The Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Told About Masturbation

March 27th 2016

Laura Donovan

For many, masturbation is a person's first experience with sexual exploration, yet there is still a lot of shame and guilt surrounding this totally normal act. A writer named Julia Boriss wrote in 2014 that it took her until age 27 to stop feeling ashamed about masturbation, as she feared "that something that felt so good must somehow be disgraceful." 

Given the number of myths and lies that have circulated about the so-called negative effects of masturbation, it's no wonder there's such a stigma surrounding self-love.

Here are some major myths and false claims about masturbation that must be retired.

1. Masturbation causes blindness.

A common masturbation myth is that a person can go blind from the act. This idea, of course, is not true. It is meant to discourage people from masturbating and furthers the stigma surrounding masturbation as such. Dr. Justine Marie Shuey, a sex educator, told Everyday Health that this idea traces back to a time when people thought sex was only meant for procreation.

"Because masturbation isn't for procreation, it was considered problematic," she said. "People also believed sex could lead to insanity, tuberculosis, hairy palms, and death. Obviously, none of these things are true."

2. Women don't masturbate.

Some people argue that masturbation is more of a "guy" thing than something women do as well, but as ATTN: has noted before, this couldn't be further from the truth. A Gossard Big M Survey study from 2008 found that 92 percent of women have admitted to masturbating, and two thirds of these women reported doing it three times a week.

Writer Ann Friedman broached the female masturbation taboo in a New York magazine piece, stating it's insane that we "expect boys to start playing with themselves while they’re still in utero and continue until they’re old men" but refuse to acknowledge that women do it too.

"To social conservatives, [female masturbation] seems downright dangerous," Friedman wrote. "What’s left to hold our society and nuclear family structure together if even women like sex more than they like babies? There’s no purer example of this than a woman enjoying the pleasure of her own company."

3. People in relationships don't need to masturbate.

Masturbation gif

Though relationships present a great opportunity for meaningful sex, exclusivity does not mean you have to stop masturbating or fantasizing about other people. In fact, many married and exclusive couples masturbate, sometimes even together, Dr. Susan Kellogg Spadt, director of sexual medicine at the Pelvic & Sexual Health Institute in Philadelphia, told Everyday Health. Some even watch porn as a couple so they can both enjoy it.

"People masturbate whether they are in relationships or single," Dr. Shuey told Everyday Health. 

She added that masturbation can sometimes create tension in relationships, but that it's important for people to remember that self-love is a healthy part of life.

"People often get jealous when their partners masturbate because they feel it's cheating or their partner is masturbating because they aren't good enough," she continued. "What you need to realize is that people have different levels of sexual desire - all are totally healthy and normal, and some involve masturbation."

French sex columnist Maïa Mazaurette told New York magazine last year that even dating a heartthrob such as Ryan Gosling wouldn't make her stop masturbating.

“Even if I had all the men in the world that I wanted in my bed, even if I had Ryan Gosling, I would still masturbate with sex toys,” Mazaurette said. “I don’t want to go back to a world without plastic!”

4. Masturbation causes infertility.

Dr. Erik Castle, a board-certified urologist who has worked at the Mayo Clinic for nearly a decade, wrote on the Mayo Clinic's website that frequent male masturbation "isn't likely to have much effect on your ability to get your partner pregnant." The notion that frequent masturbation can impact fertility and erectile function furthers the stigma surrounding masturbation

"Some data shows that optimum semen quality occurs after two to three days of no ejaculation," Dr. Castle wrote. "But other research suggests that men who have normal sperm quality maintain normal sperm motility and concentrations even with daily ejaculation. Ultimately, having sexual intercourse with ejaculation several times a week will maximize your chances of getting your partner pregnant, whether you masturbate or not."

Dr. Vanessa Cullins, the vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood, made a similar point in a recent interview with Refinery29.

"Masturbation does not cause men to run out of semen," Cullins said.

This is not the same as compulsively watching porn, however. Compulsive porn habits can make it difficult for some people to enjoy sex and bring on erectile dysfunction, as what they see on screen is more interesting than the sex they have in real life. 

"When people start watching porn, there is a huge flood of dopamine in the brain," Dr. Elizabeth Waterman, a psychologist based in Southern California, told Men's Journal. "Over time, the receptors that were once very sensitive become less sensitive, and normal physical intimacy does not produce enough dopamine to stimulate the dopamine receptors."

RELATED: What Happens When You Stop Masturbating