What is the difference between normal, healthy masturbation practices and an addiction to it?

What is the difference between normal, healthy masturbation practices and an addiction to it?

(A question sent to me from the Sons of Helaman web site.)

First, I want to thank you for asking a question that is sincerely inquisitive. Recently, the principles and philosophies I teach have been attacked, again, by people who have come to conclusions based on incomplete science and psychology philosophies. The comments and questions I get from these sources are not usually, shall we say, sincerely inquisitive. Because you ask your question with respect, I will answer it with respect. There are many elements to it, and I may have to answer it in parts.

Part I

Let’s start with the word “normal”. In a conversation about human behavior this word can cause a great deal of contention. Usually, when the word “normal” is used when discussing behaviors, it refers to “most common, statistically”. A researcher takes a pool of subjects, asks some question like, “Do you masturbate, and if so, how often?” Then based on the most frequent answer, the behavior is now defined as “normal”. Unfortunately, behaviors that are the most frequent in a population are not always wise. I don’t know the statistics, but I am guessing there was a time when smoking was “normal”.

Also, an unfortunate error researchers have made while exploring “normal, healthy masturbation practices” is the error that researchers call “selection bias” or “sampling bias”. As you review the literature* you will find that there is an insufficient representation of those who once had significant experience with masturbation (or other sexual behavior) and went on to gain control over it, (motivated by personal desire, not social or religious compulsion). If research was to be done more accurately, the population of those who have gained mastery over their sexual urges would be better represented.

Because of the rarity of this practice of self mastery, and because the correlation of those who are attempting self mastery is high with those who consider themselves religious, it is assumed or concluded that these individuals are being brain washed (compelled) into working toward this self mastery. Researchers conclude that because the majority of the population continues to masturbate that there must not be any negative psychological effects, in fact, in an effort to explain or support such lack of self mastery, the researchers look for “good” reasons to continue the practice, when in reality, there is no “need” for it, and as I will address in my next post, there are some good, healthy reasons not to.

I do not disagree that there is a strong compulsion for masturbation, but there is also a strong compulsion for men, in general, to have sexual experiences with about any attractive woman they see. We do not support men acting upon this compulsion just because the urge is strong. Also, a strong urge, drive or compulsion does not define something as a “need”. Except in rare medical cases, there is no documentation that men, either young or old, are having poor health issues if they don’t masturbate.

In the Sons of Helaman program, we make no claim at helping the young men we work with become, “normal”. By invitation, the young men (and adult men on a more individual basis), are invited to learn a degree of self-mastery that is not “normal”.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns on this topic.  Part II will be a discussion on the word, “healthy”.

Your servant,


*You will note that I have made no effort to find exact references for this “scientific data”.  With the internet and search engines, the curious explorer can find studies if they wish.

About Maurice W. Harker, LPC

Director of Life Changing Services, Director of Sons of Helaman, Facilitator of the WORTH group, Consultant for the Daughters of Light program.