Masturbating not only feels good, but has been linked to all kinds of health benefits, from elevating your mood to helping you sleep better. More recently, it's even had a part to play in public health during the pandemic: last year, the state of New York issued official advice urging people to stay home and practice self-love as a way of limiting the spread of Covid.
But there remain several myths surrounding masturbation which suggest masturbating might actually be bad for you. In a new video, urologist and YouTuber Rena Malik, MD addresses six of the most prevalent medical misconceptions when it comes to self-pleasure, starting with an age-old adage:
Masturbation will make you go blind
"If almost 90 percent of the population is masturbating, well then we'd have a lot of blind people, and a lot of hairy palms," says Malik. "A lot of this is perpetuated by thought leaders who believe that masturbation is sinful... While I'm not here to judge anyone's religious convictions, these myths are just not true."
Masturbation will ruin your erections
"Masturbation, when leading to orgasm, actually causes contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, and these muscles are super important for having orgasms, and also being able to experience pleasure. So when you're actively exercising those muscles, you will have better orgasms and probably a better sex life."
Malik does acknowledge, however, that since porn became more easily accessible online, there has been a correlated increase in erectile dysfunction in young men. This is possibly due to the fact that porn can create unrealistic expectations of what sex is like, and desensitize consumers to sexual stimulation. This in turn can create a kind of "performance anxiety" in real-life sexual encounters.
Another reason why masturbating might be linked to sexual dysfunction, she adds, goes back to religious beliefs. If a person masturbates and feels guilt or shame afterwards, this can have a physiological effect. In this case, Malik recommends speaking with a sex therapist to address those underlying feelings of guilt.
Masturbating too much reduces your sensitivity
This is not strictly true, although there are instances where, when somebody tends to masturbate the same way, the body can get used to a particular sensation. Applying a different kind of stimulation, then, could possibly make reaching orgasm more difficult. Malik advises changing up the pressure and motion you are using.
You shouldn't masturbate too much
This is not the case for most people, says Malik, and there are even specific cases where a doctor might recommend masturbating as a form of stress or pain relief, especially in patients with chronic pain conditions.
But there are rare exceptions, she adds, where regular masturbation can encroach on your everyday life: "If you find that you have a strong compulsion to masturbate that you can't ignore, or you're skipping out on normal activities or being intimate with your partner just to masturbate, these are signs that you're masturbating to frequently."
Masturbating means you have a bad relationship
"Many people in partnered relationships masturbate seperately," says Malik. "This is not a reflection of the amount of love your partner has for you, or vice-versa. This is an activity that may actually improve your sex life overall."
Masturbation lowers testosterone
As far back in history as Ancient Greece, athletes would abstain from sex or masturbation in order to be stronger or more aggressive in competition. And while sexual frustration may certainly be a factor in this practice still being followed by some people today, it has nothing to do with the idea that masturbation depletes the body of testosterone.
There is simply no medical data out there to back up this claim, says Malik. In fact, masturbating can actually cause testosterone levels to rise. Then, following orgasm, the testosterone simply goes back down to a normal level.
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