I am a father of a teenage boy who is somewhat lost when it comes to approaching my son about sexual health.

In conjunction with Father’s Day this year, I am hoping you can feature tips on how to educate the younger generation about masturbation.

My son is 15 years old, and I accidentally walked into his room while he was masturbating one year ago.

Since then, I have noticed he takes long showers, and appears tired all the time.

My wife also noticed stained bedsheets and tissues under the bed from time to time.

As a father, I worry these self-indulgences will jeopardise his study and sexual maturity in the future.

My wife asked me to raise the subject with my son. However, I find the situation rather awkward and don’t know where to begin.

As a father yourself, and a sexual health specialist, I cannot think of a better person to put on the spot for a talk on the Birds and the Bees.

First, can you please tell me how often do boys masturbate and what is an acceptable frequency that will not harm them?

Can you also debunk all the myths about masturbation; can masturbation cause infertility, shortening of the penis and hairy palm?

Lastly, I heard about “idiosyncratic masturbation” that can cause delayed ejaculation. What on earth is that? Can you clarify that?

Yours truly,

Fatherly Frank

The phrase “the birds and the bees” possibly originated from the inspired words of poet Samuel Coleridge. This is a metaphorical story told to children to explain the mechanics behind human reproduction and the results of sexual acts, using “the birds and the bees” as references.

Here, pollinating bees help explain the process of male fertilisation while birds laying eggs describes female ovulation.

On the other hand, masturbation is a sexual act of self-stimulation for sexual arousal or other pleasure to the point of orgasm. Such sexual act is only observed in human and some animal species.

The self-stimulation may involve hands, fingers or even sex toys as a form of non-penetrative sex. Therefore, it is often difficult to discuss the subject matter to the younger generation, especially when it is a taboo in society.

Cultural and religious views on masturbation may vary and evolve significantly. The 18th and 19th century theologians and physicians described the act as heinous and deplorable, while the 20th century Western world considered it to be a normal and healthy part of sexual enjoyment.

On the other hand, many religions still consider masturbation to be a spiritually detrimental practice, and the legal status of masturbation has also differed through history in many countries. According to the New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry, masturbation and sexual play is common even before puberty and should only be regarded as a sign of sexual abuse when it is out of context and is inappropriate.

The father of sexual health, Alfred Kinsey published a study on masturbation frequency in US population in the 1950s showed that 92% of men and 62% of women masturbated during their lifespan. Similar results were also demonstrated in the 2007 British National Probability Survey, revealing that 95% of men and 71% of women, aged 16 to 44 years, had such sexual habit in their lifespan. In truth, the frequency of masturbation is quite variable, as it is determined by many factors including sexual tension, state of health, peer influences, upbringing and cultural attitude towards sex.

There are many myths about masturbation that are not backed by the scrutiny of science. The old wife’s tales such as masturbation causes blindness and hairy palms are just ludicrous as there is no link between optic nerves and sexual organs while there are no hair follicles on the palm unless a rare genetic disorder circumscribed as hairy dysembryoplasia of palms. The threat of penile shrinkage, curvature and erectile dysfunction again has been debunked by many scientific reports showing no correlation between masturbation and penile injury. Lastly, contrary to the fear of frequent masturbation causing depletion of sperms and male infertility, frequent ejaculation has been shown to increase rather than decrease the overall quality of sperm.

One scientific data demonstrated certain methods of masturbation may be associated with sexual dysfunction of delayed ejaculation. Delayed ejaculation describes a man having persistent inability to achieve orgasm despite repeated sexual stimulation. Idiosyncratic masturbation is a way of masturbation that is unique and not easily duplicated by a partner. This is also described as “traumatic masturbatory syndrome” when the sensation felt by the individual during idiosyncratic masturbation, bears little resemblance to penetrative sex with partner, resulting in delayed or non-ejaculation.

As parents, instilling wisdom of sexual health is clearly important to ensure the health and sexual maturity of the next generation. Clearly, sharing the knowledge and values of sexual health is much more superior than striking fear with old wife’s tale of dubious basis. On that note, here’s wishing all the fathers out there a wonderful Father’s Day!

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