Masturbation Page


1Q. What is masturbation?

Strictly speaking, masturbation is sexual activity involving only one person. It is sexual self-stimulation, often, but not necessarily, involving manipulation of the sexual organs by hand. In the US this is commonly known as "jacking off." In the UK the term "wanking" is common. On this newsgroup the term "jilling off" is sometimes used to mean female masturbation.

"Mutual masturbation" is a slightly incorrect term that means using the hands to stimulate another person. More correctly, this would be called "manual sex," and it is only "mutual" if each partner stimulates the other.Group masturbation is masturbation in a group of two or more people. This is sometimes known as a "circle jerk." In a.s.m. "Jacks" applies to clubs or parties for the purpose of group masturbation, usually involving only males, "Jack-and-Jill" is applied to parties and clubs for people of both sexes, and "Jills" would be the term for parties or clubs for women only. Sometimes group masturbation involves mutual masturbation and sometimes it doesn't. In organized groups there usually are rules that make clear what is allowed and what isn't.

Historically, has considered all three kinds of activities to be on-topic. In general, however, when there is no other clue given about what is meant, the word "masturbation" by itself means sex involving only one person.

2Q. How does a man masturbate?

The most common method is by wrapping the fingers around the erect penis and then stroking it up and down until ejaculation. Another common method is to rub the erect penis against something, like a mattress, a pillow, or a sex toy, until ejaculation. While male masturbation tends to be focused on one sexual part, namely the penis, it is common and normal for it to be accompanied by stimulation of other areas.

3Q. How does a woman masturbate?

The most common method is by caressing and massaging the clitoris with hands and fingers until orgasm. This stimulation is often accompanied by similar caressing, massaging, and touching of other sensitive areas, such as the breasts, the vaginal lips, and the interior of the vagina itself.

4Q. How many men/women masturbate?

The best studies of this subject are now quite old. They found approximately 95% of men and about 60% of women claim to have masturbated. There is reason to think the figures for women would be higher if another comprehensive study were done today.

This does not say how many people masturbate regularly. There are great variations in frequency of masturbation between individuals, and even for one person, the frequency of masturbation varies from time to time.

5Q. Can I masturbate too much?

Generally the answer is no.

Masturbation usually involves friction, the possibility of blisters and friction burns exists, but this possibility can be greatly reduced with use of lubricants.

In other words, nothing about masturbation is inherently damaging, and nothing about it becomes damaging just because it is done very often. On the other hand, nothing about masturbation provides an exemption from the physical laws governing any other form of physical activity. You CAN masturbate too much in the same way that you could run too much, or bike too much, or type too much. So, if your hand is cramping, or you are rubbing yourself raw, or it is starting to hurt, stop for a while.

Most people are less likely to masturbate too much than they are to run too much or to work out too much or to play tennis too much, because most people will lose interest in masturbation (temporarily) after they have an orgasm. But because sexual issues are still highly sensitive ones in our society, many people who are in no danger of masturbating too much will worry about it.

There are some very rare psychological disorders in which people masturbate almost constantly, but people who worry about masturbating too much are many times more common.

6Q. My penis goes off at an angle! My vaginal lips look strange. Is this from masturbating?

No. Like ears, like noses, like feet, like all nonsexual body parts, the sex organs are subject to a wide range of variations that are perfectly normal.

Any kind of sexual activity is likely to induce certain changes in the sexual parts, mostly swelling and color changes. These are entirely normal and temporary changes that accompany sexual arousal. The organs will return to their usual appearance shortly after sexual activity stops. It is entirely normal for the testicles to increase in size and to draw close to the body during extreme sexual arousal. It is entirely normal for the nipples to increase in sensitivity and to erect during sexual arousal--and just as normal for this to happen in males as it is normal when it happens in females. Flushing of the skin (reddening)--most noticeable in fair-skinned people, but present in others--is entirely normal in extreme sexual arousal, and virtually any part of the body may be affected (temporarily) although the face, shoulders, chest, and thighs are most commonly affected. It is entirely normal for the sexual organs to lubricate themselves during sexually arousal. In males this lubrication is called preseminal fluid ("precum" is usually the word used on a.s.m).

Some people noticed these changes more during masturbation because during masturbation they can observe themselves more closely than they do when they have sex with a partner. It should also be noted, that these effects are highly variable. Not all males produce noticeable amounts of precum, while others produce large amounts whenever they are even slightly aroused, and in yet others the amount will depend upon the degree of sexual arousal and the duration of the sexual activity.

