What's wrong with Masturbation?
Masturbation in the Bible. Does
Masturbation prevent prostate cancer? How to stop masturbating.
If you are fed up, and just want to stop masturbating now, go here.
Perhaps I (Hugh) should talk about my status regarding the masturbation issue. Advocates of masturbation figure anybody who speaks against it is a hypocrite because they assume everyone masturbates, even those who speak against it.
My testimony clearly shows I am not one to judge. I was involved in abortions, broken hearts, and crossed gender boundaries. Even after stopping premarital sex and after becoming Christian I had periods of struggle with porn and/or masturbation. Before I became Catholic I thought masturbation was OK, except this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something was wrong. I was very much against the Catholic position on masturbation. I almost didn't become Catholic over masturbation. I thought the Catholic Church's position on masturbation was a stupid teaching.
The interesting miracle is that the day of my Confirmation, I became free of all desire to masturbate for a year. It was a gift from God, and truly a "confirmation" that the teaching was correct and that freedom from masturbation is the great gift that comes with obedience and a profound desire to serve God. The Catholic word "chastity" means no sex with self or others before marriage. If you're married it means only sex with your wife/husband (of the opposite sex). So practising chastity as a single person means no masturbation. Practising chastity as a married person means no masturbation.
I have been free of masturbation since 2002. I'm a lay Catholic, which means I live in the real world, I have a job, and live a fairly normal life. On January 1, 2011, after over 20 years of being single and celibate, I married. We had a 15 month engagement without "making up" for our chastity by masturbating when alone.
Myths about masturbation
We got an email from a sincere Evangelical that said:
Masturbation ... is a way of maintaining self-control for both sexes. For men it allows release of stored sperm and in a woman, it maintains her vagina’s environment through moist renewal.
This poor fellow believes a number of myths. Here are some of the myths you may hear about masturbation from those who don't want to give it up.
Myth #1 - Masturbation is a physical release for men, or a way that women don't "dry up"
Actually, the body is quite intelligent and it adjusts easily to not masturbating. It also adapts very well the other way if that person gets married later. The body is an amazing gift from God, and God loves it when people take their sexuality seriously and try to put it in order. The body absorbs unused semen very easily. It's not like putting a bunch of semen in a bottle and leaving it there for a year. The body is a lot smarter than that.
My body can figure out how to turn an apple that I ate into all the essential enzymes, and it easily knows what to do with a few cc's of seminal fluid. Just think about a pimple (containing harmful bacteria) - the body handles it no problem, after a few days it goes away. Any doctor will say squeezing a pimple makes it worse.
I was really surprised that my body didn't freak out when it didn't get sex. It simply adjusted. I found the issue really has more to do with the mind than the body. When you stop masturbating, at the beginning there may be the very occasional wet dream which is usually more of a mental thing than a physical thing.
The myth is that masturbation is purely a physical release. The truth is that the physical stimulation almost always follows some sort of visual or mental stimulus, not vice versa. And that stimulus is more often than not, some kind of "unbiblical" image or fantasy. (Mat 5:28) The real problem is the mind, and that is best handled by Jesus, who is very good at removing unwanted mental images.
Likewise, women do not "dry up" if they don't masturbate. These are teenage myths. The body adjusts to whatever our state of life and easily adapts if that changes through marriage.
Myth #2 - Masturbation puts out the fire of sexual desire - it helps self control
I used to think that sexual desire was like a smoldering fire. I thought that I could satisfy it simply by masturbating. But that is the myth of our modern culture.
Masturbation is not like throwing water on the fire of
It is like throwing gasoline on a fire.
It leads to inner conflict, loneliness, emptiness, more cravings for sex, an over developed fantasy life, creates conflict in relationships, and often sends the person into the "head-space" that life is empty and meaningless. It often becomes an addiction. The brain releases a chemical cocktail of acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin when it sees an image and masturbation begins. These chemicals produced by the body are highly addictive.
If masturbation becomes compulsive, the brain, motor nerves, neuromuscular endings, and tissues can be drained of acetylcholine which can be replaced with an overdose of stress adrenalin. This is where memory loss, lack of concentration, and eye floaters come from. So those old nuns in the 1950's who said masturbation makes you go blind weren't actually that far off.
