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A handy history

Condemned, celebrated, shunned: masturbation has long been an uncomfortable fact of life. Why?

by Barry Reay

A handy history

The anonymous author of the pamphlet Onania (1716) was very worried about masturbation. The ‘shameful vice’, the ‘solitary act of pleasure’, was something too terrible to even be described. The writer agreed with those ‘who are of the opinion, that… it never ought to be spoken of, or hinted at, because the bare mentioning of it may be dangerous to some’. There was, however, little reticence in cataloguing ‘the frightful consequences of self-pollution’. Gonorrhoea, fits, epilepsy, consumption, impotence, headaches, weakness of intellect, backache, pimples, blisters, glandular swelling, trembling, dizziness, heart palpitations, urinary discharge, ‘wandering pains’, and incontinence – were all attributed to the scourge of onanism.

The fear was not confined to men. The full title of the pamphlet was Onania: Or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its Frightful Consequences (in Both Sexes). Its author was aware that the sin of Onan referred to the spilling of male seed (and divine retribution for the act) but reiterated that he treated ‘of this crime in relation to women as well as men’. ‘Whilst the offence is Self-Pollution in both, I could not think of any other word which would so well put the reader in mind both of the sin and its punishment’. Women who indulged could expect disease of the womb, hysteria, infertility and deflowering (the loss of ‘that valuable badge of their chastity and innocence’).

Another bestselling pamphlet was published later in the century: L’onanisme (1760) by Samuel Auguste Tissot. He was critical of Onania, ‘a real chaos … all the author’s reflections are nothing but theological and moral puerilities’, but nevertheless listed ‘the ills of which the English patients complain’. Tissot was likewise fixated on ‘the physical disorders produced by masturbation’, and provided his own case study, a watchmaker who had self-pleasured himself into ‘insensibility’ on a daily basis, sometimes three times a day; ‘I found a being that less resembled a living creature than a corpse, lying upon straw, meagre, pale, and filthy, casting forth an infectious stench; almost incapable of motion.’ The fear these pamphlets promoted soon spread.

The strange thing is that masturbation was never before the object of such horror. In ancient times, masturbation was either not much mentioned or treated as something a little vulgar, not in good taste, a bad joke. In the Middle Ages and for much of the early modern period too, masturbation, while sinful and unnatural, was not invested with such significance. What changed?

Religion and medicine combined powerfully to create a new and hostile discourse. The idea that the soul was present in semen led to thinking that it was very important to retain the vital fluid. Its spilling became, then, both immoral and dangerous (medicine believed in female semen at the time). ‘Sin, vice, and self-destruction’ were the ‘trinity of ideas’ that would dominate from the 18th into the 19th century, as the historians Jean Stengers and Anne Van Neck put it in Masturbation: The Great Terror (2001).

There were exceptions. Sometimes masturbation was opposed for more ‘enlightened’ reasons. In the 1830s and 1840s, for instance, female moral campaign societies in the United States condemned masturbation, not out of hostility to sex, but as a means to self-control. What would now be termed ‘greater sexual agency’ – the historian April Haynes refers to ‘sexual virtue’ and ‘virtuous restraint’ – was central to their message.

Yet it is difficult to escape the intensity of the fear. J H Kellogg’s Plain Facts for Old and Young (1877) contained both exaggerated horror stories and grand claims: ‘neither the plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of Onanism; it is the destroying element of civilised societies’. Kellogg suggested remedies for the scourge, such as exercise, strict bathing and sleeping regimes, compresses, douching, enemas and electrical treatment. Diet was vital: this rabid anti-masturbator was co-inventor of the breakfast cereal that still bears his name. ‘Few of today’s eaters of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes know that he invented them, almost literally, as anti-masturbation food,’ as the psychologist John Money once pointed out.

The traces are still with us in other ways. Male circumcision, for instance, originated in part with the 19th-century obsession with the role of the foreskin in encouraging masturbatory practices. Consciously or not, many US males are faced with this bodily reminder every time they masturbate. And the general disquiet unleashed in the 18th century similarly lingers on today. We seem to have a confusing and conflicting relationship with masturbation. On one hand it is accepted, even celebrated – on the other, there remains an unmistakable element of taboo.

When the sociologist Anthony Giddens in The Transformation of Intimacy (1992) attempted to identify what made modern sex modern, one of the characteristics he identified was the acceptance of masturbation. It was, as he said, masturbation’s ‘coming out’. Now it was ‘widely recommended as a major source of sexual pleasure, and actively encouraged as a mode of improving sexual responsiveness on the part of both sexes’. It had indeed come to signify female sexual freedom with Betty Dodson’s Liberating Masturbation (1974) (renamed and republished as Sex for One in 1996), which has sold more than a million copies, and her Bodysex Workshops in Manhattan with their ‘all-women masturbation circles’. The Boston Women’s Health Collective’s classic feminist text Our Bodies, Ourselves (1973) included a section called ‘Learning to Masturbate’.

Alfred Kinsey and his team are mainly remembered for the sex surveys that publicised the pervasiveness of same-sex desires and experiences in the US, but they also recognised the prevalence of masturbation. It was, for both men and women, one of the nation’s principal sexual outlets. In the US National Survey (2009–10), 94 per cent of men aged 25-29 and 85 per cent of women in the same age group said that they had masturbated alone in the course of their lifetime. (All surveys indicate lower reported rates for women.) In the just-published results of the 2012 US National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 92 per cent of straight men and a full 100 per cent of gay men recorded lifetime masturbation.

