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Masturbation:

Current medical opinions

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Current medical statements about masturbation:

Physicians have completely reversed their beliefs about masturbation over the past few centuries. Masturbation, In the 18th and 19th century, was incorrectly linked to "general debility, consumption, deterioration of eyesight, disturbance of the nervous system, and so on...Polluting and debilitating for the individual, it had a destabilizing effect on society, as it prevented healthy sexual desire from fulfilling socially desirable ends--marriage and procreation, which was the foundation of the social order." 1 

Alex McKay, research coordinator for the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada commented that many people currently feel guilty about masturbation: "The reason is that sex is supposed to be geared towards reproduction, and masturbation is about as far away from that as you can get...There is now a wide-ranging consensus among health professionals from all disciplines that masturbation is psychologically healthy and something most people do." Sex therapists Bill and Carolyn Chernenkoff from Saskatoon, SK, promote both mutual and private "self-stimulation." They say there's nothing more healthy for hormone-crazed teenagers than masturbation. If the kids are engaging in masturbation, then they won't be practicing sexual intercourse to the same degree, and risk catching STDs or becoming pregnant. 2

R. Jandl commented in an "Ask the Doctors" column that masturbation has a number of benefits:

  • It enables the playing out of pleasurable sexual fantasies.
  • It releases sexual tension and often produces a pleasant, tranquil feeling.
  • It helps a person become more comfortable with their own sexuality.
  • It is an enjoyable experience when shared with a partner.
  • It can curb impulses to have inappropriate sex with someone. 3

Other Internet and text references list additional benefits associated with masturbation:

  • No one gets pregnant by masturbating.
  • It helps maintain good pelvic blood flow and strong pc muscles.
  • It is safe. One cannot be infected with STDs during solitary masturbation.
  • It's great for stress relief.
  • It can help you sleep.
  • It can temporarily relieve menstrual cramps in women.
  • A person who masturbates can learn about the sexual responses of their own body, and thus be better prepared for sexual activity with a partner at a later time.

Some negative factors have been cited:

  • Among males, frequent and vigorous masturbation can produce skin abrasions. This can be avoided by using a lubricant such as KY jelly, Aqua-Lube, saliva or even soap and water.
  • It does take time away from other activities. Some younger teenagers masturbate a few times a day.
  • Prolonged sexual arousal in males without an ejaculation can cause pain due to blood congestion in the genital area. This is often called "blue balls". It is easily avoided by masturbating until ejaculation and orgasm occur.

People can and do masturbate throughout their lifetime without any deleterious side effects.


Prostate cancer discovery in mid-2003:

Study leader Graham Giles and team, of the Cancer Council Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia completed a study of 2,338 Australian men, of whom 1,079 had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The remainder were free of the disease. He said: "What we found was men who ejaculated most (more than five times a week) in their 20s, 30s and 40s had about a third less prostate cancer risk than men in the lowest category of ejaculation...Semen is a very potent and strong brew of lots of chemicals which, because of their biological reactivity, could be carcinogenic if left to lie around." The precise reason why masturbation appears to give partial immunity to prostate cancer is unknown. Giles speculates that: "It's a prostatic stagnation hypothesis...The more you flush the ducts out, the less there is to hang around and damage the cells that line them." Other researchers suggests it frequent masturbation allows cells in the organ to become more cancer-resistant. The findings were published in the British Journal Of Urology International.

However, the researchers found that this reduction in the occurrence of prostate cancer was only related to masturbation. They found that men who had orgasms during sex with many women did not benefit with a lower risk for prostate cancer.  4

Dr. Ira Sharlip, a San Francisco urologist and sexual medicine expert, urges caution on interpreting the Australian research. It is only a single study. It needs to be replicated by others to make certain that the effect is real. He called the concept that health might be improved through masturbation "dynamite." Sharlip said that if doctors tell young men that the risk of prostate cancer later in life is reduced if they masturbate, "that would be one hell of a message. That's going to give everybody a license to have a lot of sex." 5

Edward Shorter, history of medicine professor at the University of Toronto and author of a forthcoming book on the history of sexuality said: "This sounds like one of the few good things that anybody's had to say about masturbation in two centuries."

Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, who called masturbation "the primary sexual activity of mankind", once observed that "in the 19th century it was a disease; in the 20th, it's a cure." 6

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men, exceeded only by skin cancer. Just under 30,000 American men are expected to die from the disease in 2003.

Fortunately, a second study has confirmed the link between masturbation and lower prostate cancer rates. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2004-APR studied nearly 30,000 mostly white men from 1992 to 2000. They reported that:

"...men who reported frequent ejaculation over their lifetime - that's more than four to seven times per month, in case you're counting - had fewer overall cases of prostate cancer than those who ejaculated less often."

"And those tireless individuals averaging 21 or more ejaculations a month over their lifetime showed only half the risk for developing the disease." 7


References:

  1. Ornella Moscuci, "Male masturbation and the offending prepuce," at: http://www.cirp.org/library/history/moscucci/ It is an excerpt from "Sexualities in Victorian Britain."
  2. Jack Boulware, "Sex educator says most people masturbate," Salon.com at: http://www.salon.com/health/sex/
  3. R. Jandl, "Ask the Doctors" column on masturbation was once located at: "http://www.tripod.com/health/ask_doc/sex/ This is currently a dead link
  4. "Masturbate, and avoid prostate cancer: Study," Rediff.com, 2003-JUL-17, at: http://www.rediff.com/
  5. Adam Marcus, "Docs Mum on Masturbation Therapy for Prostate Cancer," Yahoo HealthDay, 2003-JUL-18, at: http://story.news.yahoo.com/
  6. Judy Gerstel, "Masturbation has come a long way to be okay. Ejaculation a day may keep prostate cancer at bay. Once a reviled practice, it's now valued as a virtue," The Toronto Star, 2003-JUL-18, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  7. "Frequent ejaculations reduces risk of prostate cancer," Pravda, 2004-APR-07, at: http://newsfromrussia.com/

Copyright © 1997 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-SEP-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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