Masturbation – is it good for you?

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Sex therapist and counsellor Lucy Patarcic tracks the history of masturbation with surprising findings about the Kelloggs Cornflakes creator and Graham crackers, and less surprising findings about health and wellbeing.


You can masturbate and have your cracker too!

You may be wondering what masturbation has to do with crackers?

A quick history lesson first.

Ahh masturbation. Pleasurable or taboo, depending on whom you’re talking to. John Kellogg, M.D. (yes, the Kelloggs Cornflakes guy) believed that masturbating was the most dangerous of sexual behaviours. Masturbation was said to cause abnormal sexual passions and gluttony, and he recommended that parents bandage their children’s genitals at night or tie their hands to bedposts!

In 2018, I spent the summer in the US and also had my very first s’more. The s’more that I had consisted of a toasted (on an open fire) marshmallow sandwiched between two pieces of Hershey’s chocolate and further sandwiched by two Graham crackers – a little sandwich of deliciousness. As my dear friend’s sister-in-law was assembling this delicious treat for me, she told me something interesting about the history of Graham crackers. When I returned, I did some research.

Sylvester Graham (5 July 1794–11 September 1851), who was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1826, believed that human sex drive depleted the body and that erotic desire caused heath issues including headaches, epilepsy and insanity. According to Graham, eating tasty foods stimulated sexual urges that amounted to self-abuse, i.e. masturbation. In 1829, he invented a bland biscuit-like cracker to suppress sexual desires.

Fear and guilt around masturbation has been around for centuries and the stigma attached to touching one’s genitals for pleasure was believed to be pathological or having negative mental and physical consequences.

Beliefs throughout the centuries were many and varied. Physician Galen argued that retaining semen was dangerous and led to ill health, while Hippocrates believed that excessive loss of semen could result in spinal cord deterioration.

Masturbation had been labelled an unnatural sin, causing dysfunction and disease, Tissot (18th century) claimed that masturbators suffered from poor eyesight, epilepsy, memory loss, weakened backs, acne, sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and paleness.

Prevention methods used on children included cold baths and showers, swim suits with camphor inserted in the crotch, bland diets, limiting fluids, chastity belts, straitjackets and threats to cut off their genitals, to name just a few.

Fears around masturbation continued into the 20th century. And here we are today in the 21st century still having this conversation!

We’ve come a long way … kind of. In my work, I’ve come across many people of different ages who still harbour guilt and shame and feel embarrassed about something as natural as masturbation. Masturbation is completely natural and offers many health benefits. Knowing the benefits for both health and wellbeing, it is something that I do recommend as part of homework and, in particular, for prostate health.

Health benefits of masturbation:

  • It can provide a sexual outlet for people who abstain from sex by choice or due to loss of a partner.
  • It can help to strengthen muscles in the pelvic and anal areas and help to reduce urine leakage.
  • It increases blood flow to the genital area and can be helpful in keeping things supple and more responsive in the lady garden due to increased blood flow – especially as we age.
  • It can help to reduce stress and release sexual tension.
  • It can allow people to experience pleasure.
  • We learn how we like to be touched and can relay this to a partner.
  • It can allow people to feel more positive about their bodies and more connected.
  • It can assist in learning about our own sexuality.
  • It can help to prevent prostate cancer.
  • It can help with the immune system, stimulate endorphin production and increase the flow of white blood cells.
  • It can rejuvenate the circulation of hormones.

Masturbation can help with prostate health
The causes of prostate cancer remain uncertain. However, genetics, diet and lifestyle factors play important roles.

The Harvard Ejaculation Study involved about 30,0000 men aged from 41 to 81. It found that frequent ejaculation did not mark an increase in prostate cancer, but rather that men who ejaculated 21 times or more per month had a 31 per cent decrease in prostate cancer.

An Australian study of 2338 men showed that “men who averaged 4.6–7 ejaculations per week were 36 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 70 than men who ejaculated less than 2.3 times per week on average.”

What are you waiting for?