There has certainly been little silence about the activity. Several generations of German university students were questioned by a Hamburg research team about their masturbatory habits to chart changing attitudes and practices from 1966 to 1996; their results were published in 2003. Did they reach orgasm? Were they sexually satisfied? Was it fun? In another study, US women were contacted on Craigslist and asked about their masturbatory experiences, including clitoral stimulation and vaginal penetration. An older, somewhat self-referential study from 1977 of sexual arousal to films of masturbation asked psychology students at the University of Connecticut to report their ‘genital sensations’ while watching those films. Erection? Ejaculation? Breast sensations? Vaginal lubrication? Orgasm? And doctors have written up studies of the failed experiments of unfortunate patients: ‘Masturbation Injury Resulting from Intraurethral Introduction of Spaghetti’ (1986); ‘Penile Incarceration Secondary to Masturbation with A Steel Pipe’ (2013), with illustrations.

‘We are a profoundly self-pleasuring society at both a metaphorical and material level’

Self-stimulation has been employed in sexual research, though not always to great import. Kinsey and his team wanted to measure how far, if at all, semen was projected during ejaculation: Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Kinsey’s biographer, refers to queues of men in Greenwich Village waiting to be filmed at $3 an ejaculation. William Masters and Virginia Johnson recorded and measured the physiological response during sexual arousal, using new technology, including a miniature camera inside a plastic phallus. Their book Human Sexual Response (1966) was based on data from more than 10,000 orgasms from nearly 700 volunteers: laboratory research involving sexual intercourse, stimulation, and masturbation by hand and with that transparent phallus. Learned journals have produced findings such as ‘Orgasm in Women in the Laboratory – Quantitative Studies on Duration, Intensity, Latency, and Vaginal Blood Flow’ (1985).

In therapy, too, masturbation has found its place ‘as a means of achieving sexual health’, as an article by Eli Coleman, the director of the programme in human sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, once put it. A published study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 1977 outlined therapist-supervised female masturbation (with dildo, vibrator and ‘organic vegetables’) as a way of encouraging vaginal orgasm. Then there is The Big Book of Masturbation (2003) and the hundreds of (pun intended) self-help books, Masturbation for Weight Loss, a Womans Guide only among the latest (and more opportunistic).

Self-pleasure has featured in literature, most famously in Philip Roth’s novel Portnoys Complaint (1969). But it is there in more recent writing too, including Chuck Palahniuk’s disturbing short story ‘Guts’ (2004). Autoeroticism (and its traces) have been showcased in artistic expression: in Jordan MacKenzie’s sperm and charcoal canvases (2007), for example, or in Marina Abramović’s reprise of Vito Acconci’s Seedbed at the Guggenheim in 2005, or her video art Balkan Erotic Epic of the same year.

On film and television, masturbation is similarly pervasive: Lauren Rosewarne’s Masturbation in Pop Culture (2014) was able to draw on more than 600 such scenes. My favourites are in the film Spanking the Monkey (1994), in which the main character is trying to masturbate in the bathroom, while the family dog, seemingly alert to such behaviour, pants and whines at the door; and in the Seinfeld episode ‘The Contest’ (1992), in which the ‘m’ word is never uttered, and where George’s mother tells her adult son that he is ‘treating his body like it was an amusement park’.

There is much evidence, then, for what the film scholar Greg Tuck in 2009 called the ‘mainstreaming of masturbation’: ‘We are a profoundly self-pleasuring society at both a metaphorical and material level.’ There are politically-conscious masturbation websites. There is the online ‘Masturbation Hall of Fame’ (sponsored by the sex-toys franchise Good Vibrations). There are masturbationathons, and jack-off-clubs, and masturbation parties.

It would be a mistake, however, to present a rigid contrast between past condemnation and present acceptance. There are continuities. Autoeroticism might be mainstreamed but that does not mean it is totally accepted. In Sexual Investigations (1996), the philosopher Alan Soble observed that people brag about casual sex and infidelities but remain silent about solitary sex. Anne-Francis Watson and Alan McKee’s 2013 study of 14- to 16-year-old Australians found that not only the participants but also their families and teachers were more comfortable talking about almost any other sexual matter than about self-pleasuring. It ‘remains an activity that is viewed as shameful and problematic’, warns the entry on masturbation in the Encyclopedia of Adolescence (2011). In a study of the sexuality of students in a western US university, where they were asked about sexual orientation, anal and vaginal sex, condom use, and masturbation, it was the last topic that occasioned reservation: 28 per cent of the participants ‘declined to answer the masturbation questions’. Masturbation remains, to some extent, taboo.

When the subject is mentioned, it is often as an object of laughter or ridicule. Rosewarne, the dogged viewer of the 600 masturbation scenes in film and TV, concluded that male masturbation was almost invariably portrayed negatively (female masturbation was mostly erotic). Watson and McKee’s study revealed that their young Australians knew that masturbation was normal yet still made ‘negative or ambivalent statements’ about it.

Belief in the evils of masturbation has resurfaced in the figure of the sex addict and in the obsession with the impact of internet pornography. Throughout their relatively short histories, sexual addiction and hypersexual disorder have included masturbation as one of the primary symptoms of their purported maladies. What, in a sex-positive environment, would be considered normal sexual behaviour has been pathologised in another. Of the 152 patients in treatment for hypersexual disorder in clinics in California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah, a 2012 study showed that most characterised their sexual disorder in terms of pornography consumption (81 per cent) and masturbation (78 per cent). The New Catholic Encyclopedia’s supplement on masturbation (2012-13), too, slips into a lengthy disquisition on sex addiction and the evils of internet pornography: ‘The availability of internet pornography has markedly increased the practice of masturbation to the degree that it can be appropriately referred to as an epidemic.’

