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Dr Phil: Masturbation - a user's guide

Masturbation – the difficult one. Some people find it difficult to talk about. Others find it difficult to do. I first came across this quote (boom boom) in a Monty Python annual in the early seventies. I wasn't sure what it was at the time from the accompanying photo I presumed it was something akin to constipation so I looked it up in the dictionary. 'The practise of self-abuse.' Whatever can they mean? Miss Saunders, the Religious Education teacher, wasn't much help either ('It's none of your business') and in the end it was down to my big brother. 'It means rubbing your knob till it's hard and then squirting stuff on your tummy.' 'I thought that when your knob was hard you were supposed to put it in a woman.' 'You can do either.' 'But doesn't it make a mess'?' 'Not if you use a sock.'

Most men have used (and I suspect many still do use) a wank sock. It's not something that's talked about in polite society, but then well into this century society took a very dim view of masturbation. Here's what Harmsworth's Home Doctor had to say about it in the fifties. 'Masturbation is the most prevalent of all sexual disorders. It is very commonly found in the mentally unstable, the insane and sexual perverts, but it is not the fact that masturbation in an otherwise normal individual can produce idiocy' (that's me and Dr Harmsworth off the hook then.) 'In the earliest years of life, the condition is often started by the presence of some irritative condition of the genital organs which leads to the child scratching itself, and the relief obtained leads to the continuance of the bad habit... Occasionally ignorant and irresponsible nursemaids are in the habit of soothing irritable and crying children by manipulation of the genitals, and the child rapidly acquires the habit as it gives rise to pleasurable sensations.'
And there's more. 'In older children who are at school, certain physical exercises necessitating the rubbing of the thighs together may actually start the condition; often, however, the child is taught the habit by some older boy or girl in the school who is addicted to it. Treatment is by the encouragement of outdoor pursuits. The child should be watched specially, but no retaining apparatus should be worn to prevent the habit.' I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies. However, in the long term Dr Harmsworth gives a rosy prognosis for most of us. 'It is true that erotic practice on the self is breaking a biological law and may lead to many mental warps. However, in the majority of cases, psychotherapy in proper hands (sic), with true knowledge of all that is involved will not fail to put matters right.'
Attitudes have now softened towards masturbation, and with the necessity for safe sex and many stressed couples just too knackered to go the whole hog, more and more people are brushing up on their technique. Lubricants can help but be careful what you choose. Jujube soothing body balm sounds wonderful but get it in the wrong place and it stings like buggery.
A surprising number of UK women (up to 20% in some surveys) still believe there's something not quite right about fondling yourself, that it's shameful, demeaning or bad for your night vision. As one of my friends put it: 'I just can't do it. I was told by the Nuns at school it was a sign of mental illness, and even though I know it's not, I can't get the vision of Sister Faherty out of my mind.' A lot of our sexual behaviour depends on the culture and families we inhabit, and for those who's parents were brought up on Harmsworth's Home Doctor then the only fiddling you could do was on the roof. Most men masturbate all the time (well, not all the time) and indeed lots of sex surveys have found that the vast majority of women have masturbated at some time or other. However, at least 5% never have (or won't admit to it on a sex survey) and quite a few have never gone the whole way. As one (male) media doc. put it: 'For some women, it amounts to little more than a comforting stroke through the night-dress on a cold winter's evening.' And it's cheaper than turning up the radiator. Others do it as often as men with a creative variety of vibrating aids, but the point is that none of these scenarios are abnormal. Self-gratification is an entirely personal thing.
Or at least it should be. The rise in both infertility and vasectomies means that more and more men are being asked to wank to order in dank side rooms of dilapidated NHS hospitals and private clinics. For infertility, you're trying to prove you've got some little wrigglers left and after a vasectomy you want none of them, but the technique is the same. And it gives you something to discuss in the pub. I overheard this in the Bear and Swan on Chew Magna High Street: 'I was shown into a room the size of a cupboard and given a specimen jar and a woman's magazine. I don't mean Playboy, but one about cake-making and soft furnishings. There was a head and shoulders shot of Delia Smith, a full length of Edwina Curry. Now, I admire these women very much for the work they do, but they're not top of my league for masturbatory fantasies.' 'Luxury. I was given a copy of Marie Claire and shown into a room with no curtains and overlooking the car park. I had my back turned all the time, but people kept knocking on the window.'
