris and the labia minora. Girls stimulate these parts by using fingers, or by making rhythmic movements.

Does one get addicted to masturbation? No. When he gets an opportunity to have sexual relationship with the opposite sex, he can easily switch over to it. Masturbation could cause problems only if it becomes obsessive and compulsive, i.e., doing nothing else but masturbation throughout the day.

Masturbation does not affect one's ability and performance in daily life or in special pursuits such as sports. Many athletes who have won medals have masturbated on the previous night for the release of the tension and to get good sleep. It is also found that the students masturbate more frequently during the preparation time for their examinations.

There are boys who wish to discontinue the 'habit' of masturbation totally, out of guilt or for fear of presumed ill-effects.

First of all, masturbation is not a habit or addiction like smoking or alcohol. It does not harm as tobacco or alcohol does. Masturbation is a normal expression of sexuality during the adolescence. The frequency decreases as the age advances. It is not necessary to go against the stream of the nature. However, the choice is their's.

Those who are keen on quitting masturbation or reducing its frequency may start taking deep interest in other areas of interest, such as sports, physical exercises, music, painting, reading, social service etc. They may also focus on their hobbies and channelise their energy into these directions. This is called "sublimation".

They should make a decision not to masturbate. Every morning they should make the same decision afresh for that day. If they do not succeed they need not repent or feel disappointed. They should make a fresh decision without any guilt feeling, because masturbation is a healthy normal behaviour. If they stop masturbation, it is normal; and if they continue to do it, that is also normal.

Some quacks take advantage of the guilt feelings of masturbation amongst youth and prescribe spurious drugs and remedies to improve the health allegedly "LOST" due to masturbation. This is nothing but cheating. Youth should not fall a prey to such unscrupulous cheats and tricksters.

What harms in masturbation is not the act itself, but the feeling of guilt, shame and anxiety regarding the act. Shedding the latter is enough.