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Sexual Wellness

Is There Such a Thing as Masturbating Too Much?

| 05/15/2021

masturbating too much

Here on Dame, we talk a lot about the benefits of masturbation, but can you ever masturbate too much? Like, can it get out of hand and start to impact someone negatively? 

There is no simple answer, but pretty much any good thing that brings you joy and pleasure has the potential to get out of hand. If you eat McDonald’s fries every single day, this wouldn’t be healthy for you. If you started watching television every single waking moment of the day, this wouldn’t be healthy for you. And if you rub your clit raw because you’re masturbating all day, every day—well, that would not be healthy for you, either. 

“It’s about habits,” explains Kenneth Play, a sex-hacker and international sex expert. “If whenever you’re bored, you want to soothe boredom by watching porn, and self-pleasure gives you a reliable reward, that’s fine unless it’s causing problems in other parts of your life or it’s your only solution to boredom.”

Let’s attempt to unravel this puzzling gray-area question of when a good thing can become too much of a good thing. 

First Things First…

Let’s begin with some basic deprogramming. The ideas that masturbation is addictive, bad, wrong, and dirty, and that masturbation causes dire side effects, is a message propagated by an anti-sex world that is really, really scared of people exploring pleasure. Why? Pleasure disrupts the classic narrative of what “sex” is and what it means. Healthy sex is “supposed” to be penis-in-vagina intercourse. Sex is for making babies. Sex is for male pleasure; sexual pleasure is something women are supposed to “give up” in exchange for marriage and security. 

And this is all, to put it in the scientific, academic language: Bullshit.

“If excessive masturbation is affecting your everyday life in super negative ways…it’s fairly obvious that it needs to change.”

Sex Addiction vs. Compulsive Sexual Behavior

Let’s get some things straight. Masturbation is not literally addictive. An addiction is a chemical dependence on something.

The term “sexual addiction” is thrown around a lot, but its very existence is up for debate: It is not recognized as a legitimate diagnosis in the DSM-5 (the main U.S. manual for diagnosing mental health stuff). Why? Because sexual addiction is simply not backed by science. Most experts have done away with diagnosing “sex addicts,” and those who still do are usually selling something (like a course or rehab). 

With that being said, partnered sex and/or masturbation may become compulsive behaviors, which can be harmful or disruptive to someone’s life. Compulsive sexual behaviors can feel like addiction if you’re really in the thick of it, but they are not addictions. 

That said, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re a compulsive masturbator. This isn’t a hugely common thing and most of the time, people who think they’re compulsive masturbators “diagnose” themselves because they aren’t comfortable with their sexuality and sexual health, not because they are out of control.

Check In With Yourself

Here are the big questions to ask yourself: 

  • Is masturbating negatively affecting other areas of my life? 
  • Am I masturbating so much that I’ve opted out of friendships, relationships, social life, etc.? 
  • Am I unable to have orgasms by any other means other than masturbation, and is this making me miserable?

 If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, that’s when we need to take a pause. 

“If it’s affecting your life in super negative ways, like you’re masturbating on a work Zoom call and forget to turn off your camera, it’s fairly obvious that it needs to change,” Play says. “If you’re using up all your sexual energy and have nothing to give to your relationship, it might be something you need to consider cutting down on.”

Only you have the answers.

A pretty dead-on sign that your masturbation habits should get a personal check-in is pain or discomfort. If you’re rubbing one out 20 times a day, experience pain and rawness, and yet continue masturbating because you “can’t stop,” you should take a minute to consider what is going on.

Someone’s habits are subjective and do not exist as universal truths.

There is a lot of nuance there, too. If you’re experiencing physical pain when you masturbate, it may have nothing to do with the amount you’re masturbating, but rather how you’re masturbating. “If you are having physical discomfort, [you may be using a] specific lube or cream that contain[s] irritating ingredients or ingredients that you may be allergic/sensitive to such as propylene glycol, alcohol or parabens,” Sparks says. “The same can be said about any vibrators or sex toys that you are using that may be chemical-laden and giving you irritation.” 

Here’s our complete guide to lube and lubrication, so you can be sure you’re using the good stuff.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Outside Help

If you’re still confused about all of this, it can be very helpful to seek outside assistance from a sexual medicine or sexuality professional who knows their stuff. This means finding a qualified sex therapist or coach to help you on your sexual journey. AASECT or the World Association of Sex Coaches are great places to start. Look for someone who openly states on their profile that they specialize in compulsive sexual behaviors and/or sexual shame.

There’s nothing wrong with needing a little assistance in your sex life. Whether it’s to affirm that your sexual habits are normal and healthy, to deprogram sexual shame, or to help manage compulsive sexual habits, asking for help is never wrong or bad.

Bottom Line: There Is No Such Thing as “Normal”

The question of when masturbation can become “too much” is usually shrouded in the shame and stigma we have around masturbation, not your masturbation habits themselves. 

We can’t quantify someone’s habits, sex drive or sexual activity, because they are subjective and do not exist as universal truths for every person. “There really isn’t a ‘normal’ amount of time to masturbate,” says Taylor Sparks, an erotic educator and founder of Organic Loven, one of the largest BIPOC-owned online intimacy shops. “Just as there isn’t a ‘normal’ amount of times one should have sex. Some people consider it quite normal to masturbate twice a day just as some don’t masturbate at all. It is all normal.” 

Above all, remember that pleasure is a wonderful thing and it is your god-given right. Exploring it is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as you’re staying mindful and feeling positive about it.

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