We all do it, or feel the desire to do it. Sex therapists tells us it's a source of pleasure and self-discovery. Yet Victorian ideas that it is debasing, unhealthy and immoral, lurks under these permissive attitudes. For most men there is still shame and secrecy around masturbation.
Particularly for men, masturbation is still seen as a sign of weakness. In films and the media, a woman masturbating is “getting in touch with her sexuality”. However a man so portrayed is a “wanker”. In other words a loser.
So what is the truth?
Masturbation can be great:-
- It's a natural expression of male sexuality. There is nothing about it that is sinful, immoral, representative of weakness of character etc.
- There is nothing intrinsically unhealthy about masturbation. The act of self-pleasuring cannot, in itself harm your health or longevity in any way.
- It can be a relaxing and fulfilling form of recreation.
- It can be a means to self discovery and growth. It can be an opportunity to get in touch with feelings, to explore your responses and expand your sexual horizons while becoming a more aware, sensitive and skillful lover.
However masturbation can be a problem or limit a man's potential too.
Getting stuck in adolescent experience Usually our masturbatory habits are formed in childhood or adolescence and are characterised by being rushed, furtive, almost exclusively focused on the penis, uncontrolled and based on fantasy . This can limit the scope of a man’s sexuality, reinforce premature ejaculation and block intimacy and sensuality in partner sex.
Using sex simply for stress relief Stress, boredom. loneliness and frustration show up in our body as stuck life energy. Ejaculation moves and discharges energy. For many men, masturbation is less about sex and more about relieving stress. The brief experience of pleasure followed by post ejaculatory languor offers a passing distraction from the pressures of life. If we are using sex in this way to “medicate” ourselves against stress, it can cause problems with intimacy and fulfillment when we are with a lover. It also effectively closes the door on the expanded experience of sacred sexuality.
Masturbation can become a habit or even an addiction For many men, masturbation simply becomes a mindless habit with little meaning or pleasure attached to it. More seriously, masturbation can become a compulsive addiction. Most often the addiction is a mechanism for coping with a deep emotional wound.
Frequency causes desensitisation. Where masturbation becomes habitual or addictive there is a further problem: desensitisation. Quite simply, if the nerve receptors on the genitals receive too much stimulation they gradually begin to ignore the stimulus. Initially, more or more intense stimulus is needed to lead to arousal. Longer term, the man will most likely become impotent, particularly with a partner. A related issue, is that a man may become so bonded to his own way of stimulating himself, that he finds it hard to respond to a partner’s touch in love making. I’ve worked with a good few clients who can get an erection masturbating but not with their partner.
Use of porn and fantasy desensitizes and interferes with intimacy. Masturbating to porn anchors a man’s sexuality to an unrealistic fantasy image rather than to intimacy and sensuality with a real person. Porn is almost entirely visual. It closes off the other senses of touch, smell and taste, so important to sexuality. It takes a man out of his body. Heterosexual porn focuses almost entirely on idealised images of the feminine, leading men to ignore the depth, complexity and beauty of their own sexuality. Porn leads to emotional/erotic desensitisation, in which more and more extreme images are needed to create the same” thrill”. Porn can make it hard for a man to function in an emotional and intimate relationship with a real person.
Frequent ejaculation depletes sexual energy Ejaculation drains a man’s energy, not just for sex for for life generally. You can examine your own experience: how do you feel after ejaculating? How long is it before you feel the same level of sex drive? What is your motivation like? How is your competitive edge? Most likely you feel heavy, tired, unresponsive and languid. We feel this in the short term, sometimes terms like “refractory period”, “post-coitial tristesse” (sadness), “post-ejaculatory syndrome" are sometimes used. Long term with frequent ejaculation it becomes chronic. The great Tai Chi master Cheng Man Ching called this “downward draining”. This is a real issue for men who are addicted to masturbation.
Think about your own habits...