In some cultures foreskins and vaginal lips are deliberately stretched, day after day, in a process that eventually changes their size and shape--just as some cultures encourage deliberate changes in the shapes of lips, earlobes, feet, or other body parts. Ordinary masturbation will not induce these changes.

In particular, masturbation will not affect:

a) curves in the penis.

Many penises have some greater or lesser degree of curve in them when they are erect, and particularly in younger men, the erect penis tends to point upwards (toward the belly) rather than outward. A few penises have sharp angles when erect. The differences are not caused by masturbation, and masturbation cannot change the shape of the penis. Very serious abnormalities in shape can sometimes be corrected by surgery, but masturbation has nothing to do with it.

b) size of the labia or clitoris.

Some are small, some are large. Masturbation can neither cause these differences nor alter them. And the same goes for the clitoris. Some are large, some are small. Almost all of them will become colored and enlarged with blood during sexual arousal but will return to normal after sexual activity is over.

c) color of the skin of the sexual areas.

Very commonly the color of the skin of the sex organs differs from the color of skin of the rest of the body. In light-skinned people, the sex organs often are darker than the rest of the body, while the opposite is often true of dark-skinned people. This really should not be surprising because the skin of these areas IS different from the skin of the rest of the body. If it was not different, people would have as much fun playing with their elbows as they do playing with their sexual parts.

Masturbation does not cause the difference. Some, especially circumcised, males will notice great differences in color from one part of the penis to the other. This is especially noticeable on either side of the circumcision scar. Masturbation is not the cause of the color difference. It is just a coincidence that this color change is noticeable where a male is likely to place his hand when he masturbates.

d) position and size differences of the testicles (or the relative size of the breasts or nipples, etc.).

It is normal for one testicle to be slightly larger than the other and for one to hang slightly lower than the other (if not for this latter, males would be constant racking themselves when they walked--i.e. the testes would be banging against one another painfully). Most people are not perfectly symmetrical in all their body parts--one foot is slightly larger than the other, one breast is slightly larger than the other, one hand is slightly larger that the other. These differences are perfectly normal and are not caused by masturbation.

Also masturbation will not make one hand or arm bigger than the other--unless you usually masturbate with a dumbbell :) There is just not enough resistance involved for this activity to have a training effect on the arm and hand used. Right-handed people will still have slightly larger slightly better developed right hands and right arms, and it won't matter which hand they use to masturbate.

7Q. Will my penis get larger/smaller by masturbating it?

Larger. But only temporarily. ;)

Masturbation will neither retard nor accelerate the growth of the penis. Masturbation will neither increase nor decrease the eventual adult size of the penis, and when the penis has achieved its adult size nothing short of surgery can induce a permanent change in its size. The same pretty much goes for breast size.

There is almost nothing an individual can do to affect the ultimate size of his penis or her breasts. Medicine can treat certain rare disorders in which people do not get enough of the right hormones at the right time, but giving these treatments to normal people does not produce good results. In particular, steroids and other male hormones that some bodybuilders take tend to *shrink* the testicles of otherwise normal males.

8Q. Will I catch a disease from masturbation?


You cannot get AIDS or any other sexually transmitted disease from playing with yourself. These diseases are sexually TRANSMITTED, which means the germ that causes the disease (HIV in the case of AIDS) has to come from somewhere--and that somewhere is an infected partner. If you have the disease, you have the disease whether you masturbate or not. If you don't have the disease, you cannot get it by playing with yourself.

Manual sex with a partner--that is where you touch the partner's organs with your hands, and vice versa--can theoretically provide an opportunity for the transmission of some kinds of sexually transmitted diseases, especially if semen or blood from one person comes in contact with broken skin of the other person. The risk involved in such activities is estimated to be extremely low, but it is NOT zero.

Group masturbation (circle jerks) where you play with yourself and the other parties play with themselves do not involve the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases if you don't come in contact with blood or semen from anyone except yourself and you don't touch anyone else's sexual parts. Naturally, you can catch a cold if another person sneezes. If you want the risk of STDs to remain zero, you have to avoid sharing sex toys or towels that may have fresh fluids on them.

8aQ: Will I make myself sick if I eat my own cum?

You might make yourself nauseated if the idea disgusts you, but you won't get a disease and you won't poison yourself.

