Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
Masturbation is a normal, healthy activity — and hella convenient because self-love requires only yourself. But throughout history, plenty of folks have warned that masturbating will give you acne, make your palms hairy, or cause you to go blind.
Nowadays, the more absurd masturbation myths sound pretty silly (no, your penis will not shrink!). But there are still plenty of myths that give polishing the family jewels a bad rap.
Here’s everything you need to know to put those masturbation myths to bed.
Nearly all of us pleasure ourselves. A 2010 survey of 5,865 U.S. men and women ages 14 to 94 found that masturbation was common for all age groups. And it was more common than partnered sex in teens and older adults (get it, Gramps).
Another 2010 survey of more than 2,500 women found that women ages 18 to 39 flick the bean most often.
When it comes to masturbation side effects, here’s what’s rare and what’s straight-up imaginary.
False, but it’s complicated.
It’s possible to lose sensitivity in your bits for a long period of time due to health issues like diabetes or an injury — but not as a result of masturbation. However, masturbation can temporarily decrease sensitivity or cause some numbness that goes away.
Basically, you have such a strong grip on your penis that you desensitize the nerves. You then have to level up with increasingly vigorous masturbating in order to feel pleasure. Those who have this “syndrome” may also struggle to climax during sex with a partner.
Research suggests death grip syndrome is a vicious cycle that causes you to masturbate harder in order to feel anything. Whaddya do if you’re in the clutches of the “death grip”? Take a break from masturbation, and then adapt to a new, gentler technique over time.
Folks with vaginas will be happy to learn that “dead vagina syndrome” is not a thing. The vagina’s super-sensitive nerve endings can feel numb or less sensitive after masturbation, but it’s usually related to stress, medication, or an underlying health issue.
Gripping the penis too hard during masturbation can make it difficult to feel the same level of stimulation (unless you masturbate harder). But masturbation itself doesn’t make your genitals numb or desensitized. A health condition is usually to blame.
False (for the vast majority of us).
We don’t all masturbate the same amount, so your idea of “too much” could be different from someone else’s. Are there Masturbation Hall of Famers who touch themselves every day? Sure, and that’s totally healthy.
Masturbating a lot isn’t a cause for concern unless you’re masturbating multiple times a day and not feeling good about it afterward. That could be a sign of compulsive autoeroticism, aka compulsive masturbating. It may be connected to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a mental health condition that can cause compulsive behavior.
It’s a good idea to talk to a mental health professional if you’re concerned about how often you’re touching yourself.
Your masturbation tally shouldn’t be cause for concern unless it’s making you feel terrible or getting in the way of your life. If you feel like your masturbation habits are compulsive, you may have compulsive autoeroticism or OCD, which are not directly caused by masturbating. Talk to your doc if you have concerns.
Unclear but unlikely.
There’s conflicting research on whether masturbation plays a role in the development or prevention of prostate cancer.
One 2009 study found that frequent masturbation was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer in men in their 20s and 30s but a decreased risk among men in their 50s.
A 2016 review of studies found no clear connection between masturbation and prostate cancer. Another 2016 study, which was a 10-year follow-up to an older study, showed that men who masturbated more often were less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The research is inconclusive on whether masturbation helps prevent or cause prostate cancer.
Your battery-operated partner may feel so amazing that you want to pleasure yourself all the time, but that doesn’t mean you’re addicted to masturbating.
While hypersexual behaviors do require more study, the American Psychological Association doesn’t recognize masturbation as addictive. There’s also no clinical diagnosis for masturbation addiction.
Still, compulsive masturbation is a thing. Check in with a mental health professional if you masturbate 5 to 15 times a day, you feel bad about it afterward, and it interferes with other parts of your life.
Masturbating isn’t recognized as an addiction by mental health experts. But you could have compulsive masturbation issues if you masturbate so much that it interferes with life or makes you feel bad.
When period cramps are the worst, you’d do anything to feel better. You’re in luck, because giving yourself a rubdown actually helps relieve period cramps. This is because masturbating causes your body to release endorphins, hormones that act as a natural pain reliever.
Masturbating also leads to the release of dopamine (the “feel good” hormone) and oxytocin (the “love hormone”). These hormones make you feel less craptastic.
Touching yourself can help relieve cramps during your time of the month, thanks to hormones released during a self-love sesh.
False (with a caveat!).
