Masturbation: the topic that everyone knows but no one wants to talk about. Your life’s your business, but not talking about this topic can lead to a number of strange myths that still persist today.

You’ve probably heard some myths about masturbation in inner circles, so let me debunk some of the most common.

1. Excessive masturbation can lead to erectile dysfunction

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This is a common myth. However, there is no direct link between masturbation and erectile dysfunction. Many stories of erectile dysfunction come from mental health concerns. Stress, depression, and relationship problems due to stress or poor communication can affect sexual desire and may contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Some religious and pseudoscientific beliefs proliferate ideas about our bodies that don’t reflect reality, as Emma Sutton, a sex-positive social worker and former Fanshawe student explained.

“I think that there used to be this idea that we had a limited amount of ejaculate,” Sutton said. “A long time ago, there was this idea that basically [ejaculate] was your life force, but you only had a limited amount. And so we know now that it’s not true. You can have an unlimited amount of ejaculation throughout your life and you don’t get desensitized necessarily.”

There are physical causes of erectile dysfunction, like heart disease, however you should speak with a doctor if you are experiencing those symptoms. They aren’t caused by masturbation.

“There are times where if you have masturbated a lot or had a lot of sex in the day, you might get to a point where it becomes harder to finish and harder to ejaculate just because of things like dehydration and your body is just not able to replenish that supply quite in time,” Sutton explained.

2. Masturbation is not a normal part of sexual development

This is simply not true. It’s generally accepted in the medical community that masturbation is natural and harmless for sexual development and normal for anyone.

In fact, there are some health benefits to it. When you reach orgasm, your body releases chemicals like oxytocin, prolactin, and endorphins. These chemicals help with several heart related health issues regulating the body’s balance of hormones, sleep, elevating mood and reducing stress. Speaking with your doctor will clarify this.

3. Masturbation causes hairy palms and permanent physical deformities

This is probably the most ridiculous myth of them all. Just because your knees are weak and arms are heavy after a session, doesn’t mean that they’re triggering a chemical reaction within your body that stimulates hair growth. Or baldness. Or a withering of your private parts. Some people even believe that it can cause blindness. There’s no evidence for any physical deformities caused by masturbation, and the medical community has long dismissed many of these ridiculous theories.

4. If you masturbate while in a relationship, something is wrong with the relationship or if your partner is masturbating, that means you aren’t enough

This is something a lot of people struggle with. It’s important to have a conversation with your partner and recognize that you can’t fulfill every need that your partner has. It doesn’t reflect how good you are as a partner or the strength of the relationship.

“We can’t be our partners’ everything,” Sutton said.

And nor should you try to be. Everyone has different levels of sexual desire has social and intellectual requirements to fulfill outside of sex. It’s OK to have different preferences or needs when it comes to your sex life. Balance and compromise are key. Communication, however, is very important to that end.

“There’s also mutual masturbation…[and that] can be a great way to help teach your partner what you do like in bed and how you do like to be touched,” Sutton explained. “Because if you know how you like to touch yourself, it can be a lot better and a lot easier to kind of communicate that to a partner and figure out how to make your sex better.”

5. Masturbation is a sin

Ah, the age-old conviction that masturbation will send you straight to hell.

Many religious communities are afraid of the conversation regarding masturbation because it’s often vaguely worded in religious texts and sometimes scriptures don’t even mention it at all.

In fact, the Bible hardly mentions masturbation at all. It tiptoes around the subject and focuses more on the idea of lust and lustful thoughts. The different schools of Islam are mixed on the subject. Some believe that it is forbidden except under extreme desire and fear of adultery, wherein it would be acceptable to seek relief.

There’s definitely a lot of negative discourse around masturbation in religious circles that can feel very disparaging. Darryl DeRoches, another sex-positive social worker in London, Ont. said these beliefs date back millennia.

“It goes way back deep in our Judeo-Christian ideals that our society is based on and there’s prohibitions against masturbation and all the major biblical texts with the Quran, the Talmud,” he said.

DeRoches said he often speaks with clients who come in with beliefs about masturbation that damage their self-esteem or affect their sexual function. To help ease them into an uncomfortable topic, he often tells them stories.

“One of the funny stories I often tell about masturbation is that Kellogg’s Cornflakes were actually invented by Dr. Kellogg as a boring and bland food, so as not to fuel masturbatory desires. So Cornflakes came into existence as a way to counteract excessive masturbation. These beliefs have run deep in our society from ancient times.”

As you navigate the world of masturbation, it’s always best to speak to your doctor or do your own research. There are thousands of years worth of negative myths out there, but truth is, masturbation is natural, normal, and even healthy.