Masturbation: Its Christian Superstitions and Scientific Blasphemies
By David Metcalfe
December 4, 2019
What Do The Christians Say?
I remember going to a Christian camp when I was 13, and, in addition to the usual events of a summer camp, we would meet around the campfire at the end of each day to listen to a pastor tell us about applying the Bible to our lives. On the last day, the topic was on sexual purity. We were told that sex is dangerous- physically, mentally, and spiritually. It causes disgusting diseases called STDs, will cause you to become addicted, and will steal your very soul. This is, of course, if it is done outside of marriage. When done inside of marriage, then sex is completely great and harmless. The speaker went on to warn us about the horrible sins of pornography and masturbation- saying that it will ruin your life, and if you make a habit of it, you will be subject to eternal hellfire when you die.
One can easily follow the logic in Christianity for why masturbation is terrible and will definitely destroy your life. Jesus says that lust is a sin (Matthew 5:28), Paul says that sexual activity “unites your soul to the other person” (1 Corinthians 6:16), and therefore should only be done with your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:2), and a repeated theme throughout the New Testament is that we are “slaves to sin”; commonly interpreted as “sin is a crushing addiction that you can’t escape from, except with the power of Jesus”. Since masturbation is sexual activity, and it is not in marriage, then it is a sexual sin, which destroys your soul by uniting it with the object of your lust, and makes you an addict; controlled by your sinful obsession.
These views can be found just about anywhere in Christian churches, and are exemplified by these articles, just to mention a few: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/what-does-the-bible-say-about-masturbation.html, http://www.beginningcatholic.com/catholic-teaching-on-masturbation, https://www.gotquestions.org/masturbation-sin.html, https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2013/01/02/fair-questions-4-whats-wrong-with-masturbation.
Spencer W. Kimball, former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, wrote in his 1994 book, We believe: Doctrines and Principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:
“Prophets anciently and today condemn masturbation. It induces feelings of guilt and shame. It is detrimental to spirituality. It indicates slavery to the flesh, not that mastery of it and the growth toward godhood which is the object of our mortal life. Our modern prophet has indicated that no young man should be called on a mission who is not free from this practice.”
He also makes note of how it causes people to become gay:
“While we should not regard this weakness as the heinous sin which some other sexual practices are, it is of itself bad enough to require sincere repentance. What is more, it too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality. For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation—practiced with another person of the same sex and thence into total homosexuality.”
What the vast majority of Christians will constantly tell you is that masturbation is scary, evil, destructive, perverted, and addictive.
What Does The Science Say?
A quick search on “WebMD” shows an article stating:
“…masturbation is regarded as a normal, healthy sexual activity that is pleasant, fulfilling, acceptable, and safe. It is a good way to experience sexual pleasure and can be done throughout life. Masturbation is only considered a problem when it inhibits sexual activity with a partner, is done in public, or causes significant distress to the person. It may cause distress if it is done compulsively or interferes with daily life and activities.” (https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/masturbation-guide#1).
Such blasphemy! Nowhere in the article do they state the Biblical truth that even a small amount of masturbation will COMPLETELY DESTROY YOU!!!
The “Planned Parenthood” website mentions a variety of benefits of masturbation, including:
- release sexual tension
- reduce stress
- help you sleep better
- improve your self-esteem and body image
- help treat sexual problems
- relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension
- strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas
In a “Psychology Today” article, psychiatrist Neel Burton mentions a variety of benefits of masturbation: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/hide-and-seek/201710/brief-history-masturbation
In a “Psych Central” article, Dr. Michael Ashworth says that pretty much all of the negative effects of masturbation are myths: https://psychcentral.com/lib/does-masturbation-cause-blindness/
In fact, there is near total consensus among doctors, psychologists, and sociologists that masturbation is a common, normal, and healthy practice, so long as it is done in moderation:
- Porter, Robert S.; Kaplan, Justin L., eds. (2011). “Chapter 165. Sexuality and Sexual Disorders”. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis & Therapy (19th ed.). Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., A Subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc.
- Patton, Michael S. (June 1985). “Masturbation from Judaism to Victorianism”. Journal of Religion and Health. 24(2): 133–146.10.1007/BF01532257.
- Boulware, Jack (9 May 2000). “Sex educator says most people masturbate”. Salon.com.
- “Masturbation: Current medical opinions”. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
- Szasz, Thomas S. (1974) . “Sex”. The Second Sin. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. p. 10.
Masturbation: the primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century it was a disease; in the twentieth, it’s a cure.
- Shpancer, Noah (29 September 2010). “The Masturbation Gap. The pained history of self pleasure”. Psychology Today. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- Coon, Dennis; Mitterer, John O. (2014). “11. Gender and Sexuality”. Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior (14 ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 363. Sigel,
- Lisa Z. (Summer 2004). “Masturbation: The History of the Great Terror by Jean Stengers; Ann Van Neck; Kathryn Hoffmann”. Journal of Social History. 37 (4): 1065–1066. doi:10.1353/jsh.2004.0065
- Wood, Kate (March 2005). “Masturbation as a Means of Achieving Sexual Health by Walter Bockting; Eli Coleman”. Culture, Health & Sexuality. 7 (2): 182–184.
Of course, for anyone who has masturbated (aka “all humans ever”), it is very unlikely that it did anything terrible to your life. Chances are, the worst thing it caused was the guilt from the Christians trying to pound your brain into thinking a very obscure way. It is clear that from any individual’s experience, as well as from medical, psychological, and social studies, that one would not naturally derive the idea that masturbation is a terrible thing. In fact, one is likely to get the idea that masturbation is normal and healthy, so long as it is done in moderation.
It may be considered an important spiritual matter for devout believers to refrain from masturbating. In so far as I can tell, that is not necessarily damaging to the individual. But if the individual goes to extreme lengths to avoid masturbating, or does masturbate and feels overwhelmingly guilty about it, then the complete avoidance of masturbation would likely be a mentally unhealthy thing to do, and perhaps the individual should consider a more balanced approach.
Superstitions are enduring in every culture, and modern western society is no different. As Dr. Neel Burton notes in “A Brief History of Masturbation”, masturbation was classified as a mental disorder until 1968, and was not universally accepted as normal by the medical community until 1972. There is no doubt that Christianity contributed significantly to this superstition historically, and its effects lasted in the general culture very long, and still persist within religious communities to this day. Whether Christian groups will work to re-interpret scripture to be consistent with the current science, or persist in their superstitions, remains to be seen.
But it is optimistic to note that many churches have taken a less extreme stance in recent years, and have simply relegated masturbation to a “minor” sin. For instance, Pope Francis has been working to have less of a “guilt” and “shame” narrative, and more of a “love” and “joy” narrative in regards to sexual expression- a significant change from earlier Popes (the doctrine is the same, but the shift in approach to sex can have major effects for people) (https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2016/04/15/opinion/the-end-of-catholic-guilt.amp.html). The Mormon church has also softened its stance on the issue, and allowed for more moderate perspectives (https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/the-mormon-therapist-neither-a-sin-nor-a-transgression/). Christianity does have the potential to adapt with current research, and to better communicate morality than through sensationalist, unfounded assertions.