Critics think that therapeutic masturbation might reinforce sexual selfishness rather than sexual empathy and sharing

The masturbator is often seen as the pornography-consumer and sex addict enslaved by masturbation. The sociologist Steve Garlick has suggested that negative attitudes to masturbation have been reconstituted to ‘surreptitiously infect ideas about pornography’. Pornography has become masturbation’s metonym. Significantly, when the New Zealand politician Shane Jones was exposed for using his taxpayer-funded credit card to view pornographic movies, the unnamed shame was that his self-pleasuring activities were proclaimed on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers – thus the jokes about ‘the matter in hand’ and not shaking hands with him at early morning meetings. It would have been less humiliating, one assumes, if he had used the public purse to finance the services of sex workers.

Nor is there consensus on the benefits of masturbation. Despite its continued use in therapy, some therapists question its usefulness and propriety. ‘It is a mystery to me how conversational psychotherapy has made the sudden transition to massage parlour technology involving vibrators, mirrors, surrogates, and now even carrots and cucumbers!’ one psychologist protested in the late 1970s. He was concerned about issues of client-patient power and a blinkered pursuit of the sexual climax ‘ignoring … the more profound psychological implications of the procedure’. In terms of effectiveness, critics think that therapeutic masturbation might reinforce individual pleasure and sexual selfishness rather than creating sexual empathy and sharing. As one observed in the pages of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 1995: ‘Ironically, the argument against masturbation in American society was originally religiously founded, but may re-emerge as a humanist argument.’ Oversimplified, but in essence right: people remain disturbed by the solitariness of solitary sex.

Why has what the Japanese charmingly call ‘self-play’ become such a forcing ground for sexual attitudes? Perhaps there is something about masturbation’s uncontrollability that continues to make people anxious. It is perversely non-procreative, incestuous, adulterous, homosexual, ‘often pederastic’ and, in imagination at least, sex with ‘every man, woman, or beast to whom I take a fancy’, to quote Soble. For the ever-astute historian Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex (2003), masturbation is ‘that part of human sexual life where potentially unlimited pleasure meets social restraint’.

Why did masturbation become such a problem? For Laqueur, it began with developments in 18th-century Europe, with the cultural rise of the imagination in the arts, the seemingly unbounded future of commerce, the role of print culture, the rise of private, silent reading, especially novels, and the democratic ingredients of this transformation. Masturbation’s condemned tendencies – solitariness, excessive desire, limitless imagination, and equal-opportunity pleasure – were an outer limit or testing of these valued attributes, ‘a kind of Satan to the glories of bourgeois civilisation’.

In more pleasure-conscious modern times, the balance has tipped towards personal gratification. The acceptance of personal autonomy, sexual liberation and sexual consumerism, together with a widespread focus on addiction, and the ubiquity of the internet, now seem to demand their own demon. Fears of unrestrained fantasy and endless indulging of the self remain. Onania’s 18th-century complaints about the lack of restraint of solitary sex are not, in the end, all that far away from today’s fear of boundless, ungovernable, unquenchable pleasure in the self.

Complete Article HERE!

Why Do So Many Bisexuals End Up In “Straight” Relationships?

By Kristina Marusic

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When I started dating a woman for the first time after years of happily dating men, I had a go-to joke ready for when I was called upon to explain my sexual orientation to the confused: “I’m half gay. Only on my mom’s side of the family.”

I’m one of those people who’d always misguidedly “hated labels,” and I actively eschewed the term “bisexual” for years. I went on to date a number of trans guys, and in my mind, “bi” was also indicative of a gender binary I didn’t believe existed. I’ve since come to understand that actually, the “bi” implies attraction not to two genders, but to members of both one’s own and other genders, and that the bisexual umbrella includes a wide rainbow of labels connoting sexual fluidity. These days, I wear the “bisexual” label proudly.

Given all that struggle and growth, my current situation might come as a surprise: I’m in a committed, long-term relationship with a cisgender man who identifies as straight—just like a startling majority of other bisexual women.

Dan Savage once observed that “most adult bisexuals, for whatever reason, wind up in opposite-sex relationships.” Whether or not you’re a fan of Savage (or his sometimes dubious takes on bisexuality), the statistics support his assertion: The massive 2013 Pew Research LGBT Survey found 84 percent of self-identified bisexuals in committed relationships have a partner of the opposite sex, while only 9 percent are in same-sex relationships.

As someone who has spent way too much time convincing people—gay and straight alike—that my bisexuality actually exists, that “for whatever reason” modifier of Savage’s has long vexed me. What is the reason? Because on the surface, the fact that 84 percent of bisexuals eventually wind up in opposite-sex partnerships could appear to support the notion that bisexuality is, as people so often insist, actually either “just a phase” or a stepping-stone on the path to “full-blown gayness.” Knowing that wasn’t true, I decided to investigate.

Some of my initial suppositions included internalized homophobia, fear of community and family rejection, and concerns over physical safety. Although being bisexual doesn’t necessarily mean you’re equally attracted to multiple genders, it does seem feasible that these sorts of concerns could push a person with fluid attractions in the direction deemed more socially acceptable.

Although there’s a dearth of research into whether these factors are actually prompting bisexuals to choose relationships that appear “straight” to the outside world, there’s no shortage of research revealing that bisexuals live under uniquely intense pressures within the LGBTQ community: In addition to facing heightened risks for cancer, STIs, and heart disease, bisexuals also experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, and are significantly more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors or attempt suicide than heterosexuals, gays, or lesbians. It isn’t difficult to imagine that for some, the promise of a bit more social currency and safety could be compelling reasons to seek out an opposite-sex partner, even unconsciously.

