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I recently read an article about masturbation that said, "Masturbation can be good, but you need to be careful. Wash your hands before you masturbate. You can cause infections to your genital organs." I was thinking, Is that true? Can masturbation possibly cause an infection in your penis?

I guess it's possible, if a pathogen that was able to proliferate inside the urethra were to find its way deep inside, or if certain kinds of bacteria got into an open cut or sore. (Gonorrhea and similar diseases often come about when the bacteria that cause them get into the urethra, usually via unprotected intercourse or oral sex.) But I have masturbated almost 10,000 times in my life without washing my hands immediately beforehand, and it's never given me any infections. Still, washing your hands a few times throughout the day is never a bad idea, because it reduces the chances of catching common diseases like the cold or flu. These ailments are much, much more likely to infect you than any masturbation-borne bacteria are.

Is it true that masturbation reduces erections (spontaneous or otherwise)? And if it does, is this a bad thing?

In the short term, generally, yes — an hour or two after masturbating, most guys are less interested in sex and are less likely to get an erection, either spontaneously or through visual, physical, or mental stimulation. This isn't bad at all, because it's temporary and has no lasting effects. As your body "reloads" and prepares for its next ejaculation, your tendency to get an erection returns to normal.

Can a condom be recycled and still have minor traces of someone else's semen on it? I mean, how do they remake them or recycle condoms? I'm worried I may catch a slight irritation from them.
- age 19, New York

Huh? Whoever said that condoms get recycled? Condoms don't get recycled; each one you get out of a sealed package is brand spankin' new (no pun intended). As for irritation, some people do have an allergy to latex; for these people, latex condoms can irritate the skin. Those allergic to latex should use a non-latex condom such as the Durex Avanti, which is made of polyurethane.

I've been masturbating for about 3 years now, but sometimes I notice that whenever I masturbate, I have really bad luck or something bad happens to me — I have a bad day, I mess up something, or a sports team I like loses, things like that. In my last two relationships, I didn't masturbate and things went well, but when I've masturbated when in a relationship, things went badly and I ended up being dumped. Is there any myth, curse, or religious belief that explains my situation?
- age 16, Illinois

Several things may be at work here. Most important, your imagination is going wild on you! Why in the world would masturbation affect matters of chance, negatively or otherwise? As for your sports team, do you really think your masturbation habits affect the team's performance? What about all the other fans — do their masturbation behaviors affect the team's performance as well? Is this a punishment God is dealing out, where the team whose fans collectively masturbated less that day are rewarded with a win? Preposterous! I hate to break it to you, but the world, including professional sports franchises, does not revolve around you and your masturbation behavior. Feeling a little guilty about pleasuring ourselves, are we? That said, another factor is that when you masturbate, you may be subconsciously sabotaging things you can control in your life. This may be a defense mechanism to assuage your guilt — if you convince yourself that masturbation's effects extend to much broader aspects of your life, you may become so overcome by guilt that you stop masturbating (as it sounds like you have, on some occasions), temporarily solving the guilt problem. Human psychology is an amazing thing, isn't it? My advice — relax, enjoy yourself, blame your team's performance on the general manager, and chalk up bad luck to "excrement happens."

Since I turned 18 I have been renting porno videos and DVDs to masturbate to. After getting a DVD with a greasy fingerprint on it, I have become paranoid that I could catch some venereal disease from bodily fluids that may be on the tape or DVD from the previous renter. Are porno tapes and DVDs safe to rent? Should I be careful not to touch myself after handling a tape or DVD?

It won't kill you to wash your hands after handling a rented tape or DVD — adult or otherwise — or touching any surface that other people have recently touched, such as doorknobs, store countertops, or handles and railings in public-transportation vehicles. Doing so may reduce your exposure to things like cold and flu viruses, not necessarily sexually transmitted diseases (which tend to be, after all, sexually transmitted). Yet at the same time you need to be sensible about it; those prone to expressing obessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can easily become fixated on hygiene, and a certain amount of exposure to foreign pathogens is actually good for the human immune system. How careful you want to be is up to you. Your paranoia may actually be an expression of what I call "internalized pornophobia": Society still tells us erotic materials are not mainstream and are the domain of deviants and creeps, and perhaps you don't want to contact someone else's fingerprint on a DVD because you want to avoid any contact with "them." Just an idea.

My girlfriend loves my "pre-cum." If I save it up through masturbation sessions, days later — when I have plenty saved up — would it be safe for her to drink?

That's a tough one. Certainly you'd want to refrigerate or even freeze your collection of pre-ejaculatory fluid, to prevent the growth of bacteria. But I'd guess that if you don't keep it around for too long (say, more than a week), and then you warm it gently in a microwave oven, the fluid probably would be safe for you — uh, I mean your girlfriend — to drink.

Can a guy get cystitis or a UTI (urinary tract infection) from masturbation? If so, how does this happen?

It's probably rare, but anytime anything is able to enter the meatus (me-AY-tus), the opening at the end of the penis, you're at risk of contracting a UTI. Masturbating underwater, such as in a bath, is one way this might happen. Receiving oral sex is another way to contract a UTI, as saliva can get into the urethra that way. For instance, if the person giving oral sex is carrying gonorrhea pathogens, you can contract gonorrhea. But you're pretty safe masturbating on dry land.

A few sites in the Internet claim that masturbation can cause hair loss. Does masturbation really cause a man to go bald? This question has been haunting me for more than a few years.

