Toying With It

I easily masturbate on average twice a day, once if I’m really tired.
Unfortunately I haven’t invested in toys yet, but I’m wondering if I will eventually lose sensitivity. Does masturbating too much have any harmful side effects on my sex life?
-Touched by Doubt

When people ask about sensitivity loss, they’re generally asking one of two things: if the subjective pleasure they experience will be reduced over time or if they’ll eventually require more stimulation to reach orgasm.

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t lose sensitivity simply from masturbating.

However, it is likely that you’ll become accustomed to certain kinds of stimulation and therefore be able to handle more of it before reaching orgasm, which can create the impression of less sensitivity.

When people claim to lose sensitivity from masturbating, it usually has more to do with their technique than with how often they’re masturbating. Most people start masturbating long before they’re comfortable talking to anyone about it, so it’s common for childhood or adolescent masturbation techniques to continue into adulthood.

The “death grip” is a popular and somewhat common example of this, where some boys grow up stroking themselves with a very hard grip, only to find that once they have partnered sex it’s difficult for them to reach orgasm through oral, vaginal, or anal sex since the grip is unlikely to be as hard as the grip they use when masturbating.

This isn’t so much an actual loss of sensitivity as it is becoming accustomed to a certain amount of pressure. The good news is that, with enough effort and practice, they can also train themselves out of it.

If you’re concerned your technique will eventually lead to sensitivity loss, you might consider adding some variety to the way you masturbate. Experiment with applying less pressure or less speed, and maybe start by committing to doing this one of the two times you masturbate daily to work yourself up to needing less to achieve orgasm.

In terms of negative effects on your sex life, masturbation usually has a more positive effect since it gives you opportunities to get in touch with your body and learn what you like, which you can then communicate more effectively to your partner.

It can be problematic if you become too used to a specific way of reaching orgasm that makes partnered sex more difficult (see above). But barring extreme cases, you can usually show partners what you like and direct them to get what you need.

It’s also good to keep in mind that while you won’t lose sensation just from masturbating, this doesn’t mean that you won’t become less sensitive over time for other reasons. The body changes a lot as we age and it can become harder to orgasm, to lubricate and to hold an erection, and masturbation isn’t necessarily the cause.

Between now and then there are more subtle changes on both the physical and mental levels where people, techniques, and things that used to turn you on might not do so anymore.

These changes offer opportunities to rediscover your body and to further explore your sexuality, and masturbation can be one of the best tools for both of those things. So you shouldn’t worry about doing it twice or even more each day; just consider mixing it up a bit.

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