For a period in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States and Europe, there was a fear that masturbation caused terrible things to happen. Myth had it that mastur­bation resulted in insanity, death, or even sterility. Parents would go to extremes to pro­tect their children from the sins of masturbation. In fact, aluminum gloves were sold to parents for the purpose of covering children’s hands at bedtime so that children wouldn’t be able to masturbate.

Many of these beliefs have persisted, even to the present day. However, today mas­turbation is beginning to be viewed as one way to promote sexual health and well­being (Coleman, 2002; Wood, 2005). In fact, men who ejaculated more than five times per week during their 20s, 30s, and 40s are less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life (Giles et al., 2003). Researchers suggest that this is because frequent ejaculation prevented build-up of semen in the ducts, where it may be carcinogenic (of course these ejaculations could be a result of frequent sexual activity or masturbation or both).

Masturbation fulfills a variety of different needs for people at different ages, and it can decrease sexual tension and anxiety and provide an outlet for sexual fantasy. It al­lows people the opportunity to experiment with their bodies to see what feels good and where they like to be touched. It can provide information on what kind of pres­sure and manipulation give a person the greatest pleasure and orgasmic response. In addition, masturbation can be exciting for couples to use during sexual activity. They may masturbate themselves or each other, either simultaneously or one at a time.

Mutual masturbation can be very pleasurable, although it may make reaching orgasm mutual masturbation

difficult because it can be challenging to concentrate both on feeling aroused and Simuitane°us ^^itation of sexual pai-tn^

by each other.

pleasuring your partner.

For the majority of American boys, their first ejaculation results from masturba­tion, and it is often the main sexual outlet during adolescence (see Chapter 8). Janus & Janus (1993) found that 48% of single men masturbate weekly or more, whereas 28% of women do so. Choosing to masturbate is an entirely personal decision. You do not need to masturbate to be a good lover; in fact, some people who never masturbate are terrific lovers. For some people, masturbation may be unacceptable for personal or religious reasons.

College students are among the populations who have been found to masturbate, and research indicates that the largest gender difference in sexual behavior is in the in­cidence of masturbation—college men masturbate more than women (Hyde & Oliver,

2000; I. M. Schwartz, 1999). Men who masturbate do so three times more frequently than women do during the same periods. Interestingly, the National Health and Social Life Survey found that people who are having regular sex with a partner masturbate more than people who are not having regular sex (Laumann et al., 1994).

Many men and women feel guilty and inadequate about masturbating because of the lasting cultural taboos against this behavior. In relationships, masturbation is the most commonly kept sexual secret between the partners (M. Klein, 1988). Outside of the United States, however, attitudes toward masturbation differ. In some cultures, mastur­bation is acceptable and may be practiced openly and casually in public (as in certain ar-

Human Sexuality in a Diverse World