Dear Dr. G,

I am in my late teens and am about to enter university.

I started masturbating when I was about thirteen years old – which my parents learnt about after discovering stains on my beddings.

My mother believes I over-indulge and that this may be harmful to my health.

I started having a girlfriend when I turned eighteen and I enjoy our sexual relationship tremendously.

My girlfriend and I enjoy sex very frequently and we text each other very regularly when we have sexual thoughts.

In recent months, my girlfriend raised some concerns about our behaviour and reckons this is going to ruin our future.

In fact, she thinks I am sex-obsessed and need counselling.

I really need to put Dr. G on the spot about sexual thoughts in youth.

What is the normal frequency of sexual thoughts in young adults? Is it normal for a man (and women) to have regular sexual thoughts? Do young men think about sex more than women?

Are excessive sexual thoughts harmful and if so, what can be done about it?

Excessive Ed

Addiction is defined in the dictionary as “The state of being enslaved to a habit or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such extent that its cessation causes severe destruction.”

On the other hand, obsession is thought to be “the domination of one’s thought by a persistent idea, image or desire.”

In reality, though, it is a fine line between obsession and addiction.

When an obsession “enslaves” a person to a point of “destruction”, then the addiction would become an entity that is threatening.

Of course, sexual obsession and addiction are both pathological, but what constitutes “physiological” frequency of sexual thoughts in men and women has gained media attention – there are reports that say men think about sex every seven seconds!

But the fact is, the source of any supporting data is impossible to trace and no scientific studies can replicate the findings. If you were to scrutinise the claim, it would mean an average man has sexual thoughts around 7,200 times per day. That really leaves no room for anything else in the mind!

In one Ohio State University study, 283 college students aged between 18 to 25 were asked to keep track of their thoughts, including sex, food and sleep for one week. The study reported frequency of sexual thoughts in men ranged from one time to 388 times per day, compared to women with as frequency of between one to 140 times.

The study also revealed the median number of sexual thoughts for men is 18.6 times daily, and halves among women at 9.9 times. The other interesting finding is the number of sexual thoughts was not statistically higher than thoughts about food and sleep.

The study concluded men think about sex once or twice per hour. Even the most sex-obsessed participant, who has sexual thoughts 388 times per day, is having dirty thoughts every two minutes instead of every seven seconds.

A moderate frequency of sexual thoughts that is appropriate is generally perceived as having a healthy libido – however, the interpretation of “moderate” and “appropriate” differ vastly between societies and individuals.

Sexual obsession become problematic when the excessive fixation with sexual activity is debilitating, making the person ashamed of the symptoms and reluctance to seek help. The preoccupation with sexual matters tends to be unsettling and interfere with the individual’s life.

Because sex carries significant emotional, moral and religious importance, sex actions that temporarily relieve the anxiety will often end up with guilt and self-blame.

The other form of sexual obsession involves intrusive sexual thoughts. These are “immoral” sexual thoughts including undesired sexual orientation, fear of committing harmful sexual acts or involves sexual aggression.

As individuals affected by such obsessive-compulsive behaviour are plagued by unwanted imagery of committing inappropriate sex, this makes it quite different from someone being homophobic or having sexual fantasies.

The German physicist and satirist, Georg C Lichtenberg once said: “Many things about our bodies would not seem to us so filthy and obscene if we did not have the idea of nobility in our heads.”

In Darwin’s theory of evolution, the survival of the fittest is dependent upon the ability of the species to pass on genetic material through sexual acts – as often as possible.

Therefore, the constant desire for sex in men (and women) should be considered normal, as it is the main driver of procreation.

Will such desire “enslave” individuals to the point of “destruction” or the appropriateness of the contents of the thoughts be immoral is determined by the idea of “nobility in our heads and society”.

Dr G’s view is “The filthy minds and obscene thoughts will forever succumb to love and respect for each other, when moderation and value of life is upheld by the nobility in our heads!”

Failing that, Excessive Ed can always preoccupy his head with the beautiful thoughts of food and sleep!

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