I masturbate often, maybe even three to four times a day. Please tell me the long-term effects of this and how I can control it.
Jackin' the Beanstalk (male, age 17)
There are a lot of myths about masturbation. People who masturbate have been called selfish and immoral. The act has been said to cause impotence and infertility — and even make a person go blind.
Truth is, the benefits of masturbation are many. It helps relieve stress and anxiety and improve the quality of one's sleep. It can lift your mood, aid concentration and relieve pain — for women, that includes the pain associated with menstruation.
It can also enhance a person's overall sexual function and health. For men, that means more easily getting and maintaining an erection. For women, it means better and longer lubrication. For young people like you, masturbation can help you learn how your body works so that you'll have better control and enhanced pleasure during intercourse.
That said, rubbing yourself too hard or using too tight a grip can cause chaffing and inflammation and, over the long run, reduce sensation — all of which can be reversed with reduced pressure and some time off.
On the downside, excessive masturbation can mask anxiety issues, and it's no substitute for real-life experiences. Four times a day seems like a lot, but ask yourself: Is masturbating getting in the way of important things in your life? Are you missing work or school? Are you controlling it, or is it controlling you? If you masturbate compulsively, you should talk to your doctor or consult a mental health professional.
If it's not getting in the way of your responsibilities and you feel in control, have fun with it. Masturbation is the safest sex known to man and, as Woody Allen put it in Annie Hall, it's sex with someone you love.