15 Masturbation Myths We Somehow Still Believe

Illustrated by ANNA SUDIT.
This was originally published on November 9, 2014.
There are two things we know for sure about masturbation: Almost everyone's doing it, and absolutely no one wants to talk about it. That's cool. Your solo sex life is your business — but, we're just going to butt in for a minute.
The problem with this Tell No One policy is the huge amount of strange myths that many adults still somehow believe. We're not talking about hairy palms and blindness. Everyone's familiar with the obvious falsehoods. But, masturbation is an area a lot of sexually active people still don't quite understand. We enlisted the help of Dr. Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood to shed some much-needed light on the topic. Today, we bust the 15 most common myths about self-love — the ones that need to go, now. Then, we'll close the bedroom door and let you get back to your business.
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Illustrated by ANNA SUDIT.
1. Masturbation causes infertility.

"Masturbation absolutely does not cause infertility," says Dr. Cullins. "And, it won’t affect your chances of getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant one day."

However, there are two small caveats related to this myth that may impact your fertility. First of all, "partners who share sex toys should always keep them clean, so they don’t pass on sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, to each other. Untreated, these infections can cause infertility in women and men." You can use condoms on the toys, or just follow the cleaning instructions before using them with new partners.

Secondly, there are very specific times and scenarios where men may want to reduce masturbation if they're trying to have a baby. "For some men who are trying to get their partner pregnant and who have a low sperm count, doctors may recommend that they limit the number of ejaculations they have," Dr. Cullins explains. "But, that’s a very specific situation; masturbation itself doesn’t cause infertility or affect sperm count.
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2. Masturbation causes erectile dysfunction.

Nope. While this is a complex area with many possible factors, masturbation plays no role in ED.

"There are many psychological and physical causes for erectile dysfunction," says Dr. Cullins. "Sometimes, desire and arousal are affected by a combination of both. However, masturbation isn’t one of these causes. It doesn’t matter when you start or how often you masturbate — it won’t cause erectile dysfunction."
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3. Women often become addicted to vibrators.

We've often discussed the (many) pros and (few) cons of vibrators on Refinery29, and the general consensus is that they're GREAT. While frequent use may temporarily make you less responsive to subtler stimulation, there's no risk of "addiction."

Says Dr. Cullins, "Using a vibrator for masturbation or sex with someone else can be a fun addition to your sex life. Some women may be worried that using a vibrator will somehow spoil sex with a partner, but don’t worry — you won’t become addicted to your vibrator." Phew!
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4. Masturbation kills your sex drive.

On the contrary! "Masturbation is one of the best ways we can learn about our own sexuality," says Dr. Cullins. "It can help us explore what we like and don’t like, which can make sex with a partner a lot more enjoyable."

Another perk: "Some men find that masturbation helps them last longer when they do have sex with a partner." But, both men and women can rest assured, "masturbation won’t affect your sex drive or make it harder for you to have an orgasm."
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Illustrated by ANNA SUDIT.
5. People in relationships don't masturbate.

Somewhere along the line, everyone decided that having a sex partner meant never touching yourself again. Just, no.

"Masturbation isn’t just for single people!" says Dr. Cullins. "In fact, people who have regular sex partners are more likely to masturbate than people without sex partners." How do ya like them apples?

A lot of people think that masturbating when you have a partner means something's wrong with your relationship. But, as we've seen, masturbation is one of the things that helps us improve and enjoy sex even more. So, fear not. "Both single people and people in relationships masturbate. And, masturbation can actually enhance sex with partners, both physically and emotionally."
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6. Childhood masturbation means you’re hypersexual or sex-addicted.

Sadly, a lot of people grew up thinking childhood masturbation is abnormal, particularly if they were caught doing it and were scolded. But, it's as normal and natural as playing doctor.

"Many children discover early that it feels good to touch their genitals, and usually begin masturbating long before puberty," says Dr. Cullins. Your genitals are already built with those feel-good nerves long before you're even conscious of sex. "In fact, experts recommend that parents teach children that it’s normal for people to touch their sex organs for pleasure — but that it should be done in private."

But, whether you started early or late, it has no bearing on your adult sexual behavior.
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7. If you don’t masturbate, you’re frigid or damaged.