No, absolutely not! The modern-day version of the traveling snake-oil salesman is the creep who sets up a Web site, sells an herbal concoction, and then convinces everyone who visits that they have problems they didn't know they have — problems only their herbal concoction can remedy. A classic case is the Web sites that have recently sprung up with articles about so-called "over-masturbation," linking the practice to such things as hair loss and chronic fatigue. These articles often sound scientific and are written by someone with "Dr." in front of his name — but understand that someone with a Ph.D. in comparative literature (or any other field) is a Doctor, and there are also plenty of actual, licensed medical doctors out there who are unscrupulous enough to write a phony article for a few extra bucks. The bottom line is that masturbation, no matter how frequent, has no internal long-term physiological effects on the body. If it did (hey, nearly all men have been "over-masturbating" for centuries!), we'd all know about it. A little Web site somewhere wouldn't have this secret if it were really true.

Folks, any time you see an outrageous claim — and this goes far beyond "over-masturbation" or even Web sites in general — ask yourself if the person has something to gain by making this claim. In the case of the sites in question, they definitely do: They scare people into thinking that their problems are caused by an activity they may very well already feel deeply guilty about, in the interest of selling bogus herbal pills (pretty much the same ones that are advertised to enlarge your penis). And in the process, the sites spread misinformation and make masturbation even more shameful than it already is. These people suck! They don't deserve your money!

What do you think about taking a pill to increase your penis size? Especially if it has a money-back guarantee — what do you have to lose? I mean, by taking the pill, will your penis shrink or will you develop some weird disformation?

I doubt it. But no pill can increase the size of your penis or any other body part. If it did, you'd be able to get a prescription from your doctor, not some fly-by-night Web site. As for the guarantee, these sites rely on a curious aspect of human nature: Anytime you spend a lot of money on something, you will tend to convince yourself that it was a good purchase — otherwise, you have to admit to yourself that you made a dumb mistake. So people who buy "penis-enlargement pills" will tend to hallucinate gains and therefore not try to get their money back. Others will simply forget about the guarantee or won't bother going through the effort. And even if as many as half the customers asked for their money back — something that would never happen in reality — the company would still make a fortune selling $60 bottles of pills that cost pennies to manufacture.

You also have to look closely at these money-back guarantees. Many of these "penis-enlargement pill" sites say you'll begin to notice gains in two to three months — but in order to get your money back, you need to return the product within 30 days. Do you see a problem here? Give me a break!

Do you have a statistic for how many people around the world are masturbating at any given moment?

That is a very interesting question! I don't, but let's do some calculations and come up with a conservative ballpark figure. Let's start with men. There are roughly 5 billion people in the world, or 2.5 billion males. Let's say 1.5 billion of those are teenagers or older. Of those, let's guess that 1 billion masturbate regularly. Continuing to make conservative estimates, let's guess that the average masturbation frequency of those 1 billion males is 3 times a week, and that the average duration of a masturbation session is 15 minutes. Taking into account 3 billion masturbation sessions per week, each lasting 0.25 hours, or 0.011 days, or 0.0015 weeks, the figures suggest that at any given time, roughly 4.5 million (3,000,000,000 x 0.0015) males are masturbating. It doesn't seem unreasonable to round that up to 5 million to take females into account. Remember that the next time you are masturbating — you are definitely not alone!

I know "wet dreams" are common for guys, but what about girls? Can girls have orgasms while they sleep the way guys do, and if so, does it happen when there is a lack of sexual release (as in guys)?

"Wet dreams" as such don't occur in women — however, several women have written in saying they've experienced orgasms during sleep. In men, "wet dreams" aren't so much a sexual release as they are a way to keep the "plumbing" of the male reproductive system working. You might say that the female equivalent of nocturnal emission is menstruation, the monthly cycling of the female reproductive system. Men have no such regular physiological cycling of the reproductive system, hence the irregular cycling that happens with nocturnal emissions.

By the way, just so you readers don't start worrying, "wet dreams" aren't all that common in guys who masturbate regularly. A few guys who masturbate every day get them sometimes, but many more — myself included — have never experienced one at all.

When I am sexually excited, I produce *a lot* of "pre-cum" — Cowper's gland secretion. It runs like a faucet! Some of my partners think I have a disease! But the real problem is, it is impossible for me to wear a condom. After a few thrusts, it doesn't emerge with my penis as I pull back, and falls off. I have thought of elastics, but that would be embarrassing, and I worry about stopping the blood flow.

Your condition is unusual but not necessarily abnormal. But since it is affecting your enjoyment of sex, it's something you may want to consult a urologist about. One thing you might try first, though, is an over-the-counter decongestant such as Sudafed. These medications tend to "dry up" glandular secretions, so they may reduce your flow somewhat. Also, look for "snug-fitting" condoms rather than regular ones. These are slightly smaller and may stay on your penis better.

I am 17 and have been masturbating for one year. I've ejaculated every time I've done it, with no "pre-cum" ever having appeared. But recently my girlfriend tried masturbating me, and beforehand, just making out, I secreted a lot of "pre-cum." I had no actual orgasm. Is it possible that all the "pre-cum" is keeping me from ejaculating, or am I just abnormal because I can't have an orgasm without masturbating myself?

Semen and Cowper's gland secretion are two different things, though both share certain ingredients (including sperm cells). It's very unlikely for a guy to secrete his semen in this way without ejaculating. My guess is that you just aren't used to reaching orgasm with a partner — for some guys, doing so is a big step to take and requires several tries. I'm sure you'll get the hang of it eventually. In any case, don't get hung up about it — sexual play should be about relaxing and sharing, not suffering from anxiety and self-doubt.

I read somewhere that using baby oil as a lubricant causes AIDS. Is this true?

