The Human Truth Foundation

Masturbation, Relationships, Honesty

By Vexen Crabtree 2002

#masturbation #sex #sexuality

The point of this page is to dispel taboos, refute daft religious people who say that we shouldn't do it, and hopefully give whatever insight I can into the immense complexities of Human sexuality, as well as show that masturbation is harmless and most of all natural, occurring in many animal species. Prohibitions on masturbation, and discussion of it, are not universal. In classical Greece, for example, there was no anxiety surrounding the subject1.

1. Mental and Physical Health Benefits

#health #masturbation #sexuality

Despite the superstitions spread by religious groups, masturbation is clearly natural, normal, completely safe and beautiful. It is a required release which Human beings find comforting and necessary for their emotional well-being. Masturbation teaches us about our bodies and how we can feel pleasure. Lack of masturbation in women may cause an inability to orgasm2. Nearly all people masturbate, whether they are in a steady sexual relationship or not. Also, it is common throughout most species wherever it is physiologically possible. It is natural and normal across all of nature. It also confers health benefits and prevents certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer in males3,4. The New Scientist (2004) reported that "a large study by the National Cancer Institute in the US has found that frequent ejaculation - either through sexual intercourse, masturbation or nocturnal emissions - protects men against prostate cancer, backing the result of an Australian study reported by New Scientist last year (19 July)"3. Also, abstinence from sex for more than three days harms semen, as revealed by analysis of fertility treatment sperm donation centres5. There is clearly a health benefit to male masturbation, for both productive health and continued normal physical health. It is a relaxant, provides pain relief (especially for women at certain times of the month, from headaches, stomach ache, vague lower back pain), allows you to learn about your own body, teaches you to be better at sex and control, it is free, safe and personal.

2. Harmful Taboos and Inhibitions

#christianity #islam #theism #USA

There are some religious groups who are heavily anti-masturbation, taking their opposition to an irrational extreme. Anti-masturbation is anti-human and unnatural, and can cause psychological distortions, but, such a stance has been part of some religious traditions since their inception. It might be easy to equate it with asceticism and world-rejection in general (such as with monks), but, an anti-masturbation stance is still proclaimed (however unbelievably) even by rich USA evangelicals. It was organized Christianity that orchestrated the campaigns against masturbation from the 6th century CE but especially from the 18th century onwards. This involved the promulgation of a large number of invented medical issues, which together had long-term negative effects on sexual understanding in the West.

The Penitentials are very concerned about the frequency of the sin of masturbation (in the five short Penitentials we possess there are five twenty-five sections devoted to masturbation and another twenty-five about masturbation of the clergy).

"The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West"
Karen Armstrong (1986)6

Masturbation was held responsible for a wide range of long-term medical problems including mental exhaustion, blurred vision, defective memory, blindness, rheumatism, gout, madness, gonorrhoea, epilepsy, impotence, and various sexual deviances. By the mid-19th century, medical science invented the condition of 'spermatorrhoea' whose purported symptoms consisted of nervous debility and a general wasting of the faculties resulting from 'excessive' loss of semen due to masturbation. An anti-masturbation commerce developed'

"Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction" by Veronique Mottier (2008)7

Christian publishers in the 18th century in particular produced a large number of anti-masturbation and anti-sexuality books, spreading all of the above nonsense, and thwarting any attempt at honestly appraising human sexuality. Christian rejection of general sexuality, which persisted for hundreds of years in the West, still has an impact on society today even though the Western world has largely moved on from Christianity. Some of their arguments derived directly from Biblical text. For example, Genesis 38:8-10 discusses Onan, who was told by God to impregnate his brother's wife and then marry her. But Onan knew it was wrong, so he "spilled" his "seed" on the ground. But this waste of semen was such a travesty that the Lord God of the Bible killed him for it:

Go in unto they brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him.

Genesis 38:8-10

The first book of Samuel also discusses masturbation, where it is said to be the result of the "evil spirit from the LORD" - i.e., God's evil side, which tempts people into sin. 1 Samuel 19:9: "And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand" (1 Samuel 16:23 says a similar thing). Both verses address male masturbation (or male mutual masturbation, depending on how you read them). When it comes to female masturbation, the Bible finds itself taking a more liberal and somewhat contradictory stance:

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31:31

Theologically, the verses are somewhat confused. If masturbation was wrong, it would be equally wrong for men and for women - and for animals. But as we saw, it is only male masturbation that is punished by death in the Bible. It doesn't make sense to say that the difference in rules for the sexes depends upon the "seed" being in the male, because, in standard theistic belief, God designed the male reproductive system to systematically eject excess semen automatically. Although the Biblical verses don't make sense from a rational point of view, Christian dogma on masturbation, "the sin of onanism", continued to be taken seriously right up until up to recent decades., and many of the myths they spread on the topic continue to be repeated.

