Masturbation: 5 Things You Didn't Know (cont.)

For various reasons, solo sex can be a real boon to sex with a partner. It helps teach men about their own sexual response -- what feels good to them and what doesn't -- so they will be better able to explain to their partners just how they like to be touched. It helps men learn to recognize the "moment of inevitability" just before orgasm and helps teach them how to avoid premature ejaculation. Perhaps most significant, it's a great coping mechanism for any man whose partner is temporarily unavailable for sex -- because of absence or illness -- or has a sex drive that doesn't quite match his own (something sex therapists call a disparity in frequency preference).

Of course, some men become so obsessed with solo sex that they begin to lose interest in having sex with their partner. The resulting hurt feelings and alienation a partner feels can make it hard to sustain the relationship. But experts are quick to point out that masturbation is perfectly OK even for men in a committed relationship. "We cannot assume that just because a man masturbates that there is a problem with his primary relationship," says Bartlik.

4. Certain forms of masturbation can lead to sexual dysfunction.

Experts warn that men who frequently stimulate themselves in ways that don't simulate sex with a partner -- for example, stroking very rapidly or with great pressure or friction -- can develop retarded ejaculation. That's a type of sexual dysfunction in which it is difficult or even impossible to climax during partnered sex. "Any man experiencing any sexual dysfunction should ask himself if he's masturbating in ways that produce sensations that differ from those he gets from his partner's hand, mouth, or vagina," says Michael A. Perelman, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry, reproductive medicine, and urology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and the president of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research "Then he should consider what he could say to her to make the stimulation more similar -- and how he could change the way he masturbates to make it feel more similar to what his partner does."

5. Masturbation may affect the risk for prostate cancer.

The relationship between masturbation and prostate cancer is a bit hazy.

A 2003 Australian study published in BJU International linked frequent ejaculation early in life with reduced risk for prostate cancer later on. But in a 2004 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, a researcher reported that "ejaculation frequency is not related to increased risk of prostate cancer." In both these studies, ejaculation frequency included sexual intercourse and masturbation.

In a later study published in BJU International, researchers found that frequent masturbation in young men raised the risk for prostate cancer but that frequent masturbation in older men lowered the risk. Sexual intercourse did not affect prostate cancer risk.

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