A recent sex advice column in Slate raises questions about a preoccupation with masturbation.
Specifically, how much is too much during a pandemic? A woman seeking advice thinks her boyfriend’s masturbation is excessive, and she reports that his behaviour is driving her “insane.” Fair enough.
Absurd Advice About Masturbation
The advice seeker sounds reasonable to me. However, I think columnists Stoya and Rich’s response to her is absurd. The boyfriend clearly has a problem. Masturbating three hours a day every day is so not normal that you wonder why Stoya and Rich have this privileged Slate column.
That said, there is a difference between “not normal” and “pathological.” Three hours a day devoted to masturbation is not normal, but psychiatry has become extremely reluctant to label any masturbation-related activity as “pathological.” The DSM-5 diagnoses that might apply to this boyfriend are “delayed ejaculation” and “erectile disorder.” Because these are psychiatric diagnoses, behaviour that stems from erectile malfunction is, almost by definition, pathological. So question number one is: Can this young man be helped by consultation with a sex therapist, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist?
Question number two is: What should this young woman do about a problem that is making her extremely uncomfortable, wrecking her relationship, and — since she is trapped with this ghastly boyfriend — ruining her life? The bedroom smells! My god, Stoya and Rich should be crying for her to end the relationship. Let him go off and masturbate in his own fetid pit.
Preoccupation With Sexuality
Maybe there should be yet another DSM sex-diagnosis: preoccupation with sexuality. Yes, I know. Young people think a lot about sex. So do older people. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there is a line between occupation and preoccupation. I may be occupied with sexual thoughts because, hey, in this internet age, who isn’t? But few people are so preoccupied with sex that sex-seeking drives out all other activity. This is analogous to substance abuse. You know somebody has a real addiction if he or she is a “drug-seeker,” and are willing to commit crimes in pursuit of getting a fix. Breaking into old ladies’ apartments to steal their laptops would be an example of drug-seeking.
Now, in the sex area, there is sex-seeking behavior as well. Many men and women “fall in lust” at some point in their lives. They may wreck relationships because they have fallen in lust with someone else. This would be the erotic equivalent of drug-seeking, and it can be so disruptive that it might qualify for a DSM diagnosis. A word to the wise.