No! This could be the dumbest question we've ever received. You may have heard not to use baby oil with a condom during intercourse, as it will weaken the condom and greatly increase the risk of picking up an STD. But you can never, ever get AIDS or any other STD from masturbating alone. (Although to be on the safe side, avoid using the blood of Haitian heroin addicts as a lube.)

I'm 16 and masturbate 4 to 7 times a week. Last year I decided to stop to see how long I could go without masturbating. After almost two months, I decided it was time to take up my old habits. When I ejaculated it really hurt — both in my testicles and my prostate area. And my semen was much more yellow than normal (it's usually whitish). The following times it hurt less and less, and my semen gradually returned to its whitish color. Can you explain the nature of those pains?

JackinWorld recommends masturbating regularly (in part) because it keeps the reproductive system in good working order. If you have an old car sitting around, it's a good idea to start it up every once in a while to get all the parts moving. The human body is a little similar. For people who masturbate less often or not at all (there are a few of them), nocturnal emissions or "wet dreams" perform this function — but if you've masturbated regularly for a couple of years, it may take longer than two months for your system to ease into a pattern of nocturnal emissions. So your plumbing may have been a bit "seized up" after this period of inactivity. When you finally did ejaculate, the many muscles involved may have lost some tone and coordination, resulting in the pain, and an accumulation of prostatic fluid may have caused the color change. As long as you're back to normal now, you should be fine. For everyone else, keep this in mind if you want to quit masturbating — it's probably not worth it, especially if there's any chance that you'll want to start up again a couple of months later.

How do sperm banks induce male orgasm?

They don't — the donors do it themselves. They're given a specimen jar and are shown to a private room, where they practice something called masturbation — you've heard of that, right? That part of the sperm-bank industry is pretty low-tech. When a donor is finished, his semen is usually cryogenically frozen and stored at very low temperatures, where it can remain for years until it's needed. By the way, freezing your semen in a household freezer kills the sperm cells. They're cooled too slowly, so ice crystals have a chance to develop, destroying cell membranes and other structures. At a sperm bank, the semen is flash-frozen by plunging it into liquid nitrogen. It cools so fast that ice crystals don't have a chance to form, to the sperm cells are good as new when they're finally thawed.

I've read that anal stimulation works for guys because we have prostates and all — but can girls get pleasure from anal stimulation? And if so, is there enough there for an orgasm?
- age 17, Florida

Actually, the prostate is only one source of the feelings that result from anal stimulation. There are lots of nerve endings outside the anal opening, and there are nerves in the sphincter (the ring of muscle surrounding the anus), which react when the sphincter is held open by a foreign object (or a turd, for that matter). Both of these are found in women as well — so yes, they can benefit from anal stimulation, even though they lack prostates. In terms of orgasm, women have something men don't in this regard: As with vaginal stimulation, any kind of vigorous activity in that region of the body can indirectly excite the clitoris, the female's focal point of stimulation receptivity. So it's possible a woman could reach orgasm from anal stimulation alone, though it's not as likely as with vaginal stimulation.

I'm 16 and recently got involved in a relationship with a girl. For some reason, since I've been with her, I haven't had the urge to masturbate. In fact, it kind of bothers me. Also, I haven't had a 100% erection in a while. Is there anything wrong?

No — this is very common. Especially after a very enjoyable sexual experience, sometimes the urge to masturbate goes away for a while. I think it's mostly psychological — if you get the idea (subconsciously or otherwise) that a masturbation session couldn't possibly measure up to an experience you just had, your desire to masturbate can go down tremendously. That can also affect your ability to get a full erection. It's almost always temporary, though — even if you have another great sexual experience, the masturbation urge usually comes back eventually.

For some reason I fear that my first sexual experience won't last very long — that I would ejaculate before I even got things going. Will masturbating to pictures of males increase my "sexual tolerance" when I do have sexual relations with females?

That's an odd question. I don't think you'd be asking that unless you already had a desire to masturbate while looking at pictures of guys. That's fine, but I don't think it will increase your "sexual tolerance" with women — if anything, it might decrease it. After all, if the next naked woman you see over the next 3 months is a live one, you might just lose it before your belt is unbuckled!

Read the JackinLibrary article "Masturbate to Practice for Sex" for tips on how to build your "sexual tolerance" through masturbation.

I'm almost 50, and I'm a paraplegic. I have no feeling below the belly button. I do get sexually aroused and can get a partial erection, and I try to masturbate and it does feel good — but not like it should. I can do it for long periods of time and do get a lot of satisfaction. However, I cannot have an orgasm. I try so hard sometimes, and I get frustrated. I have been looking at JackinWorld and did not know that there were so many ways to masturbate. Do you have any insight to my problem?

Your question is a little beyond our scope of expertise — if you haven't already, you should discuss the concern with your neurologist and/or urologist. I am not surprised you cannot achieve orgasm if you're paralyzed below the waist — orgasm and ejaculation are very complicated mechanisms involving a lot of nerves and muscles of the pelvic region. It's possible, through a kind of physical therapy, that you could train your body to reach orgasm, but I just don't know how likely that might be. As I said, a physician would have a better idea. Good luck.

The other day I found a lubricated condom in my sister's room. My friends have told me about their experiences of masturbating with lubricated condoms, so I decided to try it. It left my hand and penis with an awful smell, and I had to scrub to get the stench away. Do all lubricated condoms smell like that, or was it just a bad one?

No, they aren't supposed to smell like that. Some of them do have a very mild odor, but they certainly should leave a smell behind. I do have to ask, though — it wasn't a used condom by any chance, was it? (Just kidding.)

What lubricant most closely resembles the secretions from a woman's vagina? Some people tell me it's like Vaseline, and some say it's baby oil.