The saying goes "everyone does it" — but, that's not entirely true. It's estimated that 95% of men and 89% of women have masturbated. But, that's certainly not everyone.

Dr. Cullins urges all genital-havers to give it a whirl, simply because "Learning about what feels good to you can increase your chance of feeling sexual pleasure with sex partners. And, when you know what you like, your comfort with sex increases." But, the bottom line is that, "you should only masturbate if you want to. Some people never do, and that’s totally fine."
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8. Masturbation carries health risks.

"This is just not true," says Dr. Cullins. "Masturbation is the ultimate form of safer sex."

The only "risks" involved are the obvious ones: Skin irritation, allergic reactions to materials or lube ingredients, or infection from using unwashed toys. Remember to wash accessories before using them with other partners, and "never put something in your vagina that’s been in your butt without washing it or covering it with a condom," emphasizes Dr. Cullins.

Other than that, the only risks are psychological. "Some people feel shame or guilt about masturbating. Negative feelings about masturbation can threaten our health and well-being. If you feel ashamed or guilty about masturbating, it may help to talk with a trusted friend, sex educator, or healthcare provider."
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9. There is such a thing as too much masturbation.

Dr. Cullins says that while many people fear they masturbate too much, it's a very unlikely scenario. "It’s perfectly healthy to masturbate regularly — even more than once a day."

However, if you are concerned about your masturbatory habits, ask yourself this question: Does masturbation interfere with your daily functioning? "If it interrupts or gets in the way of your job, your responsibilities, or your social life," says Dr. Cullins, "you may want to talk with a therapist." Remember, though: "This is a very rare problem."
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10. Men have to masturbate, but women don't.

No one HAS to masturbate, but most people — of all genders — do. Everyone does it for the same reasons: It feels good. It's relaxing. It's part of being a human with a body.

Statistically, men may masturbate slightly more than women, but not much. "Studies show that about seven out of 10 adult men and more than five out of 10 adult women masturbate," says Dr. Cullins. Our habits may vary, of course. "Some people masturbate more than once a day, some people masturbate once in a while, and some people never masturbate — all are completely healthy and normal."
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11. Masturbation stops (or should stop) at a certain age.

Just like there is no right time to start, there's no right time to stop. Masturbation isn't something you grow out of. Kids, teens, adults, and seniors — research shows definitively that all age groups are doin' it. And, why not? "You’re never too old to masturbate," says Dr. Cullins. "It's a perfectly healthy activity at any age."

Enjoy, one and all!
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12. Masturbation hurts your stamina for sports or working out.

This may be a trope in sports movies, but in real life it's little more than superstition. Says Dr. Cullins: "If you masturbate over and over to the point of exhaustion, it might throw off your game."

But, this is true for any physical activity, particularly one that repeatedly uses the same muscles. So, don't get down with yourself all night long if you have balls to throw or racquets to swing the next day. "Otherwise, you’ll probably play just fine."
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13. It's unhealthy to masturbate during menstruation.

If there's any area more fraught with myths than masturbation it's menstruation. But, of course, "it’s safe and healthy for a woman to masturbate when she has her period." In fact, an orgasm is a great natural way to induce muscle relaxation. Dr. Cullins says, "Some women masturbate during menstruation to relieve menstrual cramps."

Sounds like more fun than a Midol, amiright?
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14. Men can run out of semen.

It's true that women have a finite number of eggs (we're each born with about two million). But, the same is not true of men and semen. They're making new swimmers every damn day.

"Masturbation does not cause men to run out of semen," says Dr. Cullins. Once guys hit puberty, they'll continue to produce semen for the rest of their lives. So, unless you're actively trying to bump up your sperm count — go for it, dude.
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Illustrated by ANNA SUDIT.
15. Women have a finite number of orgasms.

No, no, a thousand times, no. "Some people believe that as you get older, your ability to have orgasms naturally goes away," says Dr. Cullins. "That’s just not true." Age doesn't change the quality of your orgasms, nor the frequency.

"Fortunately for all of us, orgasms aren’t like teeth — we all have the potential for an infinite number."

You got that? Infinite orgasms — have 'em all.
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