WEIRD Masturbation Habits

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Who are the solo-sex world champs?

Spoof of heavy masturbation habitThis is the exciting sequel to Masturbation, Fantasy and Captivity. That post began with Leonard Shlain MD's observation that no animals masturbate with the intensity and ejaculation frequency of human males, and concluded with historical support for the suggestion that today's habits might be a function of our modern lifestyles rather than innate human behavior.

Now it appears that Shlain's statement may only apply to the WEIRD. Last year, Cambridge University's Behavioral and Brain Sciences published a review: "The weirdest people in the world?" Its authors pointed out that scientists routinely make broad claims about human behavior—using samples drawn almost entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies. Fully 96% of the subjects whose behavior has been reported in top psychological journals were drawn from only 12 % of the world's population.

For practical reasons, the subjects most often recruited are Western university students, who are immersed in radically atypical circumstances compared with the rest of the species. So, "It should not be surprising that their psychological world is unusual as well." (pp. 79-80)

Indeed, another academic wryly suggested that a better acronym for many student subjects would be MYOPICS: Materialist, Young, self-Obsessed, Pleasure-seeking, Isolated, Consumerist, and Sedentary. In his view, about all that students can reveal is "what humans might be like if they were utterly REMOVED from most normal selective pressures. [Specifically:] the utter nihilism and lack of restraint when normal constraints on human behaviour and decision making are relaxed."

As members of WEIRD societies are among the least representative populations for generalizing about humans, the review's authors caution that, "We need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin, and rather unusual, slice of humanity."

With this perspective in mind, let's reconsider what we think we know about our intense and frequent masturbation habits. Anthropologists Hewlett and Hewlett point out that,

The Euro-American human sexuality literature gives the impression that male and female ...  masturbation are common if not human universal, in part, due to a reliance on several systematic and detailed studies conducted in [WEIRD] nation states. One human sexuality college textbook states that, "masturbation is a very common practice among adolescents, and that the vast majority of people masturbate at some time in their lives."

Hewlett with Aka peopleHowever, as the Hewletts document in their 2010 study, Western sexual patterns, including our frequent masturbation, are unusual by cross-cultural standards. The Hewletts arrived at this conclusion in part by studying the sexual behavior of two central African cultures. They were astonished to learn that neither the Aka nor the Ngandu were aware of masturbation:

They laughed as we tried to explain and describe the sexual activities. We thought that maybe they were shy or embarrassed individuals, but this would have been uncharacteristic of the Aka we had known so long. ...

It was difficult to explain self-stimulation to the Aka. They found it unusual and said it may happen far away in Congo, but they did not know it. A specific word did not exist for it. We asked men, in particular, about masturbating before they were married or during the post-partum sex taboo and all indicated this did not occur. ... [emphasis added]

Masturbation also appears to be rare in other forest areas. We asked Robert Bailey ... about his experiences of trying to collect semen for fertility studies from Lese men in the Ituri forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He indicated it was very difficult to explain to men how to selfstimulate to obtain semen samples. He said that despite explicit and lengthy instructions three of four semen specimens came to him mixed with vaginal secretions. pp. 113-114

In view of cross-cultural standards, the Hewetts caution that college-textbook representations of human sexuality probably reflect the interests and priorities of middle-class Euro-American [WEIRD] cultural models rather than those of humanity. (Watch a documentary about the easygoing Aka.)

If it's prudent to be cautious in generalizing about the practice of masturbation itself, perhaps we should be even more cautious in insisting that masturbation to any intensity of stimulation and with any ejaculation frequency is normal. It may be common for the subpopulation of the WEIRD to masturbate with increasing frequency under the influence of today's ever novel and hyperstimulating Internet porn. Yet such frequent masturbation appears to be exceptional in the larger context of human behavior. 

Interestingly, there is a WEIRD operational definition for "hypersexual desire," but one never hears it. Curious? It's "7 or more orgasms/week for at least 6 consecutive months after the age of 15 years."

It's worth noting that, regardless of where WEIRD sexologists may set the bar for normal masturbation, its frequency is a rapidly moving target. Sexuality counselor Ian Kerner recently estimated that men are masturbating 50 to 500 percent more than they would without Internet porn—with adverse repercussions in the bedroom. We, too, hear from lots of (young) men who can now only sustain an erection while masturbating to Internet porn.

Might it be beneficial to educate ourselves about the rest of the world's masturbation habits? Pointing out the existence of a wider range of solo-sex behavior can be accomplished without shaming anyone. If we saw ourselves against the backdrop of the fuller range of normal human behavior, we might be more likely to recognize the source of any problems arising from excess. Broader knowledge might, in fact, encourage people to experiment with options more beneficial to them—without thinking themselves weird.


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Comments

I can understand that only men were allowed in the monastery but then they must have masturbated all the time right? Probably not. No internet, no magazines. Focusing mentally on whatever religion they were dedicating their lives to. They probably didn't feel any need to masturbate.

