If we are going to talk about men and mental illness, we might as well talk about pornography and masturbation sometime or another.
“Every guy has done it,” was the whispering truth I grew up hearing, but the only times it was ever talked about was between pubescent peers too horny and immature to speak responsibly.
Having hushed the topic, many men learn to confide in the act secretively as they fight to mask deeper issues beneath a temporal pleasure. Because men bury the habit in our bedrooms, we often bury alongside it the more important topics that need to be addressed.
Not until I started seriously addressing the habit did I realize that the act wasn’t even about sex as much as it was about numbing my depression, chasing away my anxiety, and suppressing my suicidal thoughts.
Pornography and masturbation were a means of emotional escape, just like any other addictive coping mechanism such as excessive alcohol or hard drugs. Whenever I felt stressed, overwhelmed; when I hated myself and couldn’t imagine anyone else feeling anything differently towards me, I confided in the seemingly ever faithful pleasure of choking the chicken, beating the bishop, charming the cobra. Or, I guess I should say, scrubbing the trunk since we’re addressing the elephant in the room.
There is a range of thoughts on pornography and masturbation. Many are in support of it as a healthy and beneficial act, encouraging men to indulge, explore sexuality, and relieve stress, while others treat it as a sin worthy of hellfire hotter than the yearning in your pants. The age-old myths of masturbation causing blindness or hair to grow on palms are pretty much debunked by the millions of men still able to see and without the hands of a Sasquatch.
There are obvious moral reasons to ditch pornography (the degrading of women, building unrealistic expectation, the support of the horrendous sex slave industry etc.) but masturbation is a grayer subject.
There is no objective truth declaring once and for all that masturbation is bad, but there is no proof that it is good either. Because of the classic ambiguity of a gray issue, I’ll not be making a stance on whether masturbation is either inherently good or inherently bad. That, I believe, is subjective to the wanker (and his spouse if he has one). The choice is in his hands, you could say. But, like with many things, when something becomes an addiction it needs to be addressed. The issue to talk about, then, is not necessarily pornography and masturbation itself but how the addiction can distract from, numb, and aid in the avoidance of deeper issues like depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Pressured to “man-up,” guys learn from a young age how to cope with stress, mask their emotions, and stash away their anxiety. Young horniness, natural intrigue, and innocent exploration introduce the act as a means of simultaneously finding pleasure and escaping negative feelings. Pornography and masturbation evolve silently from mere curiosity to habit to acting as a pacifier, something compulsory when stressed, overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. Men become dependent, and as the addiction grows so does its secrecy.
We understand how middle schoolers sneak around in their trousers, but as grown men, we think that we should be over such a childish act, and so we continue to hide, evading, not just the topic of masturbation, but the emotional matters from which we are hiding. In this way, like any other addiction, it equips the secrecy and accompanies the shame of mental illness. The two are often so intertwined.
Try addressing your pornography and masturbation habit, and as you limit yourself, you might start to dig up deep-set issues that have been neglected for years, buried beneath mounds of secret self-satisfaction. It is likely that because it is a habit that starts at such a young age, it has disguised matters which you’ve never appropriately acknowledged. Perhaps, you have misdiagnosed the issue, and therefore not allowed the opportunity for healthy moving forward. Maybe you think pornography and masturbation are all about sex.
They are very often not.
Let’s be real: masturbating does offer pleasure, relief, and comfort, and it is a means of coping with extremely difficult internal matters.
But, we cannot find mental healing until we rid ourselves of distraction because, until then, all we are doing is numbing the pain. If we continue to hide from these difficult matters in three-minute anticlimactic sessions alone, we will rob ourselves from the discovery of actual solutions while continuing to isolate ourselves from a helpful community and beneficial resources.
So, whether we wank or not, we would benefit greatly from not evading our struggles, numbing our pain, or further silencing our issues.
Acknowledge the deeper matter at hand. Talk about your feelings–your struggles. Stop numbing your pain and start addressing it.