- Do you feel shame around masturbation? Are you secretive? Is masturbation something you can talk about freely with your partner, wife or male friends? Could you masturbate with your partner watching?
- Do you find real intimate relationships less satisfactory than masturbation?
- Do you focus mainly on your penis or do you explore the sensuality of your whole body? Do you explore different kinds of touch and stimulation or do you just “wank” your penis? Do you enjoy and prolong the ride, or do you get quickly to ejaculation,?
- Do you masturbate habitually? Are their particularly situations where you always masturbate?
- How did you begin to masturbate as a boy? What were the circumstances, how did you do it? What patterns developed and how much are these still going on in your life?
- Do you masturbate to relieve stress? If so what stresses?
- Do you masturbate obsessively or compulsively? Do you masturbate whenever there is opportunity? Do you masturbate for long periods of time? Do you let masturbation interfere with other life’s activities, work, socialising, intimate relationship etc?
- Do you use porn? Are you focused exclusively on visual stimulation or are you in your body? Is your use of porn escalating?
- Do you have issues with premature ejaculation or impotence in any situations?
If you answered yes to quite a few of these questions, its time to question your masturbatory habits because they are getting in the way of sexual and life happiness. The answer is not necessarily to stop masturbating, although as I frequently suggest, short sexual fasts of a few days to a few weeks can be very helpful. Instead, it is time to reframe masturbation as a meditation or energy practice.
The term Mindful Masturbation was coined by pioneering sex educator Bruce P. Grether to describe an aware, consciousness expanding, self loving, energetically balancing approach to masturbation. I consider Mindful Masturbation to be an essential foundation of sacred sexuality, for learning to have complete choice over ejaculation and for becoming a master lover with your partner.
Here are some suggestions based on Grether’s and my own experience, on creating a practice of Mindful Masturbation:
- Make masturbation a conscious choice rather than a habit. Masturbate only to pleasure and honour yourself. Do not masturbate to relieve stress, boredom, frustration and other negative mind states.
- Create a conducive setting. Minimal disturbance, warm, maybe soft light, incense, relaxing music. Its up to you, but create a setting that relaxes you and honours you.
- If you are a habitual masturbator, do things differently. Choose settings, times, positions etc that break your established habits. Experiment with new ways.
- Relax. Take time at the beginning of your session to relax, tune into your body, get in touch with your feelings.
- Focus on yourself and remain present and aware. Focus on the sensations throughout your body rather than on fantasy or porn. If your mind wanders into thought or fantasy, just come back to focusing on body sensation.
- Breathe. Breath is life energy, breath deeply and expressively.
- Move. Engage your whole body in movement.
- Explore all parts of your body, not just your genitals. Touch and pleasure yourself as if a beautiful, sensual and skillful lover is seducing and pleasuring you.
- Vary your strokes. Find all the different ways to give yourself pleasure.
- Prolong the pleasure. Don’t rush to climax. Enjoy all the levels of pleasure that are there. Avoid habitual, uncontrolled speeding up. Relax into the the sensations rather than being caught up in excitement. Take breaks, lower the intensity and slow down every now and then. Create waves of pleasure and arousal. Focus on the journey, not the destination.
- Let go of the need to ejaculate but also let go of the need to control ejaculation.
- Surrender to the bliss and pleasure
If after reading this article you feel that your current habits of masturbation, and/or porn use are messing up your life and your relationships, it may be time to seek help. Click on the link below to find out how my 1:1 coaching and mentoring work could help you get back in control and enjoy a rich and shame free intimate life.
Mentor, transformational coach and author
"Holding a strong centre ground between life coach, natural health consultant and sexuality coach I work with the whole man, guiding you through the truly big challenges in life: Identity, purpose and confidence, work, relationships, sex, health and wellbeing."
"So I've got a string of letters after my name and 25 years in the field.... It helps being qualified and experienced. But the most valuable thing I can share is what I have learned the hard way in my own life journey from shy Mr Nice Guy to empowered King in my own realm."