There is nothing poisonous in semen. If you think about it, semen has to be suited to keeping sperm--which are human cells--alive. It is not going to contain anything that is generally toxic to human cells. It is mostly water, a simple sugar to keep the sperm alive, and protein. The sperm, of course, won't do you any harm because they will be killed by acids in your stomach.

You cannot get AIDS or any other STD from eating your own semen. If the AIDS virus (HIV) is in your semen, then you are already infected with HIV, it already is in your blood stream, and swallowing some of your own semen is not likely to make matters worse. If you have some infection of the urethra (the tube in the penis that passes semen and urine) you are likely to know it. Unlike the anus, the interior of the penis and the stuff connected to it internally is clean and practically germ-free in healthy males.

Finally, you are just not going to ejaculate that much semen at any one time: a couple of tablespoons is pretty much a peak ejaculation for a sexual athlete, and it will probably be less, or a lot less for an average guy under average conditions. Semen, however, does contain stuff that makes it a good growth medium, so if you save it up in open containers at room temperature something could grow in it that would disagree with you, pretty much the same way that something disagreeable might grow on a baloney sandwich left over from last week's lunch.

9Q. Will I go blind/bald/insane/grow hair on my palms/penis turn black and fall off from masturbating?


These are just old scare tactics to discourage people from doing it. Men's sexual organs are built to do two things: make sperm and semen, and ejaculate it out of the body. Once the semen and sperm are out of the penis, the body ceases to care what happens. The sex organs pretty much don't know and don't care what the source of the sexual stimulation is. Young men will sometimes get erections--and even, rarely, will ejaculate--as a result of vigorous physical activity, even in the absence of any specifically sexual stimulation. Most young men experience spontaneous erections when they were not consciously thinking sexual thoughts or doing anything to stimulate themselves. The male body does not know or care whether the semen ends up in a vagina or a throat or an anal cavity or in a tissue. In other words, so far as the body is concerned, masturbation is exactly the same as any other kind of sex. Anyone who says "You should have real sex instead of masturbating because masturbation causes X" where X is some bad thing, overlooks the fact that to the body masturbation is real sex.

What masturbation means to the mind, is mostly up to you. Some people think masturbation is real sex as much as any other. Some people think of masturbation as a relief value for when "realer" kinds of sex are not available or would not be a good idea. Yet others think of masturbation as self-love and that masturbation is not an alternative to other kinds of sex, but is a complement to them. There are a variety of negative thoughts about masturbation too.

A few of the old tales have just enough basis in fact to convince some people to believe them.

For example, masturbation does NOT cause zits (pimples). But some people might think so because the hormones that cause the development of sexual urges are also the hormones likely to cause skin problems. This is a classic case of faulty cause-and-effect reasoning. People begin to get horny and to have the urge to masturbate or find other sexual outlets at about the same age that they first experience skin problems (if they ever do). But zits don't cause the hornies and the hornies don't cause zits. Instead both are caused by a third thing, which is the increase of sex hormones that occurs when a person approaches adulthood.

Likewise, a person is likely to feel sex urges and start to masturbate at about the time that hair starts growing on various parts of the body that didn't have hair before. If someone tells him the lie that masturbation may cause hair to grow on his palms, he may believe it, because, after all, all this other hair has started growing where it did not grow before.

Although the above are myths that mostly males hear, the same general principles apply to females. The body just does not have some hidden nasty to spring on a person who masturbates because the body can't tell the difference between masturbation and other kinds of sexual arousal.

Many people feel slightly tired or "let down" after masturbation or after other kinds of sex. This is entirely normal, and is not really much different than the feeling one gets after any other very exciting or vigorous activity is over. If you go to a concert that you have really been looking forward to, there IS a feeling of let-down when the music stops and the lights go up--in a very crowded place you can actually hear everyone making a little sigh at the same time.

Although many of the most obvious feelings relating to sex are conveyed by direct nerve Impulses, others occur through the release of certain chemicals into the bloodstream (which is why some paraplegics who cannot feel their sex organs can nonetheless enjoy sex). These chemicals induce a quiet and relaxed state after sex which some people interpret as being sleepy.

The combination of the normal letdown after any exciting activity and the relaxed feelings that come from the chemicals released into the bloodstream at orgasm form the basis of several myths. The myths include stories that masturbation (or sex in general) has a weakening effect. Of course there is nothing to this myth.

10Q. Can a doctor tell if I've been masturbating?

