From my knowledge of sexology it is clear that the distinction between healthy sex and unhealthy sex is not as obvious as it may seem.
It is beyond the sexual normalcy to use sex in an instrumental way, not to unload your sex drive, but to escape from some difficult emotions and situations. A typical example of such behavior is masturbation when we are stressed as well as any other form of sexual behavior. So if we don’t watch pornography or we don’t masturbate, that doesn’t necessarily mean that our sexuality is healthy. Such an instrumental treatment of sex with a partner can quickly turn into a compulsion too. The brain will develop a habit that we will strongly want to repeat in any situation where we are missing something. Sex comes out of the sex realm and serves as a substitute for satisfying all other needs.
There are two main myths in this area:
Myth 1: Celibacy is not possible & without sex we will break into small pieces.
It’s not like that. If other needs (closeness, love, self-esteem) are met, maintaining celibacy is possible. But something needs to be done with your growing sexual energy. You need to somehow redirect it. This is not an easy task. In the beginning of my relationship I was in complete celibacy for several months. That required a lot of work, I had to spend a lot of time redirecting sexual energy through sports and various spiritual practices. This of course is not required for everybody and depending on the approach, it may turn out to be unhealthy. We will come to “freeze” or “block” our sexuality and problems will return when we re-enter sex life.
Myth 2: Masturbation or watching porn in itself means sex-addiction.
I think most people in my country of origin, Poland, have this false belief. The fact that someone is drinking alcohol does not automatically designate this person as an alcoholic. Same with pornography or masturbation. Although it is rather “common sense” I have the impression that many people miss this simple point. There are people who look at pornography occasionally, masturbate occasionally and generally are far from obsessing about sex or compulsively masturbating. These actions do not perform a coping function for them, they do not do it when they are unhappy with their life. These behaviors do not go beyond developmental norms of healthy sexuality for grown adults.
The fact that watching porn does not equate to erotomania does not mean that porn alone affects our sexuality in a positive way. I’m deeply convinced that in most cases this is just like fast-food, but in terms of sex. It’s harmful even in small quantities and in large quantities it can poison us. Ethical issues come to mind as well. The business itself feeds on the suffering of others. Personally for me, it is unethical to use pornography because of this reason. Many people also consider these sexual behaviors to be unacceptable for religious reasons, but ethical issues specific to each individual should be addressed separately, apart from general psychology that concerns whole societies or generally human beings. Something that is biological or developmentally normal is not necessarily ethical for everybody. Therefore, many people who are not sex addicts, but want to stop watching pornography or stop masturbating for ethical reasons, appear to give themselves this label, which can be quite harmful for them. The fact that something is unethical to someone & he/she wants to work on it doesn’t make this equal to sexual compulsion.
So can healthy masturbation be possible? According to me and 100% of sexologists, yes, it is possible! However, it can be difficult for people who have had a history of compulsive masturbation. It may also not be ethically acceptable by some people because they may feel saturated with sexual shame. Shame can get out of control fast and be extremely unhealthy for a person.
Ultimately, it is up to us to choose how we will dispose of our sexual energy. The most important thing to do is to approach yourself and sex itself with acceptance rather than shame or fear. In order to heal, one must always go to the source of the problem and not merely look at symptoms such as compulsive sex or compulsive pornography.
To summarize my approach in a nutshell, what we do is not the main problem as to why we do it.