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Facts about Prone Masturbation
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY of this page
Although about 90 percent of males masturbate by hand, about 5-10 percent masturbate by lying face down and thrusting the penis into or against the bed, pillow, or something else. Although masturbation is normal, healthy, and fun, prone masturbation causes severe sexual dysfunction in most males who practice it. This web site describes prone masturbation and the problems of its practitioners and offers case studies and approaches to becoming cured.
Part of this page can be printed as a PDF brochure. (If printing 2-sided, use the setting "flip on short edge" under Options.)
What is prone masturbation?
Prone masturbation is the habit some males have of masturbating in a face-down (prone) position. Some males who masturbate this way rub their penises against the mattress, pillow, or other bedding, or the floor. Some practitioners lie on their stomachs and thrust into their hands. Masturbation is very enjoyable and healthy, and only a small fraction of males masturbate prone; around 90 percent masturbate by stroking up and down the penis with one hand.
A male masturbating prone looks something like this.
What's wrong with masturbating prone?
Nearly all males agree that masturbating face up is a fun and delightful practice, but masturbating face down puts excessive pressure on the penis, and especially on the base of the penis. These sensations are not easily replicated in conventional masturbation or in sexual intercourse. This is not analagous to intercourse being performed face down, as most males do, because the partner's body provides more resistance than the objects a male who masturbates prone uses to thrust into or against. A vagina resists; a mattress doesn't. Prone masturbation can reduce the ability of a male to have normal sexual relations. A survey conducted for this web site revealed that males who masturbate conventionally have sexual intercourse 6.6 times more often than males who masturbate prone.
The most common problems males who masturbate prone have are delayed orgasm or a complete inability to have an orgasm during intercourse (anorgasmia). Many males who masturbate prone also have trouble getting erections. It's a common experience among males who are used to masturbating face down to be unable to have an orgasm even after engaging in sexual intercourse for over half an hour. The female partners of these men find this outcome unusual and often wonder if they are to blame for the man's inability to reach orgasm through intercourse.
Men who suffer from delayed orgasm might engage in intercourse for 45 minutes and still not reach orgasm. For men without this condition, intercourse typically takes 10-20 minutes.
The graph shows that half of males who masturbate prone have anorgasmia or delayed orgasm during sexual intercourse almost all of the time, while no males who masturbate conventionally do. Another 9 percent of males who masturbate prone have this problem most of the time, while only 4 percent of males who masturbate conventionally do.
Nearly 60 percent of males who masturbate prone suffer from anorgasmia or delayed orgasm most of the time they have sexual intercourse, while only 4 percent of males who masturbate supine do.
It can be very frustrating for both partners to have to wait for the man to be able to achieve an erection suitable for penetration.
The graph shows that nearly a third of males who masturbate prone suffer from erectile dysfunction most of the time they have sexual intercourse, while only 5 percent of males who masturbate supine do.
Two thirds of males who masturbate face-down suffer from erectile dysfunction during sexual intercourse at least sometimes, while 86 percent of males who masturbate face-up rarely or never have this problem.
These things are understandable consequences of prone masturbation. Even males who enjoy masturbating the conventional way don't get as much stimulation from intercourse as from masturbation (because in masturbation one can control precisely the type, force, and location of the stimulation one gets, while in intercourse a lot of that is not under control.) For males who masturbate prone, the amount of stimulation in intercourse is a small fraction of what they get masturbating.
How does it happen that some males masturbate prone?
More than 90 percent of males learn to masturbate through self-discovery. Males who masturbate in the prone position unfortunately self-discovered an unconventional method. The small fraction of males who learn to masturbate from other people invariably learn to do it the conventional way. (Most males who discover it for themselves also discover the conventional way.)
Supine means lying on the back, and prone means lying on the stomach. Prone masturbation means masturbating in a position similar to the prone position pictured above. (Image courtesy medtrng.com)
These images show males masturbating prone by thrusting against a pillow (left) and into the hand (right).
What's the conventional way to masturbate?
About 90 percent of males lie on their backs (or sit up) and make a fist around their penises and stroke in an up and down motion until they have an orgasm. This method has acquired such cachet as the usual way for males to enjoy masturbation that many sex education books don't even mention any other method. Nearly all males who masturbate prone are aware of the conventional method of male masturbation, but many think that their way is merely a harmless variation, or even that it's better than regular masturbation. All men who masturbate face down think the way they masturbate is more similar to missionary-style intercourse than conventional masturbation is.
Most males lie on their backs in bed while masturbating, something like this image.
Conventional masturbation is a basic sexual skill for males. It is a norm. When more than 90 percent of a group do a particular thing, that thing is a norm. Masturbating by hand is so much a norm that many men can't conceive of taking pleasure in masturbating any other way. Few other things that males do are as much of a norm as masturbating by hand. Whenever masturbation is lampooned on TV or the movies, it is always conventional masturbating by hand that is seen and/or mocked. Even if someone were to believe that a male should be able to choose to masturbate prone if he wishes, that male should still be able to masturbate by hand (conventionally) as a basic sexual skill. By not being able to masturbate conventionally, these males are lacking a basic sexual skill.