Vaseline (the petroleum jelly, not the lotion) is too thick. Baby oil is closer — but it's not greasy like either of those oil-based substances. Actually, you know what comes out when you have a runny nose? That's almost identical to vaginal lubrication, because it's made of the same stuff (largely water and mucous).

I have been taking a nutritional supplement called creatine monohydrate for a year. I started taking it when I was 17 (I'm 19 now), and before I started I remember being very horny and masturbating every day — but now I masturbate only 3 or 4 times a week. Does masturbation frequency decrease with age, or do I have a problem? I've also noticed I do not sustain an erection as easily.

I don't know about any connections between creatine and impotence. There is a connection with true anabolic steroids — they definitely can have sexual side effects — but as for creatine, I don't know. It's true masturbation frequency often decreases somewhat after puberty is over, and since you still seem to have a healthy libido I would not worry about it. But you might try going off the creatine for a month or so and see if you notice any changes (although this would not necessarily be conclusive). For more information about masturbation frequency and age, see Survey #3 and Puberty Survey.

I'm a 34-year-old guy who loves to masturbate. I think I'd really enjoy masturbating in public, even though I haven't done it yet (I'm too afraid). But the urge for me to do this is greater and greater as time goes on. I love the idea of having people see me masturbate in a public place, and better yet, achieving orgasm. Do you think I need help because I feel this way? Are these feelings common? I often feel guilty, too.

These feelings are indeed common, and they don't necessarily mean you need "help" unless they're so consuming they significantly alter the ways in which you can or cannot enjoy sexuality. But while the feelings are common, what's different about the way people deal with these feelings is the extent to which they act them out. Bear in mind in our society it's considered very unacceptable to masturbate in public places where strangers can see you. So what you need to do is work on either enjoying the fantasy without acting it out, or find a way where you can explore the fantasy in a safe, legal manner — perhaps through role-playing with a partner, or in some kind of private sex club. I definitely do not recommend exposing yourself to someone who doesn't want you to — not only is it illegal, it cost President Clinton close to a million dollars!

I am a 19-year-old college student who lives in the dorms. I used to masturbate 10-15 times a week — but here, I have masturbated only twice. Both times were on the same day, and the following day my nose was always running and I was extraordinarily tired. Are they in any way related?

It's very common for a person's masturbating habits to change radically when his or her lifestyle changes radically. It's probably temporary; as you settle into a new routine and have less on your mind your old masturbation habits may return, at least partially. I don't know about the runny nose, but I'd guess there's no connection.

When I was younger I used a back massager as a vibrator. It gave the most intense orgasms, which was why I used it as often as possible. Now, when I masturbate with my hand I can fairly easily achieve orgasm, because I can keep rhythm to exactly what feels good for me. However when I engage in sexual activity or even just mutual masturbation, no matter what the other person tries it just doesn't feel good enough to build up to a climax — it can take me forever to have an orgasm, and in some cases I have to give up. The anxiety makes things even more difficult. I read on JackinWorld that you shouldn't use artificial stimulation (such as a vibrator) too often, as it can decrease sensitivity, so I'm assuming this must be my problem. How do I cure it?

Since you don't have a problem masturbating to orgasm when you're by yourself, I don't think it's a sensitivity problem. It's probably more of a trust issue, or an inability to let go completely with another person. I would suggest working carefully with a sympathetic partner who understands your concerns and will help you solve your problem. If you make a serious effort and are still unsuccessful, some kind of counseling or therapy might be helpful. It could take quite a while, and you might have to work on it, but it's important if you want to enjoy sex to its fullest. In the mean time, you can always let your partner masturbate you (I assume that's still at least somewhat pleasurable) and then finish yourself off before it gets so far along that anxiety begins to set in.

Why are some orgasms more intense than others? Having an orgasm is always "heaven" for me, but I have had some that were so good they were far beyond "heaven." I am 44, and somebody told me orgasm intensity goes down as you get older, and that the most intense orgasms are felt by boys of around 16 years of age. Is that true?

Not necessarily; it's certainly not true for everyone. I've heard from readers who say their orgasms have gotten less intense over the years, but I've also heard from readers in their 40s and 50s who say they're currently experiencing their best orgasms ever. The intensity of any particular orgasm depends on the following factors:
1. The person's body — physiology and nervous system. It seems some people's "average" orgasm is simply more intense than others'.
2. The amount of time since the last orgasm. The longer you wait, the more intense an orgasm tends to be.
3. The duration and intensity of the stimulation received. When you're physically stimulated, your body produces seminal fluids and "gears up" for ejaculation. It's like winding a spring — the longer you stimulate, the greater the tension and the more dramatic the release.
4. Biorhythms — On some days we just feel more sexual than on others. All else being equal, orgasms on these "sexual peak" days tend to be more intense than on other days.
5. Frame of mind — For some people, being relaxed is more conducive to a great orgasm; for others, tension and stress can heighten an orgasm. These may depend on personality type, on your body, or both.
6. Setting — Similarly, for some people a calm environment with plenty of time and privacy yields the best orgasms; for others, the best orgasms are had in "dangerous" places where they might be "caught."

There are probably other factors as well. It appears orgasms — and the factors that go into their intensity — are too complex to make broad generalizations.

I am a 14 and have been masturbating for about a year. I have always used some kind of lubrication — spit, lotion, Vaseline, etc. I have yet to have a "hand job," but I was thinking, when I do get masturbated by another person, there will most likely be no lube. I don't produce "pre-cum," and I don't think I would help the moment by asking if she minds while I lube up! So when I do get a "hand job," will I orgasm? Masturbation without lube just doesn't do anything for me.

