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Roughing the suspect

Not that I'd know.

Not that I'd know.

I'm a wanker from waaaay back.

I'm sure that comes as no surprise to many you - I mean look at my headshot - but once you've finished patting yourselves on the back for spotting the obvious, let's get (moderately) serious.

Wanking ... aka masturbation, is a little like tasting the odd grape at the fruit shop: almost every man does it, but we don't often advertise the fact, especially during the act.

With most human pursuits, we have guidelines: "No more than two alcoholic drinks per day", "Brush your teeth morning and night" and "30 minutes of exercise".

It's good to have rules in life. Why then do we get no such guidance when it comes to hand-to-gland combat? Sure, there's the old adage "masturbation sends you blind" but when I once asked my dad about this he simply advised "stop when you have to wear glasses".

I have contact lenses.

Jokes aside, there's little doubt the ubiquity of internet pornography has, for many men and boys, transformed "roughing the suspect" from a distracting past-time to a pathological behaviour.

A first of its kind study released last week by researchers at the University of Sydney revealed the destructive effect excessive porn viewing can have on users and their families.

Interestingly, in all the news coverage about the study, I didn't see the "m" word used once -  and let's face it - it's the masturbating to porn that causes problems.

Eighty-five per cent of the 800 porn users surveyed were male, and more than half married or in de facto relationships. Forty-seven per cent spent between 30 minutes and three hours a day watching porn.

That's not good.

Internationally, Professor Stuart Brody, of the University of the West of Scotland, has also published numerous studies on the subject and told me last week "any masturbation is associated with poorer health outcomes and less life satisfaction".

Studies in 1976, 2002 and 2004 also show greater masturbation frequency was associated with more depressive symptoms; a 2007 study showed that it results in less happiness; and 2010 and 2011 studies correlate it with "anxious attachment, immature psychological defence mechanisms, greater blood pressure reactivity to stress, and dissatisfaction with one's life in general".

The old chestnut that masturbation staves off prostate cancer may also have been disproved as well - in fact, it seems it's only ejaculation via penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) that correlates positively, while wanking "frequency is more often related to an increased risk" of prostate cancer, according to Brody's 2010 study.

"It is interesting to note that masturbation is also associated with other problems of the prostate (higher prostate specific antigen levels and swollen or tender prostate) and, compared with the ejaculate obtained from PVI, the ejaculate obtained from masturbation has markers of poorer prostatic function and lesser elimination of waste products," writes one of Brody's colleagues, Rui Miguel Costa, in a letter published online last month in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Costa says "the only sexual behaviour consistently related to better psychological and physical health is PVI".

He told me last week via email he'd recommend "no masturbation at all, as I would say no junk food at all, but I believe it would be unrealistic to many people". He conceded "it's possible some of the bad things associated with masturbation result from subtle to not-so-subtle difficulties in relations with the opposite sex".

Other health professionals are more sceptical, saying we should not confuse the symptom with the cause: "It's like saying playing World of Warcraft makes you a confused virgin. Of course it doesn't, it's more that shy, introverted and socially awkward people are more likely to develop interests which are solitary," said one local physiologist I spoke to.

"To make an association like this work in a group of people, all you need is a sub-population of people who are (a) very lonely and (b) wanking themselves rigid to create an association in the population as a whole," he said.

"It might not mean that the same is true at the other end, that people who have a lot of normative sex but don't masturbate, are healthier and/or better.

"Think on this - masturbation, by definition, is a marker of loneliness. Excessive masturbation may well be a sign of the inability to relate to people or form normal human relationships, but that is a symptom, not a cause. Turning it into a health association (masturbation does x) is not the same as "masturbation occurs in the presence of x," he said.

However, if we're to believe the Sydney University study, there are also many men in relationships who masturbate, and do it to excess.

They're the ones who might need to recognise that sex, no matter how routine, is a truly a case of reality being much better - and better for you - than fantasy.

SYDNEY WRITER'S FESTIVAL

I'll be talking with Alex Mitchell, author of Come The Revolution: A memoir and Kevin Rudd's former head of spin, Lachlan Harris, this Friday, May 18, 2012, at the Philharmonia Studio, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay from 1pm to 2pm. It's free. For more info, go here.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.

90 comments so far

  • How do I girls?

    Commenter
    Petey the often mystified Ocelot
    Location
    Melbournne
    Date and time
    May 17, 2012, 6:14PM
    • How fascinating!

      Can you ask the professor how oral sex compares to PVI for health and reducing risk of prostrate cancer?

