I was talking to a group of students when one of them raised their hand and asked, “Is masturbation bad for you?”
I was not alone is looking at her like she was slightly nuts; I try not to judge under any circumstances, but sometimes people ask questions that surprise me so much that I’m startled. I mean, have we not gotten to the point where we all actually know that there are no physical detriments, and may indeed be some physical benefits, from self-pleasuring?
It turns out she had a guest speaker in one of her classes. A Muslim woman, who was also a biologist. And she said that masturbation was bad for you, not just morally or emotionally or ethically, but physically. Physically damaging.
And I said, “Well, I’ve talked to a LOT of people about masturbation and I haven’t heard even one story about physical harm coming to someone as a result of masturbation. And I can’t imagine what mechanism could generate harm from the process of self-pleasuring…” I speculated about using sharp or overly large objects, I mentioned the potential for short-term numbing that can arise from vibrator use… but… to assert that masturbation is categorically damaging?
“It can have emotional consequences, especially if you grow up in a culture that tells you stuff like, ‘masturbation is bad for you and good girls don’t do it,’ but that’s not physical harm.”
And the students were like, “Well, you know, a person is entitled to their beliefs and we should respect that.”
And I said, “Well, sure they are, but not all beliefs are equally deserving of respect. Some things are demonstrably true or not true, while others are a matter of opinion. The grass is demonstrably green, and if someone asserts that they believe it’s blue, they’re free to believe that, but we have no obligation to give that belief respect. On the other hand, some people prefer fish to chicken, and that’s a matter of opinion. We have to respect that.”
And I continued, “This here is a thing that is demonstrably untrue. We have evidence, and she has none, and furthermore she has no account of a causal mechanism. I don’t feel obliged to respect that.”
But. There remains the possibility that something exists that I don’t know about.
So, internet, I’m putting out a call. If you are aware of a case of a person with female genitals experiencing some form of tissue damage or other physical harm caused by masturbation, I want to hear about it!
Comment here or email me or submit a form (click “about emily”) or write a post on your own blog and link to me or tweet about it and @ me. And spread the word – I want to hear from anyone at all who has experienced PHYSICAL HARM as a consequence of masturbation.
Do tell. Really.