"Many adults need re-education to free them of the taboos acquired in childhood" wrote Ellis & Abarbanel in 1961, almost anticipating the liberal decade to come. Thankfully in modern society sexual information is now much freer and safely discussed, advanced medical research has showed us there are no risks of masturbation, no ill-health can result nor any mental imbalances. Instead we have learned the opposite; forced abstinence and taboos causes imbalance, oppression, subverted diversion of sexual energy into minor and major psychosis. I like to think this very human and simple page on the subject will help those with difficulties accepting masturbation in themselves or others.

Female masturbation is a much bigger taboo than male masturbation. In typical Western male culture, jokes about 'wanking', and 'masturbation' are commonplace, and the numbers of phrases and sayings used to refer to it are numerous and humorous. However there are far fewer jokes and comments about female masturbation, and the subject is given a greater air of seriousness and sanctity. Hopefully more open communication about masturbation in general will make people more comfortable to talk about it without the reliance on jokes. History has proven that male attitudes towards female masturbation can sometimes verge on the psychotic. Muslim countries are often accused of practising clitoridectomy - more infamously known as female genital mutilation (FGM), which is a horrible medical procedure that denies women any pleasure at all and often makes for a life of pain. But the critics seem to have a short memory:

... to mention Islam [in this context] calls to mind the barbaric practice of clitoridectomy. Yet we in Britain cannot afford to be too chauvinist about this because in the 19th century British doctors also performed clitoridectomy on girls who used to enjoy their sexuality too much by masturbating. [...] We should be chary of apportioning all the blame to Islam when we, in the last century, were performing the same operation with the full support of Society.

"The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West"
Karen Armstrong (1986)8


3. Frequency

"The average single male reports it two or three times a week"9 and "the average single woman reports masturbating from two or three times a month"9. Self-reports are infamously unreliable, but, this is an area where there's few good ways to get data.

Married and older men reduce their frequency, some stopping altogether. Older women masturbate more frequently than younger women, and the practice does not decline in marriage or because coital sex is more frequent (whereas frequent sex is something that largely stops males from masturbating). As a part of our natures, men and women respond different, sexually10.

Statistics in "Encyclopaedia of Sexual Behaviour, the" by Drs Ellis and Abarbanel (1961)11 report only the admitted occurrence of masturbation, the actual rate is likely to be higher. People generally masturbate between once a week and twice a day. People (especially) males can masturbate within a minute, some women take an hour. People as young as 2 intentionally masturbate and people can do so until eighty plus, especially with modern health. "All evidence points to the fact that there is a higher percentage among males than among females"9. Although it is a stereotype I have found nothing to refute the idea that masturbation decreases slowly with age, but not significantly before middle age.

One telling difference highlights a psychological gap between the experiences of men and women. "Many males, projecting their own experience, are inclined to overestimate the incidences and frequencies of masturbation among females". Males are more consistent, with less deviation than females. With females "greater individual differences in frequency exist and the range of variation is much greater. Some girls report a frequency of masturbation as little as once or twice a year, while others may masturbate as many as ten to twenty times a week"12.

4. Four Types of Masturbation

  1. Full - Done in private. Generally, done whilst naked and with full concentration. The aim is to proceed until climax. For many people this aids sleep, makes them feel better, releases pent up energy and is generally a normal part of good mental health.

  2. Frottage Masturbation13 - This is simple and low-key masturbation through the clothes. This isn't as sexual as full masturbation and is frequently subconscious. Most people don't consider this a form of masturbation. If sexually aroused in a public place or at a time when the person doesn't want to masturbate or isn't aware that they're aroused then some frottage provides some release and sexual pacification.

  3. Pacification - If sat around (i.e. at a computer) just reading or typing then a very light form of masturbation is potentially noteworthy. Especially if relaxed and with some privacy this can be completely subconscious and done idly. Many people do not consider this masturbation at all, and, perhaps it's not. The method is to simple press or lightly touch ones sexual organs. Arousal isn't required, it can be simple pacification, like a baby's dummy14.

