Masturbation and Erectile Dysfunction: The Surprising Facts

By Reviewed by Sexual Health Published on March 15, 2014 Updated on September 26, 2019
Masturbation and Erectile Dysfunction: The Surprising Facts

A century ago, doctors railed against masturbation, blaming it for everything from blindness to insanity.  Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, [1]Wikipedia. (2004, February 26). John Harvey Kellogg. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harvey_Kellogg a particularly strident masturbation opponent, even claimed that it could lead to death; fortunately, he later redeemed himself by inventing corn flakes and peanut butter.

Today, we know that, despite everything their grandmothers might have said, the majority of men (about 61%, based on the National Health and Social Life Survey [2]Das, A. (2017). Masturbation in the United States. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 33(4):301-17. DOI: 10.1080/00926230701385514) masturbate, and research is suggesting that it may be an important aspect of sexual health for both sexes [3]Coleman, E. (2002). Masturbation as a means of achieving sexual health. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 14(2/3), 5–16. doi: 10.1300/J056v14n02_02

But is more always better, and is all masturbation equal?  Can masturbation be associated with sexual difficulties? In most cases, the answer is, “Go ahead and do whatever feels good, as often as it feels good.” But let’s explore this in a bit more detail, and look at the best ways of playing solo and a few ways that it could reflect a problem.

Masturbating for Great Sexual Health

First and foremost, masturbation helps you know your own body.  If you don’t discover what YOU like, how in the world can you be expected to tell your partner what to do?  Can you teach someone how to play the violin if you’ve never held a bow in your hands? If you learn to pleasure yourself in a creative fashion, you just might discover how to be a creative sexual partner for someone else.

Make your partner happy

Secondly, masturbation and intercourse release beneficial chemicals, [4]Bec, C. (2018, January 25). Is Masturbation Good For You? Science Weighs In. Science Alert. Retrieved from https://www.sciencealert.com/is-masturbation-good-for-you-science-answer particularly dopamine, a chemical that stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, and endorphins, substances that reduce the perception of pain. They also release prolactin, a neural transmitter that helps you fall asleep afterward. These are mechanisms that today’s medical science is only beginning to explore, but we will almost surely discover more about the connection between good sexual health and good overall health.

There is also some evidence that more frequent ejaculation in men is linked to a decreased risk of prostate cancer, according to Harvard Medical School. [5]Harvard Prostate Knowledge. (2009, April). Does frequent ejaculation help ward off prostate cancer? Retrieved from https://www.harvardprostateknowledge.org/does-frequent-ejaculation-help-ward-off-prostate-cancer The Harvard researchers found that men who ejaculated 21 times or more per month had a 33% lower risk of prostate cancer.  While not all studies agree, there are other good investigations that back up this claim. (Note – just because these learned scientists mention 21 times per month, DON’T start keeping a clipboard under the bed – just remember that in this case, more is probably better).

Also, the penis and the pelvic floor muscles (all of the muscles behind and at the base of your penis) are like any other muscle in the body – they benefit from exercise and get stronger.  Strengthening this area may have beneficial effects for sexual functioning and urinary control later in life.

The Dos and Don’ts of Masturbation

Masturbation Frequency

The more we learn about human beings, the more we learn that they are infinitely variable.  There is no “standard” frequency that fits all men. Some individuals like to masturbate often and others don’t. Normal ranges are from a few times a week to a few times a day.  The problem comes when excessive ejaculation affects your ability to have sex with a partner or when you prefer masturbation to sex with your partner (i.e. masturbation addiction). Too frequent ejaculation and stimulation may lead to a painful, red penis!  And occasionally, someone tries a masturbation technique that is just downright dangerous. The results can be left to your imagination – don’t put anything anyplace where you can’t get it out again.

On the other hand, you may masturbate as often as you want without ejaculating too often (this is called ejaculation edging). This may bring you all the benefits mentioned before without the downsides.

Masturbation Techniques

Once again, human beings are immensely variable, and men are very diverse in their preferences and masturbation techniques. However, certain masturbation techniques can lead to difficulties in achieving arousal or climax. For example, if masturbation is usually done with very rapid movement and/or great pressure and friction and one’s system becomes used to this degree of stimulation, the result may be what experts call “retarded ejaculation”. [6]Perelman, M. A. (2011, December 13). Understanding and Treating Retarded Ejaculation: A Sex Therapist’s Perspective. International Society of Sexual Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.issm.info/news/reviews-reports/understanding-and-treating-retarded-ejaculation/ Basically, men who masturbate in this way come to need a very strong stimulus to feel pleasure, and it may be difficult for their partner’s vagina, mouth, or hand to duplicate this heavy-duty stimulation.

Remember: Delicate, prolonged stimulation, carried out when you have time to really think about it and can stay present, can be EXQUISITE.

What About Using Porn?

Pornography, about one of the hottest topics that you can raise, is an area of intense controversy and one that we are only beginning to understand. Here again, tastes vary enormously and the best advice may be ”All things in Moderation.”  Some people don’t like pornography, but watching porn at times is perfectly normal and may help you learn a thing or two, as well as give you ideas about what you should do with your partner next time.

But the problem with too much porn is that it may physiologically and/or psychically hamper your emotional connection and your erection during intercourse with your partner. [7]Tyger Latham. (2012, May 3). Does Porn Contribute to ED? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/therapy-matters/201205/does-porn-contribute-ed

side effect of masturbation

Consider the following scenarios:

  • Pornography can aggravate an existing masturbation addiction or even create one.
  • Let’s face it: most of us DON’T look like the guys and gals in the porn flicks.  Most of us can’t afford the gym memberships or the hours of lifting weights that it takes to keep looking that buffed up. So the risk of too much porn is that you get used to seeing young hard bodies, and real men and women just don’t measure up.
  • If you are turned on by some fetish that you can only watch in movies and not perform with your partner, you may lose the desire to have sex with your partner altogether.
  • The more porn you watch, the more graphically stimulating porn you will need to keep your erection going, leading to impotency during normal intercourse.
  • Porn may also lead to performance anxiety concerns.  After all, can you really keep up with those big, overly-muscled hunks?
  • Most important: porn actually seems to change your brain. Our nervous systems adapt to new conditions.  If you break a leg, narcotic medicines are actually beneficial, reducing pain and stress and helping you to heal more quickly. But if used for too long, your brain adapts, needs more and more for the same effect, and you may find yourself addicted.


There are many fancy terms to describe the erection problems that too much porn may induce; most experts call it porn-induced ED.

Stop Watching Porn

If porn has affected your ability to have sex, then you should consider stopping watching porn altogether, with time the problem should improve or disappear. Take time to form a connection and discover just how inventive your partner (or you yourself) can be!

Change Your Lifestyle

ED is often caused by something that may be easily treated with exercise and nutrition then you may definitely cure it yourself!  This is also true for porn-induced ED. You can check out our guide on erectile dysfunction.

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References   [ + ]

Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc

About Fran Sanchez, BSc MSc

Fran Sanchez, the founder of Herbolab, graduated from Uppsala University (Sweden) with a master in molecular biology and Karolinska University (Sweden) with a degree in medical sciences and business. He then moved to Singapore to run e-commerce operations in a pharmaceutical company, until eventually, he could fulfill his dream of creating a brand dedicated to help men reach their peak performance. Drawing on his experience as a lifelong multi-sport athlete and cutting edge medical and scientific research, Fran launched herbolab tongkat ali as flagship supplement in April of 2014. Fran now spend most of his time weight lifting and creating content dedicated to improve people’s lives.

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