Not if you washed up after your last session :)

In any form of sexual activity the body produces its own natural lubricants, men ejaculate, and in a variety of sexual activities people may add various lubricants. If you leave these substances on the body an observant doctor will be able to tell you have been doing something sexual. But even then there is no way he can be sure it was masturbation. If you clean yourself up before the examination, the doctor is not going to know what, if anything, you have been doing sexually.

In some kinds of urine tests, it will be noted whether there is sperm in the urine or not. A lot of sperm in urine could indicate a prostate (or other) disorder or it could merely indicate that patient recently ejaculated. There is no way the test can tell what caused the ejaculation: whether it was masturbation or some other kind of sex or a wet dream.

11Q. Can my parents/guardian/spouse/other tell if I've been masturbating?

Probably not, but sometimes they can make a good guess.

There are no telltale signs as far physical appearance is concerned. There are a few myths such as people who masturbate have bags under their eyes, or one biceps gets bigger than the other, or the person gets pale. You may have these "signs" or not, but they are not caused by masturbation and they won't go away if you stop masturbating.

Some people are very sensitive to the smell of semen and semen does leave very distinctive stains on fabrics. But sexually competent males are likely to ejaculate in their sleep (have wet dreams), and this can explain stains on underwear or bed clothes, if explanations are necessary. Most parents are not dummies, and they will generally have a good guess why a person spends more time in the bathroom or what a particular kind of magazine hidden under a mattress is for. Likewise, if you have never been especially worried about the condition of your skin, but you start buying hand lotion by the case, people can put two and two together.

Many adults are fairly regular in their sexual habits--perhaps more regular than they would like to admit. A spouse is very likely to notice any abrupt and significant change in frequency of sex. More usually a spouse who notices a change will think that possibly it indicates another sexual partner. It is the change that is likely to be noticed, and sometimes a spouse will not know when masturbation has been a consistent part of a person's sexual outlet.

As military service is now less than universal and fewer students share rooms in dormitories, the questions of how roommates and others in close quarters deal with issue of masturbation is less common, but this is a recurring theme of posts to a.s.m. and suffice to say that no one solution can be offered that is successful in every situation.

12Q. I quit having/never had wet dreams after I started masturbating. Is this normal?

Yes. Some males never have wet dreams, or have only one or two their whole lives. The old theory was that sperm built up in the male and if it did not come out in masturbation or other sexual activity it would have to come out in some other way: namely wet dreams. According to that theory someone who was masturbating or having other regular sexual outlets would not have a buildup of semen and wet dreams would not occur. But the new evidence is that it is not so clear-cut as all that. Evidently the body can and does reabsorb unused sperm and the occurrence of wet dreams is not so closely related to the absence of other sexual outlets as was once thought. Some males stop having wet dreams about the time they start masturbating. Others only have wet dreams during times in their lives when they are very sexually active. Still others have frequent wet dreams no matter what they do, while yet others never or almost never have them.

Will you have more wet dreams if you stop masturbating or have fewer if you do masturbate? Maybe. Maybe not.

A thing that really shoots down the old sperm-build-up theory is that it is now recognized that some women have sexual dreams leading to orgasm. This doesn't tell us a lot about the function of sexual dreams, but it does indicate that getting rid of excess sperm is not the right answer.

13Q. Will I lose my ability to perform with a partner if I masturbate?

Not likely. Most people claim that masturbation helps a person develop a sense of what stimulus he or she needs to have an orgasm. Many people say that they develop better control through masturbation. Either way, as described above, there are no physical dangers to masturbation--you don't use up all your sperm.

Some women cannot have orgasms during sex unless they stimulate themselves manually or get their partner to stimulate them manually. Some people claim this is because the women have trained themselves to respond to manual stimulation by masturbating. But the fact is that a large proportion of women do not get orgasms from coitus (fucking) alone whether they have masturbated or not. This is partly a matter of anatomy: coitus just does not provide the most vigorous stimulation where it counts for some women. There is an equally good argument that masturbation is good training for sex, and that some women are not orgasmic at all until they have learned to be comfortable with their bodies and to let go through masturbation.

On the male side there is sometimes the argument that because masturbation is usually quick--so that the activity can be concealed from others--masturbation may teach males to be premature ejaculators. This overlooks the fact that most young males are pretty quick on the trigger anyway, and that most of them have to make a conscious effort to learn to control their urge to ejaculate immediately regardless of the factor of masturbation. In particular, males who do not masturbate may build up levels of sexual tension that result in premature ejaculation--or so one theory goes. In fact, some sex therapists recommend a program that includes masturbation nearly to orgasm several times before the final release to help men who ejaculate prematurely learn to identify and to control the urge to ejaculate.

