Masturbation: Part 1 – Let’s Talk About It

Few things are enjoyed so much, reviled so much, lied about so much, performed so much, or ignored so much, as masturbation. The topic rarely fails to spark an emotional and visceral response; laughter, disgust, titillation, arousal, awkward silence, denial, even fear. It’s no wonder that people never really talk about it.

For centuries society has tried to control it through devices, diets, and diatribes. And even though most men engage in it regularly, it is not discussed except in broadest terms and usually in the form of jokes and derision.

Orthodox and fundamentalist religions which seem unable to agree on even the most basic doctrines seem to be unified in their stance against masturbation.  Islam, Judaism and Christianity in their conservative forms all agree that masturbation is forbidden.

But even populations with no real proscription against it tend to view it as an activity that is a poor substitute for those who can’t find a partner for sex. I have worked with many men who are almost insulted when I ask them how often they masturbate. “Why would I masturbate when I have a woman to do it?” is what I hear very often.

Most sexologists will agree that masturbation is the foundation of an individual’s sexuality. It is where people discover their body, what thoughts and fantasies arouse them, how their body works, and what feels good. We figure out who we are sexually in the safety of masturbation.

I find that the vast majority of men I work with have never had an honest talk about masturbation, much less discuss how to do it. Even the sex talk, as awkward as it is for most kids, is usually somewhat instructional or informative. At least terms like ‘pleasure, intimacy, and enjoyment’ are associated with sex. There is very rarely a masturbation talk. And if there is, the accompanying descriptions are usually laden with connotations of secrecy, embarrassment, and negativity.

Why is it, that something so important is so rarely discussed when the information is so desperately needed? What should be an activity which will open up new sexual horizons for young men, all too often, becomes an activity which can end up being at odds with the objectives of partnered sex.

There are better and worse ways to masturbate. I use the analogy all the time: Just because you can drive from New York to Buffalo, doesn’t mean you’re a good driver. It just means you got to Buffalo. Same with masturbation; just because you can give yourself an orgasm doesn’t mean you’re good at it. You just gave yourself an orgasm! And while we can all be pleased you can accomplish that, let’s also realize that there is far more to masturbation than just an orgasm.

So, think of this as the discussion about masturbation you never had! Stick around. You just might learn something.

Paul Nelson

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Paul is an AASECT certified sexuality educator and a clinical medical assistant.  He is president of the Erectile Dysfunction Foundation, and founder of, the largest online community for men’s sexual dysfunctions and maintains a private practice at  He works in New York City with Dr. Michael Werner ( as a patient/sexuality educator.  Paul is an instructor at the Institute for Sexuality Education and Enlightenment. He is an advocate for men’s reproductive health and has appeared on ABC News with Diane Sawyer, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, the BBC, and the New York Times. Paul is a member of the AUA, ISSM, AASECT, and SMSNA.
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