Solo masturbation can also become painful and public with an unwise choice of sex aids. Any casualty doctor can dine out on stories of lightbulbs up the back bottom, electric toothbrushes in the front bottom and Bluetac stuffed down the penis. You name it, someone's shoved it in a lower bodily opening in a moment of passion. There is a huge array of kitemarked sex aids designed to stimulate without tearing your anatomy to shreds, so unless you're into pain and a long wait in casualty, I should stick to a finger or a vibrator. Love-eggs aren't a bad way to spend your lunch hour and certainly more exciting than an M&S sandwich but I have known them to get stuck (in a professional capacity, you understand).
Of course you don't need a battery operated candlestick to indulge in fantasies and escapism. Most solo masturbation is entirely that, either aided by porn, memories of glories past or future anticipation. Often, it's very creative. Masturbation alone allows you to control your arousal without having to take anyone else into account. There are no emotional or practical barriers to overcome, it's entirely selfish and very good for stress, poor sleeping and hangovers. And there's absolutely no evidence to back up those old wives' tales. It won't make you blind, infertile, mad or a member of the Young Conservatives. Even within a sexually satisfactory relationship, it's entirely normal for either couple to disappear off for a quick sheet shuffle. Many couples prefer to keep their self gratification entirely separate, others get off on watching each other. Indeed, the best way to learn how to masturbate your partner is to watch him or her doing it. Mutual masturbation tends to be far too vigorous, with women pulling it out by the roots and men seeing how many fingers they can squeeze in. So let your partner show you. The golden rule with mutual masturbation, as with all sex, is to be outwardly selfish. This is what I like and this is how I like it...from prostate massage to clitoral stimulation. Once you've exchanged these views, you'll know whether you have a future in sex.
Where mutual masturbation starts to move onto shaky ground is when one person asks the other 'Tell me what you think about when you masturbate?' How would you feel if he said 'Beyonce?' Well, if you are Beyonce then probably not too bad, but the realization that a lot of sex and most masturbation involves fantasies about someone other than your nearest and dearest can be a bit hard to take. Jack Dee once described forgetting your lines on stage as like having sex with your wife and running out of people to fantasize about. It got the biggest laugh of the evening, although I'm not sure whether his wife was there to see it. Again, there is no normal or abnormal here. You've got to decide how up front you want to be about your sex life and be able to take it. But don't go turning over stones if you can't handle what's underneath.
Masturbation is bound to happen and should be positively encouraged when there is a mismatch in sexual appetites. The stereotype is of a man wanting more than his breast-feeding wife is prepared or able to offer but the scenario can just as easily be reversed (except for the bit about men breast feeding). A lot of men can't sleep if they're very aroused. You may think disappearing to the toilet for a quick tug is a tad disrespectful, but it's far more considerate than waking you up and asking for sex when you're not in the mood. If you want to help out, then often just gently cupping the balls or stimulating the anus with a finger while he does the stroking will put him out of his misery a lot quicker. When the situation is reversed, you'll be glad of these tricks to help you produce an erection out of thin air.
So, what will I say to my kids when their Religious Education teacher passes the buck back to me? Hopefully they'll be teaching Masturbation and Religious Education by then. When I was struggling through puberty, my Mum bought me a book called 'Achieving Sexual Maturity' that was very useful although I'm still not quite there. I keep it wedged between the Delia Smiths in anticipation of that fateful day. But what if they don't want it from a book? What then? I'm blushing at the thought. Still, there comes a time in a father's life where you have to bite the bullet and face up to your responsibilities. Ask your mother. Tell her there are some great pictures in between One is Fun and The Winter Collection....Oh, and one more thing. Stay away from my sock drawer.
Dr Phil Hammond is a medical doctor, comedian and commentator on health issues.

Written by: Dr Phil Hammond
Edited by: Dr Phil Hammond
Last updated: Friday, August 13th 2010

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Comments on this article

Posted by StuartOptional on 05/01/2016 at 11:49

I love masturbating and enjoy a pull every day. I cum okay but the content of what I produce is less than I would hope. I am hoping to start having proper sex with a much younger female....around 38 years old ....and want to know if my cum will increase in quantity. My cock is a good size....just over 6 inches when erect and 5 and half inches thick. My balls when warm are between 1 and half inches and 2 inches across (each one)....Do I have any problems. Thank you

Posted by Kevin on 15/10/2015 at 05:26

Is masturbation a sin for christians?

