A reader asked ‘is prone masturbation bad?’. No it isn’t and also you should be wary of other sex education articles online.
“I’ve been masturbating pretty much since I started puberty. However, I have done it in the prone position (lying face down on the bed) nearly all of this time. I only learnt earlier this year that this is not a very safe way to masturbate. I first saw information about it online here. There’s also this as well which seems to say the same thing.
I have been trying to train myself out of it by masturbating the conventional way and also by using a fleshlight. I have recently using both these techniques been able to achieve orgasm and ejaculate. However, I still get the temptation to masturbate prone. I’m also a virgin and I worry a bit about whether I’ll be able to have enjoyable sex in the future when I’ve been masturbating in an unconventional way for a long time.
Do you have any advice on other techniques I can use to resist the temptation to masturbate prone and do you know anything about the risks of prone masturbation?”
Thanks for your excellent question. The links you sent to me suggest that prone masturbation (or ‘atypical masturbatory styles’) can affect the nerve endings in the penis and so will affect your sex life. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with prone masturbation and you should do it however you want to. Here’s why. If you want to skip to the advice bit you can.
The prone masturbation articles you sent
I’ve done a bit of reading about this and I’m extremely sceptical about the so called risks of prone masturbation. The healthline article that you sent me has a link to a paper about sexual function in ageing, which mostly talks about many of the known difficulties for men to experience erections as they get older. Stress, cardio-vascular problems, diabetes, other health conditions, and also that they just aren’t as horny as they used to be. They mention ‘atypical masturbatory styles’ and link to a couple of articles that don’t even mention them, so that’s pretty sketchy.
The articles you sent me refer to ‘traumatic masturbatory syndrome’ which I think is a very problematic term that doesn’t seem to be used by anyone other than this Laurence Sank guy. I can’t find a copy of the paper anywhere (which is strange) but I would suggest that it’s not something which has been widely taken up. This response from Go Ask Alice (a website I trust) is really good on this.
Even if the research Sank came up with was good quality (ie a large sample of people who report sexual dysfunction, open questions about masturbatory styles, frequency, force etc) I would still be really really dubious (and so would many sexologists I know). Orgasm and ejaculation are very complicated and they are actually two different things. It has a lot less to do with nerve endings in the base of your penis and much more to do with what mood you are in when you have sex.
Edit: having done a bit more research on this for this article, there’s another academic called Michael A Perelman, who has looked into ‘atypical masturbatory styles’ which includes prone masturbation (as well as other kinds of masturbation). You can read more about this here. He’s saying that how we masturbate might be one thing to consider in overcoming sexual problems. But then in a more extensive paper he and another academic find that this is just one of the very many things we should consider. Because our sexual bodies are not just biological, they are biopsychosocial. Our bodies are in relation to: what we know about our biological bodies, our thoughts and feelings, and what society and culture tells us about our bodies. If you want to understand this some more, try my Teach Yourself Sex Ed module on Bodies.
What actually affects your sexual functioning
The factors that determine what mood you’re in during sex are to do with: how stressed you are generally; how you feel about sex; worries about your penis being hard; what your partner might think about your body; worries about your ‘performance’; worrying about whether your partner will enjoy it; what it means for your relationship; safer sex concerns; privacy concerns.
For erections to happen and for arousal to happen you need your sympathetic nervous system to not be activated. Which means that you need to be relaxed.
As soon as it does (when you get stressed) then it stops you getting aroused. It literally prevents blood from going into your penis and sends it where it’s more needed. So ironically, the more you stress about your erection and your masturbation styles, the more likely it is that you won’t be able to get aroused when you have sex with someone else.
And ‘sexual functioning’ is BS anyway
The idea of ‘sexual functioning’ or ‘healthy sex’ is all based on the assumption that the only kind of sex that ‘counts’ is penis in vagina sex or some other kind of entry sex with a penis. That’s not what sex is. It’s just one form of sex that only a minority of people actually enjoy. So this idea of masturbation as being some kind of ‘training programme’ for real sex is really bad because masturbation counts just as much as penis in vagina sex.
Read is masturbation better than sex?
So you can chill. If prone masturbation is actually causing physical damage to your penis (damaging the skin, or even penis fracture) then stop. Give it a rest for a bit and try a different way (like you are doing). You can also just give your penis a rest too and touch different parts of your body to see how that feels. Side note – people can have orgasms without any touch whatsoever. You could see if you could try that. But mostly I would say everything is fine and don’t worry. Just try to enjoy what you enjoy.
Meanwhile have a good look at all the articles on my website about orgasms, masturbation, and pleasure. Some of the places online where people talk about prone masturbation also talk about sex addiction (read more about about that) and No-Fap and No Nut November (so read more about that too).
Also here are some testimonials about this website, so you know you can trust the info here.
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© Justin Hancock, 2022
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.