What to make out of all these theories? The truth is probably something near to this: masturbation and satisfactory sex with a partner involve different skills. In particular cases masturbation may help slightly or hinder slightly the learning of the skills necessary for satisfactory sex with a partner, but it is highly unlikely that masturbation will be a determining factor in the long run.

14Q. Will I become obsessed with masturbation?

People can become obsessed with any pleasurable activity (and also with some activities that are not so pleasurable). Unlike some other obsessions, many more people worry about becoming obsessed with masturbation than ever do become obsessed with it.

One kind of comparison to make it to ask whether there would be a question of obsession if the activity was not related to sex. Take video games for example. For some people they are a compulsion. These people hardly do anything except sleep and play video games. Their grades may suffer, they may lose a job, they pay no attention to their personal hygiene, and so forth. From the outside it is easy to judge this as a compulsion and to see that it is interfering with their lives.

On the other hand, on any given Saturday, a person who is NOT obsessed with video games might get a new video game and he might spend as much time on that particular Saturday playing video games as the video-game addict does. But for the noncompulsive player, the newness of the game will wear off and he'll only spend a few hours a week with the game, although there will still sometimes be days he spends more time at it than on other days.

Males tend to reach the peak of their sexual drives at an age that, in our society, does not offer them the most opportunities for sexual outlets other than masturbation. Some of them do masturbate a lot, but only a very few of them ever become compulsive about it.

As with most questions relating to sex, many more people will worry about it than will ever have a real problem. But the worry itself can be a real problem. If you think you have a problem you may have a problem or the worrying about the problem may be the problem. In either case, seek competent advice.

15Q. Masturbation is only for people who can't get laid, right?

No. Some people do masturbate because there is no sexual partner in their lives, for whatever reason (and there are many good ones). However, many people who are married or involved in other sexual relationships continue to masturbate. Masturbation is just another form of sex play, and there are times when it is just what the person wants to do. Masturbation when alone is uncomplicated, since the person has complete and utter control of the progression of the act.

Sometimes a person wants an orgasm without having to involve other people, for any of many valid reasons. Masturbation while being watched by a partner can be very erotic. Many men love to watch their partners masturbate, and dream of it if they do not. Many women feel the same way. Mutual masturbation is an avenue that leads to much enjoyment. Discontinuation of masturbation after marriage or the start of some other sexual relationship simply denies people a lot of opportunities for erotic play. Anyway, it is a good bet that people who tell you masturbation is only for people who aren't getting laid, probably are not getting laid themselves. People who have happy and fulfilling sex lives don't feel the need to brag about it or to tear down other people.

16Q. Will I burn in hell for masturbating?

Certain religions would have you think so. The meaning of the passages in the Christian Bible that are supposed to be about masturbation are highly debatable. If masturbation causes you have serious religious feelings of guilt, you may wish to consult a religious authority of your particular faith. Celibacy, although not easy, is an option, and some people do find it easier than struggling with their feelings of guilt. For obvious reasons, if abstinence is your personal choice, you will find other places on the net that are more supportive of that choice than

17Q. Should I use a lubricant? What kind of lubricant should I use?

That depends on your personal preference. Many men use lubricants because they find the friction of masturbating a dry penis is too uncomfortable. Others learn to masturbate before they think of using a lubricant and never feel a need to include lubricants.

Occasionally when lubricants are discussed on a.s.m., some person trying to be helpful will warn you never to use oil-based lubricants because of the danger of AIDS. Of course, this person has not stopped to think that there is no danger of AIDS in masturbating yourself. Oil- (or fat-) based lubricants will dissolve the latex in condoms, and even if the condoms do not break, tiny holes may develop in them that would allow for the transmission of disease. But there is no reason you cannot use oil-based lube (and condoms if you wish) for playing with yourself.

Water-base lubricants like K-Y Jelly are safe for condoms. But sometimes such lubricants are less than satisfactory for masturbation because in masturbation the lubricant is constantly exposed to the air and tends to dry out. Water-based lubricants are much easier to wash off.

A few things that are safe and feel good externally will sting or worse if they enter the penis, vagina, or anus. This is especially true of some soaps. For males, the effect may not be noticeable until the next time they urinate. Yet other products contain chemicals that some people may be allergic to. Usually, but not always, the problem comes from perfumes and dyes.

