This is nothing new: Almost every guy masturbates. And recent research continues to remind us why it's a good idea: The release of dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin during masturbation can help with everything from relaxation to insomnia to good metabolism. The activation of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels create internal genital tone, prevent sensory damage, and might treat erectile dysfunction issues. Losing a few swimmers prompts the creation of new sperm with decreased instances of DNA damage and increased motility. There's even some research to suggest that ejaculating can decrease the risk of prostate cancer, boost immune system functionality, and (in at least one case) relieve Restless Leg Syndrome.
Yet, despite the benefits, few people spend much time thinking about the best ways to actually do it. Part of the reason is because everyone's different — we feel stimuli in our own ways. "I don't think there are best practices," says Spring Chenoa Cooper, professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health. But sex therapists still offer a few solid guidelines that most (although not necessarily all) men should keep in mind.
Vary your technique.
According to Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, it's not uncommon for men to get stuck in a rut, using the same grip, pressure, and rhythm every time. This can lead to conditioning, making it harder to respond to other sexual stimuli — one of the problems Cooper acknowledges, although she doubts how common it is. If you get so pigeon-holed you might miss out on the sensual and health benefits of sex. That goes double for guys who condition themselves to watching porn while masturbating. "Vary your routine," Marin says. "Change the hand you use, your level of pressure, your speed, your specific technique, and your timing." She also suggests turning off the porn up to half of the time to focus instead on the sensations in your own body and trying to masturbate with your partner(s) to aid in sexual communications. Dr. Kat van Kirk, a sex therapist, says it can help variety to throw in some sex toys every now and then as well.
"Most men learn to orgasm quickly, in secret, without lubrication," van Kirk says. Cranking one out too fast can contribute to ED and premature ejaculation. To break this habit, you just have to slow things down. "If you want to last 10 minutes with a partner," Marin says, "practice lasting for 10 minutes on your own." Edging (start-and-stop jerking) is a great way to practice this. Van Kirk says it's also to learn how to have "dry," multiple male orgasms, and better erection control during sex. Marin suggests using a type of edging to help with anxiety about ED as well. However, stretching it out too long can inversely make it too hard to ejaculate with a partner, so use your best judgment.
Cooper points out that some people like it rough. But skin abrasions are no fun — and it's easy to prevent them with lube. Silicon-based varieties are increasingly popular, Marin says: They last longer, feel slicker, leave less residue, and don't risk adverse reactions like other substitutes.
Test for dependency.
Usually, there's no such thing as too much masturbation. According to Marin, some people find that they just can't stop. Or that the impulse can interfere with their day-to-day lives. Some men, she says, wind up dependent on release as a form of emotional or stress self-medication, which isn't healthy. Every now and then, she suggests it's good to check in and see whether you're beating off because you want to, or because you just feel afraid, anxious, or lonely. If so, it's good to hold back for a bit, and "try to find a different way to deal with those emotions" instead.
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