Masturbation is one of the most natural ways to enjoy pleasurable personal time, relieve stress, and get to know your body.
Although there are many scare stories surrounding the act of self-gratification—in most circumstances, it causes no physical harm.
Yet, taking masturbation to the extreme can be damaging to your mental health, daily life, and relationships.
This article brings you the real masturbation facts rooted in science—not old wives’ tales.
How Many People Masturbate and Is It Normal?
The facts show that it’s an activity most of us enjoy—regardless of age or gender. That said, when it comes to the numbers, differences do exist in particular demographics.
Studies show that:
- More males (73.8 percent) report engaging in masturbation than women (48.1 percent).1
- In men, masturbation frequency increases with age—62.6 percent of men self-pleasure at 14 years, compared to 80 percent of those aged 17 years.
- Women are similar—a prevalence of 43.3 percent at 14 years, with an occurrence of 58 percent at 17 years.
So, if you’re someone who enjoys masturbation—consider yourself normal.
However, like most aspects of our lives—too much of a good thing can be counterproductive.
How Frequently People Masturbate?
Self-gratification is one of the simplest ways to enjoy pleasing alone time—and, within reason, can be done frequently without any adverse implications.
Experts have discovered that, on average, around half of men masturbate at least twice during a seven-day period (49.1 percent). While in women, just 22.5 percent savor double-weekly manual self-indulgence.
This shows that regular self-gratification is typical among us men—but when does it become too much?
The medical fraternity hasn’t placed an exact figure on how much masturbation is excessive. Some men may masturbate only a few times per month—others two or three times per day.
In general, there’s no right or wrong.
However, you should consider your own self-satisfaction frequency excessive if it begins to impact on other areas of your life. Here are a few questions to ponder regarding your masturbatory habits:
- Has your health worsened in any way since your masturbation frequency has increased?
- Do you use self-gratification as a method to escape from areas of your life in which you’re dissatisfied—such as employment, friendships, or relationships?
- Is your penis becoming sore or bruised?
- Do you have any problems ejaculating with your partner—yet climax perfectly fine when alone?
- Are you still having sex with your partner? Has the number of lovemaking sessions declined with your masturbation frequency?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes—it may be worthwhile considering a visit to your doctor to discuss the situation.
He or she may recommend medication, lifestyle changes, or therapy to address the root cause of uncontrollable masturbation. The AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists) is trained in dealing with such disorders. 2 3
Is Masturbation Healthy?
The masturbation facts illustrate that not only is this act highly pleasant—but it can also provide beneficial effects to male health. Here are the main reasons to enjoy some “you time.”
Relieves Stress and Tension
A recent (2019) clinical study demonstrated that masturbation is associated with both better sleep longevity and quality.6
The researchers believe that masturbation is so positive, the act could be considered as an alternative to pharmaceutical treatments for impaired slumber.
Scientists have discovered that within athletes, sexual activity (including masturbation) can elevate concentration levels in sports where accuracy is paramount—such as pistol shooting.7
While the exact reason is unclear—the experts suggest it could be related to the reduction in stress that masturbation induces.
We’ve already seen that one of the crucial masturbation benefits is that it can lower stress—a factor which can create improvements in our overall mental health.
Self-stimulation releases endorphins which have an analgesic effect.10 That is, they act as painkillers within the body—lowering discomfort.
Relieves Menstrual Cramps
If your partner is complaining of menstrual pain—encourage her to masturbate.
Both the relieving of stress and the production of hormones which lower pain can help with the unwanted symptoms of menstruation.
It’s true—experts believe that frequent self-pleasuring can add years to your life.
Scientists explored the effects of orgasming on 918 men (aged between 45 to 59) over a timeframe of 10 years. They explain that the mortality rate in men who enjoyed frequent orgasms was 50 percent lower than those who didn’t ejaculate regularly.11
Elevates Testosterone Levels
However, this elevation was only seen to occur when the subjects abstained from sexual activity for three weeks prior to the masturbation itself.
Protects Against Prostate Cancer
Possibly one of the most important masturbation benefits for men.
Studies explain that men who orgasm at least 21 times every month are 33 percent less likely to have prostate cancer—compared to those who ejaculate seven times every four weeks.15
Yet, research hasn’t reached a consensus on why there is this correlation. It may be that releasing semen removes prostate carcinogens. Or, some scientists suggest that orgasming regularly expels prostate fluid—inhibiting the buildup of cancer-causing crystals.