Isn't prone masturbation more like intercourse than conventional masturbation?
Only in the sense that sitting on a park bench is more similar to piloting a boat from a chair than piloting a boat while standing is. The amount of pressure the penis gets (and the parts of it that get stimulated) in intercourse are more similar to conventional masturbation than to face-down masturbation. A woman's vagina provides more resistance than the mattress does. It defies what every male who masturbates prone regards as common sense, but those who masturbate the typical way have the fewest problems adjusting to intercourse. Pressure on the penis in intercourse is more similar to conventional masturbation than it is to prone masturbation.
The problem is less one of physiology and more one of psychology, mental conditioning. Suppose you had been typing your whole life using a computer keyboard (which you probably have been) with its soft, easy touch, and then you tried to learn a manual typewriter, which requires forceful tapping of the fingers on every keystroke. You might go quietly nuts, especially if you have to switch between the two. There is nothing in your physiology that prevents you from typing on a manual typewriter. For almost 100 years, it is how everyone learned to type. You have just been using a computer keyboard so long that its ease is second nature for you. You might be able to type 75 words per minute on a computer keyboard but then find you are having trouble doing even 30 on a manual typewriter. But if you were trained on a manual typewriter, you would find it no problem at all to switch to an electric typewriter or the computer keyboard.
For males with a history of masturbating prone, to them prone masturbation is like a computer keyboard and having intercourse is like switching to a manual typewriter. Conventional (manual) masturbation is more like using the manual typewriter. It does not put as much pressure on the penis as prone masturbation. The pressure is more the same as it is in intercourse. So for guys who are used to ordinary masturbation, sex comes more naturally.
How many males masturbate prone?
The late Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, co-author to Alfred C. Kinsey of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male estimated that five to ten percent of males regularly masturbate in the prone position.
The graph shows that 80 percent of males who masturbate face-up say that intercourse is more fun than masturbation, but only 57 percent of males who masturbate face-down agree. This indicates that males who masturbate prone don't enjoy intercourse as much as other males.
When was prone masturbation recognized as a problem?
Some of the leading authors of books about male sexuality have noted that prone masturbation is dysfunctional. Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld, in his groundbreaking 1978 book Male Sexuality described the case of a man in his 20s who masturbated prone and had problems with erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia. He advised men in this situation to expand their sexual horizons by learning to masturbate in the usual way. Drs. William Hartmann & Marilyn Fithian also presented a case of prone masturbation in their 1984 book Any Man Can. This patient had to "learn a new pattern of sexual response" before he could be functional in intercourse. Dr. Eva Margolies, in her 1994 book Undressing the American Male characterized prone masturbation as a manifestation of regressed sexuality.
Michael Perelman of Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital authored a 1994 article in the journal Contemporary Urology urging physicians to investigate the masturbatory frequency and technique of their patients presenting with sexual dysfunctions. Perelman noted, "idiosyncratic masturbatory techniques are among the most frequent causes of retarded ejaculation."
The first article devoted entirely to the hazards of prone masturbation was published in 1998 the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy by Dr. Lawrence I. Sank of the Cognitive Therapy Center of Greater Washington in Bethesda, Maryland. Sank's article was the first to focus specifically on prone masturbation as a cause of sexual dysfunction. Sank called prone masturbation Traumatic Masturbatory Syndrome (a term that is no longer used on HealthyStrokes.com.)
What research has been done on prone masturbation since Sank's article?
Other scholars have followed Sank in blaming prone masturbation for sexual difficulties.
- Drs. Barbara Bartlik & Marion Zucker Goldstein (2001) mention "atypical masturbatory styles, such as the face-down position," as frequent causes of male orgasmic disorder (delayed ejaculation). (article)
- Dr. Scott Gilbert (2003) blames "conditioning caused by unique or atypical masturbation pattern" for delayed ejaculation.
- Dr. Josie Lipsith, Damien McCann, and David Goldmeier (2003) found that every man in their study (all of whom suffered from erectile or orgasmic disorder, or both) had his own "idiosyncratic style" of masturbation and that in sexually dysfunctional men, "orgasm becomes conditional upon the narrow stimulus of the individualís masturbatory style" (article)
- Dr. Michael Perelman (2004) revisited the topic, calling prone masturbation "the counterproductive consequence of high-frequency masturbation in the prone position." (article)
- Drs. Daniel Richardson & David Goldmeier (in two 2006 articles) cite Sank as an example of how atypical masturbatory practices have been shown to cause a "disabling" of a man's ability in penetrative sex.
- Dr. Georgie Whelan in 2008 replicated Sankís work with three different cases from her Australian practice.