18Q. All my friends can masturbate to orgasm but I am unable to. What's wrong?

The answer to this question is in two parts. The first part is for young men who are still developing sexually. The second part is for those who are clearly fully developed.

For those who are still developing sexually:

First, if you are relying on what guys tell you they do or they can do, you should be aware that young men don't always tell the truth about sexual matters, and in particular tend to exaggerate their own abilities, conquests, etc. or even to lie outright.

[A contributor provides the rest of this answer]

I used to be a teacher, and was trusted well enough by some of my students that they confided in me concerning many problems. One VERY common concern is 'all my friends masturbate and come but I haven't been able to!' I have heard this from more than one 13 year old. If this is the case for you, don't be overly concerned. It is possible for male sexual maturity to be delayed until 15 or so without being 'abnormal'. However, if puberty has not started by 13 (i.e., at least SOME changes to your body) then you should talk to your doctor about it.

Normal changes include changing voice, growth spurt, oily skin and hair, developing body odor, rapid gain in muscle mass and strength, and growth of the testes and penis, as well as growth of facial, pubic, and other body hair. If some of these things are happening, you are normal. If none are happening, see a doctor. You may need hormone supplements or something like that. As long as you see some signs of sexual development, relax and just play around with what feels good for you. Try the methods mentioned by other posters, try just rubbing on a pillow with your clothes on, try soaping up in the shower, anything else you can think of. When you find something you like, keep doing it and eventually you will see why masturbation is so popular.

[End of this contribution]

For older males, who have fully-developed sexual characteristics a significant question is: what do you mean by you "don't come"?

Many males identify orgasm and ejaculation as the same thing. But they are not necessarily the same. If you are older and otherwise sexually developed, then the question is:

Do you reach a sexual climax but don't ejaculate? Or do you not reach a climax at all?

In either case, drugs can be a cause. Anti-depressants, some antihistamines, and many illicit drugs, especially of the cocaine and speed type, can interfere with sexual climax or with ejaculation or both. If you are taking prescription medication consult your doctor. A surprising variety of drugs can affect sexual function. Often doctors can prescribe alternate drugs or adjust dosages. And it is a perfectly legitimate thing to ask your doctor about. Begin with "I think my medicine is affecting my sexual functioning."

In the cases of certain drugs, you may be having a sexual climax and you may be emitting semen, but the two don't happen in a coordinated fashion. That is you don't "shoot off" although an equivalent volume of semen seeps out. A few people on certain antipsychotic medications report the frustrating situation of being able to get very close to a sexual climax, while not actually being able to achieve it.

If you reach a sexual climax but do not ejaculate, and you are an otherwise fully developed male, you may have retrograde ejaculation, which is a condition in which the semen is shot into the bladder instead of out the penis. This can indicate several disorders ranging from minor to serious. Consult a physician. This should be looked into whether the particular effect on your sexual function bothers you or not.

Of course it is not uncommon for males who have had several ejaculations in a short time to experience a "dry cum," and in this situation it is perfectly normal.

Some males cannot reach a sexual climax or ejaculate. This usually becomes apparent when they attempt intercourse. Like impotence (the inability to have an erection) this can happen sometimes to anybody and few males will go their whole lives with ever having one or the other problem on some occasion. Nervousness, alcohol or drugs, and fatigue may be factors in the occasional inability to get an erection or to have an orgasm. Don't make too much of rare or occasional problems of this kind: everybody in every kind of activity has an occasional off day.

However, if these problems persist--happens every time, happens almost every time--in a variety of circumstance (whether you are rested or not, whether you have been drinking or not), it is time to consult a physician or sex therapist. It used to be thought that these problems were caused by deep psychological hangups that might take years of therapy to correct. However, it has been discovered that many involve fairly simple physical problems that can be corrected fairly quickly.

[contributions for the male and female side of this Q and A are encouraged by the maintainer: ]

19Q. What is the normal size of a penis? Is my penis big enough?

This is not entirely on topic. As far as a.s.m. goes, if you can masturbate, your penis is big enough.

For some reason we never get questions from guys like "Are my feet big enough?" It would be a silly question. If your feet get you around and they are neither too big or too small for you to get shoes, foot size just is not a big issue. And this really ought to be the same for penis size.

