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The Do’s, Don’ts and Horrifying Sting of Masturbating With Soap

How can something so effective on other body parts be so brutally painful for your penis?

Privacy is at a premium these days. Every member of your family is around the house all the goddamn time, so it’s extra challenging to get into a trusted safe space where you can pump away your troubles — of which there are plenty — with a good ol’ jag-off sesh. There is one sanctuary in the house that, when available, is perfect for such an event. It’s the place non-assholes never walk into without knocking when the door is closed — the bathroom.

The bathroom is private, sure, but what makes the destination doubly advantageous in this inconspicuous fête is that it perpetually houses ubiquitous, skin-slickening toiletries. The utilitarian substance called soap comes in different forms — bars, shampoos and gels — but any of them seem like the perfect substitute for that bottle of lube you can’t unearth from its hiding spot, because doing so could give away your scheme (or maybe you just ran out of it, you sexy beast). 

And so, you click open that nozzle or work up a lather from that bar in your hands. Thrusts one through 27 go great, and you think for a second that you might never invest in lube again when something so equally satisfying is always available.

Then, disaster strikes. 

A scream-inducing pain shoots through your penis, tip to base, soon menacing your entire body. Your mom, who heard you cry out over the vacuum cleaner, shouts your name and asks if you’re alright through the door. But you can’t tell her you just got some soap inside your pee hole, or that you might as well have taken an ice pick and shoved it through the same spot. It burns so fucking much. 

You won’t cum today. In fact, you might not even urinate with ease for a while. Because as many redditors have noted, for guys, masturbating with soap can be excruciating if the suds wind up where they’re not supposed to be. 

“DONT MASTURBATE WITH SOAP!!!” one redditor writes. “It burns the tip of your dick like fucking hellll. Use lotion or some shit, just don’t make the mistake I made. AAHHHH, SO MUCH PAAAIIIN.”

“Hand soap is very soft and slippery,” observed another. “Little did I know that it made my dong catch fire and has been burning all night. It still burned the next morning. So my advice to people who can’t find the lotion, DO NOT MASTURBATE WITH HAND SOAP!”

A third wrote that some who masturbate with soap may even experience “irritation of the head of your penis, bacterial or allergic reaction on your sack, dryness or itching of the foreskin or testicles, skin peeling off of foreskin, flaking skin on foreskin or sack.”

What gives? How can soap be so effective everywhere else on a guy’s body, but so awe-inspiringly hurtful to the genitals?

To understand the answer to this question, you first must know that most of the products colloquially referred to as “soap” are hardly that. “True soap,” made from fats or oils combined with alkali, such as lye, has a more alkaline pH that disrupts the outer skin layer, which typically has a slightly acidic pH, according to Joshua Zeichner, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. In layman’s terms, he says “true soaps cause so much irritation to the skin” that non-soap cleansers have been developed to be “more pH balanced and less irritating to the skin.”

These cleansers contain ingredients called surfactants, which, per Zeichner, “bind to oil and other soiling on the skin,” removing it when the cleanser is washed away. Examples of surfactants include disodium cocoamphodiacetate, coco-betaine, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate and sodium laureth sulfate. “They’re designed for short contact use on the outside of the body,” Zeichner says. (Emphasis added.) 

Meanwhile, on the very tip of and just inside your cockhead lie mucous membranes, similar to those found around your eyeballs. Their function is to lubricate the area, but also to protect it. The Britannica definition of mucous membranes says in those areas “particulate matter and pathogens (disease-causing organisms) become trapped in secreted mucus, preventing their entry into deeper tissues.” When violated by things so noxious and plentiful that they worked their way through the secreted mucus, the membranes trigger a painful warning to our body, which, if dramatized, might look like a robot with a swiveling torso and raised arms, sounding a siren and shouting: “PATH-O-GENS! PATH-O-GENS! PATH-O-GENS!”

For mucous membranes to raise such hell, they must be particularly delicate. Even though ordinary household cleansers don’t bother other skin that’s millimeters away, “mucous membranes are extra sensitive to potential irritation from the surfactants found in soaps and non-soap cleansers,” says Zeichner. (By the way, the mighty vagina is also a vat of mucous membranes, and trapping soap inside can lead to yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and other problems. We focused primarily on the male body in this article because, with all the Reddit post examples written exclusively by guys as evidence, men are morons and do this type of thing to themselves way more often than women do.) 

There are, obviously, dudes who are into pain. Some shove things up their pee holes, but others just like the pain that comes from cleansers getting inside of it. One of the latter types of men is redditor redAntMan, 23, who says he masturbates with soap daily. The soap-invasion pain in his penis sometimes “helps the orgasm,” he tells me. Compared to masturbating with lotion, going at himself with soap “feels more powerful and I’m cleaning myself.” 

“I like using soap because it smells good, it feels cold and the sting it produces,” he adds. 

To each their own, but to avoid the type of turmoil outlined in those Reddit posts, perhaps turn to lubricants that have been specially engineered to not cause discomfort. “Different soaps have different chemicals, preservatives and harsh antimicrobials that also strip the skin of the beneficial bacteria that we need to stay healthy,” says Anne Louise Burdett, cofounder and CEO of Toca, which manufactures CBD lubricants, utilizing only plant-based chemicals. Soaps also often contain “perfumes and synthetic ingredients that can cause infection,” she explains.

Burdett adds that there is “a delicate balance of flora and pH in the mucosa” of the penis, as well as the anus and vagina, and “using soap to masturbate disrupts this balance and can be very irritating and damaging to the skin and increase the likelihood of infection.”

Household cleansers also “strip the skin of it’s natural oils which protect and tone the tissues, even more important” during masturbation, or sex, “which involves friction, rubbing and possible exchange of fluids and bacteria,” Burdett says.

Of course, if you find yourself in a situation like my imaginary friend from the opening, you can always go with nature’s lube, relied upon throughout recorded history and likely before it — spit

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