From penis size and libido to hair loss due to masturbation, myths galore on men’s sexual health!

There are several myths about men's sexual health, and doctors say addressing them is important for an overall healthy life.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Jun 18, 2024 | 7:00 AM Updated Jun 18, 2024 | 10:55 AM

The psychological stress caused by prolonged infertility may lead to the occurrence of sexual dysfunction, which in turn, further increases psychological distress (Creative Commons)

When Pranav, a 32-year-old marketing head of a private firm, found himself stressed and self-conscious about his sexual performance, he didn’t realise he was grappling with pervasive myths about men’s sexual health.

Stories from his friends and misleading information online had convinced him that his concerns were unusual, making him hesitant to seek help.

Speaking to South First Dr Mohammed Taif Bendigeri, a consultant urologist at the Asian Insitute of Urology and Nephrology (AINU) in Hyderabad, said he had encountered countless men like Pranav.

“The misconceptions surrounding men’s sexual health are not just common; they are damaging,” says Bendigeri.

“They create unnecessary stress and prevent men from seeking the help they need,” he added.

Also Read: Infertility duration affects sexual health of women

Does penis size matter?

Dr Pramod Krishnappa, a consultant uro-andrologist at NU Hospitals and Orchidz Health in Bengaluru, said one of the most commonly believed myths was that only the size of the penis mattered.

He categorically said that this was false.

Explaining further on this myth, Bendigeri said, “It is most commonly believed that penis size shares a relationship with the satisfaction of one’s partner or sexual ability in general.”

He added: “The truth is, sexual prowess comes from establishing emotional connections and a mutual understanding between partners.”

He cautioned: “Such falsehoods can negatively affect male self-esteem and relationships. We have seen many such cases.”

Speaking about the misconception and beliefs around penis size, Dr Sudhir Kumar, Consultant Neurologist at Apollo Hospitals Hyderabad, notes, “A recent survey reveals that ‘penile enlargement’ is among the most frequently searched keywords among men of all ages, indicating significant anxiety and misconceptions.”

Explaining further he says, “As per literature, the average size of an erect penis is 5.1 to 5.5 inches (13 to 14 cm), with about 15 percent of men having an erect penis size of more than 6.3 inches (16 cm).”

“However, only 58 percent of men are satisfied with the length of their erect penis, and 45-68 percent wish they had a larger one.”

“The study also found that despite these concerns, 84 percent of women report satisfaction with their partner’s penis size, and only a small minority consider length important for sexual satisfaction. Experimental studies show that women’s sexual arousal does not differ based on the penis size described in stories,” Dr Sudhir added.

He added that it is crucial to avoid scientifically unproven herbal or natural remedies for increasing penis length.

Also Read: Why unmarried women dread a visit to the gynaecologist

Dhat Syndrome

Pramod also said it is a myth that the loss of semen was very harmful to the body.

He noted that people believe several drops of blood make one drop of semen. He added that semen-loss-related physical and psychological distress is commonly seen in people from the Indian subcontinent.

Pramod said, “Dhat syndrome is a classic example of a very common myth and the terminology was first coined by an Indian doctor — Dr NN Wig — way back in 1960.”

Giving some common symptoms from an info sheet from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Pramod said: “In Dhat syndrome, people may feel a sense of weakness, anxiety, sleeplessness, and guilt, and all that is attributed to semen loss.”

He continued: “The loss of semen through nocturnal emissions and masturbation frightens the individual as he believes it to be harmful to the body; some patients report a white discharge in their urine, which they feel is semen.”

Interestingly, there is no known physical cause for the illness and it occurs due to wrong beliefs and misconceptions about normal sexual functions.

Pramod said the fact was that semen loss was a normal sexual process in the body and there was no such association between several drops of blood and one drop of semen.

Also, there was no medical basis for the belief that the white discharge in urine contained “vital substances”, he noted.

Also Read: Gynaecologists explain perils of OTC abortion pills

On libido and pain

Among other myths, one is the notoriously common idea that libido does not decrease in the case of men.

Bendigeri said the reality was that one’s libido was the result of several factors such as hormonal variations, medicinal side effects, stress, and health in general.

“As a result of this harmful myth, men may feel pressured to maintain high levels of libido or sexual desire,” he explained.

This leads to frustration or disappointment when these unrealistic expectations are not met,” he added.

Bendigeri added that even more harmful was the belief that men do not feel pain during intercourse.

“Such pain, in reality, could be the result of various potential health issues such as infections or physical abnormalities, which may even require medical care,” he said.

The taboo surrounding such issues could exacerbate the existing health problems, making them worse, said the doctors.

Myths around masturbation

Similarly, the idea that masturbation could create sexual issues in men and deteriorate sexual performance was a common falsehood, they noted.

Masturbation allows men to relieve stress and learn about their sexual responses, they said, adding that it only becomes an issue in case of interference with daily life or relationships.

Speaking about myths around masturbation, Pramod said there was also a myth that there could be hair loss due to repeated masturbation.

A few others are that one would be unable to father a child if they masturbated too much, as all the semen would be exhausted!

Another major myth was that the pull-out method (coitus interruptus) works to prevent pregnancy, said Pramod.

One more myth was that one could contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from a public toilet seat. Pramod said patients did approach doctors with questions such as these.

Dr Sudhir, said many men present in his OPD with generalised weakness, lethargy, and fatigue, attribute these symptoms to masturbation, while, it is a condition referred to as dhat syndrome.

He added: “In reality, masturbation is safe and not associated with any health hazards. The symptoms occur if men feel guilty about masturbating or if they are misinformed by unreliable sources, such as friends or quacks.”

Also Read: Early exposure to porn leading to sexual health problems, say doctors

What needs to change?

Pramod also said that with the advent of easy internet access, many youngsters in the age group of 18-21 years do not consult him to clarify their doubts about frequent masturbation, or sometimes after their first sexual encounter.

Meanwhile, premarital sex was on the rise, he added.

The doctors also explained that it was not just men but even women and girls who believed these myths due to early exposure to porn and jokes about the likes of the “size of the penis” in several movies.

They added that this was leading to disturbed marital lives or relationships before marriage.

The doctors explained that one must address the sexual myths for various reasons.

They include:

  • Preventing individuals from going into depression,
  • Preventing the common man from doing unnecessary — even self-prescribed — tests, and
  • Reducing stigma and building confidence in individuals to have a safe and healthy sex life without undue stress.

Pramod said, “Sexual myths have been bothering humans for many centuries. In the current era, where science is so advanced and accessible, we should do away with these sexual myths.”

To address these, he said it was important for schools to impart sexual education.

He explained: “I understand that primary or high schools may not be able to have separate classes on sexual education. At least the medical colleges should have a separate curriculum on sexual health, which is sadly missing.”

He said that Instead of addressing these on-the-ground issues, the country was gung-ho about landing on the moon!

Bendigeri said open dialogues and education were needed to dispel such myths surrounding masculine sexuality, or worse myths such as the idea that men could never be sexually assaulted.

“Such harmful beliefs can sustain negative thoughts and taboos that prevent men from seeking help or advice. Healthcare experts and counsellors can provide space spaces for men to discuss their sexual issues and provide resources to improve health and well-being,” he said.

He added that debunking these myths by spreading awareness could allow men to be more secure and healthy in their sexual health and relationships.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)

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