There are many bizarre claims about masturbation, for example that it causes blindness, insanity, acne and even hair growth.
We sort fact from myth and answer your questions on what is arguably one of the most commonly practised sexual activities on the planet.
What is masturbation?
Masturbation involves sexually arousing yourself by touching your genitals. Both men and women can masturbate, and you can masturbate yourself or someone else.
Is masturbation normal?
Yes. Apart from the pleasure it gives, masturbating can help you learn what you like and don't like sexually. Men can also use masturbation to learn how to control their orgasms, while women can find out what helps them to achieve an orgasm. Many couples masturbate together and find it a very enjoyable part of their relationship. Other people don't and that's fine: it's a personal choice.
How do you masturbate?
There's no right or wrong way to masturbate. Men usually do it by rubbing their penis. Women usually touch and stroke their clitoris and the area around the vagina. The clitoris is a small soft bump in front of the entrance to the vagina. It's very sensitive, and touching and stimulating it can give strong feelings of sexual pleasure. Most women need the clitoris to be stimulated in order to have an orgasm during sex or masturbation.
What is ejaculation?
Ejaculation occurs when semen shoots out from the penis when a man has an orgasm. There is usually about 5ml of liquid, but there may be more, especially if a man hasn't ejaculated for some time. Women can also ejaculate fluid, but this is far less common than for men.
Is masturbation safe?
Yes. For the record, masturbating doesn't cause blindness, insanity, or acne and won't make hair grow on your palms. Joking aside, there's no risk of pregnancy or catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from masturbating, although there is a risk of infection if you touch someone else's genitals and then touch your own. This is because STIs can be passed on through infected semen or vaginal fluid.
There is a risk of infection if you use sex toys during masturbation and someone else with an STI has used them before you. Any object used in sex can be called a sex toy, whether it's designed for this use or not. It's important to keep sex toys clean. If you're sharing sex toys, wash them between each use and, where possible, put a new condom on them each time.
Can you injure yourself when masturbating?
You're unlikely to do yourself any harm, although there is a risk of soreness, cuts or bruising if you masturbate too roughly or too hard, or use an object that could hurt you or cause damage. Men sometimes worry about whether they could break the penis. This is rare and only happens when an erect penis is violently twisted, usually by somebody else. Find out more in five penis facts.
Does masturbation affect sperm count?
Masturbating will not affect a man's ability to produce sperm. Men will not run out of sperm, as they produce it continuously. After a man has ejaculated, it will take some time before he can ejaculate again. This is normal and doesn't mean there is anything wrong with his sperm.
Can you masturbate too much?
Masturbation is harmless, but if you do it a lot your genitals may feel sore. If men do it a lot in a short space of time, they can get a slightly alarming looking swelling of the penis, called oedema, caused by fluid in the tissues. The swelling does disappear within a couple of days. However, if you feel the need to masturbate is interfering with your everyday life, talking to a doctor may help.
Your.MD Local Advice (New Zealand)
If you are concerned about your health you should always contact emergency services by calling 111 or visit a hospital, nurse or doctor.
The Ministry of Health has more information on contact details for public hospitals in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Sexual Health Society website has information on Masturbation Q&A and has contact details of sexual health clinics throughout the country.