by M. P. Vora
The Home Doctor
A Practical Guide to Good Health
Vol. 1, Number. 9, January 1963. Page No. 35 and 37.
“More nonsense is talked about sex than about any other subject”, was once remarked by the late Barnard Shaw. The talk on masturbation is probably the most ridiculous of all the nonsense talked about sex. The most persistant and widespread misconceptions regarding this practice, which is the most common of the sexual acts, have probably generated more guilt feelings and baseless anxieties within children and adults alike than science could ever reckon.
It is not uncommon for a physician to meet in his daily practice an adult with intense distress on his face, who breaks down in the course of revealations, “when I was young and did not know anything, I used to masturbate and suffer now the effects of the sin”. Among the endless afflictions attributed to masturbations are acne, poor memory, loss of power of concentration, general weakness, shrinkage of penis, diffidence in achieving sexual stability after marriage and impotency.
Specialists agree that majority of the fears and inhibitions, which are responsible for sexual difficulties in the adult life, are in fact originated in childhood. It is usually the ignorant and ill-informed who lay unfortunately the foundation of adult patterns of sexual and emotional response among most children. From the very start the child is given the impression that all sexual manifestations are low, base and sinful, and must be avoided at all costs. It is not surprising, therefore, that having learned from the start to regard sexuality and all that pertains to it as evil, many children encounter difficulties later on when they grow up and marry. It is a great mistake to consider sexuality which is absolutely normal for all living creatures, as evil. It must not be confused with sensuality which is certainly abnormal.
It would be difficult to find easily a normal adult who has had no recourse to masturbation in some form or other in his or her life. Out of 5300 adults interviewed by Dr. Kinsey, 5100 admitted to having practiced masturbation. It is therefore not wrong to conclude that the majority of adults masturbate regularly at certain periods of life and ultimately learn to adjust themselves without difficulties when they get married. Very few brood over the affair. If one reaches adult life without having masturbated, the possibilities are:
Dr. Kretchmer, a well known authority on the subject, tells the truth about masturbation in the following words: “Masturbation or self-abuse is, in itself no perversion but harmless, physiological and transitional phase and by-product of healthy sexual impulse, provided excessive indulgence is avoided. It acts as a safety-valve when sexual intercourse is prevented by one of the many inevitable obstacles erected by civilized communal life. It can only be deemed to be a “perversion” when it is practiced for its own sake because it has acquired a greater value than the normal and complete sexual intercourse possesses. And this preference for masturbation is sometimes felt in some individuals. These are persons who have never lost the various fears and anxieties which they have collected, in the course of their sexual development.”
These fears take different forms in different persons. There may be a fear of exposing the private part, a fear of getting a girl in trouble, a fear of scandal, a fear of contracting venereal disease or a fear of inadequacy after having done something repugnant to one’s conscience. It is natural that persons, oppressed by so many fears, should prefer to remain in what is called ‘narcissistic’ stage of their sexual development, the stage in which the libido or sex drive is turned back on the “self”.
Frequently, masturbation in the male is condemned by the lay-people on the ground of “lost energy” or “loss of vital fluid”. But there is nothing to support this theory. Neither masturbations nor nocturnal emissions deplete the body of its energy. It is perfectly true that semen is a “vital fluid”, it is vital not to the individual but to the race to which the individual belongs. It is a fluid on which the continuation of the race entirely depends.
It is also true that some individuals may feel depleted after the loss of semen. This is because the act of ejaculation and the orgasm which follows it, entails a certain expenditure of energy. But in ordinary circumstances, the expended energy is quickly restored and a person is able to put up a better showmanship of his work on account of the relief of tension. It is only the ignorant who is gravely disturbed and distressed by what has happened. This is due to the strong feelings of guilt associated with the act. He, in his self-recrimination, loses a vast amount of energy and consequently feels low in spirits. There is always the risk of over-indulgence in masturbation and this must be avoided firmly and with determination. In case of excess the consequences are similar to those which follow an over-indulgence in love-making. Temporary congestion of the genital organs and lassitude follow but usually disappear after a sufficient rest.
The great importance of a better and saner introduction into the sexual life of children could not be over-emphasized. The child should not be made to feel that masturbation is evil; on no account must it be frightened into the so-called virtue of chastity by the fear that it will damage itself.
To-day, doctors no longer refer to masturbation as “self-abuse”. They see it for what it really is: a perfectly normal and harmless means of obtaining temporary sexual release when other means do not exist or are, for various reasons, prohibited.