Today's post is brought to you by the letter M. As in M for Masturbation.
A couple of weeks ago someone asked in the comments if we could talk about masturbation.
I had wanted to make this a fun video with graphics, statistics and witty comments to help ease any potential awkwardness that comes from a conversation about masturbation, but I'm learning that "done" is better than "perfectly planned and still sitting in my brain."
The topic of masturbation could go any number of directions so I'm going to hit three of the most common questions that I encounter when it comes to M.
1. Is masturbation bad/wrong?
Do I think you're going to go to hell for masturbating, or that masturbating is somehow punishable, damnable or criminal? No.
But…. (You had to know that was coming)
Where I take issue with M is that it usually goes hand in hand (no pun intended) with pornography or fantasizing about another person. That, my friends, is a perfect example of objectification. Rather than see that person for the complex human being they were created to be, we reduce them to what they do for us sexually.
Now, if you can masturbate to a picture of an apple, then I'd say go ahead. (Though if that really were the case, I think we'd have to address some other issues in your life).
2. Are there any risks to masturbating?
I know what you're thinking, "Masturbation is just with um, myself. How could it pose a danger?"
Physically, the risk is pretty low. You're not going to get an STD (unless you share devices with someone who doesn't wash it and that is just straight up gross. Seriously.) You also won't find yourself dealing with an unexpected pregnancy within the context of masturbation.
So you're good to go, right? Well, masturbation isn't just about your body and it's not just about what you're looking at/thinking about. As I've written here, and here, sex is about so much more when properly understood. If it was just about your body and the inherent risks, all we would need are full body condoms with a money back guarantee and we could get down to business.
Sex involves the whole person: body, mind and heart. How we approach our sexuality impacts who we are as individuals, what our expectations are in relationships, and how we view others.
So what are we teaching ourselves about sex when we masturbate?
Whereas sexual intimacy involves two people bringing their whole self (not just their bodies), and learning how to share and communicate with their spouse, masturbation teaches you to satisfy yourself.
If we've built a habit of satisfying ourselves sexually, we can get very frustrated when our spouse can't do it as well or as quickly as we would like.
We also most likely masturbate to satisfy our momentary sexual desire, to fulfill what we see as a need that has to be met. I don't think anyone is masturbating as practice for when they get married so they can be "really awesome" in bed. Am I right?
Finally, this approach compartmentalizes sex, fitting it into this box that we deal with and then move on from, rather than learning how to integrate our sexuality in a healthy way and learn to practice self-control in the moment in order to build the healthiest habits possible for the future.
As to the risks of viewing pornography, I wrote about that here And if you're struggling with it, read this. All is not lost.
3. Isn't it better to masturbate than to be hooking up a bunch?
If sex were just about your body and the aim was to make sure your body wasn't impacted, then absolutely.
But you are more than a body. You are more than flesh and blood, bones and muscles. You are even more than your desires and urges.
You are keeping your body out of harms way when you masturbate, but what are you doing to your mind and what habits are you creating that will impact future relationships?
What we do in the privacy of our bedrooms does matter to the rest of the community. Not because it's going to be broadcast on the wall of your dorm or apartment building. But because what you do affects how you view sex, which in turn impacts the way you go about relationships, affecting those people whom you date, marry, and (someday) create.
Fun fact: In regards to brain chemistry, masturbation is 5 times less satisfying than sexual intercourse. In other words, after someone masturbates, they're less likely to feel as sexually satisfied for as long as they would if they had sexual intercourse.
We were made for sexual intimacy with another person. But the best sex is not going to be the easiest sex. It takes self-control, commitment, and sacrifice. Qualities that our culture does not encourage when it comes to expressing our sexuality.
Our desire for sex is a good thing. But how we go about satisfying that can lead us down a rabbit hole of trouble if we're not careful. Just remember, you control your body, it doesn't control you.
What do you think is the right perspective when it comes to masturbation?
Photo courtesy of Mary Margret via flickr