What Happens To Your Body When You Masturbate?
The following information illustrates what happens to our bodies when we self-indulge. Here’s the process, broken down into a few simple steps.
- From either physical or psychological stimuli—acetylcholine is released by the nerve branches in your penis.16
- This neurotransmitter promotes nitric oxide production. Working as a vasodilator, it expands the penile arteries encouraging bloodflow.17
- The penis holds two sponge-like erectile tissues which extend throughout its length—the corpora cavernosa. They become swollen by the elevated blood supply—enabling your penis to enlarge and become firm.18
- The ischiocavernosus and bulbospongiosus muscles act to restrict the corpora cavernosa’s veins—preventing blood from draining out of the penis.19
- As the penis is stimulated (via the shaft and/or the head), muscle tension throughout the body elevates. This can create involuntary body movements—which, though automatic, are rhythmic. Mimicking the hip-thrusting action during sexual intercourse.20
- Heart rate and blood pressure increases—enabling adequate oxygenated blood supply to the penis and assisting with elevating stamina.21
- Pre-ejaculatory fluid enters the urethra—changing the pH by lowering acidity—to heighten the chance of sperm survival. Useful for sexual intercourse, but with little effect on masturbation.22
- Semen moves from the testes to the opening of the urethra—preparing for ejaculation. The penile muscles contract rapidly—pushing the semen through the length of the penis and expelled from the glans—sending pleasure messages to the brain.23
How to Masturbate?
Self-gratification isn’t merely about grasping your penis firmly, rubbing it vigorously, and continuing until ejaculation.
Understanding the full masturbation facts regarding technique can affect sensation, enjoyment, and enhance health benefits.
The Importance of Lube
To lube or not to lube—more than anything, it’s a personal choice.
Masturbating without lubrication, known as “dry” masturbation, is safe—as long as it’s performed sensibly.
Some men prefer this method as it can feel more aggressive and rougher than a lubed member. Many males consider this the norm, as it’s how they first learned to masturbate—not many teens have a bottle of lube on their nightstands.
However, there are advantages to lubrication.
Firstly, it can be more sensual and stimulating. It more accurately replicates the sensation of a vagina—as opposed to a dry “rub.” Additionally, it creates a barrier between your hand and penis—enhancing the feeling that someone else is providing the stimulation—not you.
Secondly, it can be safer. Excessive dry masturbation can irritate and bruise the skin through friction. Furthermore, it may lead to dry patches that can itch and become flaky.
In the worst-case scenario—vigorous masturbation can damage erectile tissue. This may lead to the development of scar tissue—causing the penis to curve—a condition known as Peyronie’s disease.24
There are numerous oils, lotions, and creams, which you can use for masturbation. Ideally, use one that manufacturers have created specifically for this purpose. They’re designed to enhance pleasure during masturbation—and formulated to ensure that unwanted adverse reactions do not occur.
Ways To Masturbate
Here are some powerful techniques to take your masturbation to pro-level.
Although perhaps not the most exciting technique, this method can help those suffering from premature ejaculation issues (learn more).
The procedure is as follows:
- Begin to masturbate using your hand (and lube if you desire). Don’t be too vigorous—a slow and steady pace is best.
- Once you feel that you’re about to orgasm—stop. It’s crucial not to halt too early, yet equally, don’t push yourself too far, so you ejaculate. It may require some practice—but that’s not a bad thing.
- Once you have ceased—prevent all stimulation for 30 seconds. Throughout this period, relax and take long, slow, and deep breaths.
- Recommence masturbation—again halting just before the point of orgasm. Follow these steps about 3-5 times.
- Finally, allow yourself to ejaculate and enjoy the experience.
This method has two significant benefits:
- It allows you to become more conscious of your orgasms, and recognize the feelings and sensations immediately before ejaculation—assisting you to take control during intercourse.
- Associating relaxation and breathing with the orgasm process can enable you to control your orgasm reflex—putting you back in charge.
It takes a few weeks of practice for this method to take effect. The research behind the stop-start process suggests, under scientific conditions, this method is an effective treatment for premature ejaculation.25
Your masturbation sessions don’t have to include vigorous stimulation in order to achieve orgasm quickly.
While in some circumstances this may be desirable—try not to do it too often. There exists some belief that this can work in an opposing way to the start-stop method—associating stimulation with rapid ejaculation.
