South-Asian Scientific Specialist
SSS Center for Sexual Health

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The Indian Link, a leading Australia-India media


Malayalam article on sexual health in Mathrubhumi Arogyamasika


Sexual health awareness program in SBS (Tamil), a leading multilingual radio telecast service in

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Case scenario:

I am 21 years old and started to masturbate from the age of 14, at least once daily. I would like to know whether masturbation leads to impotence or not. I heard a siddha doctor broadcasting in TV channels that masturbating will cause impotence in men and that they will be unable to satisfy their wife and cannot father a child. He is also saying the English doctors will say that masturbation will not cause any problem. So, what is the truth? Please educate me Sir, as I got fear about my habit, which I enjoy and feel good about.


As a doctor trained in Western medicine, I cannot immediately conclude that the traditional practitioner was wrong or inappropriate. The traditional practitioner is broadcasting his views purely based on what he has studied from the traditional medicine that is based on ancient beliefs and values. The two key beliefs in traditional medicine, that are relevant to the topic of discussion, are (1) well-preserved semen produces a male child and (2) a male child will release a man from reincarnation (birth-re-birth cycle). Traditional medicine equates semen to fertility (able to give birth) and masculinity (be able to make good love with wife and be a good and strong man in general. According to the traditional medicine, loss of any one of the seven dhatus (vital fluids of the human body system), in any form, leads to draining of physical, mental energy and virility. This is the background reason for the traditional practitioner to say that any autoerotic behaviour that could result in loss of semen, such as masturbation or wet dreams (nocturnal emissions), could cause (sexual) health problems.

But, what is the truth? The client would like to know the truth, as he is confused due to too much information that is available today but he still likes to continue masturbation but now has the fear and anxiety [originated from the traditional practitioner’s advice on the TV].

The case scenario is discussed in a question and answer format. Before that, I would like to give a brief background about sexuality in India, comparing the past and present.

The ancient Indian society did not legislate any sexual matters other than abortion and adultery. It is also suggestive from the texts and sculptures that ancient India had a much liberal sexual attitudes. In contrast, the mainstream Indian society, even to date, holds conservative views toward many sexuality issues including that of masturbation. One explanation for this change might be the long years of influence by the Victorian sexual values (British rule: 1612 -1947). The two significant events relevant to the topic of discussion within the time period of British India were the launch of anti-masturbation campaign (1707-1717) and later the Purity campaign (since 1880) (Hyam, 1990). Masturbation was one of eight targets of the Purity campaign and was made a “symbol of catastrophe” with newly identified physical consequences like blindness, insanity and acne (Hyam, 1990) were added to some of the existing list of fears like hair loss, darkening of skin, sexual dysfunction, infertility, body weakness, poor concentration in studies and work, failure to gain body weight and so on. Many of these fears are still prevalent and believed strongly as truth among the Indian men.

What is semen?

Semen is a mix of yellowish viscous fluid (70%) that is rich in fructose and the whitish (sometimes clear), thin fluid containing proteolytic enzymes, citric acid, acid phosphatase and lipids. The semen provides a nutritive and protective medium for the sperm during its journey through the female reproductive tract.

Is semen essential for maintaining the nutrition of the body?

NO. Semen provides nutrition for the sperm and not for the human body. The nutritional composition is very small to keep the health of the body. Theoretically, one has to consume gallons of semen to maintain the nutrition of the body. In reality, it is not possible.

What could be the reason to believe that semen is so precious and important?

Beliefs originate from thoughts. Thoughts are not facts and so beliefs are not facts too. A person’s belief about a particular issue that has been with him/her for many years is hard to challenge, as they believe it to be the ultimate truth. Lack of knowledge about the composition of semen and the process of fertility could be the likely causes of forming irrational beliefs about semen. In the past, it was believed that semen goes inside a woman and that semen becomes a baby within the woman. They did not know that fertility involves a female component, the egg without which fertilization cannot occur. One other belief is that men lose testosterone (the male hormone) through semen. This is NOT true!! There is no testosterone in semen.

Does masturbation cause problems like hair loss and dark skin?

NO. Masturbation (the behaviour) itself does not cause any health problems. But, if one has to masturbate with guilt and fear, then that could make them feel nervous, (anxious), worried and stressed. Messages about health problems associated with masturbation like hair loss, dark skin, poor eyesight, thin body, mental and sexual problems are used to create fear and guilt among those who masturbate and make them stop it. But, in fact it is the fear and guilt that cause the health problems and not the masturbation. There is NO EVIDENCE whatsoever to prove that masturbation could result in general or sexual health problems. But there is enough evidence to show that ANXIETY and STRESS could lead to various heath problems including sexual problems.

So, whether one should masturbate or not?

It is up to the individual. Masturbation is a healthy and safe sexual practice for those who masturbate with adequate knowledge about by the facts and not feeling guilty or have any fear about it. But, if someone masturbates without understanding the facts and carry guilt and fear, then it is important for them to be educated and manage the anxiety and stress first. Thus, it is not the behaviour but the feelings toward masturbation that could determine whether masturbation is healthy or a problem.

How masturbation could be a good practice?

For those who masturbate and feel positive and good, it is HEALTHY and also the SAFEST way to let out your sexual urges.

Can masturbation help me in my sex life? How?

YES. You will learn about your own body, become a better lover of your own, can make the foreskin roll-over smoothly and can prevent premature ejaculation, gives self pleasure and also be done with your partner in a mutual way.

I don’t have any negative feelings about masturbation and I enjoy it. But I spend more time on it and perform poor in studies and at work?

In such situations, it is easy to blame masturbation. But, truly it is not masturbation that is wrong but how much time you spend for it. This is no different to spending more time in watching TV or playing video games. You can set a time in a day to enjoy and have a limitation to yourself. Getting addicted to it could be a problem but it is no different to other addictive behaviour, again spending time on other leisure activities.

The purpose of education is to open a closed mind in to an open one. We are living in an era, which allows us to test our thought and beliefs. It is up to an individual to follow the beliefs or the facts. There is nothing right or wrong in either, as long as the person follows it is happy and comfortable.









Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 March 2011 02:21
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