Are you comfortable talking about masturbation? Do you embrace the health benefits?

Lucy Patarcic is a sex therapist, relationship counsellor, general counsellor and clinical hypnotherapist in private practice in Sydney. She uses an integrated approach to therapy and holds a Master of Health Science (Sexual Health) and Master of Science in Medicine (HIV, STIs and Sexual Health) in Public Health both from the University of Sydney.

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Total Comments: 18
  1. 0

    I discovered masturbation at about 13 yrs old. I was lying on my bed naked & masturbating and my grandfather caught me. He ran to the kitchen and came back with a large steel spoon and proceeded to thrash my bottom and legs along with angrily telling me I was a dirty boy and such actions send boys to hell. He told my father, he went somewhere and got a booklet, published by the gov’t., about 6 pages, about the severe negatives of masturbation and insisted that I read the booklet while he waited. The main paragraph said that boys are born with their total possible issue of sperm and if they masturbate it will all be gone quickly and then that man could never father children. Then my father told me in no uncertain terms he was ashamed of me and my dirty habits. Thank goodness the world is now much more enlightened and positive about this subject.

  2. 0

    Read an article about that in Men’s Health magazine while waiting for my appointment. The article recommend blokes should at least do it twice a week to help the prostate. Laughingly I mentioned that to the doctor who agreed with the article. Most of us just do not want to talk about it not even those who visit the massage parlors quite frequently

  3. 0

    a lot of men are still in denial they masturbate then forget about as quickly as they can then pretend they do not do it. women are still the flower on the wall but sex shops and the internet is bringing the hidden out, I guess “I have a headache” has caused a big problem there

    • 0

      I hope you don’t mean by ‘having a headache’, ie a partner not feeling like sex, has caused a problem? If the desire in a partner is not there then he or she is not responsible for potential health outcomes for the other. Masturbating on those occasions instead is an alternative. Guilting your partner into unwanted sex never is.

  4. 0

    I’ve been an advocate from the age of eleven. To begin with I thought I was the only person in the world who knew how to do it! Ejaculation was initially absent and gradually appeared over a period of months. Entering the teen years, discussion with schoolmates revealed they did it too. I found and read a sex book my parents had and discovered that girls could do it too, but didn’t witness that until I was about 17. My wife claims she has never masturbated and doesn’t need to because she has me to do the deed for her. I read a recent research article which stated that men indulge three times a week on average, women once.

  5. 0

    Show me a man who says that he has never masturbated and I’ll still believe that he tells lies.

  6. 0

    “Masturbation can help with prostate health”
    Is that why our politicians in Canbera don’t have prostate problems?

  7. 0

    All the boys in my school were dragged down to the local Anglican Church one day, where the Minister lectured to us about the evils of masturbation. I thought, that sounds like a good idea, and haven’t looked back!

  8. 0

    I have always thought that Australian Women should learn how to give their husbands a Prostate Massage, especially in old age

    • 0

      Why do you think the old blokes go to the massage parlors with the cute little Asian
      chicks? Suppose you give your missus $135 a time she might be interested as well but is it an interesting experience? LOL! – what a topic in our oldies forum, laugh with us ladies.

    • 0

      What the acclaimed therapist did not mention is that masturbation ensures a supply of fresh semen so that men have the best for impregnating their partners and hence the survival of the fittest, so if you ever needed an excuse ….
      Lots of libido is a problem for many older people, but women often appear to be less interested
      as they grow older.
      Make an adventure of finding out what turns your lady on – it may be different now. You may just be surprised! And don’t be selfish when you visit the sex shop – buy something for her too.

    • 0

      Why Miker do you stress Australian women in particular.? Just because you live here?
      I understand that it’s not impossible for men to do this themselves, so if that kind of massage turns you on/ is what you need I suggest you get on with it yourself as I feel it’s unlikely that many women would find this a pleasure.
      If it is medically necessary, I am sure a doctor will do it for you.

  9. 0

    stop pulling my leg.



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