So, slow down and take time to explore what you enjoy. Savoring the masturbation process may lead you to more satisfying and pleasure-centric orgasms.
Adjust Your Stroke
Up and down movements, right? That’s how we masturbate. It’s efficacious and enjoyable.
But, while the research shows this is the most commonly used technique—why not try switching it around? Taking time to experiment can lead to elevated pleasure.
Try the following:
- Slow, twisting strokes from the bottom of the penis to its head—caressing your palm over the glans as you reach the top.
- Use the palm of one hand to rub the penis head while exciting the shaft with the other.
- Use an “OK” grip with one hand to pull the testes away from the penis shaft—allowing you more length to excite using the standard rub, or more advanced twist.
As before—experiment. The more variations you try, the more pleasurable and exciting your self-gratifying time can be.
Instead of using your dominant hand—use the other.
The opposite grip provided by your lesser hand can promote different sensations.
Alternatively, if you have time—attempt the “stranger” method. Sit on your hand until it becomes numb and use it to simulate someone else manually stimulating you.
Focus on Your Testicles
Your erogenous area isn’t restricted to your penis shaft and head—involve your testes too.
Often the testes are stimulated by a sexual partner during lovemaking—so why forget about these pleasure palaces when you’re on your own? Study-based masturbation facts illustrate that the testes are as important to sexual stimulation as the penis.26
Hold them, massage them, or touch them lightly with your fingertips as you work your main shaft with the other hand.
Different Positions And Use Your Hips
How often do we either lie back or sit and masturbate?
When you have intercourse, you probably utilize numerous positions—do the same on your solo sessions.
Many men have indicated increased pleasure by:
- Bending over supporting yourself on your knees and one arm while pulling the penis downwards with your free hand.
- Sitting cross-legged.
Furthermore, don’t forget about your hips.
Earlier in this article, I explained that the hips want to thrust as sexual excitement increases—allow them to do this. Many males report that moving the hips backward and forward or following a circular motion raises enjoyment. Increase your tempo as you near ejaculation.
Pleasure and pain are inextricably linked.
If you have time—elevate your own desire by being cruel to yourself and indulging in some teasing.
Light passes of feathers, fingers, or anything that you consider erotic over your penis and testes can excite you without causing ejaculation.
This can build up anticipation—leading to a highly enjoyable climax.
Sex toys are often considered the domain of women—but there are numerous incredibly satisfying orgasm-tools available for us guys too.
The most popular include:
- Fleshlight—an artificial vagina, designed like a flashlight (hence, its name) into which the user inserts his penis—originally designed as a “sperm collector”.27
- Cock rings—worn around the base of the penis, they can help to improve blood retention, which some men testify increases sensation.
- Vibrators—these familiar sex toys can be used to stimulate the penis through stroking or used to excite the perineum or anus.
- Prostate massagers—vibrators that are specifically designed for men, and can easily and comfortably be used to stimulate the prostate by insertion in the anus.
- Homemade sex toys—the variety is as wide as your imagination—the two most common ones include zip-lock bags filled with lube and placed between sofa cushions and soda bottles encased in lubed bubble wrap.
Focus on Other Erogenous Zones
Don’t restrict yourself to just your genitalia.
We all have our erogenous zones—the areas we love our partners to touch to really make us excited. While these vary between individuals—typically in males, these include:
- Lips and mouth.
- Perineum (between the scrotum and anus).
While using one hand to manipulate your penis, explore teasing these alternative areas with your other.
Masturbation Side Effects
Although the research indicates that self-gratification is an excellent boost to health and provides a thoroughly enjoyable escape—there are a couple of possible downsides.
Despite masturbation being common across age, gender, nationality, and race—virtually all the major religions consider this act as both immoral and unhealthy.28
Depending on the individual’s strength of cultural or religious belief—males who partake in masturbation may encounter associated feelings of guilt. In the most extreme cases, research shows this can lead to depression and sexual dysfunction.
Furthermore, some males may think they’re “unfaithful” to their partner—believing that they’re using self-pleasure as a substitute for relationship-centric intercourse.
From a medical perspective, as long as masturbation doesn’t have a negative effect on your daily life—it’s not wrong, and you shouldn’t feel guilty.
However, if you find yourself feeling bad about your activities—talk.
Speak to a friend, partner, counselor, or a professional. Explain why you are experiencing these feelings.