But there’s actually a much simpler, more obvious, and more likely explanation for the reason so many bisexuals wind up in opposite-sex partnerships: The odds fall enormously in their favor.

Americans have a well-documented tendency to drastically overestimate the percentage of queer folks among us. Polls have revealed that while most people believe LGBTQ people make up a full 23 percent of the population, but the number is actually closer to a scant 3.8 percent. So not only is it statistically more likely more likely that a bisexual person will wind up with a partner of the opposite sex; it’s equally likely that they’ll wind up with someone from the over 96 percent of the population who identifies as straight.

As anyone currently braving the world of dating knows, finding true love is no easy feat. There likely aren’t a ton of people on this planet—let alone within your geography or social circles—whose moral compass, sense of humor, Netflix addictions, dietary restrictions, and idiosyncrasies sync up with yours closely enough to make you want to hitch your wagon to them for the long-haul (and the internet is making us all even picker). Add to that the fact that due to persistent biphobia, a large number of gay men and lesbians still flat-out refuse to date bisexuals, and it becomes even more apparent that the deep ends of our relatively narrow dating pools are, for bisexuals, overwhelmingly populated by straight people—folks who, for bi women at least, are also more likely to boldly swim on over and ask us out.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that although plenty of bisexuals enjoy monogamy, not all people in committed relationships choose to be monogamous. Bisexuals in committed, opposite-gender relationships (including marriages) may very well have arrangements with their partners that allow them to enjoy secondary relationships with members of the same gender.

That said, we have to remember that even within monogamous opposite-sex relationships, if one or both parties identify as bisexual, that partnership doesn’t invalidate anyone’s bisexual identity—after all, we’d never tell a gay man practicing abstinence that he “wasn’t really gay” just because he wasn’t currently sleeping with men.

Ultimately, a relationship with a bisexual in it isn’t ever really “straight” anyway—by virtue of the fact that there’s at least one person in there queering the whole thing up. At our best, bisexuals are queer ambassadors: We’re out here injecting queer sensibilities into the straight world, one conversation and one relationship at a time.

Complete Article HERE!

There Really Isn’t Any Bad News for People Who Like to Masturbate

by Martha Kempner

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Masturbation is such an under-appreciated form of sexual activity. It has been blamed in urban legends for everything from hairy palms to lack of productivity, and has a reputation of being reserved for those who can’t find anyone else to have sex with them. But that’s just not true. Most people masturbate. It feels good. It carries no risk of pregnancy or disease. It can take as much or as little time as you have. And it’s relaxing. So why have media outlets warned readers that they might be doing it too much or the wrong way?

Recently, in a December 15 article titled “We’ve Got Bad News for People Who Love Masturbating,” Maxim’s Ali Drucker tells readers: “If you or someone you love frequently enjoys doing the five-finger shuffle, there’s a study that suggests they might face negative effects over time.” The article actually points to three pieces of “research” that seem to suggest masturbation isn’t as good as other forms of sexual behavior, that one can become addicted to it, and that the “grip of death” can make men incapable of experiencing pleasure any other way.

Well, RH Reality Check has good news—these conclusions are largely based on junk science and misunderstandings.

masturbationThe first study Drucker cites, originally published in Biological Psychology, is called, “The post-orgasmic prolactin increase following intercourse is greater than following masturbation and suggests greater satiety.” Prolactin is a hormone that is released by the pituitary gland. Its main function is to stimulate milk production when a woman is lactating, but it also plays a role in the sexual response cycle. According to the study, which was first published about ten years ago, prolactin is released after orgasm as a way to counteract the dopamine released during arousal. Some scientists believe that the more satisfying the experience is, the more prolactin levels will go up afterward.

For this study, Stuart Brody and his colleagues compared data showing prolactin levels after penile-vaginal sex to those after masturbation and found that levels after intercourse were 400 percent higher than after masturbation. They interpreted this to mean that intercourse is more physiologically satisfying than masturbation.

On the surface, this conclusion isn’t surprising. Many people don’t view masturbation as the same as a shared experience with a partner. It doesn’t tend to produce the same physical or psychological feelings. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun and satisfying way to spend a few minutes (or hours, if you’re ambitious or bored).Masturbate-a-Thon_Logo

When I read the study, I did not interpret it to say that intercourse was better than masturbation, just that our biological reactions to different sexual behaviors were different. I had never read anything by Professor Brody before and reached out to him, assuming that people were overstating his results and that he did not mean to discourage masturbation. I thought, what sex researcher would ever want to discourage masturbation?

However, he replied, “Instead of any fresh quotes, I attach my review paper on the evidence regarding health differences between different sexual behaviors.” He sent me a different article, a literature review in which he says in no uncertain terms that penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) is the best kind of sex and that “sexual medicine, sex education, sex therapy, and sex research should disseminate details of the health benefits of specifically PVI.”

masturbating womanAs a sex educator, I can’t imagine telling anyone that penile-vaginal sex is inherently better. For one thing, not everyone is in a couple, and not all couples have a penis and a vagina between them. And even for cisgender heterosexual couples, PVI is only one of countless potentially pleasurable behaviors. Moreover, many women find it less satisfying and less likely to end in orgasm than behaviors that incorporate clitoral stimulation.

But Brody not only thinks it’s the best form of sex—he thinks we sometimes do it wrong. He writes that “PVI might have been modified from its pure form, such as condom use or clitoral masturbation during PVI.” He also explains that Czech women who were vaginally orgasmic were more likely than their peers who didn’t have orgasms through PVI to have been taught during childhood that the vagina is “an important zone for inducing female orgasm,” concluding that “sex education should begin to be honest” about sexual behaviors.

