Masturbation seems to have many, many myths attached to it. We’ve been told among other things that it can make one infertile, impotent, go blind, grow hair on the back of your palm, cause pimples, make you weak and leads to mental problems! Many of these concerns are often mentioned in our Q&A section and we keep on getting the same questions again and again. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that sex and particularly masturbation is such a taboo topic in India and is seen as something that’s sinful or bad. Dr Vijaysarathi Ramanathan (Sexual Health Physician and Medical Sex Therapist) throws some light on the topic and also busts some of the myths associated with masturbation.
First I would like to give a brief background about sexuality in India, comparing the past and present. As far as I know the ancient Indian society didn’t legislate any sexual matters other than abortion and adultery. It is also suggestive from the texts and sculptures that ancient India had a very liberal sexual attitude. In contrast, modern India has a deeply conservative attitude towards sex, perhaps due to its long British rule which passed on many chauvinist, conservative Victorian values to Indians.
Another key reason might be the belief that semen is a precious and irreplaceable commodity which mustn’t be wasted. The two key traditional beliefs that are relevant to the topic of discussion, are (1) well-preserved semen produces a male child and (2) a male child will release a man from reincarnation (birth-re-birth cycle). Traditional medicine equates semen to fertility (able to give birth) and masculinity (be able to make good love with wife and be a good and strong man in general).
Perhaps explaining the properties of semen will help people understand that it’s not a precious commodity that needs to be preserved. Semen is actually nothing more than a fluid whose main purpose is to protect the sperm. It contains proteolytic enzymes, citric acid, acid phosphatase and lipids and it provides a nutritive and protective medium for the sperm during its journey through the female reproductive tract. The semen doesn’t provide any substantial health benefits to the entire male body but is essential for the well-being of the sperm.
Lack of knowledge about the composition of semen and the process of fertility are likely causes of forming irrational beliefs about it. In the past, it was believed that semen goes inside a woman and that it becomes a baby within the woman. They did not know that fertility involves a female component, the egg without which fertilization cannot occur. One other belief is that men lose testosterone (the male hormone) through semen. This is not true! There is no testosterone in semen.
Busting the myths associated with masturbation
Masturbation (the behaviour) itself doesn’t cause any health problem. However, the guilt and fear – both social constructs – can make a person feel nervous, anxious, worried and stressed. All associated health problems are most probably caused due these mental conditions. There is no evidence whatsoever to prove that masturbation could result in general or sexual health problems. But there is enough evidence to show that underling anxiety and stress could lead to various health problems.
So should one masturbate or not?
It really is an individual choice. It is a healthy and safe sexual practice for those have adequate knowledge and know the facts. But, if someone masturbates without understanding the facts and carry guilt and fear, then it is important for them to be educated and manage the anxiety and stress first. Thus, it is not the behaviour but the feelings toward masturbation that could determine whether masturbation is healthy or a problem.
Benefits of masturbation
There are many sexual benefits associated with masturbation. It is the safest and most uncomplicated way to let out your sexual urges. It helps you learn more about your own body, become a better lover, helps the foreskin roll-over smoothly and can also prevent premature ejaculation. Many couples enjoy mutual masturbation as well.
The only problem can rise if you start masturbating compulsively and it starts affecting different facets of your life like work or studies. That’s when you should tell yourself to stop. You can set a time in a day and limit yourself to that period. The purpose of this article is not to force anyone to masturbate but to dispel and explain the many myths that are often associated with it. We are living in an era, which allows us to test our thought and beliefs. It is up to an individual to follow the beliefs or the facts. There is nothing right or wrong in either, as long as the person who follows it is happy and comfortable.