God is quite good at balancing body chemicals. He made them. The way to quench the smoldering fire of sexual desire is with the light of God, with his intimacy, his love and his power. As a Catholic, I also find that it is very helpful to ask Mary to pray for me, because she lived a chaste life and she loves all her children. When I am tempted to look at a woman with lustfully, I sense Mary saying "hey, don't you dare look at my daughter that way." Mary is such a great mother, and all she wants is for us to give our life to her Son.
Myth #3 - It's impossible to stop masturbation
I'm living proof that, one day at a time, it is possible to be free of masturbation. There are thousands of married or single people who live happy and productive lives.
Myth #4 - Masturbation is normal
Most people who masturbate feel uncomfortable about it. Deep down they know that something is wrong, and are conflicted. That's a statistic. It was certainly true for me, although it took me several years to identify what in my life was wrong.
I would also call into question today's concept of normal. Is a culture
normal when pornography is streamed into your living room TV, 24 hours
a day, pornography on demand on cell phones, and a 20 second Google
search will render up the most perverse images known to history?
Sitting in front of a computer with underwear around your ankles
doesn't sound normal to me. I'd say were are living in a time of
perversion and apostasy, like the Roman times, actually worse. The
status quo is not normal. As a culture we are
headed over a cliff.
Below: Christopher West talking about the value of single celibacy
Myth #5 - If you don't masturbate you'll go impotent
I'm not impotent or sexually constipated. After many years of being a single person who didn't have premarital sex and who didn't masturbate, I'm married now. I'm a normal man with normal sexual instincts, which, one day at a time, I have surrendered to God. The result was very good. I have a beautiful daughter. Contrary to popular teenage belief, refraining from sex and masturbation doesn't make you impotent.
Myth #6 - Abstinence from masturbation will lead to a huge sexual explosion
That is only true if the abstinence is devoid of spiritual substance. If we surrender to God, we will find ourselves on an amazing journey that eventually leads to a new way of life that we never dreamed possible. We will realize that masturbation was a diversion that was keeping us from the fulfillment that God was calling us to. We go to new depths and intimacy with God when we surrender the diversion and selfishness of masturbation.
My spiritual life is much better than ever. My prayer is deeper, my sense of connection with God greater. I realize now that masturbation dulls the spirit. It clouds the mind. There is an old joke that people who masturbate go blind. Well, in a way it is true, if we are talking about spiritual sight.
I've been talking to men here but the same is basically true for women who are tempted to masturbate, which has become almost as common as men.
Myth #7 - Masturbation helps prevent prostate cancer
There are articles floating around the web (i.e., webMD) quoting a study conducted in 2009, published in the British Journal of Urology International. The headlines read something like "Frequent masturbation in young men is linked to higher risk of early prostate cancer, but it lowers prostate cancer risk for men in their 50s, a study shows."
So I decided to look up the study. The title is actually Frequent sex and masturbation in 20s and 30s linked to higher prostate cancer, but risks diminish with age. So what is the difference between what masturbation advocates quote and what the actual study found? Well here are the findings:
- Men with prostate cancer had more sexual activity (intercourse and
masturbation) than men in the control group, for every
age group. 40% of men in the cancer group fell into the highest
frequency category in their twenties (20 or more times a month)
compared to 32% in the control group. Similar patterns were observed
in the men’s thirties and forties. By the fifties it had evened out,
with 31% in each group falling into the most frequent category (ten or
more times a month).
- Men with prostate cancer were also more likely to masturbate frequently than men in the control group, with the greatest difference in the twenties (34% versus 24%) and thirties (41% versus 31%). The differences were less pronounced in their forties (34% versus 28%) and by the fifties the cancer group was slightly lower (25% versus 26%).
In other words, the over arching findings were that:
Frequent masturbation and/or promiscuity is linked to prostate cancer, not the other way around.
This is true for men 20's-40's. At 50 years old it evens out (1% is statistically insignificant, and falls within the error margin).
So abstaining from masturbation decreases your chances of prostate cancer, not the other way around.
Note: It is interesting that the writer on WebMD, Daniel J. DeNoon, who is spinning the study to say it's healthy to masturbate over 50, is guess what ... a man over 50. Hmmm... (scratching head) .
Why are Catholics the only denomination against masturbation?
