Masturbation means the production of the sexual orgasm by some means other than normal sexual intercourse. It is one of the greatest problems of youth, since it is so universally prevalent. Some authorities state that 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls indulge in masturbation at some time during their lives; and though these figures may be exaggerated, it is nevertheless true that this habit is one of the most subtle and most difficult to cure in the whole field of sex.
Masturbation often begins at a surprisingly early age; and boys, especially, can be found playing with their sex organs long before they understand what they are doing. They only know that certain pleasurable sensations follow the handling of these organs, and they persist in doing so. If, at an early age, they have come into contact with other children who are precocious in this respect, they are apt to learn bad habits which they find very difficult to cure later in life, and may result in making them definitely homosexual.
The average boy practices masturbation by using his hands; this is known as manual masturbation. The girl may also employ her fingers, though in her case an orgasm may frequently be obtained merely by crossing the thighs and giving full play to the imagination. Many girls do this without realizing that they are masturbating at all. These are the less harmful forms of the act.
What is far more dangerous and harmful is the introduc-tion of foreign substances or objects, in order to produce an artificial irritation.
Irritation of the sexual organs may lead to the first expert ments in masturbation, which may later become a habit. Improper diet, friction, too-heavy bed clothes, lack of physical exercise all play their part in stimulating the initial sexual urge. Idleness is an enormously important factor; if the boy is busy and occupied, he has no time to think of sex. The mental or psychological factor is the most important of all. If his thoughts begin to run in this direction, he probably has an erection, with accompanying sexual urges; he gets into the stream, so to say, and once in it, the boy finds it difficult to stop until the act is completed. His imagination runs riot, and the average boy usually imagines himself performing the sexual act with some girl whom he may know. This is far more normal, however, than if he pictured, at the time, his male companions; for this would indicate definite homo-sexual tendencies, which must by all means be curbed. If established early in life, this is often most difficult to cure.
For many years, it was believed that masturbation led to insanity, and frightful consequences were pictured to the child if he persisted in the habit. Medical science no longer believes that this is true, and furthermore, that the feelings of guilt and shame which are implanted in the mind are exceedingly harmful, affecting his entire life thereafter. Masturbation does not produce these effects, and it would be very wrong to terrify the child into the belief that it does. At the same time, of course, excessive masturbation is dangerous, for obvious reasons.
In the first place, it depresses and exhausts the nervous system in a way that normal sexual intercourse does not. It is intense and highly stimulating. All the creative energies of the body are raised to high pitch and kept there for some considerable time. The after-effects upon the mental and emotional life are often obvious.
Then, masturbation is a lonely act, which leads to subsequent depression and dissatisfaction. It is doubtless true that, in normal intercourse, there is a subtle exchange of some form of magnetism, between the male and female bodies, and this is lacking in the solitary vice. There is an expenditure of vital energy, but no intake, as there would be normally.
Third, masturbation often leads to inadequate satisfaction, or even aversion to the normal sex act, which may be found relatively disappointing. Many women have found this to be the case, and become frigid in consequence. They no longer find their husbands satisfying. The same thing may develop in the case of young men, who have been constant masturbators.
Fourth, the act rarely leads to any sense of happiness or fulfillment; on the contrary, there is always a sense of something wanting; it is a mere make-shift.
Fifth, a sense of hidden shame and guilt is associated with masturbation, which may prey upon the mind, and play a large part in a later mental breakdown. This is, perhaps, the greatest of all reasons against masturbation; for, while the act itself is not as harmful as formerly believed, these mental and emotional after-effects are real and lasting, and constitute a strong argument against this practice.
Various measures may be taken against masturbation, but it must be remembered that one of them is infallible, and that it is virtually impossible to prevent strongly sexed boys and erotic girls from indulging occasionally in this habit. The most important thing for parents to remember is that they should not make the adolescent boy or girl feel that they have committed some sort of unpardonable sin, or try to frighten him or her by dwelling upon the dire consequences which are liable to ensue because of it. This will, in all probability, only create a strong guilt-complex, without removing the habit, and cause them to be more secretive about it in the future. It might be well for parents to recall their own early lives before scolding their chddren!
If the boy or girl is caught in the act, this should be treated naturally, and the parent should not fly into a rage because of it. A frank talk, in which the effects of masturbation are pointed out, would be far better, and a promise might be exacted to try and avoid the act as much as possible in the future.
Inasmuch as idle moments play so important a part, it is highly essential that the boy or girl should get out of bed immediately upon arising, allowing no time for the thoughts to wander to sexual topics. If a cold shower can be taken, so much the better; but in any event, he should dress at once, and become interested in some active occupation.
The diet should be plain, wholesome and simple, with the avoidance of too much meat, spices, condiments, tea, coffee, and, of course, alcohol. Constipation must be avoided, and the bladder emptied frequently. Pressure of a full rectum upon the sex organs is one frequent cause of masturbation.
Athletics and physical exercise generally will often serve as a great antidote to masturbation. If the boy can be made to take an interest in his training, his wind, his condition generally, and if he can be made to feel that this habit prevents him from attaining the maximum of efficiency, this will act as a great deterrent, and make him fight to overcome the practice. Competitive games are of great value, for this reason. The boy in training takes a pride in his body, and seeks to maintain it at its greatest level of vitality. Sports, games, gymnasium work, long hikes, building, camping any activity which utilizes the muscles of the body are all helpful in this connection. The value of athletics cannot be too strongly stressed. For the same reason, an out’door life is greatly to be preferred to one which is sedentary and enervating.
Finally, the boy or girl should be made to cooperate mentally, if possible, by frank, straightforward talks, by instilling ideals into him, and by pointing out the advantages of absten-tion. Do not scold, moralize or make him feel that he is a criminal, or guilty of some shameful act, because of masturbation. If you can instill the wish or desire to overcome the habit, this will be the most important step you can take; and it will then only be a matter of time before it is overcome entirely. Most normal young men and women abandon the habit at the beginning of sexual intercourse.
If it is apparent that all your efforts to cure your child of self-abuse have failed, he should be immediately taken to your family doctor.
FREQUENCY OF ORGASMS FOR MEN
Many young men pride themselves upon the number of times they can have an ejaculation during a period of inter-course, under the double misapprehension that this pleases the woman and that it shows their powers of virility and manhood. Such a point of view is mistaken. A man should not permit himself to have orgasm more than two or three times, and middle-aged men not more than once. Young men, who have had no intercourse for a long time, will often tend to have their first ejaculation prematurely even before the penis is introduced into the vagina! In such cases, the second orgasm might well be considered the first; and in obtaining this, the man should take his time and proceed in a leisurely manner, stopping from time to time, in order to prolong the intercourse. Relaxation and deep-breathing exercises (from the solar plexus) will have the effect of stopping the oncoming orgasm for the time being, and this should be practiced. Stopping all motion for a few moments will also have the effect of retarding it. In these ways, the intercourse may be continued for a far longer period of time, insuring greater pleasure to both husband and wife. The number of orgasms will thereby be decreased, which would be beneficial from the point-of-view of the husband. An excessive number of them will invariably be found debilitating.
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