I thought we’d moved on from the idea that we should all be having heterosexual, penile-vaginal sex in its “pure form” (missionary position?) and that women who couldn’t orgasm this way were both bad at sex and shit out of luck.

Colleagues in the field told me that many of them ignore Brody’s studies because he makes wild inferences based on soft science and, as implied by his research, is wedded to the idea that for sex to have the most benefits it needs to include PVI.

Nicole Prause, a researcher who has written critiques of Brody’s work, told me via email that, “His work almost exclusively uses data from other researchers, not his own, meaning the design is never really appropriate for the claim he is actually trying to make.” She went on to say that Brody’s studies on orgasm are often based on self-report, which is notoriously unreliable. Although the study Maxim cites was based on blood tests, “He has never once verified the presence of orgasm using a simple physiological measure designed for that purpose: anal EMG. Many women are thought not to be able to reliably distinguish their orgasm, so his purely self-report research is strongly suspect. If this is his area of focus, he should be studying it better than everyone else,” she concluded.female_masturbate.jpg

But Brody’s research on prolactin isn’t the only questionable science that Maxim relies on for its cautionary tale on masturbation. The article goes on to discuss the role of oxytocin and dopamine and points out that there’s less oxytocin released during masturbation. This is probably true—oxytocin is known as a bonding hormone and is triggered by contact with other people, so it’s not surprising that it’s not released when you’re orgasming alone. The Maxim article, however, argues that if the brain is flooded with dopamine (a neurochemical) during masturbation without the “warm, complacent, satisfied feeling from oxytocin,” you can build up a dopamine tolerance, or even an addiction, and get into “a vicious cycle of more masturbation.”

David Ley, PhD, a clinical psychologist and sexuality expert, explained in an email that many people describe dopamine as the “brain’s cocaine,” but this is an overly simplistic way of looking at it. It doesn’t mean we’re at risk of desensitizing our brain or getting addicted to jerking off. Ley wrote:

It appears that there are many people whose brains demonstrate lower sensitivity to dopamine and other such neurochemicals. These people tend to be “high sensation-seekers” who are jumping out of airplanes, doing extreme sports, or even engaging in lots of sex or lots of kinky sex. These behaviors aren’t caused by a development of tolerance or desensitizing, but in fact, the other way around—these behavior patterns are a symptom of the way these peoples’ brains work, and were made.

OK, dopamine isn’t cocaine and neither is masturbation: We’re not going to get addicted if we do it “too” much.

But, wait, Maxim throws one more warning at us—beware the “death grip.”

Though the article describes this as “the idea that whacking off too much will damage your dick,” the term, which was coined by sex advice columnist Dan Savage, is more about getting too accustomed to one kind of stimulation and being unable to reach orgasm without it. There is some truth to this—if you always get off using the same method, you can train your body to react to that kind of stimulation and it can be harder (though rarely impossible) to react to others. There are two solutions, neither of which involve giving up on masturbation: Retrain your body by taking some time off from that one behavior and trying some others, either by yourself or with a partner, or incorporate that behavior into whatever else you’re doing to orgasm (like clitoral masturbation during intercourse).

male_masturbationIn fairness, the Maxim article ends by acknowledging that masturbation can have benefits, but I still think it did its readers a disservice by reviewing any of this pseudoscience in the first place. As Ley said in his email, “This article, targeted towards men (because we masturbate more), is still clearly pushing an assumption that there is a ‘right kind of sex/orgasm’ and that masturbation is just a cheap (and potentially dangerous) substitute … That’s a very sexist, heteronormative, and outdated belief based on a view of sex as procreative only.”

So for a different take on it all: Sure, there might be more prolactin and oxytocin produced during intercourse than masturbation, but that does not mean that masturbation isn’t enjoyable or worthwhile. You won’t become addicted to it, but you might want to mix up how you get to orgasm or just incorporate your preferred stroke into all other sexual activity.

What you shouldn’t do is view the Maxim article—or any of the research it cites—as reasons not to stick your hands down your own pants.

Complete Article HERE!

The Effects of Rape & Sexual Abuse on the Male

By Male Survivors Trust

Slowly but surely, the common myth held that sexual abuse/rape happens to women only is fading, but when a man is sexually assaulted or raped, and grows up believing that myth, he feels even more isolated and alone. This page tackles some of the issues that are rarely talked about, yet have a huge impact on almost all male survivors, and if left unsaid and sorted out, can stop them from recovering fully, leaving a residue of bad feelings and fears behind. Some of the things that can trigger you off and leave you feeling as if you’re back at the point of being abused are as follows.

bryan_tony_boxThe smell of others, especially aftershave or other body smells, can cause you to flashback and trigger bad memories Many male survivors state that when having sex with a partner, that they feel dirty, and unclean once they have reached ejaculation, and this is connected to the sight, feel and sensation of seeing their semen, which reminds them of being abused, and that alone can ruin any sexual relationships they may have.

You may also feel wrong, bad and dirty, so will need to bathe often, usually after having sex with partners, and if masturbating, will only do so as a function, not for pleasure, because the sensation and good feelings have been taken away and you’re left feeling dirty and ‘wrong’ again. There’s also the fact that you can get obsessed with masturbation , not just once a day, but several times a day, which can increase when you feel stressed, lonely, screwed up, etc.