If you're accustomed to masturbating with a lube, and masturbating without lube is not as pleasurable, chances are you won't be able to fully enjoy being masturbated by someone else without lube. I'd guess you would not be able to ejaculate by being masturbated this way. Saliva is an option if your partner is willing. But I'd suggest doing it in a comfortable place (i.e., not in the car) where you can take your time and have the appropriate resources handy. Explain in advance, before the mood sets in, that a little lubrication feels much better for you, and show your partner how you like it done. That will result in a much more successful time than if you just wing it — especially if you're worried how you'll perform.

Once when I was masturbating I had to have a bowel movement. I didn't want to stop, so I just went in my underwear. I then had the best orgasm of my life. Since then, I have repeated this act a couple of times. Has anyone else ever done this? Is it not recommended?

The reason this unusual practice is pleasurable to you is the same reason why some men enjoy anal stimulation: there is something about the nerve endings of the rectum that can generate intense pleasure when they're stimulated during an orgasm. Aside from the obvious personal-hygiene issues, I don't really see anything wrong with this — although you will make much less of a mess if you use some other object to create the stimulation rather than your own feces. See the JackinLibrary essay on anal stimulation for details. (Note: This article is for mature readers only.)

I am a 27-year-old happily married male. My problem is I have to keep "pushing the envelope" to get off while masturbating. Recently, my friend and I masturbated in front of each other and ended up masturbating each other. It was great, but I keep thinking what we did was wrong. I don't think I'm gay but I get extremely aroused when I think of him stroking me and me stroking him. I have even considered having mutual masturbation sessions with other men. I believe it is just the taboo of the act that gets me off, because I have no attraction to men at all.

You don't necessarily need to be attracted to men to want to masturbate with them. You're attracted more to the idea of masturbating with them, and that seems to be more common than actually being attracted to male bodies. Ask yourself what it is that's causing you guilt: Is it that you may be uncovering bisexual tendencies, or that you're being unfaithful to your wife, etc. Once you've worked that out, decide from there if it's a good idea to continue. It may also be worthwhile for you to discuss your feelings with your wife, if you haven't already.

I have a 13-year-old stepson, and we get along great. To make a long story short, about a year ago we had a conversation about masturbation; I explained it to him and said I did it and there is nothing wrong with it. He claimed he did not do it. But I walked in one night to turn off his TV, and he had fallen asleep with his boxers wide open and his penis in his hand. I covered him up, and the next day I talked to him about it. He insisted he does not masturbate. I let it go but told him to be careful, because he did not want his mom walking in on him like that. This has since happened twice more. I asked him again, joshing with him about his habit, and he got really defensive again, saying, "I don't like being accused of something." How do I handle this? Should I just drop it? I know at that age it's hard to admit to something like that, but I've tried to instill a healthy outlook on the subject and was hoping he'd be a bit more relaxed about it. What am I doing wrong?

Don't blame yourself so much. As much as you've tried to develop healthy attitudes about masturbation in your stepson — and for that I applaud you — his perception of masturbation has probably been shaped by his peer group. As you probably know, among certain groups in junior high school, it's popular to use masturbation as a put-down. People call each other masturbation-related names and imply that masturbation is only for losers, gay people, etc. This of course is their way of dealing with their own masturbation habits (denial). Some of this has probably affected him, so no matter what you say he still feels guilty about masturbating.

At this point you've probably done about all you can do, although it never hurts to continue subtly supporting the idea that it's all right. You could try to have a heavier conversation with him, where you try to find out the root of his guilty feelings — but that might not work too well, as he seems already to be sensitive about his privacy. It might be a good idea to tell him he's old enough that you or his mother won't come into his room anymore without knocking, because you respect his privacy, as he should respect yours. Also by way of gentle reassuring you could leave him lube or tissues or anything else you might feel is appropriate and needed, although use your judgment to determine if that might be going too far.

My guess is with time, as he matures emotionally, he'll relax a bit and start joking about masturbation. Until then, be proud you've handled the matter in a mature, progressive manner — you're helping a lot more than you know.

Why do they call it "masturbating"? What do the "master" and the "bate" mean?

It's from a Latin word, "masturbari," meaning to masturbate. Unfortunately it's not very interesting!

Is it unhealthy to masturbate with live objects — for instance, lizards or other small animals?

This question is difficult, and it's hard to make a definitive answer without more information — specifically, what exactly you're doing with the animal. As long as you aren't doing anything against its will, like holding it or tying it down, and as long as it's free to leave if it doesn't like what's going on, I can't see how occasional experimenting would be necessarily bad. Of course, you shouldn't do anything unsanitary, as many animals carry germs that are more unhealthy for us than for them. Finally, I'd say you should keep such practices occasional. If you're doing it so often that you one day find it's necessary for arousal, that's an unhealthy situation and could get you in psychological trouble later on. Overall I'd say as long as it's clean, occasional, and kind to the animal, it's not going to kill you.

I have managed to keep my masturbation habit to myself for about 2 years, but the longer I continue, the greater the odds will be of getting caught. What do I do if my parents catch me in the act? They don't even let me lock the door to my room.

If you can, try to develop an understanding with your parents that they knock before entering your room. I'm sure they wouldn't want you to barge into their room without knocking, and you deserve the same privacy. If they do walk in on you, just quickly cover up and say something like, "Excuse me, I'm not dressed — could you please knock before coming in?"

If they refuse and continue to invade your privacy, there's a chance they may be trying to "catch" you (as you describe it, a word JackinWorld dislikes because it implies you're doing something wrong by masturbating). In this case you may have few options other than masturbating late at night, or when nobody is home, or in a private place away from home. When you're old enough to move out, you won't have these problems anymore.