I have only been free from masturbation for 60 days but already I can say that I feel no urge to masturbate and that those days are behind me. I have also come to understand that when you devote yourself to your job, your hobbies, blogging, friends, family, shopping, going to the gym, updating your CV, reading, housework, car maintenance, nights out with colleagues, sorting out your personal finances, cooking and other stuff besides that, you don't have time to masturbate.

I have had to work on not fantasizing mentally because I have been used to doing that all day every day for about 8 to 10 years, having used internet porn.

Imagine however that you were coming from a different angle. You had no experience of the internet, you had never seen a naughty magazine and you were living a monastic lifestyle in a place where there were no women to look at whatsoever, and the focus was very much on other things in life, least of all sex. It would then be easy to not masturbate, at least in my opinion.

I haven't lost any respect for monks and religious people that abstain from sex, but I am no longer in shock and awe when I think of them going for years, perhaps even their whole lives without sex. In the right conditions it would be easy. In the Playboy mansion or in a strip club it would be absolute hell.

If you're having trouble with your reboot, then I recommend getting rid, not just of porn, but anything vaguely sexual. Men's Health, Cosmopolitan, FHM, GQ etc. All of those magazines can contain images that could set your mind spiralling out of control. You may have to stop watching re-runs of Friends if you find Rachel, Monica and Phoebe hot.

Man 34yrs. I am suffering from performance anxiety,but now I see my ED was induced not only by my "whats going down there" vorrysome thougts but with my 20 yrs of chronical PMO. Tried to stop,quitted masturbation for 26 days,but all the time I was watching porn sites,and reading Literotica stories.When I compare what was getting me off when I was 14 and what heavy stuff I need to use now I see that something is wrong with me.Luckyly at Christmas I stumbled upon this site.Now I am clean,and I tend to stay like that untill I feel the reeboot is over. Tonight is the end of the day 7.My problem for now is how to get rid of fantasies?2 days ago I was on a trip in nature with my sister,her husband,and his mother,55yrs not good looking widow.All the time I was watching at widow's behind,imagining porn scene with her.Every time I diverted my thinking on religion,but beeing a man is hard and again I was looking and daydreaming,and again diverting,and so on.2 hours of hell,this will be a hard battle,the worst enemy,my own brain,but I know I will win,it is only the matter of time.Time is crucial.THANK GOD ON YBOP SITE.

Flashbacks, dreams, random thoughts, sexualizing anyone & everyone, are all common during reboot. An FAQ - How do I cope with porn flashbacks?

Good luck with the reboot.

Can you take a look at my question ? : let's say that one had used to masturbate to porn in some particular ways , for example : using particular cream , or rubbing the nipple while doing it , touching particular places in his body , making a particular sound/voice , taking a particular position or move while masturbating to porn ... etc ( or any other suggestions .. ) ... so those behaviors are kinda linked to watching porn , so during or after rebooting could fapping with an old way regenerate the urge to watch porn again ? .... I'm trying to understand why my urge to porn has come back after masturbation after a good omission/reboot , I guess I used an old technique in masturbation that I used to do in the past while watching porn ( not every time )..... I'm on the right way now & walked a good distance but I want to understand this point more ...

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I can't thank you enough for this site !

in that it's a conditioned response - like Pavlov's dog salivating when the bell was rung. Two events linked in the brain. Masturbation is ringing the bell and porn is salivating.

Another effect, we call the chaser effect - is orgasm causing a urge for more orgasms, or for some porn use. See - Do You Need a Chaser After Sex?Do You Need a Chaser After Sex?

Lastly, it's an addiction - time will cause sensitized addiction pathways to slowly fade. See - Why do porn cues still trigger a rush (sensitization)?

Are the men of the African Aka tribe the best fathers in the world?

While the women hunt, the men look after the babies - even letting them suck
their nipples. Joanna Moorhead asks anthropologist Barry Hewlett why
the Aka are such unusual parents

It's a question that has united Aristotle, Darwin and my
three-year-old in puzzlement: what exactly are male nipples for ? This
week, the charity Fathers Direct came up with an answer, courtesy of
some research it unearthed about a nomadic tribe of African
hunter-gatherers. The answer, it seems, is the one my three-year-old
(and Darwin, to be fair) suspected all along: male nipples are there as a
stand-in for when mum isn't around and there's a squawking bambino in
dire need of something to suck.

And, when you think about it, why
ever not? Surely a male nipple, deficient though it is in terms of
sustenance, gives a more pleasant sucking sensation than, say, a dummy.

That's certainly how it seemed to Professor Barry Hewlett, an
American anthropologist who was the first person to spot male
breastfeeding among the Aka Pygmy people of central Africa (total
population around 20,000) after he decided to live alongside them in
order to study their way of life more closely. By the time he noticed
that babies were sometimes being suckled by their fathers, it wasn't as
stunning a revelation, however, as it might have been had he spotted it
going on in the breastfeeding room at Mothercare in Manchester.

Because
by then Hewlett had realised that, when it comes to gender egalitarian
parenting, the Aka - who call themselves the people of the forest - beat
anyone else he'd ever studied hands down. According to the data he
began collecting more than two decades ago, Aka fathers are within reach
of their infants 47% of the time - that's apparently more than fathers
in any other cultural group on the planet, which is why Fathers Direct
has decided to dub the Aka "the best dads in the world".

