Whether you call it beating off, bashing the Bishop, or bopping your baloney (yes, those are all actual terms), masturbation is a lot of fun. It’s also quick, easy, gets rid of old sperm, and can improve the sex you have with partners.
Yet, a lot of people worry they might be doing it too much. Science reassures us this isn’t probable, but it’s certainly possible — and if you’re crossing the line, you’ll probably know it.
You Might Have a Problem If … Your Genitals Hurt
The surest sign you’re masturbating too much is that you’re in pain after your masturbate. Genital tissue is pretty delicate and anything from friction to fingernails can cause minor irritation. In those situations, it’s up to you to determine if you need to take a breather. But if your genitals are looking like an actual eggplant emoji, you’ve probably crossed a line.
While this level of self-inflicted trauma may sound impossible, it definitely isn’t. According to one study in the journal Advances in Urology, between 2000 and 2013, 42 American men actually broke their penises. The authors wrote that of this unlucky cohort: “half presented the classical triad of audible crack, detumescence [swelling], and pain.” Yikes. While a lot of these fractures happened during sex with a partner, bopping your own baloney too hard can cause equally horrific damage.
The vagina-owning half of humanity isn’t exempt from this party of pain, either. Women injure themselves by stuffing the wrong stuff up their lady bits all the time. Take, for example, this 2012 entry to the sexpert advise page Kinsey Confidential:
Last week I masturbated with a lint roller handle. I felt like it may have scratched me when I did it. The next day at school I started to bleed; the bleeding continued and it wasn’t too bad, but I needed to use a tampon.
We can only hope in the intervening five years, this girl went on to get the high-quality sex toys she deserves.
You Might Have a Problem If … You Can’t Think of Anything Else
Many of masturbation’s best side effects are more than physical — they’re psychological. Of course, masturbating can boost your mood and calm you down. But, if your need to masturbate feels compulsive or you’re beating off so much you miss appointments, can’t stay focused at work, or don’t want to see your friends and family, you might have a problem.
Still, exactly how much masturbation is a problem is highly variable from person to person. Some men can do everything they want to do in a day and squeeze in some masturbation me-time a few dozen times a week. Other men might feel anxious or depressed even if they’re masturbating just once a day or less. As with most things sexual, it’s very personal, and only you and your doctor can determine what’s good for you.
You Might Have a Problem If … Sex With a Partner Is Underwhelming
Masturbation clearly has an effect on your sexual relationships with other people. But exactly what that means differs drastically between men and women.
Many men are concerned that masturbating too much, or watching too much porn, will bring down the quality of the sex they have with a partner. They’re not totally wrong. If you get really used to one way of beating off with yourself, adding another person — and new sensations — might make orgasming more difficult, or at least take longer.
A Kinsey Confidential Q&A tackled this question as well, with one guy writing in to ask if his masturbatory “death grip” will doom him to awful sex with women. The answer? Maybe, but no matter what you’re doing with your free hand, it’ll always “take time to learn to orgasm or ejaculate from sex with a partner,” death grip or not.
With women, the situation is almost the opposite. Men wonder if they’re masturbating too much, while doctors are convinced women are masturbating too little.
This lack of self-knowledge contributes to a gendered orgasm gap, where women struggle to communicate what they like, don’t get to have great sex and all its related rewards, and may even take a hit to their self-esteem — a core component of a healthy, equitable relationship.
For the most part, it’s probably good to keep getting it on by getting off.
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