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Just the Tips: How Much Masturbation is Too Much?

Just the Tips: How Much Masturbation is Too Much? : © Cultura RM / Alamy

© Cultura RM / Alamy

Hello Katherine,

I am a virgin with no girlfriend; I maturbate countless times every day and feel like I can’t control it. It seems like my semen quantity is shrinking as well. Any advice?

Sincerly,

Worrying While Walking the Dog

My Dear,

Masturbation, like other things, operates by the law of diminishing returns. I’ll even quote a doctor I asked about this: “Masturbating many times a day will result in less semen; that is normal and not a problem. But masturbating 15 times a day and having no other sexual relationships, however, may be.” Well said, doc.

Still, this doesn’t make it that much easier to figure out how much is too much. Masturbation, as I have written about in previous columns, can be a healthy and wonderful part of a sexual existence. However, there are moments when it goes too far. “Too far” is typically something we diagnose ourselves. We find ourselves at the precipice of “too far,” when we start to wonder “Am I masturbating too much,” and “Why do I need to do this again?”

For young people, (especially men in adolescence) frequent masturbation is a new and exciting activity. It can be hard to draw yourself away! That’s ok. However, there can be a certain point in development where you might want to examine your behavior to see if it is in fact contributing to your quality of life or if it may be harmful to yourself or others. As much as Philip Roth captured the solitary pleasure of masturbation in Portnoy’s Complaint, he also addressed its accompanying neurosis and dysfunction. In Roth’s words, “Every place I turn something else to be ashamed of.”

Masturbation can be a place of solace, to escape from contexts beyond our control—work, family, Instagram— that cause us shame or other emotions we’d rather not deal with. It’s a space we can control. “My wang was all I really had that I could call my own.” Indeed, if you can’t own that then what can you?

Please listen carefully: I am not saying that there is anything wrong with you. If you are worried that there is, find a doctor who specializes in sexual addiction or a cognitive behavioral therapist who can help you address this issue pragmatically and holistically. Professional therapists and sexologists are eager to help, and there’s certainly no shame in asking. In fact, you’ve already asked me, so that’s an important first step.

I’ve dived this week’s advice into two sections: diagnosis and treatment.


DIAGNOSING THE COMPLAINT:

1. ARE YOU GETTING CAUGHT?
Alex, the Portnoy of Portnoy’s Complaint, finds himself whacking off in his family bathroom for the fourth time that day only to be interrupted by a knock from his mother. Awash in his own neurosis he wonders, “When will I begin to come blood?”

Have you found yourself in a similarly embarrassing and paranoid situation? The shame which Roth depicts, arises not because the act itself is wrong but rather due to an inability to control its duration and frequency. Getting caught makes everybody feel guilty, even though there’s nothing wrong with masturbating. But has getting caught illuminated for you a complete lack of control over the voracity and frequency of your habit? If yes, move on to section two. If no, then it’s time to consider…

2. ARE YOU WASTING YOUR TIME?
If I masturbated 15 times a day, I would have no job, there would be no Just The Tips and I certainly don’t think I’d have very many friends. Now, if that feels satisfying to you, then OK. But if you like doing other things—baseball games, dinner, reading, making money, falling in love—then you should think about if cutting back on masturbation would help you spend more time doing those activities.

3. ARE YOU HURTING YOURSELF OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE?
Are you stealing your sisters bras and undies to masturbate a la Portnoy? Are you starting to feel raw and uncomfortable? Are you lying to people who you care about and who care about you? Are you putting yourself in danger? If the answer is yes to any of these, it’s time to reconsider your approach.


TREATING THE COMPLAINT

1. READ UP ON “SEX ADDICTION” Despite the claims of celebrity sex therapists, please note that sex addiction (or hypersexuality, as scientists call it) is not actually in the DSM (that’s short for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, the psychologist’s Bible) because doctors can’t agree exactly on what it is or how to treat it .This should only make you feel more comfortable knowing just how complicated of a problem this is—it’s hard to say just how much sex is too much and why. One resource that’s been recommended to me by professional psychologists is The Sex Addiction Workbook by William T. O'Donohue.

2. TURN OFF THE PORN
Constantly jerking off to images of people you will never have sex with will no doubt put you on the path toward never having sex. Close the laptop and imagine someone you have a crush on. Think about what you’d love to have happen between you two. Then begin to think about how to make it happen.

3. CONSIDER MUTUALITY
As much as I think it’s important for you to examine yourself and your behavior it may be as important to look beyond yourself. What might be keeping you from finding other people to lend a hand? Are you perhaps worried they won’t live up to your own fantasies? The great thing about engaging sexually with others is that you get to negotiate the excitement, fear, neurosis, shame and joy of sexual experimentation together. It’s different and riskier than a solo act but the payoff is usually worth it.

4. QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
Masturbation can be wonderful. I’ve written about this before. I suggested a break for pineapple between “sessions.” Portnoy opted to combine his proclivity towards masturbation and his love of fruit and ended up whacking off into half an apple while fantasizing that it was calling him “big boy.” I don’t recommend this. Maximize your enjoyment by treating your masturbatory sessions as moments for self exploration. Give yourself time and space. Do it less often or for longer. Then…

5. STOP COUNTING ALTOGETHER.
I’ve noticed that when it comes to sexual anxieties, men often fret over the quantifiable: the length of their penis, the frequency of sexual counters, the volume of their semen. Measuring and counting are useful for monitoring your progress in the gym or stock market. But when it comes to sex, measurements fall short; it’s not about producing results, It’s about experiencing yourself in relation to another person in the most intimate way. That’s terrifying, exhilarating and unquantifiable. Same goes for when you’re having sex with yourself. Your sexuality is infinite. Your semen isn’t. And that’s a beautiful thing.

IN CONCLUSION, DEAR READER, YOU’RE NOT ALONE.
You’re not only in the company of classic American anti-heros like Portnoy but countless others who are trying to negotiate what it means to have a healthy sexual appetite. I do not mean to pathologize you but it sounds like masturbation has become a focal point of your life, and I can see how that might feel very lonely at times. If you were my friend or son or brother I would want you to know that you are more than the sum of your semen. And you owe it to yourself to find out just what that is.

Good luck,

xK


Just the Tips is Playboy.com’s weekly advice column, with professional matchmaker Katherine Cooper. Have a question for Katherine about sex, love or dating? Shoot her a note at justthetips@playboy.com.


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