Masturbation, the art of self-pleasuring, is no longer the taboo it once was in most progressive circles. However, it is not without stigma in some cultures, and there are still concerns around whether the act is harmful to your health in some way.
While research has proven that there are no dire consequences from masturbation, are there some other side effects you should know about?
Why Do People Masturbate?
As researchers have found, masturbation is something men see as part of their normal sexual development. Women still struggle with the “right” and “wrong” of it all, but many have embraced it as part of their sexual life.1
So what are the possible reasons people masturbate?
- Masturbation is mainly a good form of sexual release.
- It comes in handy for those who are not in a sexual relationship or want to avoid relationships.
- For some, it may be a way to have “safe sex” without the need for protection, with there being little to no risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- For adolescents with raging hormones, masturbation is an outlet for their endless sexual energy without risking unwanted pregnancy.2
- Even for those in a healthy relationship with a sexual partner, masturbation allows some “me time.” And who would know what you want better than you yourself!
Why Masturbation Is A Double-Edged Sword
On the one hand, masturbation is often suggested by experts like sex therapists to help couples improve sexual intimacy and the quality of their sex lives. Joint masturbation may also be suggested to bring couples closer or improve their awareness of each other.3
Besides self-awareness, it equips you with knowledge you can pass on to your partner on how to pleasure you better – and potentially achieve more orgasms.4
On the other hand, however, it can cause cracks in a relationship if one partner becomes obsessed with masturbation at the cost of the relationship with the other person.
In a study of young adults in sexual relationships, the self-esteem of women was lower and their perception of their relationship quality and sexual satisfaction was lower when their partner used porn to masturbate.5
While masturbation on its own doesn’t cause problems, your attitude toward it could make a difference.
For people who come from more conservative backgrounds or traditional homes, where masturbation is looked down upon or seen as “sinful,” masturbating can have different consequences. While the act itself may give pleasure, afterward, there are chances of it bringing up feelings of guilt or negative emotions.
Sexual Media Overuse
A risk you run if you use sexual media as an aid to masturbation is that it could potentially develop into an addiction in some cases. While most people are able to use pornographic content as part of a healthy sexual life, it might turn into an obsession for others.
Porn addiction, unfortunately, has darker consequences. When men use sexual media to masturbate, they often do it alone, not with a partner. As a research found, it actually causes negative relationship satisfaction in the men.6 So what causes the emotional distancing?
- This could be due to unrealistic ideals and expectations created by viewing porn or due to the process of leaving the partner out of the sexual experience.
- The men may become emotionally withdrawn and begin to distance themselves from their sexual partner or whoever they are in a relationship with.
- The secrecy around porn use and masturbation may even impact the intimacy with their partner.7
Interference With Daily Life
You know you’ve gone too far with your “self-love” if you find it impacting your daily life.
As with a porn addiction, you might find yourself skipping engagements or canceling plans to make room for more time to masturbate. If your work life, social life, or personal life is beginning to suffer because you are planning life around masturbation, you have a problem and may need to seek professional help for the addictive behavior.
Are There Any Physical Side Effects?
Masturbation should be pleasurable and doesn’t usually cause any physical harm to your body. But there are some instances when things can go south.
- If you masturbate a lot in a short period of time, it could cause soreness in the genital area.8
- If you indulge in heavy and rough masturbation, you may be left with bruises or cuts. If your body feels sore after a session of masturbation, you need to ease off a bit.
- Enlarged swollen penises may also detract from the fun of the act. This swelling, called an edema, occurs when fluid accumulates in the tissue in your penis. It takes a few days to subside.9
- Those with a compulsive masturbation issue could also develop chronic penile lymphedema. It occurs as a result of scarring and persistent lymphatic irritation.10
- If you indulge in joint masturbation with your partner and take turns aiding each other, you may run the risk of passing on STIs. While the likelihood is low, be careful not to get genital fluids on your fingers or other parts that come in contact with your partner.
- There have been some suggestions that masturbation could be linked to prostate cancer risk, but these claims have not been backed up with adequate, conclusive scientific study. As the NHS explains (in the context of one study that held this claim), the causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood, and masturbation and normal sexual function should not be impacted by such research, at least for now.11
|↑1||Kaestle, Christine E., and Katherine R. Allen. “The role of masturbation in healthy sexual development: Perceptions of young adults.” Archives of sexual behavior 40, no. 5 (2011): 983-994.|
|↑2||Masturbation, Planned Parenthood|
|↑3||Coleman, Eli. “Masturbation as a means of achieving sexual health.” Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality 14, no. 2-3 (2003): 5-16.|
|↑4||Masturbation Q&A, NHS|
|↑5||Stewart, Destin N., and Dawn M. Szymanski. “Young adult women’s reports of their male romantic partner’s pornography use as a correlate of their self-esteem, relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction.” Sex Roles 67, no. 5-6 (2012): 257-271.|
|↑6||Bridges, Ana J., and Patricia J. Morokoff. “Sexual media use and relational satisfaction in heterosexual couples.” Personal Relationships 18, no. 4 (2011): 562-585.|
|↑7||Is pornography addictive? American Psychological Association|
|↑8||Is masturbation normal? NHS|
|↑9||Calabrò, Rocco Salvatore, Alessandro Galì, Silvia Marino, and Placido Bramanti. “Compulsive masturbation and chronic penile lymphedema.” Archives of sexual behavior 41, no. 3 (2012): 737-739.|
|↑10||Porter, William, Michael Dinneen, and Christopher Bunker. “Chronic penile lymphedema: a report of 6 cases.” Archives of dermatology 137, no. 8 (2001): 1108-1110.|
|↑11||Masturbation and Prostate Cancer, NHS|