Most of the studies that have relied on actual measurements, instead of just what guys claim, find the average length of an erect male penis (measured along the top) to be 5 to 7 inches (about 13 to 18 cm). Surveys which only ask men to say how big their penises are usually get averages about 2 inches (5 cm) longer. Or in other words, guys lie about it. Some of them aren't lying, but simply overestimate themselves, and pretty much same thing occurs when you ask males how tall they are and compare that to actual measurements.

What is wrong with these surveys is that they tend to create the impression that there is one measurement of the size of a man's erect penis. But the truth is that even a fully erect penis will change in size according to the degree of sexual stimulation or arousal.

*But all the guys in the porn flicks have much bigger ones!

It is true enough that guys in porn flicks seem to have bigger penises. Hey, these guys are not hired for their acting ability. And yes it is perfectly true, if your penis is topping out at about 5 inches, perhaps you had better not be planning a career as a porn star. If you are old enough to be asking this question, you are old enough to realize that you are not the biggest, the best, and the brightest at everything--and you don't have to be.

The major advantage of a big penis is that it looks big, but as for functionality, it is not that much better than an average or even small penis.

*Do women notice?

Oh sure. I guess you go to a lot of those kind of parties in which all the guys line up and drop trou and the women go down the line selecting partners according to dick size. Is that right?

Like all the questions that begin "Do women . . .," "Are women .. . .," "Will women . . .," the answer is: some do and some don't. Some will notice, and to those who notice, it will matter to some and not matter to others. What is really utterly clueless about this question is what seems to be the thought behind it, namely: If my penis is a certain size or bigger, women will automatically find it satisfying, but if it is smaller than a certain size then it is hopeless. **BUZZ** Wrong. But thanks for playing.

This theory is wrong, wrong, wrong. It is wrong for guys who think they have a larger penis and who think, therefore, it is pretty much up to women to be automatically satisfied by it. It is wrong for guys who think they have smaller penises and therefore are considering becoming monks. Get a clue.

Also, stop working on your biceps and start working on tightening up your butt. Physical attributes do count with women, although IN GENERAL not so much as they count with men, but what women find physically attractive in men is not always the same thing as what men think women find attractive or what men find attractive in other men. In particular, guys tend to notice upper body mass (deltoids, biceps, pecs), to admire these in other guys, and to devote much of their workouts to developing these. But in fact the parts that women tend to notice and evaluate are butts, bellies, thighs, and calves.

*But the guys in the showers all have bigger ones!

There are several factors here. First, people, and especially males, tend to develop at different rates. If you are young and in a group of young males there will be vast differences in development, and it is impossible to tell how things will work out once everyone is fully developed. Second, you are not going to see many erect penises in the showers, and the relative sizes of flaccid penises don't really have much to do their relative sizes when erect. Some penises sort of accordion up when they get soft. Other just get soft with getting much smaller. Third, there is a difference in perspective when you look down at your penis and when you glance at the next guy in the shower. Fourth, you might really have a small penis. So what?

*Can I make it larger?

Only surgery can change the size of an adult male's penis.

*It is not as big as it should be for my shoe size (according to the size of my hands, etc.)

Not everyone is built on the same proportions. Comparisons to shoe sizes, length of fingers, and so forth may be amusing, but have no scientific basis.

*When should I worry?

If you are at least 14-years-old and have absolutely NO sexual development whatever (no pubic hair at all, no facial hair at all, no voice change, no increase at all in size of the penis or testes) it is time to consult a doctor, or if this is so worrisome to you that you are losing sleep over it and can hardly think of anything else or are avoiding social contacts because of this worry, it is time to consult an appropriate professional.

20Q. If I jack off with (get jacked off by) my friend of the same sex, will I become gay (or lesbian)?

While there are plenty of good reasons to want to do this and also to want not to do this, it will not change your sexuality in any way. If this happens, or if this has happened, you MIGHT be gay, or you might not be. But this event has nothing to do with it.

Sexual orientation is something that seems to be set at a very young age (like less than four years) and there is even some evidence that it is something a person is born with. Most people have some capacity to be sexual outside of their orientation. That is, some gays have had heterosexual relations, some straights have had homosexual relations, and often a person's first sexual experiences have little or nothing to do with the person's orientation.

There are many other factors to consider, such as whether your friend is trustworthy, whether you are interested in having the experience or whether you are being pressured into it, and so forth. But whether it will (or has) changed your sexuality is nothing to worry about. If you are looking for an excuse NOT to do it, you don't need one: you have a right to say "I'd rather not do that, thank you," and you have no need to explain yourself. On the other hand, if you do decide to do it (or have done it) you have a right not to accept labels or guilt trips that other people might try to give you because of it.