Posted by sanam on 15/10/2015 at 04:38

hello sir/madam, I am female,Please provide me a solution I do masturbation sometimes.I did last week and that day morning after I woke up I did masturbation but this time I didn’t wash/clean my fingers and I did without any sense. From that next day I noticed little pain and feels some itchy and today I tried again masturbation now I noticed some difference in my fluid that it is light yellow color and small solids type not as regular white and liquidy.It is really strange to me.I started searching for the reason but nothing helped me.I hope you will provide some solution for what happened to me.please I am feeling very nervous. Please do help me.Thank you.

Posted by Kathleen on 25/09/2015 at 10:59

Hah, what a great article! Finally, no nonsense common talk about a subject that no one usually talks about. Way to go, Dr. Phil, thanks from the bottom of my heart. My husband and I have a great night life, but don't always match up in desire. I felt guilty about doing it myself while he was sleeping, but it sure helps me through the nights of insomnia beside a sleeping husband, especially after a night of too much drink when I can't wake him by climbing on top. So, now, no guilt. And I'll probably shop for a few toys. Yes, of course, "old" folks still like to do it. Those asking questions won't get any direct answers from the doctor, it says so on the site. However, in my opinion, if it feels good and it doesn't hurt you or your partner, go for it. Funny about the socks.....

Posted by Optional on 23/08/2015 at 11:22

I am 17 now.I havent still masturbated. Theres ejection of a transparent liquid from my penis when I wake up in the morning sometimes. Im qorried. On analysing I found out that even my height has not increased much as expected in puberty. Is there still time left for me to get these traits?

Posted by Optional on 15/07/2015 at 01:58

I want a specific answer for the harmful effects of masterbation by an old man in the 84/ 85 range

Posted by Optional on 24/03/2015 at 06:55

it worked!

Posted by Optional on 30/01/2015 at 07:18

When I am opening my zip I will get a odd smell from penis is it a side effect of masterbathing somany times

Posted by Optional on 25/01/2015 at 07:58

I want to get rid off of this prblm... plz help me i m masturbating for 5 years

Posted by Optional on 31/12/2014 at 12:22

i saw boys in school all jacking off together so i decided to join in and now i have bubbles on my penis

Posted by Masaya on 23/12/2014 at 12:58

Hi I'm 36 years old and my husband 53 every time when we make a love his pennis very quick become soft I'm always dissapointed, is this normal for him because his getting old?

Posted by leslie on 19/10/2014 at 09:25

Is it OK for a very fit 76 year old to masturbate every night and occasionally twice a night

Posted by Optional on 29/09/2014 at 04:51

Hi, i am a female of 24yrs and i have been masturbating sins i was 16,from my point of view i dont see anything wrong in masturbating yourself,infact i personaly think its good for safe sex.

Posted by Optional on 27/07/2014 at 10:25

Dear Doctor Hammond, I was operateted on ( heart ) in 1997 and have problems to ejaculate when masturbating. Should I do so in the near future?? Please recommend anything. Yours Bert timm

Posted by Optional on 23/07/2014 at 09:03

very helpful

Posted by Optional on 31/05/2014 at 10:56

is it safe to masturbate at age 96 ?

Posted by Jerry on 14/02/2014 at 09:23

IS THE FOLLOWING TRUE An orgasm or ejaculation discharges bioelectric energy (bio-energy) stored by the parasympathetic nervous subsystem via the sympathetic nervous action. It is supposed to discharge the bio-energy stored in the sexual organs. This is why an orgasm is associated with a ‘burst’ and subsequent release of tension. When the sexual organs are insufficiently charged, the sympathetic system will draw the energy from other organs by deactivating them and slowing the response of the Central Nervous System (CNS - the commander of the endocrine and nervous function). So, frequent masturbation and ejaculation will result in depleting other organs of their bio-energy, since the sexual organs are emptied of their own.

