Masturbation is natural and healthy. Over 94% of men masturbate1.
It feels good. It can reduce stress and tension by releasing endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine, and it can even help you sleep.
It helps young men to explore their bodies, and learn what they like and don’t like.
But most men know very little about masturbation, so we’re going to cut through the myths and misinformation, and answer some practical questions.
Does Masturbation Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
This is a common belief, but extensive studies have shown that masturbation has no effect on a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection. The International Society for Sexual Medicine2 says, “The notion that masturbation causes erectile dysfunction (ED) is a myth.”
However, some studies show that there could be a potential link between watching too much porn and erectile dysfunction. (See our article, “Does Porn Cause Erectile Dysfunction?“)
You may have heard that masturbation lowers testosterone levels. This is based on a single study of ten men, and the results have not been replicated. In fact, several other studies actually show the opposite: sexual activity and orgasms increase testosterone levels3
Are There Health Benefits from Masturbation?
In addition to reducing stress, masturbation may actually have a measurable effect on reducing your risk of prostate cancer. Studies have found that men who ejaculate at least 5 times per week have a significantly lower risk than men who ejaculate less frequently (2 or fewer times per week)4 5, although researchers don’t understand why.
Researchers at the University of Sydney6 claim that masturbation improves immune functioning by increasing cortisol levels, which can regulate immune functioning in small doses. It also reduces depression by increasing the amount of endorphins in the bloodstream. They add that engaging in self-pleasure can also ‘lower the risk of type-2 diabetes (though this association may also be explained by greater overall health), reduce insomnia through hormonal and tension release, and increase pelvic floor strength through the contractions that happen during orgasm.
Masturbation also promotes blood flow, an important factor in the health of the penis. This is especially important for men who don’t have nighttime or morning erections, which are believed to be the body’s mechanism for ensuring an adequate blood and oxygen supply to the penis.
Are There Risks from Masturbation?
If you masturbate frequently, the penis can become irritated. To prevent this, use a good quality sex lube, or a lotion without scents or additives.
If you masturbate too vigorously, or if you bend or twist the shaft, it’s possible to fracture your penis, by rupturing the corpus cavernosa – the sponge-like chambers in the penis that are responsible for erections. Signs of this include:
- Extreme pain
- A noticeable ‘popping’ sound
- Loss of erection
- Swelling or bruising of the penis
A fractured penis requires immediate medical attention. Without treatment, a fracture may result in permanent damage.
- Herbenick, Debby; Reece, Michael; Schick, Vanessa; Sanders, Stephanie A ; Dodge, Brian; Fortenberry, J Dennis. “Sexual behavior in the United States: results from a national probability sample of men and women ages 14-94.” Journal of Sexual Medicine. October 2010; 7 Suppl 5:255-65.
- “Does masturbation cause erectile dysfunction (ED)?” International Society for Sexual Medicine.
- Ley, David J. “No, Abstinence Won’t Increase Your Testosterone.” Psychology Today. Jul 2020.
- Giles, GG; Severi, G; English, DR; McCredie, MRE; Borland, R; Boyle, P; Hopper, JL. “Sexual factors and prostate cancer.” BJU International. July 2003.
- Rider, Jennifer R; Wilson, Kathryn M; Sinnott, Jennifer A; Kelly, Rachel S; Mucci, Lorelei A; Giovannucci, Edward L. “Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up.” European Urology. December 2016;70(6):974-982.
- Santella, Anthony; Cooper, Spring Chenoa. “Masturbation is good for your health: Experts say it can prevent conditions such as cystitis, diabetes and cancer.” Daily Mail. December 2013.