Jerk-Off

Friday, May 15, 2009

Question

I read in a sex manual that masturbation is normal as long as it isn't done too frequently. So I want to know how often is too often? I sometimes worry that I am spending too much time obsessing about sex and looking for porn on the Internet. There are times when my cock is sore from being handled so much. What are the side effects of masturbating too much? Should I talk to my doctor about this?

Answer

That's a fairly mean-spirited thing to call yourself. Your whole letter has got an anxious tone that predisposes me to wonder if maybe you are masturbating too often, or for the wrong reasons. Making your cock sore is definitely a warning sign that you aren't able to quit when your body has had enough. You are ignoring warning signs of physical pain, which tells me that the masturbation is taking place for emotional reasons other than gratifying your libido.

But you have posed a difficult question. I don't have an objective answer. For some guys, masturbating once a day would be too often. For others, getting off three or four times a day is essential. So instead of looking at the numbers, let's look at your motivation for getting yourself off—and the consequences.

Healthy masturbation is motivated by building sexual tension. It's a way to relieve stress, enjoy a fantasy, take some time for yourself, and can even be a spiritual exercise if you are practicing tantra or a similar discipline. While the desire to masturbate might be quite strong, it's under the individual's control. If there's an emergency or you have something else important to do, you can wait to masturbate until you've got enough free time to really enjoy it.

Having a partner doesn't necessarily replace masturbation, by the way. Most guys (and women) continue to need some privacy to touch base with their erotic imaginations and enjoy the simplicity and directness of self-love. Masturbation within a relationship becomes unhealthy, I believe, if it is interfering with partnered intimacy. If you are getting yourself off and then you aren't able to function with your partner, you need to find out why you are avoiding him or her. If you are enjoying fantasies during masturbation that you feel you can't share with a partner, that's pretty sad. It means you've picked somebody who isn't fully compatible with you. Now, very few of us have 100% compatibility with a partner, but I think it's good to shoot for something above 85%.

I am such an advocate of masturbation as a fun and healthy form of sexual release that I encourage people to share it with their partners. Watching someone else touch themselves is the ideal way to learn what sort of contact will be most effective. I've worked with couples who complain that the female partner is unable to reach an orgasm—until she allows her partner to see her masturbate. He or she is then better able to use hand, mouth, toys, or genitals to get the desired effect or response from her. Masturbation is also a nice thing to do together for a quickie, for variety, or to tease each other. It's also helpful for learning how to get off with a new sex technique. Enjoy the new game until you feel that you have to come, then fall back on masturbation. Eventually, an orgasm will surprise you during the practice of the new technique.

The term "sex addiction" is controversial. Many more liberal or radical sex educators feel that the addiction treatment community has conservative attitudes toward what forms of sex are or are not acceptable. It's true that I've run into sex addiction professionals who believe that any use of pornography or masturbation is a symptom of a sick libido. I support another way of evaluating the individual for sex addiction. Does masturbating make you feel tired and happy? Or does it leave you feeling guilty, anxious, and out of control? If so, it's worth getting some help, isn't it?

Make a list of the things in your life that scare you. Then put a check mark by the ones that you need to face and are having a hard time doing. Write down an answer to the question, "Why do I masturbate?" Another good question to write about is, "If I wasn't spending time looking at porn and masturbating, what would I or should I be doing instead?"

Sometimes it's helpful to take this problem to a counselor who can give you objective feedback. Just make sure you pick a therapist whose values are compatible with your own. You can also check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. These groups have meetings in most major cities and can be found easily in the telephone book or on-line. Most of them use a twelve-step model based on Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups are free, and you are certain to hear stories that speak to your own experience. See whether you feel that you belong there or could get some relief from compulsive behavior. Some folks who are masturbating too much can benefit from an evaluation by a psychiatrist. If you are turning to sexual fantasies in an attempt to escape from depression or anxiety, getting help with these emotional problems can bring sexual activity back under control.

Ironically, doctors get very little training in human sexuality and sexual problems. Yet these are the folks that almost everybody assumes they should go to with such questions. Your doctor will probably be most useful if you want a referral to a therapist or psychiatrist. Just be forewarned that some physicians are actually poorly informed or judgmental about sex issues. So take whatever your doctor has to say with a grain of salt. You will know when you are getting an opinion or advice that is helpful to you.