The acceptance of masturbation is actually very new, the natural outcome of the Anglican's accepting contraception in 1930. Contraception is basically mutual masturbation. I've been there. Denominations which accepted contraception in the 1960's caved in on masturbation soon after. Here's a letter by C.S. Lewis, the great Protestant author of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
"For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back, sends it back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival ."
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, quoted in Bausch, "Masturbation", 35
Some modern Evangelical leaders are catching on also. The best seller Evangelical book "Every Man's Marriage" by Stephen Arterburn says:
...A wife's body... is the only legitimate vessel of sexual satisfaction for her husband on the Earth. As usual, when God's standards get tough, we choose to mix in our own standards of sexual conduct to create a more comfortable mixture, something new, something mediocre. No wonder we lead mediocre lives ...God has already addressed this in 1 Corinthians. It's not your hand's duty to fulfill you sexually! ...(pg 241)
Catherine Doherty, a great Catholic leader who helped thousands of people said:
"The problem with masturbation is that it is the ultimate in self centeredness, which is a huge obstacle to spiritual growth."
Father Bob Bedard said:
"Masturbation dulls the spirit."
What does the Catholic Church say about Masturbation
The Catechism has this to say about masturbation:
2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."138 "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."139
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.
So the Catechism is basically saying "don't do it." It's difficult at times but with God's grace all things are possible. It's a great way to live, I highly recommend it.
Masturbation in the Bible
There are several sections that one could apply to masturbation. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus says:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
This is clearly a statement against masturbation even though it encompasses more than that. For almost all masturbation is accompanied by "looking at a woman lustfully" (or a man) whether it be porn, euphoric recall, memory, fantasy or whatever the source of the mental images that drive the action. St. Francis of Assisi in the 1,200's took Jesus' council to heart. If he felt any lust, he'd throw himself in a prickly bramble bush, ouch!
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
St. Paul advises:
'But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (I Cor. 7:9).
He didn't say "if you burn with passion, masturbate and relieve yourself!" There is no indication that this passage is talking about sexual sin other than masturbation. To "burn with passion" is clearly a self oriented manifestation of sexual sin. God is saying something like "spiritually, it's better to stay single and celibate, but if you can't control yourself then get married." We could also say that Gal. 5:23, 2 Cor. 7:1; and I Thes. 4:4 implicitly contain a condemnation of masturbation. The tradition of the Church has rightly, and for many centuries, understood it to be condemned in the New Testament when the latter speaks of 'impurity', 'unchasteness' and other vices contrary to chastity and continence." Many feel that the story of Onan is partially about masturbation. Masturbation has often been called Onanism, as a nod to this passage:
...[Onan] spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother's wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. What he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death also. (Genesis 38:6-10)
In the Bible, all infertile methods of intercourse were subject to the
death penalty: bestiality in Leviticus 20:15-16, homosexuality in
Leviticus 20:13, withdrawal in Genesis 38:6-10. Other passages to be
considered are Deuteronomy 23:1, Luke 23:28-29. Masturbation is
definitely infertile sex, and when we consider the purpose of sex to
"bond, and procreate" as presented in the Bible we can see
the wisdom of the Church's constant and consistent position on this
over the centuries.
A talk about How to Conquer Lust
How to stop the habit of masturbation?
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, this is all about our spiritual growth. Ultimately this is a spiritual journey. But the truth is you can stop masturbating right now.
- Surrender your life to God: Honestly, without God, it's impossible. But for God, all things are possible. With a surrender to God, you can do it. Many of us have.
- Avoiding temptation: The Lord's prayer says "Lead us not into temptation." A big challenge is to avoid lust in general.
- stay away from racy scenes on TV, YouTube, and in movies, and of course, no porn.
- maintain "soft eyes" at malls, looking generally downward instead of checking out the "sights."
- try not to glance at people's sexual organs when you see them or meet them.
- look away from provocative billboards.
- avoid spending time alone in a closed environment with someone of the opposite sex (or someone you are sexually attracted to).
- recite a prayer whenever
temptated. It's called the shield prayer, which can be used dozens of
times a day, memorize it so it is automatic:
"Lord come into this temptation, please remove any desire to look or fantasize in this situation."
The following poem says it all:
Autobiography in Five Short chapters by Portia Nelson
The path of God is another street. A beautiful journey to a wonderful eternity.
- I walk, down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.
I'm lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
- I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place. But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
- I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I still fall in . . . It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
- I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
- I walk down another street