Masturbation is many things. It’s a chemical-free way to relieve stress. It helps us understand our bodies and how they work. It allows us fuller knowledge of what works for us sexually. Plus, a nice orgasm or two just before bedtime is known to promote relaxation and restful sleep. Some people want to keep everyone away from masturbation, calling it “sinful,” or even “depraved.” But how depraved could it be if nearly everyone does it? If nothing else, the sheer number of people who look at Internet porn should tell us that masturbation is neither deviant nor destructive - especially when used in moderation! But what does the mean, exactly? Is there such a thing as masturbating too much?

Masturbating With Toys

Masturbating with marital aids is even more offensive to some people. A certain former presidential candidate recently described vibrators to be “the devil’s fingers” when used to stimulate the genitals. I don’t know about you, but I’d totally buy a sex toy called “the devil’s finger.” Sounds naughty. Up until 2008, the state of Texas declared it illegal to own more than six dildos or phallic vibrators. Thankfully, that law was eventually found to be unconstitutional as an affront to our right to privacy. However, the fact that anyone was that concerned about what other people are doing with their privates should give us all pause.

How Much Is Too Much?

How do you know how much is too much? Or is there even such a thing? One of my favorite comedians (and yours too, I bet) has a telling story. At Around age 14, his penis became red, raw and itchy. He didn’t understand why, but the issue seemed serious enough for him to tell his mom. She took him to the doctor, who examined the boy and then spoke alone to his mother. On the drive home, he felt confused and humiliated. Finally, his mom looked over at him and said, “Would you like a subscription to Playboy magazine?” That’s right. The boy, who grew up to be Daily Show host Jon Stewart had masturbated himself raw and had to see a doctor. Not only is that kind of adorable, but it’s also a valuable lesson about taking it easy. (And using lube, people!)

It’s not just boys who have to be careful about too much masturbation. Celebrated sex-haver and “Happy Hooker” Xaviera Hollander has long cautioned the women in her employ not to overuse vibrators. She claims that while occasional use is probably fine, getting used to strong vibrations will make it more difficult to achieve orgasm through more conventional means. This can lead to a cycle of unsatisfying sex followed by solo vibrator play…one that can potentially spiral into never fully enjoying conventional sex again. That sounds a bit extreme to me. However, if you’re a vibrator enthusiast wondering why sex with your partner seems less satisfying lately, it’s something to think about. This reminds me: If you prefer masturbating over having sex with your partner, that probably deserves some consideration, particularly if this is something that bothers you or your partner. Whether it’s about the physical stuff or the relationship itself, you owe it to both of you to figure it out. As for the vibes, Hollander isn’t completely against them, as she explains in this charming song.

Fatigue is another purported side effect of too much masturbation. After all, if you stay awake all night “rubbing one out/in,” you’re going to be tired the next day. Of course, the same could be said for reading, watching TV, or playing Bejeweled on your phone. There are studies that suggest that a glut of masturbating - particularly to porn - correlates to so-called “sexual exhaustion” that presents as erectile dysfunction or even outright impotence. Honestly, I’m not convinced by such studies. To my ear, they sound like exactly the kind of thing people make up to frighten us away from solo-giggity.

What have we learned? If you’re masturbating until it leaves your genitals are dry, sore, chafed, or otherwise injured, you need to dial it back. If you’ve spent so much time with a vibrator that touching without vibrations feels like no touching at all, it may be time to take the batteries out and try another activity. Conversely, if you spontaneously develop blindness, or you’re the palms of your hand grow a thick, werewolf-like mass of hair, you can rest easy. These things, while alarming, are emphatically NOT the result of too much masturbation.

In the end, there’s no magic number of times that it’s OK to masturbate. It’s up to each of us to decide whether our self-play is harmful to our bodies, our libidos or our relationships. It's also up to us to use common sense. Masturbation is about loving yourself. And that should feel good all around.