What is it?

Masturbation is defined as self-stimulation of the genitals for sexual pleasure. It is a normal part of sexual development and it occurs in both sexes. Sometimes worried parents may bring their young children to the doctor because of parental concerns about masturbation. It is important that any sense of guilt surrounding this activity be dispelled by the doctor.

Is it normal?

In the past there were many myths about masturbation including the belief that it could result in blindness, baldness and could even lead to insanity. Today we might be inclined to scoff at these ideas but it is worth noting that several books were published in previous generations by respected doctors which outlined the serious side effects from this practice.

One enduring myth is that female masturbation can lead to decreased sensitivity of the clitoris resulting in a decrease in the frequency and intensity of female orgasm. However, the evidence points the other way and suggests that women who have engaged in masturbation have a better understanding of their own genital anatomy and can guide their sexual partners in appreciating the specific sexual acts that contribute to female orgasm. It has also been alleged that masturbation can reduce sensitivity in the male penis. This statement is also false.

Is it ever abnormal?

In the vast majority of cases masturbation can be considered to be a normal activity but the following scenarios may suggest that a problem exists.

  • if a child masturbates frequently and appears to be relating to adults in a sexually precocious manner.
  • sometimes masturbation can become a compulsive activity and the person may be driven to do it at certain times each day and it almost becomes a ritualistic activity.
  • if masturbation takes place in a public place.

If any of these scenarios exist then a consultation with the family doctor would be appropriate.

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