„It seems that not all orgasms are created equal,“ says Tobias S. Köhler, MD, MPH, Associate Professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.
Study after study shows that sexual intercourse has all sorts of benefits for men – for blood pressure, heart health, prostate health, pain relief, and more. One might think that masturbation would do the same. But it doesn’t.
Why should it make a difference whether you ejaculate during sex or alone? No one is sure. But your body seems to respond differently. Even the composition of semen is different when you masturbate instead of having sex.
Is it really important though? Have you been masturbating all these years just to improve the health of your prostate? I wouldn’t have thought so. However, a study by Harvard’s Health Professional Followup indicated that masturbation can help lower the risk of prostate cancer.
Sure, it’s low risk. It’s the safest form of sex there is. No one has ever contracted a sexually transmitted disease or impregnated themselves. But like other low-risk activities (chewing, walking), it still carries some risks.
Frequent or rough masturbation can lead to minor skin irritation. Forcibly bending an erect penis can cause the blood-filled chambers to burst, a rare but gruesome condition called penile fracture.
Köhler has seen guys with this after intense masturbation. „Afterwards, the penis looks like an eggplant,“ he says. „It’s purple and swollen.“ Most men require surgery to fix the problem.
Guys may fret about whether they masturbate too much. But it doesn’t really matter how often you masturbate in a week (or a day), says Logan Levkoff, PhD, sexologist and sex educator. It’s about how it fits into your life.
If you masturbate multiple times a day and still lead a healthy, satisfying life, that’s good for you. But if you’re masturbating multiple times a day and missing work or giving up sex with your partner because of it, you should consider seeing a sex therapist.
Still, there’s nothing specific about masturbation that presents the problem. Compulsive masturbation is just like any behavior that disrupts your life – whether it’s compulsive gambling or checking your social media every other minute.
According to Levkoff, the most harmful myth about male masturbation is that it’s a sign that something is wrong in your relationship.
The fact is, most men masturbate. They do it when they’re single, in a bad relationship, or in a great relationship. It’s just something they do that has nothing to do with their partners.
Masturbation isn’t just about sex, says Levkoff. For many, it’s a routine way to relieve stress, clear their mind before work, or before going to bed.
Masturbation can improve your sex life as men learn what they like during sex. „I think women would be more sexually satisfied in their relationships if they masturbated as much as men do,“ says Levkoff.
Are there exceptions? „Some men are so dependent on a certain pressure during masturbation or the stimulation from porn that they can’t perform with a partner,“ says Ian Kerner, PhD, sex therapist and author of She Comes First.
Still, Kerner says those people are the exception. „For the vast majority of men, masturbation is a healthy thing,“ he says. „I usually worry more about a man who has stopped masturbating – which can be a sign of anxiety or health issues – than a man who does it regularly.“