Additionally, one of the sad masturbation facts is that some men develop an addiction.29
Signs that may signal you have an issue is when masturbation causes you to:
- Avoid completing regular day-to-day tasks to have time to self-pleasure.
- Be absent from work.
- Cancel appointments with your family, friends, and social engagements.
- Develop soreness or bruising on your penis.
If this is the case—speak to a doctor or therapist trained in sexual addictions.
Decreased Sexual Sensitivity
The facts indicate that frequent self-excitement of your member can improve sexual pleasure.
By understanding what excites you and increase your ability to control ejaculation—intercourse can become more enjoyable.
However, as already discussed, excessive grip, vigor, and lack of lube can lead to the build-up of scar tissue, which may decrease the feeling in your penis. Follow the tips earlier on masturbation methods to prevent this from occurring.
So far, the research has indicated that it’s pleasurable, healthy, and unless taken to the extreme, has few adverse effects. Here are the most commonly asked questions which I haven’t yet addressed.
“Masturbation and Sperm Count—Is There a Connection?”
Frequent masturbation may lead to lower sperm count. However, it lowers volume, but not fertility.30
Research shows that the more frequent the ejaculation, total sperm count, and seminal fluid volume decreases.
However, the sperm shows no reduction in fertility, motility, vitality, and DNA structure.
“How Masturbation affects Premature Ejaculation Related Problems?
Secretive and rapid masturbation during our teenage years may lead to premature ejaculation in later life. The orgasm reflex may become conditioned to occur as fast as possible—to prevent us from being caught-in-the-act by our parents.
However, conversely, masturbation techniques such as the stop-and-start method (as explained earlier) are scientifically proven ways to counteract this earlier conditioning.
“How Masturbation affects Testosterone Levels?”
Studies show masturbation can increase testosterone levels—but only in men who have abstained from ejaculation for three weeks prior to orgasm.
However, there are two important masturbation facts proven by science:
- Climaxing can make brain androgen receptors more responsive—meaning current testosterone levels can have a more potent effect.31
- While masturbation does not elevate testosterone, neither does it reduce production.
“Is It okay to Masturbate When in a Relationship?”
As long as the masturbation doesn’t interfere with the time and intimacy enjoyed with your partner—it’s perfectly fine to masturbate while in a relationship.
Getting to understand your sexual turn-ons through self-gratification can increase the quality of lovemaking sessions with your partner. Furthermore, developing techniques that delay orgasm can elevate the pleasure your “other half” receives too.
Most importantly—be honest with your partner.
Explain to them that you engage in masturbation—and it’s not a symptom of being disappointed in your partner’s attractiveness. Even allowing her to watch you as you self-gratify can be exciting for both parties.
“Does Masturbation Have the Same Health Benefits as Sex?”
In some circumstances, yes.
The benefits relating to orgasm are the same whether arising from self-climaxing or from intercourse—such as improving sleep, lowering pain, and inhibiting the risk of prostate cancer.
“Masturbating When Pregnant—Is It Safe?”
Your partner may have concerns about masturbating when pregnant.
Often changes in female hormones during pregnancy may cause some women to have an elevated libido—encouraging them to pleasure themselves.35
The research indicates that it’s a safe way to release sexual build-up during the pregnancy phase. Additionally, as a pain reliever, it may reduce the discomfort of lower back pain and cramping that carrying a baby can induce.
However, some experts suggest that it’s best to avoid self-gratification in these circumstances:
- After her water has broken.
- She’s bleeding.
- Liable to premature labor.
- Has a low-lying placenta.
Over the centuries, numerous myths have been presented as negative side effects of masturbation
Often culturally-based—they were possibly invented to ensure that men and women stayed faithful to their religious or spiritual beliefs—afraid of the awful dangers if they indulged in self-pleasure.
Here are the stories you may hear—all of which have no basis in scientific fact. Take them all with a pinch of salt.
- Hair growing on the palms of the hand.
- Shrinking of the penis.
- Decreased testosterone production.
- Reduced fertility.
- Mental disease.
- Weakness and lethargy.
Masturbation is a natural, healthy, and safe way to improve mental, physical, and sexual wellbeing.
As long as it’s enjoyed without too much aggression, and doesn’t interfere with your normal day-to-day life, its side effect free.
Take time to maximize your pleasure—use lube, toys, different techniques, and unusual positions. Masturbation is one of the best presents you can give yourself—so enjoy it to the max.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Biswadeep Das in August 2019