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Misconceptions are very prevalent about sensitive, personal and private topics such as sexuality. Masturbation is still an area about which myths abound. This is especially true in conservative societies, which will consider this to be a taboo subject, as a result of which young men are completely clueless as to what the impact of masturbation is on their health and fertility.
Is sperm different from semen?
A number of men with a low sperm count ( and a zero sperm count ) believe that the result for this is the fact that they used to masturbate as teenagers. They believe that masturbation has drained all the sperm from their body, as a result of which they are now sexually weak, and cannot produce good quality sperm any more.
A lot of these men do not understand the difference between sperm and semen; and are often misled as a result of advertisements and billboards put up by quacks. A lot of these quacks are now online as well, where they prey on the ignorance of these young men.
Something to be ashamed of
Since masturbation is something which young men do on the sly in the privacy of their own room behind locked doors, it's an activity about which they are often ashamed. Also, because of our puritanical attitudes, we still believe that anything which is so pleasurable cannot possibly be good for us! This is why when these young men find out that they have a low or zero sperm count, they are emotionally very vulnerable and often believe that it is their excessive indulgence in this " bad habit" which is responsible for their problem.
Cause of confusion
From a purely logical point, this actually makes sense, because they do not know the scientific facts. They have heard a lot of people talking about how it takes 40 drops of blood to produce one drop of semen ; and that excessive masturbation is bad, because it leads to a depletion of energy.
Many Indians still believe that brahmacharya ( sexual abstinence) can actually help to improve physical and intellectual vigour. Men know from first hand experience that after an orgasm, they feel sleepy and tired . This is why they are quite willing to buy into the belief that masturbation causes " sexual weakness " - this makes a lot of intuitive sense. Also, many have a flawed belief that each person has a limited amount of sperm ; and that every time they masturbate, they use up part of this precious reservoir.
( They confuse sperm with semen, and because they have observed that the volume of the semen they ejaculate increases considerably when they abstain for many days, this misconception makes perfect sense to them). Based on this incorrect perspective, it's easy to understand why they believe that excessive masturbation can cause them to become infertile.
A normal activity
The truth is that masturbation is a completely normal, harmless activity which everyone indulges in. It is a useful and safe outlet for sexual energies, and has no harmful effects. In fact, masturbation can actually be useful, because it allows people to explore their own sexuality and understand their own erogenous zones.
However, because there is very little sexuality education for teenagers in our country, it's very hard to get rid of some of these false beliefs ; and once they are implanted, it's very hard to extract them. Even today, the commonest questions which medical advice columnists have to answer are those regarding masturbation.
Unlike ovaries, which have only a limited number of eggs which get depleted as the woman reaches menopause, men's testes are remarkable in that they will continue producing billions of sperm daily, no matter how old he gets.
The sperm will finally need to get ejaculated from the body in order to make way for new sperm. This ejaculation could occur during sexual intercourse, or during masturbation. If it does not, the body will still expel these sperm during a wet dream (nocturnal ejaculation).
Men need to understand that they cannot "store up their sperm" and that they cannot "run out of sperm" ! We need to educate and reassure young men that masturbation will not affect either their sexual performance, or their fertility !