Many male survivors hide behind the fact that they remain non sexual, and in doing so, are not seen as being sexual beings, Others eat, drink, misuse drugs to stop people getting too close to them. By taking on the work that’s needed, you can remove the ghosts of the past and can regain control of your life

Male Survivors share many of the same feelings of female sexual assault survivors. Common feelings such as;

BODY IMAGE* Do you feel at home in your body?* Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself sexually with another?* Do you feel that you are a part of your body or does your body feel like a separate entity?* Have you ever intentionally and physically hurt yourself?* Do you find it difficult to listen to your body?

EMOTIONS * Do you feel out of control of your feelings?* Do you feel you sometimes don’t understand all the feelings you are experiencing?* Are you overwhelmed by the wide range of feelings you have?

RELATIONSHIPS * What’s your expectations of your partner in a relationship?* Find it too easy to trust others?* Find it too hard to trust anyone?* Find it difficult in making commitments?* Still feel alone, even though in a relationship?* Is it hard for you to allow others to get close to you?* Are you in a relationship with some-one who reminds you of the abuse, or who is no good for you?

SELF-CONFIDENCE * Do you find it difficult to love yourself?* Do you have a hard time accepting yourself?* Are you ashamed of yourself?* Do you have expectations of yourself that aren’t realistic?

SEXUALITY * Do you enjoy sex, really enjoy it?* Do you find it difficult to express yourself sexually?* Do you find yourself using sex to get close to someone?* End up having sex because it’s expected of you?* Does sex make you feel dirty?* Are you “present” during sex?

MAJOR SEXUAL SYMPTOMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE

  1. Difficulties in becoming aroused and feeling sensations
  2. Sex feels like an obligation
  3. Sexual thoughts and images that are disturbing
  4. Inappropriate sexual behaviors or sexual compulsivity
  5. Inability to achieve orgasm or other orgasmic difficulties
  6. Erection problems or ejaculatory difficulty
  7. Feeling dissociated while having sex
  8. Detachment or emotional distance while having sex
  9. Being afraid of sex or avoiding sex
  10. Guilt, fear, anger, disgust or other negative feelings when being touched

EXISTING EFFECTS ON MALE SURVIVORS.

Listed below are some of the current effects that sexual abuse, and after-effects it has upon a male Survivor.

Nightmares, (Intense, violent, sexual) – A real fear that everyone is a potential attacker. Intense shame. – Intense anger. – Intense guilt. – Fear in expressing anger/difficulties in being angry. A need to be in control. – A need to pretend they are not in control. A fear of being seen/fear of exposure.- Running away from people/situations. A fear of intimacy. – “Avoidism”. – Memories of physical pain. – Intense sexual flashbacks. Intruding thoughts. – Sexual dysfunction. – Asexual feelings. – Feeling unreal. – Self doubt. – Jealousy. – Envy. Sexual acting out. – Fear of men. – Fear of women. – Fear of speaking out. – Inability to relax. Disconnection with feelings. – Feeling alone. – Poor choice of partners. – “Out of body” experiences. Linking abuse to love. – Keeping secrets. – Forgetting childhood experiences. – Detached from reality. Inability to comfort their children. – Feeling inadequate. – Unable to accept compliments. – Low self esteem. Isolation. – Addictions/crime. – No emotions. – Fear of others motives. – Inability to say no. – Fear of rules.

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COMMON REACTIONS TO SEXUAL ABUSE/RAPE

Emotional Shock: Feeling numb. Being able to stay so calm? Unable to cry.

Disbelief and/or Denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just imagined it. It wasn’t really abusive.

Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.

Shame or Guilt: Feeling as if it’s your fault, or you should’ve been able to stop it. If only you had…

Depression: How are you going to get through the day. Feeling so tired! It feels so hopeless.

Powerlessness: Will you ever feel in control again?

Disorientation: You don’t even know what day it is. You keep forgetting things.

Flashbacks: Re-living the assault! Keep seeing and feeling like it’s happening again.

Fear: Scared of everything. Can’t sleep, Having nightmares. Afraid to go out. Afraid to be alone.

Anxiety: Panic attacks. Can’t breathe! Can’t stop shaking. Feeling overwhelmed.

Anger: Feel like hurting the person who attacked you!

Physical Stress: Stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. Feeling jittery and don’t feel like eating.

UNIQUE ISSUES FACED BY MALE SURVIVORS
There is great denial of the fact that men are sexually abused. Other than in prisons, most of us don’t ever hear about the topic of male sexual abuse. The need to deny is often deeply rooted in the mistaken belief that men are immune to being victimized, that they should be able to fight off any attacker if they are truly a “real man.” Another related ‘belief’ is that men can’t be forced into sex. These mistaken beliefs allow many men to feel safe and invulnerable, and to think of sexual abuse as something that only happens to women. Unfortunately, these beliefs also increase the pain that is felt by a male survivor of sexual abuse. These ‘beliefs’ leave the male survivor feeling isolated and ashamed. Below are some of the unique problems and concerns that male survivors do experience: For most men the idea of being a victim is extremely hard to handle. Boys are raised to believe that they should be able to defend themselves against all odds, or that he should be willing to risk his life or severe injury to protect his pride and self-respect. How many movies or TV shows depict the hero prepared to fight a group of huge guys over an insult or name-calling? Surely then, men are supposed to fight to the death over something like unwanted sexual advances…right?

These beliefs about “manliness” and “masculinity” are deeply ingrained in many men and lead to intense feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy for the male survivor of sexual abuse. Some male survivors even question whether they deserved to be sexually abused because, as they think that they failed to defend themselves. Male survivors see their assault as a loss of manhood and feel disgusted with themselves for not “fighting back.” These feelings are normal but the thoughts attached to them are not true. Remind yourself that you did what seemed best at the time to survive–there’s nothing un-masculine about that.” As a result of guilt, shame or anger some men may punish themselves by exhibiting self-destructive behaviour after being sexually abused. For some men, this means increased alcohol or drug use. For others, it means increased aggressiveness, like arguing with friends or co-workers or even picking fights with strangers. Some men pull back from relationships and wind up feeling more and more isolated. Male survivors may also develop sexual difficulties after being sexually abused. It may be difficult to resume sexual relationships or start new ones because sexual contact may trigger flashbacks, memories of the abuse, or just plain bad feelings. It can take time, so don’t pressure yourself to be sexual before you’re ready.