My school is in the middle of a high-crime area, and I've heard it has a high density of AIDS cases. Every day when I get home, I masturbate. I've even masturbated at school in the boys' bathroom. Is there any way I could get HIV from masturbating?

Absolutely not. The virus lives in bodily fluids (notably blood and semen) and cannot survive for long when exposed to air. The only possible way you could get HIV from masturbating was if you had cuts or scratches on your penis and got someone else's semen or blood onto it.

I always get very depressed after ejaculating. It has nothing to do with guilt or anything — I know masturbation is as normal as breathing and sleeping. But the problem is so irritating I masturbate only right before going to bed. I risk spoiling the day if I do it in the morning. Is there a reason for this?
- age 17, Norway

Orgasm releases a rush of hormones into your system — and while the hormones involved are similar from person to person, everyone reacts to them a little differently, because our brain chemistries are different. Your brain chemistry may be such that depression, normally dormant in your day-to-day life, is unveiled temporarily when you have an orgasm. I don't have much more to tell you, except that if it's interfering with your quality of life you may want to bring it up with a doctor. If it turns out you have an unbalanced brain chemistry, there may be medications that can bring the condition under control.

Can I use hand lotion as lube for anal stimulation?

It may or may not be safe; at the very least it might irritate the mucous membranes. I don't recommend it. You're better off with a commercial lube, or perhaps plain glycerin (available at the pharmacy; you may have to ask for it).

When I've ejaculated recently, is there a smell others can detect but I can't? After I masturbate I always get paranoid that my parents will come in and smell my ejaculation and know I have been masturbating. I'm getting really worried and don't know what others might think about me.

I remember having these thoughts as a teenager, too. To answer your question directly, no — unless you have very strong-smelling semen, I don't think it's likely someone could walk into the room and know by smell you've been masturbating. On a larger scale, though, by asking this question you're exposing your guilty conscience. You can't smell anything yourself, and you don't make any noise or leave any other "clues" to those around you — yet somehow you are paranoid (your own word) you're leaving traces of the "bad deeds" you're doing. And even if someone could tell you've been masturbating, so what? To quote one of your fellow JackinWorld readers, "As I've gotten a little older, I take more of a "who cares" attitude [about masturbation]. I have come to realize that I have to do it, and they have to accept it."

Will I smell if I masturbate every night without taking a shower? I'm worried that when I masturbate at night on my bed, the next day at school people will know I've been masturbating because of my smell. Also, if I don't smell, will my sheets or clothes?

Either way, I seriously doubt it. Think about it — have you ever thought someone smelled like they just masturbated? Or heard anyone say someone smells like they masturbated? Didn't think so!

Your "paranoia" suggests you aren't comfortable with the idea of masturbating, so you feel guilty about it. My advice would be to work on these hang-ups rather than worrying about it so much.

You've said masturbation doesn't cause acne. But I've noticed that if I don't masturbate for a while, my acne gets better. If I do masturbate, I break out the next day! There is a definite, 100%, unquestionable link — and believe me, I've tested it over and over! The funny thing is, if I have sex with my girlfriend, I don't break out as much. Could it have to do with going to sleep straight after sex, which helps the skin? (I masturbate in the morning.) Some people say acne causes masturbation — that the hormonal changes cause you to want to masturbate — but this is not what I mean. I can decide to stop masturbating, and the acne goes away. If I then start, I get bad spots. Yet the so-called "experts" call the above connection a "myth"! Sorry, "experts," but I think we know better on this one, as we have the evidence. I'm available for tests!

Sorry, but I still don't buy it. You're perceptive to notice the possible parallel causes of acne and masturbation — hormonal surges — and I think this is what happens in most teenage boys. The time-of-day theory is interesting, and you might want to test that out yourself. But I have another possible explanation.

It's fairly well known that stress can cause acne flair-ups. This is due to a connection between acne and the nervous system. And any disorder that's associated with the nervous system — such as a pinched shoulder nerve or bad back — is highly susceptible to what's known as psychosomatic effects. This refers to the creation of a real symptom in the body as a result of certain psychological, mental conditions. Perhaps you've convinced yourself so deeply that masturbation causes acne that when you masturbate, your body creates the acne to complete the circle. Even though it may seem unbelievable and bizarre, and that it couldn't possibly be happening to you, psychosomatic effects are widely documented, and this seems like a definite candidate. Of course, it could also be more direct: If you stress out about masturbation — perhaps because you're worried about how it will affect your skin — the acne could flare up because of the stress. It's a vicious circle.

The other reason I doubt your theory has to do with approaching the problem from a different scientific perspective. If what you say were correct, there would have to be a reason for the mechanism to occur. There would have to be some physiological difference in your body between masturbating and intercourse. In one, the penis is getting stimulated by a hand; in another, it's a vagina. From a scientific standpoint, that's about the only difference (except maybe your girlfriend's perfume). Again, the time of day might be an issue. If having sex were also causing acne, we'd have a lot of factors to consider — but if it's just masturbation, we don't. So I maintain that masturbation does not cause acne.

Is it wrong for me to want to videotape myself masturbating? I am underage — are there any legal implications I should know about?

That's a very good question, but I don't know what to tell you. Not being a lawyer, I can't offer legal advice, and I'm sure the laws depend on where you live. But rest assured you aren't the first person to videotape himself masturbating, and certainly not the last.

I went to look for a tube of K-Y Jelly [lube]. I found it exactly where you said it would be. The label had "Non-oxynol 9" written in big letters on it. What is non-oxynol 9, and what is K-Y jelly used for besides masturbating?

