Why do people punish themselves for masturbating?

Metro Lifestyle 1 month ago
Illustration of a woman with hands on her head in bed
Some people feel deep shame over masturbating (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Flicking the bean, bashing the bishop or any other colloquial terms for masturbation are usually done shrouded in secrecy

Though there’s nothing to be ashamed of, even the most sex-positive folks might not shout from the rooftops that they indulged in some self-love.

But for some, it’s more than a heady thrill: it’s a dark and insidious act.

Fapping is the colloquial term for masturbating and on websites like NoFap and Reddit, users are hating on themselves for a bit of self-pleasure.

There are legitimate concerns about masturbation addictions on these sites, which sex and relationship counsellor Charlene Douglas tells Metro.co.uk would be like any other addiction.

‘It goes from habit to addiction when you become dependent on it,’ she explains. ‘It has an effect on your day to day activities and you can’t focus on anything else, can’t participate in everyday life. That’s when it becomes a problem.’

But even some of those users who aren’t addicted but do occasionally indulge are looking down on themselves for doing it.

There seem to be incessant attitudes of self-loathing in these spaces. Users have used self-deprecating language, labelling themselves ‘pathetic’, ‘ashamed’ and even undeserving of happiness for enjoying one of life’s simplest pleasures.

Not only that, they seem to hate on others who engage in masturbation, whether alone or with a partner.

One post reads: ‘In the end, it will never satisfy you. The most broken and lonely people I know from firsthand accounts are those that give their bodies away left and right.

‘They make it harder for themselves to experience true love and will have great difficulty anchoring themselves to someone.’

Sleep illustration
‘I hate myself in the act’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

These followers are berating themselves for a pretty ordinary and normal act that they may not necessarily be addicted to.

Many attest to doing it a few times a week or doing it because they haven’t found a partner yet.

Or they try to wean themselves off because they perceive masturbation as a sinful, perverse and detrimental act, using harmful language to describe it.

Shame is another major theme spread across these sites. There seem to be several reasons that people find their non-addictive masturbatory habits problematic.

Alex* tells Metro.co.uk that chronic reliance on porn to orgasm affected his relationships with people.

‘I feel flat [when I masturbate]. My brain is so used to the dopamine spikes from masturbation that I don’t feel happiness at all.

‘I saw people as sex objects instead of people when I fapped a lot, and they can actually sense how you view them.

‘Being seen as sex objects can really creep them out and potential partners. I honestly don’t like not being able to feel happy. So I stopped fapping.’

Similarly, Tony cites his choice of porn in making him want to stop doing it altogether.

‘I hate myself in the act,’ he explains. ‘Furthermore, the porn [I watched] had to get weirder and weirder. I am straight, but a while ago I was using women’s sex toys on myself. Like what am I really worth if all I can do is give in to lust?

‘It’s very much showing how much lack of will power I have over myself.’

For some users on these sites, prohibition is about prioritising romantic relationships and conserving their sexuality exclusively for their partner.

While it’s up to the individual what they want to do with their bodies, this idea that penetration (that too in an exclusive relationship) is the only legitimate way to be intimate is harmful.

This mentality of prioritising sex and seeing penetration as the end goal discredits self-love and worth.

Placing such importance on penis to vagina contact also does a disservice to the asexual, those with health conditions plus those from LGBTQ+ backgrounds.

And yet some go as far as to barter with themselves to stop. A female university student on an anti-masturbating forum tells Metro.co.uk that she sets targets for herself to avoid it.

‘I make little deals with myself. Positive reinforcement is much more effective for me. I’m currently trying to reach 30 days without PMO and I tell myself that if I can reach that goal, I can buy myself a music album that I’ve been really looking forward to.

‘Sometimes there are no benefits, in the past I’ve tried (with some success) to reach some milestones like that, two or three weeks without PMO just to see if that was something I was capable of, to know my worth.’

But there are many benefits of self-love including stress relief, better sleep, skin, productivity, and more.

Counsellor Charlene says it’s important to understand that there’s nothing wrong with masturbating.

‘The purpose of the clitoris is pleasure, it’s okay to explore that. Masturbating is a stress reliever and it makes you feel good.

‘If you feel shame over non-addictive but persistent or occasional masturbation, identify where that’s come from.

‘Explore the route of your shame. Often it’s to do with the way we’ve been taught about sex and the culture we’ve grown up in (or sometimes, religion).

‘Get away from myths and untruths surrounding it. Keep the conversation alive with peers and friends.’

Those who are not entirely addicted but want to wean off may want to try a type of sex therapy called sensate focus, adds Charlene.

It’s what she advises for couples not wanting penetration.

Sensate focus is concentrating on one’s own sensory perceptions and sensuality, without the goal of orgasm.

You can try this on yourself, have a bath, massage, touch yourself in other parts of your body, not just genitals, different arousal points.

This might feel less shameful than masturbating.

Occasional touching is different from an overwhelming compulsion but if you do find yourself doing it and thinking about it a lot, there are some steps you can take.

Woman's orgasm face illustration

‘Understand what’s happening to your body,’ advises Charlene.

‘The body becomes addicted to the rush of dopamine that comes with watching porn/climaxing but it needs more and more extreme content to keep satisfying it.

‘You might need to seek professional help if it has a stronghold over your life. Journal your progress and identify where it tends to peak i.e stressful periods, perhaps when you’re humiliated or bored?’

If you seek professional help or tell someone about it, it may be easier to curb it as you’re held accountable.

Because putting the weight of your worth on one simple act is a huge responsibility for it to bear.

And what it does is place a whole load of pressure and power on a personal and healthy act – an impossibly hard expectation to meet.

Our professional and social lives are filled with such regimented precision (study, get married, own a home, have children etc), let’s not look to the private and personal with the same attitude.

*Names have been changed.

Tags: Health, Sex

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