What's
fascinating about the Aka is that male and female roles are virtually
interchangeable. While the women hunt, the men mind the children; while
the men cook, the women decide where to set up the next camp. And vice
versa: and it's in this vice versa, says Hewlett, that the really
important message lies. "There is a sexual division of labour in the Aka
community - women, for example, are the primary caregivers," he says.
"But, and this is crucial, there's a level of flexibility that's
virtually unknown in our society. Aka fathers will slip into roles
usually occupied by mothers without a second thought and without, more
importantly, any loss of status - there's no stigma involved in the
different jobs."

One especially riveting facet of Aka life is
that women are not only just as likely as their men to hunt, but are
even sometimes more proficient as hunters. Hitherto, it has usually been
assumed that, because of women's role as gestators and carers of the
young, hunting was historically a universally male preserve: but in one
study Hewlett found a woman who hunted through the eighth month of her
pregnancy and was back at work with her nets and her spears just a month
after giving birth. Other mothers went hunting with their newborns
strapped to their sides, despite the fact that their prey, the duiker (a
type of antelope), can be a dangerous beast.

If it all sounds
like a feminist paradise there is, alas, a sting in the tale: Hewlett
found that, while tasks and decision-making were largely shared
activities, there is an Aka glass ceiling. Top jobs in the tribe
invariably go to men: the kombeti (leader), the tuma (elephant hunter)
and the nganga (top healer) in the community he has studied are all
male. But that doesn't detract, he says, from their important
contribution as co-carers in the parenting sphere: and nor, either, does
it reduce the impact of the message he believes the Aka people have for
western couples struggling to find a balance between the demands of
employment, home-making, self- fulfilment and raising kids.

"The
point about the Aka," says Hewlett, "is that the active role the
fathers have is simply one facet of their entire approach to life, and
it's that approach as much as anything that we can learn from. One thing
that's crucial in the raising of the young is the importance placed on
physical closeness: at around three months, a baby is in almost constant
physical contact with either one of her parents or with another person.
There's no such thing as a cot in an Aka camp because it's unheard of
for a couple to ever leave their baby lying unattended - babies are held
all the time." Aka fathers, apparently, aren't averse even to heading
down to their equivalent of the pub with a child attached to their chest
(or even their nipple); the Aka tipple, palm wine, is often enjoyed by a
group of men with their infants in their arms.

It's all a far
cry from the west and, says Hewlett, the first thing fathers here could
think about is the lack of time and physical contact they often have
with their young kids. "There's a big sense in our society that dads
can't always be around and that you have to give up a lot of time with
your child but that you can put that right by having quality time with
them instead," he says. "But after living with the Aka, I've begun to
doubt the wisdom of that line. It seems to me that what fathers need is a
lot more time with their children, and they need to hold them close a
lot more than they do at the moment. There are lots of positive
contributions fathers can make to bringing up their children, but we
shouldn't underestimate the importance of touch and cuddles."

This
is one of the most important lessons the Aka brought to Hewlett's own
experience of parenting, he says: he's a father of seven kids, aged
between 13 and 22, and he has moulded his life and career so he's been
able to be around a lot as they were growing up. He says that his
studies of the Aka have also made him a more trusting and sharing father
(two qualities the Aka have in abundance, apparently).

Another
lesson the Aka have for us - and this is for all of us, mothers as well
as fathers - is about how precious children are, and how lucky we are to
have them in our lives. If it sounds a bit schmaltzy well, that's
exactly why we need to hear it: the fact is, says Hewlett, that we've
strayed into believing that our kids are a burden rather than a blessing
and that's something the Aka never do. "To the Aka, your children are
the very value of your life. The idea of a child as a burden would be
incomprehensible there ... children are the energy, the life force of
the community." A saying from another tribe he's studied, the Fulani,
sums the sentiment up: they say that you're lucky if you've got someone
who will shit on you.

But back to that male breastfeeding: Jack
O'Sullivan of Fathers Direct says he was invited on chat show after chat
show on Monday in the wake of the report going public, and faced a
mixture of horror, consternation and support. "Some fathers phoned in to
say they'd let their child suck their nipples - often it had just
happened when the baby was lying on their chest in bed," he says. But
some people were disgusted: the words "child abuse" came up more than
once, which points up interesting cultural differences when you think
that, to Aka folk, much of the way we raise our kids would count as
child abuse to them (babies being left to sleep alone in a different
room from their parents, for example).

For O'Sullivan, what is
sad is that the negativity to the Aka revelation points up the
continuing awkwardness around intimacy between fathers and their
infants: while mother-child intimacy is very public, and celebrated,
father-child intimacy is still shied away from and worried over, despite
an increasing body of evidence showing that, given the chance, fathers
can be every bit as respondent to their infants as mothers in terms of
reading their signals and communicating with them. In a nutshell, says
O'Sullivan, men are scared of intimacy with babies and small children -
and it could be that looking anew at that fear, with reference to the
Aka experience, could be a useful and liberating male experience.