      I banned my husband from wanking a while ago. It hasn't be easy. I'm a night sex person and he is a morning sex person who has to get up super early for work, and he feels he needs to orgasm every day. But we have found ways to ensure that it is mostly really good rather than just routine sex (sometimes that involves porn, mostly just a particular mindset).

      The reason I did this is I realised that masturbation was ruining our sex life. He would wank in the morning because he always wakes up super horny & I was dead to the world & did not want to be woken. I would then want sex sometimes in the evening & whilst he would never let me down I wasn't happy with it because I wanted him to be as super horny as he was in the morning.

      Sex every day has definitely improved out relationship, & self-esteem I think. It has its draw-backs, I love it when he goes away for a golf weekend or me for a meditation retreat so when we get together again it's more exciting, but overall it's better. It would be good if he could go without an orgasm for longer but he has trouble sleeping.

      Commenter
      Heidi
      Date and time
      May 17, 2012, 7:16PM
      • imagine the hue and cry if a man said he had banned his girlfriend from masturbating?

        Commenter
        StBob
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        May 18, 2012, 9:16AM
      • @StBob: If it was stuffing up their sex lives and leading to lousy sex for him, the applause would be deafening.

        (I suspect the 'banned' word was an inadvised choice of words. You can't ban your partner from doing something, only let the know the consequences of continuing the behaviour.)

        Commenter
        bornagirl
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        May 18, 2012, 9:40AM
      • It is disturbing that we have such a poor analysis skills possessed by researchers with degrees.

        The main skill of researcher is to distinguish between the cause and consequences.

        What Heidi reveals is blatantly obvious - men masturbate because of lack of sex. And this is lack of sex - and not masturbation which causes chain of health problems including depression.

        This is by-product of matriarchal shift in society. Women no longer want to bring any contribution to the relationship.
        They view relationships like a business projects looking to derive the most of financial advantage for minimum effort.

        They expect partner to bring money and do home chores not giving anything in return. "He is the morning person - I am an evening person" translates into plain English "Go to work, get exhausted, and I will go to bed after you fall asleep. And I will use every opportunity to nag you and make you feel guilty for every attempt to let steam out on your own".

        Commenter
        Michael
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 18, 2012, 10:52AM
      • @Michael

        Heidi said in her comment that sex everyday has improved their relationship. He needs sex everyday and if he needs sex in the morning he will get less. If he agrees to sex in the evening then he has sex everyday. A bit of compromise here and there is working for them.

        But thank you for again stating that all women are nothing more than frigid gold-diggers. Sometimes I forget how I'm supposed to act and need a not so gentle reminder.

        Commenter
        Ripley
        Location
        Hunting Aliens
        Date and time
        May 18, 2012, 3:40PM
      • Michael, men do not only masturbate due to a lack of sex. My sex drive is much higher than my partner's and initiate more often than he does. I never knock his advances back, he does sometimes. The times he masturbates over having sex with me is when I'm asleep and he doesn't want to wake me (I leave for work two hours before he does), I've already left for work, or if he wants to indulge in some porn that doesn't involve me (we rarely watch porn and have sex, sometimes we start watching porn that leads to sex/oral sex).

        Sometimes a guy just wants a wank, and not because sex isn't on the agenda.

        There's nothing wrong with that - our own relationship with our sexuality allows us to be full partners. Only when the balance is out does it cause a problem.

        Commenter
        EllieK84
        Location
        Central Coast
        Date and time
        May 18, 2012, 4:39PM
      • Wow, you sound like that other columnist. Are all Heidi's misanthropes ?

        Commenter
        enno
        Location
        sydney
        Date and time
        May 18, 2012, 6:13PM
      • Like your partner EllieK sometimes I just want to have a wank. I might feel like an orgasm but not be in the mood for sex. My husband on the other hand says he would always prefer sex to wanking. So he's very happy about me asking him not to wank! If for some reason we didn't have sex for more than a day & I really didn't want to then I'll tell him to have a wank, this has happened a couple of times since the 'banning'. I also refrain from masturbation quite often for the sake of our sex life, plus I find my orgasms are better if I only have a few a week.

        Commenter
        Heidi
        Date and time
        May 21, 2012, 11:06AM
      • something doesnt add up. He gets up super early and needs his daily orgasm, but he is a morning sex person.

        Heidi, where is he doing his wanking? At work?

        Thats just plain wrong.

        Commenter
        Barney
        Date and time
        May 21, 2012, 5:56PM

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