Masturbation is a natural and safe way to improve sexual health, promote relational intimacy, and reduce unwanted pregnancy. Until the early modern age, moralists and theologians considered masturbation a “sin against nature” whereas medical professionals left it largely unnoticed. The general public still considers masturbation to be a sensitive and uncomfortable topic to discuss. Because masturbation has no reproductive goal, it can be seen as unnatural,

and the stigma that surrounds masturbation continues to prevent rational discourse, which supports the continuation of silence and myths. Here are seven such questions that you may have had about masturbation but always felt too embarrassed to ask, given the stigma around it.

1. How much is too much?

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It can be practiced by people across age groups and gender. Despite common beliefs and myths, there are actually no physically harmful side effects of masturbation. However, excessive masturbation can harm your relationships and everyday life. Other than that, masturbation is a fun, normal, and healthy act.

2. How often can one masturbate?

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Masturbation is a normal, healthy part of human sexuality. However, if you feel like you are losing control, or the need to masturbate is interfering with your everyday life or replacing sex in a relationship, you can consult a doctor as too much of anything is considered bad. It’s a common belief that masturbation causes erectile dysfunction (inability to get or maintain an erection) and can eventually lead to major depressive disorder. So, too much/frequent masturbating especially basic porn may contribute to ED by desensitizing you to certain imagery and physical intimacy. The common risk factors for ED however include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, tobacco use, high cholesterol, low testosterone hormones, lower urinary tract symptoms, metabolic syndrome, and depression.

3. Can too much masturbation make the penis insensitive? How does it affect Erectile Dysfunction?

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Masturbation may affect penile sensitivity during sex because of the technique. Hence, sexual health experts recommend changing your technique during masturbation to restore sensitivity levels during sex. Masturbation and porn use aren’t inherently problematic, and neither can they directly cause erectile dysfunction. But your technique does make a difference. 

For example, if you typically masturbate sitting down or with an extremely tight grip (“death grip”), you may have trouble obtaining or maintaining an erection during partnered play. That’s because your body has been trained to respond to a seated position or “death grip,” both of which typically aren’t replicated during partnered sex. If this becomes a problem for you and your partner, you may find it helpful to take a weeklong break from any sexual stimulation so that your body can reset. From there, gradually ease back into it by using different techniques.

4. What are some benefits of masturbating?

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Masturbation is a healthy sexual activity. It has many benefits for your physical and mental health. Though there are limited studies on the benefits of masturbation, there are studies on sexual intercourse and stimulation. Research and anecdotal reports suggest that sexual stimulation, including stimulation through masturbation, may help you relieve built-up stress, sleep better, boost your mood, relax, feel pleasure, relieve cramps, release sexual tension and lead to better sex. For couples, experts suggest mutually masturbating to explore different desires, as well as avoiding pregnancy. Self-pleasuring also helps you prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

5. Is it safe to use lubricants to masturbate? What kinds of lubricants (if yes)?

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Lubricant is a specially formulated gel or liquid that can be applied to intimate areas to increase pleasure and ease discomfort during sex. But lube isn’t just for sexual penetration. It can also be awesome when used during masturbation. If you prefer a little extra stimulation while you masturbate, you can use water-based gel lubricants. You can also refer to silicone lubricant as it doesn’t dry out quickly and prevents the skin of the penis from becoming chafed, dried out, and desensitized from intense friction.

6. Does masturbation deteriorate your performance in bed? What are the complications/challenges that masturbation can lead to?

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Masturbation is a safe way to learn about your body, practice self-love, and get a better sense of what turns you on during sex. There’s no scientific evidence that masturbating before sex has any effect- negative or positive. Frequent masturbation can lead to the habit of getting into addictive masturbation and having sex with your partner. This may sometimes affect your mental health and lead to erectile dysfunction.

7. Can masturbation help in better orgasms?

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Masturbation helps in having better sex and lets one understand the kind of sexual pleasure the body wants. Especially noteworthy for the ones who struggle to get turned on, masturbation is suggested to avoid sexual dysfunction and low sex drive. Sometimes, men masturbating before partnered sex can last longer with their partner because it takes longer to reach orgasm the second time around.

Dr Pramod Krishnappa is a Consultant Andrologist at Dept of Urology, NU Hospitals.