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'Is masturbation harmful?' Misconceptions about sex
Matthew Schneeberger

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August 04, 2008

They say that knowledge is power.

If that's the case, as one enters the sometimes frightening world of sexual interactions, it makes sense to be thoroughly prepared.

But, in speaking with some of Mumbai's sexologists, we learned that this simply isn't the case for India's urban youth. Instead, persistent rumours, myths and misconceptions are unnecessarily hampering couples' love lives, causing a lot of grief, anguish and hard feelings both inside and outside the bedroom.

After all, a few pieces of bad information can result in uncertainty and lack of confidence, which in turn can ruin the fun, spoil the mood and even potentially put you in harm's way.

So, here, we list six of the most prominent sex-related myths, and get the straight scoop, directly from the guys who do this stuff for a living.

It's time to clear the air!

Myth: One drop of semen = 200 drops of blood

Fact: Dr Prakash Kothari, India's foremost sexologist, says that one of most common myths he hears is that "semen is vital, and therefore must be conserved".

This is categorically false, says Dr Kothari. "Semen is manufactured for being excreted and not for being stored up. In fact, no male can store it," he points out. "If one does not indulge in sexual intercourse or in intercourse with the hand (masturbation), then it will spill out as dream intercourse (sleep emissions)."

According to Dr Kothari, "69 percent of semen production comes from the seminal vesicles, 30 percent from the prostate and 1 percent from the testes. It's being manufactured 24-7."

Dr Girish Karmarkar, another practicing sexologist from Mumbai's suburbs, agrees. "Many patients believe they have a limited amount of semen to make do with throughout their lives. And they think that, because they've had a habit of masturbation, they will not be able to conceive. This is absolutely false. The body keeps producing semen until the very late years, into the 90's. It is very much like the working of salivary glands -- they keep producing saliva throughout one's lifetime."

Myth: Masturbation is injurious to health

Fact: Another common myth that confronts Mumbai's sexologists and relationship counsellors is a belief that masturbation is injurious to health. Dr Kothari says, "Some patients believe that excessive masturbation leads to impotence, tuberculosis and homosexuality." According to Dr Kothari, this is completely untrue. "Masturbation is as normal as sexual intercourse," he explains. "What happens to the penis when it is inside the vagina during sexual intercourse is the same as what happens when it is inside the folded palm during masturbation."

The doctor believes the situation has parallels. "If you have a good grounding in English, it will be easier to pick up friends. Similarly, if you have experience with masturbation, it will be easier when the time comes for intercourse."

Furthermore, Dr Kothari emphasises, "There is nothing like excessive masturbation, which results in the weakening of the genitals. The tongue does not grow weak in one who is talkative. Neither does it become strong if one observes silence!"

Myth: Size matters

Fact: Many young males are fraught with anxiety, worried that penis size plays a crucial role in pleasing a woman sexually.

But according to Dr Kothari, this is untrue. "Penis size differs. The normal length of the vagina is six inches, but only the outer one-third (two inches) of it has maximum sensation. The inner two-thirds (four inches) has hardly any sensation," he points out. He suggests that, if you want to arouse a woman, "concentrate on the outside of the vagina, the outer one-third of it (two inches)."

And even if you measure up a little short, guys, relax! Dr Kothari says that the size of the erect penis can be anywhere from "two inches and up for adequate female sexual gratification".

Remember, he says, "Bigger is better is the Godzilla logic. What is important is strength, not length!"

Myth: Oral sex can get you pregnant

Fact: On the face of it, this rumour seems almost silly. But it's a myth that just won't die. Dr Karmarkar says that he's frequently approached by female patients who are very concerned after having engaged in oral sex. "They tell me that they have swallowed semen during oral sex and ask if they will become pregnant. This is absolutely, 100 percent impossible and untrue," the doctor says.

But just because it won't leave you pregnant, it doesn't mean oral sex isn't without some risks. Dr Karmarkar explains, "While (oral sex) won't lead to pregnancy, it is still possible for sexual transmitted diseases to be passed on via this type of sexual behaviour."

Myth: Sex positions can affect a baby's gender during conception

Fact: "When a patient is dealing with premature ejaculation problems, I often tell him to try having sexual intercourse with the woman on top," says Dr Karmarkar. "But many of my patients believe that having sex with the woman on top will lead to a girl child! And that sex with the man on top leads to a boy child! Of course, this is not true. Science has not shown that different sexual positions can affect the gender of the baby."

Myth: Sex during menstruation will improve chances of successful conception

Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth! Dr Karmarkar relates that many young couples believe that having sex during the three to six day menstruation period increases the likelihood of conception. But in reality, "This is false information -- this is the time of a woman's menstrual cycle when she is least likely to conceive. So these couples are inadvertently minimising their chances."

Clear your doubts

While, according to the sexologists, there are hundreds of misconceptions regarding sexuality held in popular belief, we've only examined six of the most common. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding sexual behaviour, either use a reputed source on the Internet to find the information or, better yet, consult a specialist.

Says Dr Karmarkar, "Due to the prevalance of misinformation -- on the Internet, television and from friends -- about 60-70 percent of young couples hold at least one of these misconceptions."

It might seem embarrassing to open up about such intimate issues to a stranger, but having proper facts and a thorough understanding of your body could mean the difference between embarrassment and fulfilment.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

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