  4. Auto-orgasm - This is the attainment of orgasm through fantasy alone. In the Eastern world, it is reported sometimes amongst women who have had their genitals mutilated in the cultural practice of female circumcision that occurs in some Muslim countries. This is done to reduce the female enjoyment of sex (they believe this reduces infidelity). A percentage of women who have so suffered, report that sometimes they have a spontaneous orgasm induced by fantasy alone11. In the Western world, where female circumcision is outlawed, it is associated with withdrawn females:

    In a 1981 report, Barber states that many women [who] spent much of their adult lives lost in a world of fantasy began to fantasize early in life. [...] As children they tended to have imaginary companions, and almost all of them believed their dolls and stuffed animals were actually alive. The majority of these women reported they sometimes had orgasms solely through sexual fantasy.

    "Understanding Human Behavior" by James V. McConnel (1986)15

5. Getting It Wrong

Avoiding pain
There are painful ways to get things wrong! Some are obvious, some are not... and some of them are experiences you definitely never need to have!

Avoid getting scented soaps in contact with your genitals and inner bits. Toothpaste is very painful if it touches the wrong bits of your body. There exists genital soap, as our genitals more sensitive surfaces are actually a different pH to our skin, normal sensitive soap isn't any good. Women need to be careful when using dildo substitutes... and men need to be careful when masturbating using materials or any opening... in both cases, skin burns, friction burns, blisters and sore spots can sometimes not actually appear for a while but they'll be uncomfortable when they do. Never use anything that can break. All this sounds like common sense, and it should be!

Getting caught
It happens. Sometimes we are caught masturbating, and despite being liberal enough to read this page and self-secure enough to deny there's anything wrong with it, getting caught can be very embarrassing. It's a nightmare come true. We can be caught by our parents, our friends, housemates, school friends or lover. In the case of the latter, talking honestly about masturbation is an excellent idea because you both do it and if you talk about it, it becomes a non-issue.

But in the case of all the others the best course of action is not to deny it, and not to deny being embarrassed because both give people room to ridicule you... if you are honest and admit it, straight away, without hesitance and with pride then they will have no means to make fun of you. So... say, "Oh shit, you caught me masturbating, I'm sorry!, that's embarrassing!". The chances are if you can see past your own embarrassment, they themselves are also embarrassed simply for stumbling in on you. And if you are open and honest with them, they will respect you more. Confidence works well, even when it is faked! If you also are confident about this, it will hopefully inspire them to be confident if masturbation is an issue for them. You'll be setting a good (accidental) example.

As a kid, getting caught by your parents can be scary. Not just embarrassing. So if you are a parent, console your kid and tell him it's ok to do it but you never want to see him do it again! This foreboding statement is required to make sure he is more careful in future! And because you really shouldn't want to see him do it too.

Avoiding nausea
Sometimes a whole suit of unpleasant emotions can come over you either during sex or masturbation. These include nausea, feeling suddenly and increasingly unwell, strange and painful sensations around your genitals... you immediately want to stop everything, retreat to be on your own and check that everything's ok. It can be worrying! The cause of this is frequently: Over-stimulation. For guys it can be caused by squeezing too hard on any part of the penis or balls, and for women it can be caused by too much direct stimulation of the clitoris.

For guys the way to avoid this is: Don't squeeze that hard, and never squeeze your balls. For women the answer is: Masturbate using a silky piece of material in between your hand and clitoris, don't masturbate for too long with direct contact. If you are doing mutual masturbation with a loved one, tell them "wait, it gets too sensitive" and they will happily comply. Oral masturbation can become over-sensitive too... this is that "fine line between pleasure and pain" that people talk about!

6. Relationships

Most people do not stop masturbating when they're in a sexually satisfying relationship. Masturbation is frequently done for different reasons, with different feelings, to sex and therefore isn't replaced by sex. Some couples never dispel the taboo of masturbation and never openly discuss it and I think this is harmful.

Some couples are shocked or panic when they first discover their love masturbating. Simple communication and openness about the subject will avoid this! Without open discourse a lover can easily think that a person masturbates because they are not good enough. Let each other know that this isn't the case!