- Dr. Pega Ren (2008) describes prone masturbation as even more troublesome than Sank does. (article)
- Dr. R. Murray Thomas (2009) notes that prone masturbation is one of the ways pre-pubescent boys learn to experience their sexuality, but leaves such experimentation out of his conception of grown-up masturbation. "For the postpubescent male, masturbating consists of stimulating the penis by pumping it rapidly until the pleasurable sensation of orgasm is reached and semen is ejaculated." (book)
- Jelto Drenth (2012) notes prone masturbation as one possible factor and something to be considered influencing genital pain in patients having difficulty with that condition. "They learn to masturbate by lying on their stomachs on the sheet or sliding [across] a pillow," translated from the Dutch by Google. (article, in Dutch)
- Gila Bronner & Dr. Itzhak Z. Ben-Zion (2014) devise a treatment plans for males with sexual dysfunctions stemming from unusual masturbatory practices and also a series of screening questions that primary care physicians should use to detect sexual dysfunctions and unusual masturbatory practices in their clients. Among these is "Do you masturbate on your back, or stomach, or another position?" They describe "normal masturbation" as essential to sexual functioning and note, "Changing the patientís masturbatory practice to be more compatible with sex with a partner led to a beneficial impact on his sexual function and enabled him to engage in normal intimate relationships." "Masturbatory practices may ... sometimes lead to [sexual dysfunctions], and we propose several detailed questions to elicit the nature of problematic habits." (Journal of Sexual Medicine 11:1798Ė1806 (2014). article)
- Michael J. Butcher, DO (Park Nicollet Health Partners, Minneapolis) & Robert E. Brannigan, MD (Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago) (2016) report, "Idiosyncratic masturbation style refers to an individualís technique that involves the combination of pressure, speed, duration, and intensity needed to achieve an ejaculation and orgasm which is not reproducible with a partner using hands, mouth, and/or vagina. Men who practice this type of masturbation have a higher rate of sexual dysfunction. ("Ejaculatory Disorders," in Contemporary Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction, Tobias S. Kohler & Kevin T. McVary, eds., New York: Humana Press, 2016. chapter)
Much survey research about prone masturbation has also been conducted by the author of HealthyStrokes.com.
When was prone masturbation first documented?
The ancient Romans had a word for it. They referred to male masturbation by different words depending on how it was done. The word for the prone masturbation method was trudo, which literally means "I thrust." No doubt this stemmed from the open way in which masturbation and other bodily functions were carried out in ancient Rome.
Is it always harmful to masturbate prone?
Yes. While some of the popular information about masturbation on the Internet promotes face-down masturbation as merely a harmless variation, individuals who masturbate prone report that the effects of this are generally cumulative. So, although occasional prone masturbation may not produce any immediately noticeable negative effects, over time it can result in a gradual or sudden loss of sexual function. Since every time a male practices this behavior, he is applying unnatural pressure and stimulation to his genitalia, it is never a good idea to engage in this type of masturbation. Dr. Sank supports this in his article, reiterating that masturbation is supposed to be performed with the hand while lying supine. The challenge for the male who masturbates prone is to learn to masturbate that way -- every time -- and to restore sensitivity to the penis for successful sex. Every male should be able to experience the pleasure of masturbating by hand.
The very nature of prone masturbation means that it can only be done in bed. Normal males can masturbate almost anywhere.
The graph shows that males who masturbate face down do almost all their masturbating in bed and hardly any in the bathroom. The "other" in their case too often means their bedroom floor. Meanwhile, males who masturbate face up have more variety in terms of location, with bed and bathroom being approximately equal along with "other," which in their case is more likely to mean the living room or computer desk.
How prevalent are the problems males who masturbate prone have in bed?
A survey conducted for this web site revealed that those who masturbate face down are five times more likely than those who masturbate face up to have erectile dysfunction and twelve times more likely to have anorgasmia.
Most men who masturbate prone, if they can have intercourse at all, are usually limited to the "missionary" position. They also report an inability to achieve orgasm from fellatio. Since they are unable to manually stimulate themselves to orgasm, naturally they are unable to have manual intercourse performed on them by a partner. The majority of males who masturbate conventionally have had intercourse successfully in at least five positions.
The graph shows that more than 90 percent of both males who masturbate face down and males who masturbate face up have succeeded at least once at missionary intercourse. However, while four other blue bars, representing success in other intercourse positions by males who masturbate face up, tower past the 50 percent mark, no other red bars, representing success in those positions by males who masturbate face up do.
The implication is clear: Males who masturbate face down, if they can have intercourse at all, are limited to the missionary position.
Does prone masturbation cause physical damage in addition to these psychological problems?
Possibly. The penis wasn't designed for such brutal contact. But nearly every male can become sexually normal by merely giving up prone masturbation and learning to masturbate conventionally, which suggests that physical damage is minor or even non-existent. A few males who masturbate prone have reported having urologic examinations of their penises which found no physical or organic damage. This doesn't mean that physical damage is impossible; only that none of thousands of males with a history of masturbating prone who have been in contact with the author since 2002 have ever reported being diagnosed with physical injury to the penis.
If you're a practitioner of prone masturbation and you've read this far, you're probably thinking about changing how you masturbate to avoid these problems if you don't have them yet or get rid of them if you already do. Please click the button below to learn how to change.
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