For heterosexual men, sexual abuse almost always causes some confusion or questioning about their sexuality. Since many believe that only gay men are sexually abused, a heterosexual survivor may believe that he must be gay or that he will become gay. Furthermore, abusers often accuse their victims of enjoying the sexual abuse, leading some survivors to question their own experiences. Being sexually abused has nothing to do with sexual orientation, past, present or future. People do not “become gay” as a result of being sexually abused. However, there are certain issues that are different for men:

Concerns about sexuality and/or masculinity

Medical procedures

Reporting crime to law enforcement agencies

Telling others

FINDING RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

No matter what is said or done, no one “asks for” or deserves to be assaulted. Sexual abuse/rape is nothing to do with someone’s present or future sexual orientation. Sexual abuse comes from violence and power, nothing less. Unfortunately, the health profession are reluctant to recognise that men can be sexually assaulted. This also includes the Police Forces, though that is slowly improving at last This attitude, combined with ignorance affects the way they treat men who have been raped/sexually abused, often using a stereotyped view of masculinity, rather than focus on the physical assault, the crime becomes the focus of the medical exam or police investigation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Recognize that men and boys can and are sexually assaulted.

Be aware of the biases and myths concerning sexual abuse.

Recognize that stereotypes create narrow definitions of masculinity, and make it even harder for male survivors to disclose their rape/abuse.

As individuals and as a community, that we work harder to combat and challenge those attitudes.

It is important that male rape survivors have support, and are allowed to make their own decisions about what course of action to take. All too often, they feel forced to make statements or act against their abusers, without having had the time and space to think it through. I never advocate they prosecute their abusers, I suggest they perhaps begin their personal journey to recover from the traumas they are left with.

NOTHING JUSTIFIES SEXUAL ABUSE!

It doesn’t have to be this way though, you can overcome the issues listed and can recover. Just in case you need a reminder;

Men of all ages, and backgrounds are subjected to sexual assaults and rape.

Offenders are heterosexual in 98% of the cases.

Both heterosexual and homosexual men get raped.

Rape occurs in all parts of society.

Men are less likely to report being raped.

A PERSONAL VIEW.

The belief that the male population is the stronger sex, especially when it comes to sex, is deeply ingrained, believed, and supported within our culture, but not all men and boys are physically or emotionally strong, which explains why there are male “victims” of sexual abuse/rape. Male child sexual abuse is perpetrated by both men and women, of any sexual persuasion, with no regard towards the “victims” sexuality or safety. It holds scant regard for who we are, and is about gaining power and control over the “victim”. As children, we are placed in the care of our parents/guardians, family, family friends, schools, and more often than not, sometimes strangers. The ‘Danger Stranger’ campaign focused on the danger of strangers, with the intent of scaring children into not trusting strangers, but plainly ignored the fact that parents, siblings, family members, and those other “nice people” especially those people known as the “Pillars of Society”, are much more likely to sexual abuse children. As a result of our sexual abuse, we grow up with many mistaken beliefs, and many Survivors have fallen into a myriad of roles that include alcoholism, crime, depression, self harming, people pleasing, hardworking, etc. But, far from being powerless, we have drawn upon considerable reserves of inner strength to deal with, adjust and cope with the invasion of our bodies and minds.

Our previous actions in dealing with life may not have been what we wanted to do, and may have caused more pain on the way, but surely we have arrived at a time when we all need to face our past, forgive OUR actions, and move away from the guilt, shame and fear that has haunted us for so long. This possibly took many forms, but is something that we all need to forgive ourselves for, as long we don’t intend to ‘return there’. Some thoughts to have plagued male survivors have been “Perhaps I was to blame” “I should have told someone” “I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time” “I deserved it” “Maybe I gave out the wrong signals” “Maybe I’m gay”………,What we don’t want to hear is pity, or told “how awful” “so sad”, “poor little boy” as that concept is dis-empowering and perpetuates pity for the ‘victim’ and we are then seen as “not quite right”.

We are OK, we are capable of living our lives, and we are more than capable of overcoming the traumas that our abuser(s) left behind. I subscribe to the belief that in order to heal fully you have to face your abusive past, however difficult that may be, but in doing so, you can move on emotionally, forgive your actions, find inner peace, and be the person you want to be, not who ‘they’ wanted you to be. Please break the silence and demand the right to be recognized! If you want to join, we will support you in your struggle, be ‘here’ for you when you need us, and help you understand who you are, and what you want to be. The next step is from victim, to SURVIVOR, which is possible. It’s not easy, and involves you telling someone else all those deep hidden secrets, but once started, DON’T STOP!

Complete Article HERE!

A Boy’s Own Story

What follows is an exchange I had recently with a young Catholic Canadian man.