Posted by arya on 03/02/2014 at 09:28

I masterbate 4 times in a it harmful for my health though im just 16

Posted by Optional on 25/03/2013 at 09:46

hey doc!!! i was feeling a little embarrass before bt i think you can help me. My age is 19 and i have been masturbating at the age of 14. I can masturbate 4-6 times a day... I really think that i could occur a problem after marriage as my penis size is 4 inch(without erection). Do i really have the chances of not being a father after marriage?? How many times one should masturbate and at what intervals??? What should be the size of penis???

Posted by Brumi on 19/03/2013 at 12:44

I have High B Pressure and I am a diabetic type 2. My wife and I do not have intercourse because she is very sore. She also has a stomach problems. Now My question is: Should I masterbate twice a week. I go the gym 5 days a week. to keep fit. Brumi

Posted by Optional on 12/02/2013 at 01:09

is der any chances gettin thin bcz of dis action????

Posted by Optional on 12/01/2013 at 12:25

The act of masturbating has bothered me for a lot of years. I started to do it when I was quite young and continued --- without really knowing what I was doing well into my teens.It was just something I did because it felt good. Two mariages on and I still do it -- less now than I did but since circumcision I have found it more sattisfying.I no longer feel any shame in doing in nor any need to stop. Is this right? Should I be happy to masturbate when I want to --- just do it?

Posted by Jagan on 03/01/2013 at 05:25

sir, I havent masterbate yet in my 26 years of time. will it harm me??

Posted by Optional on 07/11/2012 at 07:38

hi,actually when i was 18 i started masturbation,iwas not knowing how much to do it or not i started doing twice daily for more than a year then after a year i stopped doing twice and after that i stopped doing everyday i started doing few times a week,now i dont feel to do it,then is there any thin wrong with me bcoz of this stuff

Posted by rohit on 12/10/2012 at 07:31

hi..i masturbate once a week, will this affect in satisfying my partner in bed?and does this have any effect in giving birth to children?

Posted by Optional on 03/05/2012 at 03:40

i have recently found that the skin on my penis is becoming thin and easily gets sore and I get abrasions on the surface around the base of it. Which don't seem to heal properly even after 2 or 3 weeks abstinance

Posted by Graham on 25/04/2012 at 07:58

Those who find it difficult or impossible to masturbate properly should take heart. I only succeeded in regularly masturbating to ejaculation last year, and I'm in my mid-fifties now (in this regard it may not be a coincidence that I have Asperger's Syndrome). I've been taking full advantage since (mostly every other day). I use a small towel, not a sock, and then rinse it out and wash it. This is a great site btw. Dr Phil you're a national treasure and IMO probably the funniest comedian in the country (along with maybe Harry Hill, a fellow medic). You've also done much good work in exposing bad practice and policy involving and concerning the NHS. Graham, Pensilva, Cornwall, UK (I prefer not to give my surname).

Posted by Sarah on 21/11/2011 at 09:31

laugh out loud funny!

Posted by SlickPalm on 16/11/2011 at 03:06

Oh my god, that was hilarious. One question, though - can you do it too much? My girlfriend and me have a great sexual compatibility. But when she's not around, sometimes for a few weeks at a time, I do it virtually every day. I mean, I really look forward to getting off work, coming home, turning the lights down low, lighting some incense, closing the blinds, dialing up some crackerjack porn sites and going to town for a good two hours or so. Is this normal?

Posted by J on 21/10/2011 at 02:28

i couldn't stop laughing! thank you for the comforting and wide ranged advice, with just the right amount of comic relief. It helped me to realize that i am far from alone as a person with this problem. very well written, however, i do believe that this habit is an addiction (at least for me). what i was really looking for was advice on how to stop or at least reduce this habit. It has taken over my life, and i feel the urges at all hours of the day and night. it keeps me up at night, and keeps me in bed in the morning. it also takes away from my social life, makes me feel as though i cannot have a normal relationship with girls, and i feel as though i cant stop no matter how hard i try. i have gone from several times a day to 1-2 times a week within the last year, but my progress has come to a screeching halt. any advice for someone who desperately wants out? please i feel like I'm drowning!

Posted by curious guy on 26/04/2011 at 07:20

cool info, thanx

Posted by Saqib on 20/08/2010 at 05:22

Thanks Doctor Phil! It was a good read. Entertaining and educating.

Posted by So true and Funny on 30/04/2010 at 12:56

Very very funny indeed. I've had a good deal of stress relief from reading