To fap, or not to fap, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The joys of masturbation,
Or make a stand against the throws of cumming,
And by opposing end them: to relax, to calm
No more; or embrace the relief offered by the finger, the hand, the toy
The thousand spasms and joyful release.
Firstly, my apologies to the Great Bard and then my apologies for my poor poetry. A poet I am not -although a lover of Shakespeare I am. It may surprise some (and not others) that I once wanted to be a Shakespearean actor. Alas, I find myself working in the field of sexual health and wellbeing and loving it.
May is the Month of Masturbation. I thought a great way to end the Month of Masturbation is to write about the joys and “sorrows” of masturbation. To fap or not to fap. For many of us masturbation is a healthy activity. It brings joy, release and fun into our lives. I am great believer in masturbation (as a solo sex activity) is complimentary to partnered sexual play. One activity does not necessarily cancel out the other.
Many people believe they only masturbate when they do not get sex. Yet, these activities are quite different. Masturbation is about the individual. It is about self-pleasuring; self-soothing; making oneself feel better. Through my years of practice, I have identified four reasons people masturbate. And before I go there, I ask you to spend a moment thinking about when you masturbated as a teenager; when you masturbate now; and when feel horny? These narratives may bring light to you understanding your masturbatory practices.
Why Do We Masturbate?
This is a good question. Here are my four explanations I have discovered in talking to thousands of people about masturbating.
You come home from school/uni/work. You have had a stressful day. Your workload is all over the place. Your best friend is annoying you. Your family is driving you nuts. You have a 15 minutes window. You lie on your bed. You let your hands wonder your body. You excite yourself. Lo’ and behold, you orgasm (and possibly ejaculate). You feel better.
You feel better because you release oxytocin when you orgasm (and ejaculate). Oxytocin is a great hormone with many applications. In this case it is our stress-busting hormone. To is the natural antidote to cortisol – the hormone we release when we are (dis)stressed: Think the flight-fight-freeze response. So in the scenario I presented with we were feeling stressed and releasing cortisol into our body. When we masturbated, we created a physical tension which then relaxed and also shot ourselves with oxytocin.
This scenario will see you lying in bed trying to sleep. You are tossing and turning. Your hand, or hands, and your genitals connect. You masturbate; maybe fast and furious, or slow and languidly. You orgasm-ejaculate. You feel better. You fall asleep. This becomes the pattern. You’re a sleep bator.
It is again, the oxytocin at play. In this scenario, this wonderful, versatile hormone is acting as a sleep agent. It is our natural sleeping pill. Are you, or do you know, some who falls to sleep “straight” after sex – it is their body flooding with oxytocin that is contributing to this effect.
No one home. Nothing to watch. Nothing to do. No one to annoy. You are bored. Your hands end up in your underwear. You become aroused. You work yourself to an orgasm (and in some cases ejaculation). You are feeling better. You are no longer bored. You are relaxed. You are on top of the world. This becomes your thing. When you are bored you get horny.
Here it is not only oxytocin at play. You also release dopamine through the arousal process (when you masturbate). Dopamine is our feel good hormone. IT is also a key hormone in our reward system – an accomplishment hormone you might say. So with boredom bating we are more focused on the release of dopamine and oxytocin.
The Procrastibator is the most recent bating “type” I have added. It was coined by a client. The client did not think any of the previous three explanations worked for them and offered up their masturbatory habit was a bout procrastinating. The Procrastibator, like the Boredom Bator, is focused on the release of dopamine and oxytocin. The dopamine, we could argue, is the “thing” getting them to move on to complete the task they are procrastinating about.
More to Masturbating than Orgasms
The reasons for masturbating is not a simple process of releasing an orgasm. It is about us feeling good. It is about us potentially addressing a situation (stress, boredom, tiredness, procrastination). Masturbation can be a great way for us to explore our bodies (see earlier posts on choosing adult products – one blog is for women and one for men). Masturbation can also assist us to explore our fantasies.
Masturbation needs to co-exist with our relationship sexuality. Masturbation is an activity we undertake on own about our selves. When our partner/s masturbate they are not rejecting us. They are soothing self. It is not something we do necessarily when our partner does not wish to be sexual with us. It is important to balance our masturbation with a relationship sexual play.
If one is masturbating so much they do not wish to engage in sex play with their partner/s, I would suggest speaking to a therapist. You may need assistance in managing life events or addressing a relationship issue. It is not possible to understand the “what” in this scenario without talking to a therapist.
Masturbation is an important aspect of our lives. It is an important aspect of a healthy sexuality. A healthy life includes a healthy sexuality. Masturbate well and responsibly.Enjoy!
Dr Christopher Fox is a Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist at Sex Life Therapy in Melbourne. He has clinics in Collingwood and Frankston.
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