Non-oxynol 9 is a spermicidal (sperm-killing) substance usually used in conjunction with another contraceptive (such as a condom or diaphragm) to further reduce the risk of pregnancy. Therefore, if you're using a condom in intercourse as a means of birth control, it's better to use a lube with non-oxynol 9. In addition to masturbation and intercourse, personal lubes are used to aid insertion of rectal thermometers, enemas, and tampons.

My dog is forever licking his penis. Is this normal? Is it his way of masturbating? When doing this he has a frowning expression on his face — is that a sign of frustration? If so, should I assist him with my hand, or would that be a form of bestiality?

There's an old joke that goes, "Why do dogs lick their [testicles]? Because they can!" Yes, it probably is a form of pleasure for him; masturbation (in various forms) is known to occur in lots of animal species. But that "frown" you see probably isn't a sign of frustration — determination and concentration, maybe — so don't feel you have to help. (And you're right, offering a "helping hand" would be a form of bestiality.)

For about a year off-and-on, I have been acquiring pornography collections to masturbate with. I'll add to a collection for a week or two and then feel guilty and delete all of it. Two or three weeks later, on a late night, I'll start collecting again. The cycle will repeat itself, and I'll feel guilty or dirty and delete all of my pornography again. What are the emotional, physical, and religious consequences of masturbating with pornography for a teenage male?

I don't really feel comfortable giving a direct answer to your question, because the jury is still out on whether it's okay for young people to have access to pornography. Suffice it to say that many people — your parents probably included — would not approve. The bigger issue here, though, is the "cycling" you mentioned. It is a definite sign of pornography addiction, which is a real condition experienced by many people. It is obviously causing emotional difficulty for you, so for that reason alone you should speak to some kind of professional about it. Your guilt and shame about pornography and sexuality are more profound than most people's, so that needs to be dealt with. As a result, I would say that in your particular case, you should try to stay away from the pornography as much as possible, because it is certainly not helping matters.

Are there other guys whose nipples are very sensitive? I get amazingly turned on when they are fondled — especially when a girl sucks on them. I also almost always rub them when I masturbate, and I get a much fuller orgasm that way.

This is absolutely normal and quite common. There are certain similarities between men and women regarding nerve endings in certain parts of the body, and this is one of them. Enjoy it all you want!

I have been trying to buy condoms for masturbation and intercourse from the local CVS [pharmacy] for some time now, but the clerk always says I am too young. The manager told me I need to be 18 to buy them, and he even falsely accused me of shoplifting when I tried to ask why! It doesn't make sense that we can't buy condoms if we need them. What should I do?

This is terrible! Young people should never be turned away from buying condoms! I don't know where you live, but it's unlikely there's a law prohibiting minors from buying condoms — and if there is, it should be changed. It may be just a store policy. If so, go someplace else! Condoms are available from all drug stores, some supermarkets, and even some other places. There are also mail-order houses that sell condoms (I don't know if they sell to minors, however). If you go this route, try to stick to name-brand condoms, which are of higher quality and are safer. As a last resort, you may be able to find a condom-dispensing machine (they're in some public rest rooms) — although these condoms are often cheap and of poor quality.

Whenever I get sexually aroused, I often find myself in the process of ejaculating, even though I'm not touching my penis. Is there something wrong with me?

I seriously doubt it. Some people — especially when they're young — are able to ejaculate without ever having their penis directly stimulated. You'll probably lose this ability as you get older.

I have decided to purchase a sex toy for masturbation. I was thinking about getting a lifelike masturbator or a fake vagina or lips. I get really excited just thinking about the day when I get it in the mail. I was just wondering if you thought it was normal for a 19-year-old male to want to buy a sex toy. I know it isn't that common, and I don't think many of my friends would understand.

The concept of sex toys carries a big stigma in our society, because it's assumed only desperate, lonely people use them. This isn't at all the case, though, and these attitudes seem to be changing slowly. There's a store/mail order house called Good Vibrations (I believe they're online) that sells sex toys from a very mature, wholesome, healthy perspective — so there's no need to feel guilty about it. And tell 'em JackinWorld sent you!

When I masturbate I sometimes fantasize I'm using a sex toy, like a female "love doll" or a "vibrating vagina." I've never thought of actually buying one until recently. But I have mixed feelings about it. I've never had a girlfriend (not that I worry about that, it'll come eventually), but do you think buying one of those things is a bad thing? My clear mind says, "Don't be ridiculous — get a life!" But when I feel like it, I think, "Why not? It isn't going to hurt anyone or anything." Should I put it out of my mind? Am I losing it sexually?

Not at all! You're merely experiencing curiosity, which is perfectly healthy, and at times when you're not interested in sexual things you're...well, not interested in sexual things. Don't be afraid of things you're curious in. As I always tell people, though, be careful about getting too dependent on sexual toys or other erotic inanimate things. Make sure you use them occasionally, and make sure you're perfectly able to function sexually without them. If you think you're getting a little too dependent on them, it's time to put them away for a while.

I have enjoyed masturbation for about a decade, and sometime soon I plan to go away to college. This is no ordinary college, though — this is Bible College, and it is very conservative. The thing is, I cannot be masturbating if I am attending a school that is to prepare me to become a minister. If I screwed up and they found out I masturbate, I would get into very big trouble. I have tried to break the habit before several times, but the best I could do is 2 weeks — and then I could not sleep at night, so I gave in.