21Q. Was is (are?) "blue balls"?

"Blue balls" is a painful sensation in testicles, rather like the sensation one gets from being hit in the nuts, only a lot more subtle.

No, they do not actually turn blue. But the condition is associated with the whole area being flushed with blood and so there may be a color change, more like a purple, or blush color.

It hurts. It hurts to move any way that jostles the nuts. The feeling is something like if you had sinuses in your nuts and they were badly congested. It is not a sharp pain, but of a sort associated with squeezing, congestion, pressure, etc.

Blue balls are cause by prolonged sexual arousal. The whole area becomes flushed with blood and the nuts increase with size. This is a perfectly normal part of male sexual arousal. However when release does not occur within a reasonable time, the tenderness and pain called blue balls may result.

Only the passage of time will relieve blue balls. Blue balls can be prevented by sexual release--any kind of sex including jacking off will do. Also taking any kind of break from the sexual stimulation can prevent the blue balls if sexual arousal has not gone too far. But once the pain starts, sexual release will not necessarily stop the pain. Continued sexual stimulation may only make matters worse.

"Blue balls" ARE NOT an extremely painful, debilitation condition that some males hope to convince their dates it is. If the pain has not set in, it can be avoided by stopping sexually stimulating activity for a while. Having sex with another person IS NOT the only way to avoid the discomfort--masturbation will relieve the congestion as well as any other kind of sex. And if the discomfort has set in, REALLY, sexual activity will be likely to be painful.

Women too can have some discomfort from prolonged sexual arousal and congestion of the sexual areas.

22Q. What are poppers?

Poppers are substances that are closely related to the drug amyl nitrate. Although poppers are illegal in many jurisdictions, they are sometimes sold in adult bookstores as "room odorizers" -- an ironic name because they smell like dirty sweatsocks.

Amyl nitrate is a vasodilator with legitimate medical use in angina pectoris. That is, the drug tends to relax and open up blood vessels which can be useful for people whose narrowed arteries that do not supply sufficient blood to the heart, a condition that may cause severe chest pains (angina pectoris).

Most poppers nowadays are not amyl nitrate, but one or another related drug such as isobutyl nitrate. They cause a flushing sensation and perhaps dizziness. Some people identify the flushing sensation as sexual. Other people just get a headache. Poppers are very likely to set off migraines and other vascular-type headaches in people susceptible to such headaches.

Poppers are very controversial because some people believe they are associated with Kaposi's sarcoma, a cancer that sometime occurs in people with AIDS. They have always been unpopular with some people who do not find the experience of using poppers sexually interesting.

Poppers are sold in little brown bottles, usually covered with shrink plastic. Poppers are extremely inflammable (they will burn or explode in the presence of flames or sparks) and will evaporate quickly unless tightly capped. Poppers are used by sniffing the vapors. Like any other inhalant, poppers can be harmful if they are concentrated so the user does not get enough oxygen.

23Q. I want to start working out to build muscle mass.
Some of my friends say masturbation will increase testosterone, but others say it will decrease testosterone. What effect will masturbation have?

Masturbation is very unlikely to decrease testosterone levels. Semen is not the source of testosterone, and ejaculation will not cause testosterone levels to go down.

All other things being equal, increased sexual activity -- including masturbation -- tends to increase testosterone levels. But these levels depend upon many factors including age, time of day, overall level of physical activity, and general health. Psychological factors can cause changes in testosterone levels: levels go up in men who believe they are going to become more sexually active, levels can be affected by whether a person knows in advance that he will be test for testosterone, and so forth.

In your case, the increase in physical activity accompanying your workouts will probably have a much greater effect on your testosterone levels. If you are a young male AND working out, your testosterone level is likely to be so high that any difference masturbation (or other sexual activity) might make will be insignificant.

In much older men (over 40 years old), especially those with fewer sexual activities of other kinds, masturbation might increase testosterone levels significantly--which is not to suggest that masturbation might replace a reasonable program of physical exercise.

Although athletes were once advised to avoid sexual activities (including masturbation) *immediately* before athletic performances, studies have not found any scientific basis for this advice. So far as I know there have been no studies of the effects of abstinence *throughout* training, and probably there won't be because it would be difficult to find athletes who would agree to be abstinent for a prolonged time and no way to tell whether they really were. At any rate, nothing special about masturbation would cause it to have a bigger effect for better or worse than any other kind of sexual activity.