Hi Dr. Wagner

My Name is Jack, I am a catholic teenager who is wondering if the act of masturbation is still considered to be a sin. Also is it really considered to be gravely disordered and always morally wrong? I am 18 years old and I am somewhat late going through changes physically. I do believe that it is a natural way to find out about ones body and how it can be used. I have heard that it is not a sin but a natural and healthy thing to do. I have also heard that it is a sin. I have heard mixed reviews I have heard that a vast majority of both boys and girls do it. I can understand if one does it while thinking about other people then it is a sin but if one is doing it to get rid of old stuff then does it count as a sin. I have done it recently and I am going through puberty. There are no thoughts, images or fantasies involved. I do think that it is better then having a nocturnal emission and having to clean your underpants and to hide it so no one think that I wet the bed. I also believe that it is better to masturbate rather than waking up to find a sticky mess in my underpants, which has happened to me, and it was not fun. I don’t want to have to go to bed worrying about a mess in the morning. I have also heard that it can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Is it normal to feel confused about it after doing it? I am planning to talk to my parents and a priest to see what they think of it. If my parents say that it is natural and a normal thing to do does that mean it is all right to do. The only tricky thing is that I am not entirely sure how to approach the subject with them. I have mentioned it to my mother and she doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. She said that it is better to do that than to be out having intercourse with girls. I haven t done it in 3 weeks and I feel conflicted over it I see both views on the issue and I am not sure. I don’t want to feel guilty for doing something that has been labeled natural and normal. I love and believe in god and want to know what the views are on it. I do not have any addiction whatsoever I have very good control over myself nor do I need counseling or therapy. I am just a curious teenager wondering if masturbating is a sin or not.

I live in Ontario where the ministry of education has released a updated sexual education curriculum where it mentions that masturbation is natural and normal. There is a part of me that really wants to do it as I feel it takes the edge off. I have heard that some catholic organizations are backing it. This leaves me confused if it is still considered to be a sin. I also believe that it is a crucial part of understanding how ones body works and learning about oneself. I do find it a little hard to understand that we can somewhat accept the sexual orientation of people but people still consider touching ones genitals to be a sin.

Thank you
God Bless

Dear Jack,

Thanks for your question. Might I add, you are exceptionally articulate for a teenager.a boy's own story

If ya ask me, Jack, and you are actually asking me, you’ve pretty much answered all of your own questions. And that tells me you are on the right track.

You ask about Catholic sexual ethics. Before you wrote, did you know that I was a Catholic priest for 20 years? And, not to boast, I am the only Catholic priest in the world with a doctorate in human sexuality. This later part explains why I no longer practice as a public minister. It’s a real long story and I’d be happy to tell you all about it sometime, but for now know that I didn’t go quietly. I wrote my doctoral thesis, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance, back in 1981. And once word got out about this groundbreaking research, the writing was on the wall, so to speak, for my public ministry. I fought for my priesthood and ministry for 13 year, but it all pretty much came crashing in on itself in 1994. If you’ve got nothing better to do, you can read about it HERE.

Enough about me, let’s get back to you and your questions. Although, I wanted to mention that when I was in seminary, way back when god was young, in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, enlightened spiritual directors were already beginning to advise us seminarians that masturbation wasn’t sinful or disordered. Of course, even now you’ll find orthodox hard-liners who insist that self-pleasuring is a moral sin, but they think all sexual expression is sinful. Here’s a tip: you’re never gonna find consensus on any sexual matter.

Like you, I found it difficult to believe all that mortal sin stuff that the hardliners promote. I mean, if mass murder and genocide are mortal sins, how could a little wank be their equal. It just don’t make no sense, right?

However, I can’t agree with you that masturbation might be sinful if there are fantasies involved. Remember, using your mind is an essential part of learning about your sexuality. That being said, most teenage boys are randy at the drop of a hat, so maybe you don’t need to be all that specific with your sexual mental imagery.

I also caution you to be careful when tossing around words like normal and natural. What’s normal and natural to some may be abnormal and twisted to others. But you’re right; few people, professional as well as lay people, these days would consider self-loving anything but normal and natural.

For you edification I suggest you use the search function or CATEGORY pull-down menu in the sidebar of my site and search for pertinent topics, like masturbation, wet dreams, sexual response cycle, etc. You’ll find a wealth of information about all these topics in both written and podcast form.

the shadowI too reported, back in 2011, on the startling new data that came out of Australia about masturbation. Australian researchers questioned over 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer and 1,250 men who had not, about their sexual habits. They found those who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to develop prostate cancer. The protective effect of poppin’ one’s nut was greatest while the men were in their 20s. And get this; men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.

I also contend that masturbation is the most basic building block to all of our sexual expression. When you know how your body works; when you are familiar with your sexual response cycle and are confident about talking to others about it; you’ll be better situated to be a good sexual partner to another.

In the end, I encourage you to continue to think for yourself when it comes to things sexual. I can see that you are already doing that, so keep it up. Continue to ask questions and consider the input you get from others, myself included; but then make up your own mind. When you own your sexuality and your sexual response, you’ll be a grown-up. Notice I didn’t say you’d be an adult. That’s because there are lots of adults out there who don’t own their sexuality and sexual response and despite being grown up, they’re not grownups.

Good luck, pup

Hi Richard,
Thank you for responding. You have cleared come of the confusion. I guess I got confused because when I would masturbate I would feel like I let my self down.
Thank you again
God Bless

One thing you should know is there is generally a sort of “let down” phase after orgasm. (See information about the refractory phase of the sexual response cycle HERE.) Your body can’t stay in that heightened state of arousal so there’s often a “deflated” feeling.

There’s even a name for if. It’s called post-coital tristesse. And you should know that it’s a physiological phenomenon rather than an emotional one.

Feelings of elation and wellbeing that accompany arousal and orgasm can sometimes morph into a sense of shame during this “deflated” phase. People with lot of scruples about sex are particularly vulnerable to this.

Thank you for clearing that up and for the reassurance that it is natural and normal and not considered to be a sin.
— Jack