The good news for anyone getting super horny during pregnancy is that sex is completely safe. That includes sex with yourself. Your cervix is guarding the baby, so don’t worry about “poking” your little one. And, as always, only masturbate with clean sex toys.
Check with your healthcare provider to find out if there are any risks to getting it on with yourself or others.
If you’re experiencing a normal pregnancy without any restrictions from your OB, masturbate away. If you’re high risk or have a health condition during pregnancy, hold off until your doc gives you the OK.
Yes, you could potentially chafe your penis skin while masturbating (and in that case, we recommend you lube up). You could also scratch yourself with your nails, so make sure to keep those babies trimmed.
But aside from those scenarios, it’s unlikely you’ll injure yourself while masturbating. Just be sure your hands or sex toys are clean, and you’ll be good to go.
As for masturbating with items that are not sex toys? Best to avoid it. An object could snap or break off inside you, or you could burn yourself… the list goes on and on. Spare yourself an awkward ER visit and use only body parts and sex toys for self-exploration.
Remember, sensitive doesn’t mean delicate! Some people masturbate by slapping, pinching, or twisting or by tugging on their pubic hair (you do you… while you do you). It is possible to fracture your penis by masturbating too aggressively, but it’s really rare.
It’s unlikely you’ll have a major injury from masturbating. If you’re using items to masturbate that aren’t body parts or sex toys, you’re putting yourself at risk (so just don’t).
If something feels good (hurts in a good way!), do it. If it hurts in a bad way, don’t do it.
You’d think using your vibe on the highest setting would make some of those 8,000 nerve endings in your clitoris feel numb, but if it does, you’re probably just overstimulated. It’s not damaging, and it’s totally temporary. Most sex experts would also tell you it’s likely not from your vibrator at all.
A 2009 survey of more than 2,000 women found that most vibrator users didn’t experience any negative effects from masturbating.
Get your vibe on. Vibrators won’t injure your bits.
Women may have a finite amount of eggs, but men don’t have a finite amount of sperm. Between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of ejaculate comes out at a time, and guys reproduce those puppies every single day!
So, no, masturbation won’t lower your sperm count. Baby-making ability has a lot more to do with your age, weight, alcohol consumption, health conditions, and lifestyle.
Masturbating won’t lower your sperm count or hurt your chances of conceiving.
Masturbating has a very small effect on your testosterone level. (This sex hormone is most often associated with dudes, but it actually helps all genders get revved up.)
When you masturbate or have sex, your testosterone levels naturally rise. They fall back to normal after you hit the Big O. There’s no proof that masturbating lowers testosterone levels in your body altogether.
Where’d this myth come from? You’ve probably heard about male athletes who abstain from sex before a big game based on the idea that they need all their testosterone. This idea dates back to ancient Greeks and Romans who thought they’d be more aggressive if they were sexually frustrated.
Masturbating — or any other kind of sex — doesn’t lower testosterone levels.
Masturbation may actually increase your sex drive. How often you have sex — with yourself or with partners — is highly individual. Some folks might feel extra horny when they’ve been sleeping with someone new, so they masturbate more. Others don’t, and that’s normal too.
As far as the science goes, because masturbating has a very small effect on your testosterone levels, it shouldn’t affect your libido at all.
On the flip side, a recent survey of 2,215 women found that masturbating more often was related to lower sexual satisfaction with a partner.
But for most women, touching yourself is just another option on the sexual buffet, not a replacement for intercourse. A survey of 425 German women found that most women engaged in both self-pleasure and partnered sex and didn’t use masturbation as a substitute for sex.
Masturbating doesn’t hurt your sex drive — it might even increase it.
- Masturbation is healthy, normal, and very common
- Masturbation isn’t addictive, but if you’re touching yourself compulsively, definitely talk to a mental health professional.
- You can’t damage your nerves with a vibrator.
- “Masturbation death grip syndrome” is a thing — if you need to up the ante to feel the same pleasure, take a break.
- The jury is out on the connection between masturbation and prostate cancer.
- Masturbating doesn’t lower sperm count or testosterone, and it doesn’t lead to less sex.
- A self-love sesh can help relieve period cramps.
- It’s A-OK to masturbate while pregnant, unless you’ve got certain medical conditions.
- You’re unlikely to injure yourself while masturbating. Use clean hands and clean sex toys.