How much masturbation is too much? The social stigma against masturbation has made it a controversial question. (Some religions and cultures still say that masturbation is wrong.) At the same time, the sexual revolution has changed many attitudes. Parents may want to allow their children to explore their sexuality—but they want to know if their child is masturbating too much. Unfortunately, answering the question of how much one person should masturbate is impossible to do directly.

You really have to turn this question around to get the right answer. In other words, if you live a satisfying life, if you have friends, do well at work or in school, are in a loving partnership with someone, and you’re both satisfied with your sex life together, then how often you masturbate really doesn’t matter. On the other hand, if you’re lonely and out of sorts, and you rely on masturbation to make yourself feel better instead of going about the business of making your life work the way you want it to, then you may be masturbating too much, no matter how rarely you actually do masturbate.

Masturbation is a good form of sexual release, but sometimes you need that sexual tension to get you going, to give you the incentive to find a partner, seek out new friends, look for a new job, or whatever. So, if you need to get your life in order and do masturbate a lot, cut down. You don’t have to stop altogether, but if you can reduce the number of times you do it, you may find that you can begin to add some other positive aspects to your life.

What you’re looking for is a happy medium. If you’re single and actively seeking a partner, then masturbating to keep yourself from feeling sexually frustrated is fine. Just don’t do it so much that you wind up being more attached to your genitals than to the world outside. And, of course, masturbation is a lot safer than a one-night stand in terms of protecting you from catching a sexually transmitted disease.

For teenagers, it’s normal to be distracted by the urge to masturbate. But, just as with adults, teens need to find a happy medium. If masturbation is interfering with school work or a healthy social life, then it’s time to cut down. Similarly, if the teenager is causing a significant spike in water bills or making it hard for everyone to shower on time in the morning, it might be time to have a talk about respect for everyone’s needs. Otherwise, be reassured that teenage masturbation is healthy and normal.

If your partner is satisfied with your sex life, and you would like more orgasms than the two of you have together, then masturbating when the mood strikes you is okay. But make an effort to see if your partner would be willing to engage in sex with you more often. Don’t be lazy and rely on masturbation to satisfy all your sexual needs because a sexless relationship is not fulfilling and will likely not last very long.