Every relationship is different, but I don't think it is right or natural for a person to ask his lover to stop masturbating. This will lead to secrecy, guilt and become a problem in the relationship. With openness comes more trust, less insecurity, more acceptance and happiness with each other's and your own bodies': I.e.... honestly about this leads to better sex! And perhaps the experience and openness will allow some new intimate forms of foreplay too.

7. Children

Sigmund Freud and other psychoanalysts believe that masturbation is a "universal phenomenon in childhood" (Stekel, 1950). Kinsey (1953) has a reputation for having over-estimated some sexual behaviours. His published text "states that in the female sex .3 percent have masturbated to orgasm by the early age of 3. That rises to 8% by the age of 10. It seems male orgasm is less frequent at such a young age, but male masturbation is equal to female, at 13%, including non-climatic experiences".

"In the female sex masturbation is most frequently accomplished by some manual manipulation of the genitalia" and "the technique next in order of use is that of accomplishing rhythmic movements of the buttocks while the child lies face down, perhaps on a bed [or frequently] the genital organs may be rubbed or pressed against a blanket or some object, as a toy"16.

Apologies to those who don't often think, or don't like to think of child sexuality, but for some parents it is a worrying issue because they do not know if it is normal or not. It is. The Encyclopaedia of Human Sexuality, from which I am reading, concludes on childhood female masturbation by stating "these techniques of childhood masturbation are surprisingly similar to that found in adulthood" but notes reassuringly that vaginal insertion is rarely used by children.

Male masturbation "occurs, according to Kanner, most frequently 'in bed before going to sleep or after waking' and 'with some children, it becomes a regular routine upon retiring'"16.

8. Animals

Species that can masturbate do so! All humanoid lifeforms do it with their hands. Those that can will lick their genitals until orgasm, rub their antlers on the ground, large wild cats will gyrate themselves against tree trunks for pleasure & climaxes, some monkeys even construct particular tools, for example with leaves & twigs, specifically for the purpose of masturbation. Octopuses self-stimulate their own tentacles' sexual organs. The phenomenon is practiced across the natural kingdoms far and wide using a wondrous array of techniques.

Book CoverMasturbation also occurs widely among animals, both male and female. A variety of creative techniques are used, including genital stimulation using the hand or front paw (primates, Lions), foot (Vampire Bats, primates), flipper (Walruses), or tail (Savanna Baboons), sometimes accompanied by stimulation of the nipples (Rhesus Macaques, Bonobos); auto-fellating or licking, sucking and/or nuzzling by a male of his own penis (Common Chimpanzees, Savanna Bonobos, Vervet Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, Thinhorn Sheep, Bharal, Aovdad, Dwarf Cavies); stimulation of the penis by flipping or rubbing it against the belly or in its own sheath (White-tailed and Mule Deer, Zebras and Takhi); spontaneous ejaculations (Mountain Sheep, Warthogs, Spotted Hyenas); and stimulation of the genitals using inanimate objects (found in several primates and cetaceans).

Many birds masturbate by mounting and copulating with tufts of grass, leaves or mounds of earth, and some mammals such as primates and Dolphins also rub their genitals against the ground or other surfaces to stimulate themselves.

Masturbation in female mammals, as well as heterosexual and homosexual intercourse (especially in primates), often involves direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoris [...]. This organ is present in the females of all mammalian species and several other animal groups. [...]

Apes and Monkeys use a variety of objects to masturbate with and even deliberately create implements for sexual stimulation [...] often in highly creative ways.

"Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity"
Bruce Bagemihl (1999)17

9. Porn

Males and females are exposed to lots of soft porn during their lives, and sometimes seek out some porn for their own or mutual use. Private use of porn is only harmful to a relationship under certain conditions. By metaphor, know that even if one person always cooks food for the other in a relationship, that it is healthy for the other person to explore their own tastes and like in food independently, sometimes. By learning on their own, they learn how to appreciate the others' cooking even better and even to learn to ask for what they want to be cooked. Even talking about cooking becomes more worthwhile if both partners have played with it in their own time. Of course, in this metaphor, learning to cook with someone else would probably be cheating though!

Males use visual porn to masturbate; it is a simple pragmatic solution to a healthy male habit. To suppress such a strong impulse only invites dishonesty and secrecy. Understanding and communication are required in order for males and females to talk about their differing drives. Anything less, and a minor difference can turn into a serious problem in a relationship, as mistrust and closed doors breeds contempt and insecurity.