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[Two Pronged] Am I masturbating too often?

Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons. 

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,

I am 26 years old, single, bisexual; no sex experience with males and females. What bothers me is my way of releasing my needs, it’s masturbation.

I started masturbating in grade six. In high school, I did it 3x a week, sometimes every day, in different places and different parts of our house.

During my college years up to now, maybe once or twice a week, at the mall, at work, CR, and whenever I have an urge to do it. I am addicted to it and can’t control it.

I wanted to try having sexual intercourse with female since I am more attracted to females but I still can’t. I don’t have the urge; I still prefer masturbation.

I want to stop; it’s abnormal/unusual.

Thank you very much,

Colin

Dear Colin,

Thank you for your message.

I am not sure where you got the notion that masturbation is unusual or abnormal but the fact of the matter is that it is neither. Psychologically there is no problem unless it interferes with your work or your ability to relate to others (not necessarily romantically).

As for frequency, the old joke – 99% of males masturbate and the 1% that say they don’t are lying – is no less true for being amusing. Numbers differ from study to study (or check this and this), but among males seem consistently above 50%.

Based on what you have told us, you seem to be perfectly normal.

Problems do arise, however, when individuals are members of faiths that proscribe masturbation as sinful and predict direful punishments for those who indulge.

Congregations can be further tested when they are subjected to a never ending parade of spiritual "leaders" who are found guilty of far worse sins. To err may indeed be human but "do as I say, not as I do" is hardly the most inspiring rallying cry.

The problem of reconciling the scientific (masturbation is normal and healthy) and the religious (masturbation is a sin) is ultimately down to the individual. Do you take an absolutist view of the words from the pulpit or are you open to differing interpretations? I was once asked by a priest if I didn’t think that God had far better things to do than worry about my peccadilloes. So at one extreme, masturbation can be a real cross to bear throughout life if you (and your religion) take a fundamentalist view, while if you are liberal in your interpretation it can be no issue at all.

Please write again if you have more details you wish to share.

All the best,

JAF Baer

Dear Colin,

Thank you very much for your letter.

Thank you too for sharing your sexual dilemma (that your masturbating may be an addiction and if not, at the very least, abnormal behavior). In addition, thank you too for sharing your sexual orientation (being bisexual).

With your permission, however, I would like to focus on your masturbating, since this is where you give more details. This is not to say we do not want to address your bisexuality if, indeed, you would want us to do so. It just means both Mr Baer and I prefer to respond to one concern in greater depth, rather than to two issues more superficially. We hope that is ok with you? We also hope you will feel free enough to ask any questions you feel about bisexuality (or anything else) sometime in the future.

You are worried that you cannot control your masturbating. You describe the pattern now as “During my college years up to now, maybe once or twice a week, at the mall, at work, CR, and whenever I have an urge to do it. I am addicted to it and can’t control it…”

I feel you are too hard on yourself, Colin. When you say you masturbate “at the mall, at work," I presume you mean in the CRs at those places. If you do, then definitely you can control as to where you do it. Can you also postpone your masturbating even if you have the urge should your boss want to have a meeting with you? If so, then definitely you can also control the times you do it. These two instances alone clearly show you are NOT addicted to masturbating (should I have misunderstood, then please write us again and we can talk about being addicted to masturbation and the role of “no fap” groups in trying to help you).

Another area of control you seem to have mastered is that masturbation is not to be done in public. Like cleaning your nose (making kulangot) which is also considered a private act, you do not seem to have a desire to do it when other people are around.

When dealing with masturbation, the most important issue (at least to us psychologists) is the psychological meaning of the act, as opposed to the act itself. For example: You can masturbate even just once a week/month but if you are obsessed about it, and can think of nothing else because of guilt or fear, then even once a week/month is too much.

On the other hand, you can masturbate 10X a day (I actually had a client who did so) and yet can love adequately and give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, in which case there is nothing abnormal in what you do. The ability to love and to work was Dr Freud’s (and my) definition of “normality.”

I so hope this helps, dearest Colin. If not, please, pleeeeease write again. I promise you, Mr Baer and I have a lot more studies to share with you should you want or need them.

All the best,

MG Holmes

– Rappler.com

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.