I saw a talk circulating on Facebook today, published by the church of my upbringing, talking about “the sin of masturbation” which was specifically geared towards young (and grown) men [because we all know talking about women’s sex organs is taboo].
I’m not sure about other churches, but the LDS church lists masturbation as one of the most serious sins that can be committed (yep) and actually refuses to call it “masturbation” and opts for “self abuse” instead. You read that correctly. From a young age, you are being taught that if you “tamper with your little factory (Boyd K. Packer)” that you are actually engaging in an act of sexual abuse against yourself.
Now I’m all about people having their personal religious beliefs. That’s their right and freedom. But I’m also about making sure people are educated and understand WHAT they believe and why they believe it. And this is a topic that needs to be discussed. Perhaps at the end of this information text, you’ll find you hold different beliefs about this specific doctrine. Or maybe not.
Let’s begin with science. Infant males and male fetuses begin having erections in the womb. Lots of moms freak out when changing their baby boy’s diaper and notice this strange biological occurrence (probably because no one talks about the fact that it’s just a natural bodily response to any type of stimulus…like air…). There is also documentation of male fetuses masturbating in utero. I’m not making this up.
So is this tiny baby just inherently sinful? He can’t know right from wrong as a fetus. Does this baby need to speak with his church clergy to rectify his actions? Is he on the path paved to Hell? Or worse, will it turn him gay (“There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just “that way” and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. (Boyd K. Packer)”?
Please….someone explain it to me.
A church pamphlet tells young men not to expect much action from their “down-there” parts during puberty. Science (and a guy who isn’t afraid to talk about it) will tell you that an average human with a male body experiences around 11 erections per day, and 2 at night. This number is psychotically higher when it comes to puberty.
And science will also confirm that erections aren’t always sexual, but also related to anxiety, fear, stress, prostate conditions, drugs, and the urge to urinate.
Finally, science discusses that “masturbation is a normal part of the growing child’s exploration of his or her body.” Not only that, but that it can improve health (in both men and women), increase intimacy, and create happier relationships. Studies also have linked abstinence from masturbation (or failing to abstain) due to religious practices is directly related to such intense feelings of guilt and bodily shame that therapy is often sought out. Let me know if you’d like me to share the medical studies with you.
So, in talking about science alone….I’m here to tell you that masturbation is natural and healthy and starts before you are born into any type of religion that may tell you otherwise. Now, if it interferes with your ability to have a healthy sexual relationship with a partner, or becomes an act of compulsion, then you should seek out medical help.
Now let’s talk about the sexual abuse/adultery angle.
Masturbation is not abuse unless you are imposing it on someone who is saying “stop/no” or someone who is unable to consent/non-consenting. You cannot sexually abuse yourself. Erase that from your head.
Masturbation is not adultery. You should not feel “forbidden to use your [reproductive] powers” until you are married so that they are used “with worthiness and virtue.” You aren’t cheating on anyone, alone, with your vaseline and a sock. Now, if you find yourself addicted to or dependent on porn for your arousal, and can no longer find sexual satisfaction with a human partner, you should seek out medical help/therapy.
I understand why the church wants boys to be cautious and abstain. The idea is that masturbation is a gateway drug. If you touch it, you’ll understand the functions, and you’ll want to utilize them to maximum capacity. The church wants its members to treat their bodies with respect and to avoid putting themselves in sexual situations that could result in pre-marital babies. But teaching abuse and shame to keep them from putting their hands there?
I personally find that abhorrent. Disgusting. Manipulative. Wrong.
No one ever died from being told “This is how it works. Don’t be an asshole. Respect yourself and others and understand the responsibility/consequences that can come from sex acts” plus their specific religious perspective.
Now let’s talk about masturbation in the healthy sexual relationship (in this context, male/female, married). No one talks about female parts/masturbation. Why? We ladies get told in Sunday school that if someone else touches us, that we’re a licked cupcake that nobody will want…but no one talks about girls and masturbation. Do they assume it doesn’t and won’t ever need to happen?
Our old friend science (and his friend, experience) have written billions of words about how female sex organs require external stimulation to create a satisfying sexual experience. Masturbation/mutual masturbation is prohibited within the LDS church even between married couples. So, then, how is a female expected to enjoy a sexual encounter with her partner? (Oral sex is also a no-no). They can try and gyrate from a girl-on-top position, but that’s it. She cannot touch herself, and you cannot touch her, so her sexual satisfaction is left up to chance. Let’s not forget the connection (for women, at least) between regular masturbation and less overall stress/depression.
Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. If masturbation is suddenly allowed between married couples, it should be clarified.
I think the saddest thing of all is that religious youth are taught to fear and shame their bodies, to see sex as a sin, as dangerous. But then, the night of their wedding, suddenly those feelings are supposed to change? How does one undergo such a heavy psychological change of opinion/understanding within hours? How are they not supposed to feel dirty/used after their first sexual encounter?
If you still choose to believe that masturbation is evil and sinful, that’s your prerogative. But if you aren’t sitting there wondering whether or not your church needs a serious overhaul regarding its sexual education “curriculum” then I urge you to think again.
Ask yourself whether or not shame is the way to go about it. Is that how you would teach your children to resist a temptation? I think it’s important to demand a straight forward, comprehensive discussion about sex and sexual behaviors, and to acknowledge their roles in healthy, consenting relationships.
And if I’m being blunt, I don’t believe any organization, group of religious leaders, parents, etc. has any right or business telling you what is acceptable in your bedroom with your partner. Take a minute and ask yourself if that’s really ok with you. Once you’ve entered into matrimony, why does it remain the business of the church what you do?
All in all, there’s a really unhealthy current of body talk that occurs in most religions. Please be an advocate in your religious community for positive, uplifting (yep) discussions that do not demonize the human body.