In the 1950s, people were told that masturbation could cause blindness, fatigue, and disease, sapping a man’s strength and turning him feeble-minded. John Kellogg and Sylvester Graham even developed their eponymous corn flakes and crackers in the 19th century as part of a bland diet to reduce men’s sex drives and discourage them from masturbating.
Today, we recognize these claims as an absurd campaign stemming from moral judgments rather than legitimate health risks. And yet, movements opposing masturbation persist, most notably with the “NoFap” community. (Fap is a British slang term for male masturbation.) This latest trend has risen out of concerns around the easy accessibility and variety of internet porn, and it has led to some men swearing off masturbation because of worries they’ll become addicted.
But many experts say the current anxieties around masturbation and internet porn are overblown. Instead, they believe problems related to masturbation are largely due to underlying depression, anxiety, or relationship issues. In fact, studies have shown that masturbation has a number of benefits, including increasing sexual satisfaction, sex drive, and self-confidence, and it can be an easy solution to different sexual appetites in a relationship.
“There’s no specific frequency of masturbation that you could look at and objectively say that’s too much or not enough. It’s not so much about frequency but about how is it affecting you personally.”
According to one of the largest surveys on sexual behavior in the United States, almost everyone masturbates: Between 12% and 69% of Americans have done so in the past month, depending on age and gender. (Men ages 25 to 29 had the highest rates, while women 70 and older had the lowest.)
People masturbate for pleasure, to relax, to fall asleep, and to ease stress and anxiety. Orgasms look the same in the brain for men and women and regardless of whether they’re triggered by yourself or a partner. Not surprisingly, the brain’s reward network…