This is a difficult situation. If you've already settled on that particular school, are you sure it's the right one for you? It seems you've been able to reconcile your religion and your need to masturbate, and if this school finds masturbation and spirituality incompatible (which may or may not be the case), it could prove to be a tough time for you, mentally, physically, and spiritually. It seems to me that if you're committing yourself to an institution of spiritual learning, you're also committing yourself to that institution's ideas of what's right and what's wrong. If possible, find out more about the sexual atiitudes there at the school, and based on that, either re-evaluate your decision to go there or your decision to continue masturbating. If it's important to you on a very high spiritual level, it should be possible for you to abstain from masturbating while you're at the school, should that be the path you decide to take. Good luck.

What's the difference between oil- and water-based lubes?

Oil-based lubes use things like petroleum distillates (mineral oil is a petroleum distillate) instead of water. They don't dry out, but they tend to be hard to clean up, and they destroy condoms. Water-based lubes dry out and require more frequent replenishing, but they also clean up easier and are condom-safe.

How do I tell my mom I want to go to the doctor's to get a checkup? I'm 14 and have a few questions I would like to ask him; I'm kind of shy, and my parents aren't too open about discussing sex.

Well, there are a couple of options here. It's difficult, but if you could somehow convey to your parents that you have a couple of questions regarding sexuality, they would probably understand. Even if they're uncomfortable discussing the topic with you, I'm sure they'd rather have you talking it over with a doctor than have you pick up misinformation "on the street." As an alternative, talk to your school nurse about it. Perhaps he or she can answer your questions, or refer you to someone who can.

I am going into the military next year. I have been told they do not allow masturbation. How can I cope with not being able to get myself off every now and then? Will I ever be able to masturbate?
- age 18, Colorado

While your commanding officer probably will not put up with open masturbation, there's nothing they can do about the men masturbating under the bedcovers at night. And I'm sure that's what everyone will be doing. Believe me, very few men go through four years in the service without masturbating!

I would like to get some condoms to use when masturbating, but I am very embarrassed to get them. I know I can get them at the supermarket or drug store, but I am very embarrassed. What should I do?
- age 13, California

There really should be no embarrassment in buying condoms. Find a place where you don't need to ask for them, and just pick out a box. A popular technique is to buy some other stuff so it's less obvious. You have to realize that the person at the cash register has seen people buy condoms, as well as other much more embarrassing things, many, many times and will probably not even notice what you're buying. It's easy to get the feeling you're the first person who ever bought condoms, but that's just not so.

The clerk almost certainly won't say anything, but if he did, I'd just say, "These are for sale, aren't they?" (I really doubt it would ever come to that, though.) I'm sure once you buy your first box, it will be no big deal. Good luck.

Is it possible to get a magazine like Hustler or Penthouse at my age?
- age 14, Illinois

These magazines are published for adults only and cannot be legally purchased by minors. Many underage boys do get their hands on them, though, through older brothers or unscrupulous newsstand clerks — but chances are if you ask for one you'll be turned away.

My son came to me last night and asked if I would show him how to masturbate. He's 14. I have always been open to him, but I am afraid of the legal matters I could get into if I showed him. He has seen this site but he is unable to understand the correct motion due to Down syndrome.
- age 41, United Kingdom

There's a simple solution — show him the motion with a penis-shaped object, such as a cucumber or a large candle. There's nothing illegal about fondling a cucumber, is there?

I have a son who is 10 years old, and I want to talk to him about masturbation — to let him know it's okay and that he can talk to me about it. What's the best way to approach this? Some of your readers say they were physically shown how. Do you recommend this?
- age 28, Pennsylvania

I don't think it's necessary. Usually, just explaining what it is and describing one or two basic techniques will do it. Of course, you can always sit him down at the computer and show him JackinWorld — we do the explaining for you! But don't let that stop you from explaining it yourself, which will show your son you care deeply about where he gets his information. Either way, I commend you for taking this almost always ignored, but hugely important, educational step.

I don't know if I should tell my parents I'm masturbating. For some reason, I'm not comfortable with talking to them about it. I don't tell anybody (even my best friends) that I masturbate. Is it okay to tell them? What about the fact that I masturbate at least two times a day?
- age 12, Nevada

It's natural not to want to talk to parents about sex — although if they're well informed, they can provide you with sound advice and help when you have questions. As for your friends, feel free to tell them about your very normal habit — but don't be surprised if they use it against you! Kids your age can be pretty cruel about these things.

I recently heard a college student talking about a "dirty old man" who "probably still jacks off." I happen to masturbate all the time and have never felt dirty or perverted. Do they think we lose interest just because of our years?
- age 62, Texas

It's a common misconception among young people that the sex drive goes away as men get older. But it doesn't. You should continue to enjoy masturbating, and don't let anyone make you think you're "dirty" for doing it!

How come former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was fired?
- age 14, California

She was once asked some questions about sex education, and she boldly stated that "perhaps masturbation was something that should be taught" in public schools. The press made a big stink out of this simple answer, President Clinton felt some pressure, and so he asked her to resign. (She was not actually fired, but for all intents and purposes, she was.) I immediately wrote both the President and Dr. Elders; I received a standard form letter from the White House and a very nice, thankful form letter from Dr. Elders. Joycelyn, if you're listening out there — we love ya, babe!

What do you think about using amyl nitrate ("poppers") to add to the masturbation experience?
- age 19, United Kingdom

I am definitely against the use of inhalants to "enhance" the orgasm. These are powerful chemicals that enter the bloodstream and do who-knows-what to your system and your brain. Some drugs are worse than others, and these (in my opinion) are near the top of the list. I've tried them on several occasions, but I quickly grew to dislike them and became suspicious of what they were doing to my body. The natural orgasm is so incredible, why try to "enhance" it with nasty chemicals? My advice is to stay away from inhalants!

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