With the posts this week, I think it’s only fitting that my “Moment of Zen” this week be dedicated to masturbation.
Tag Archives: Masturbation
Arguing with Henry Longfellow
The title of this post is one of the best euphemisms for masturbation that I have ever seen. I knew this would have to be a quickie because I left my computer at school by accident, so I’m typing this post on my iPhone. By the way, iPhones are great for porn, LOL. You can lay in bed, watch a video while holding the iPhone in one hand, and using the other to “argue with Henry Longfellow.” I hope that all of my readers have enjoyed my week-long series of posts about masturbation.
So considering the title of this post: What is your favorite euphemism for masturbation?
The Pros and the Cons of Porn
I’ll admit I’ve indulged in porn (magazines/videos/Internet) ever since I reached puberty and discovered where Dad hid his stash. I’d sneak a look at my father’s magazines and VCR tapes (which sadly enough, were all straight porn). Then again, what would you really expect from your Dad? It was watching that first porn that I discovered how to masturbate, and when I came, it freaked me out. I had not idea what had happened, but I knew I liked it. I remember my penis seeming to be puffy afterwards. Do you remember your first experience masturbating?
This post is not about my first time masturbating, but about the pros and cons of pornography. I began to think more about this as I have written this week’s posts, but especially because of Adon’s comment on my Sunday post:
I hear a lot from many sources of what a “problem” porn is. Is it a problem? Personally I see no harm in it except the guilt and shame that many people of faith connect to it.
So I decide to write about my experience with porn and a bit about its pros and cons. I’d check out the guys in magazines and videos and imagine what it’d be like for me to be with these guys. More importantly, what it would be like to snuggle up next to them at the end of the day, to fall gently off to sleep with my arms wrapped around one or resting safely and peacefully in the guy’s own arms. I’ve always wanted a strong man to wrap me up in his arms and make me the comfort that comes with that. Such was my “release from my real life”; one that just didn’t fit in with the dreams and hopes I had for myself. It was the only thing I felt I could do to create some version of the future I wanted; it wasn’t real but it was at least more in line with what I was feeling as a post-pubescent teenager and later on, as a young man, even though I did not yet understand that I was gay.
I grew up in a small rural town. I didn’t know any gay people, and nothing was ever said nicely about the ones they mentioned. It was a scary feeling. I remember looking at International Male and Undergear catalogs, not to mention the underwear section of the Sears Wishbook, my true wish had nothing to do with all of the other goodies in the catalog. When my mother questioned me, three or four times between ages 18 and 22, I denied that I was gay. Finally, when I was about 23, she confronted me about it again, and I admitted to her that I was gay. The aftermath was not pretty, but again, I’m off subject.
With regards to porn, I began my journey along that road somewhere along about 12-to-14 years of age. It was likely to have been when my testosterone kicked in and I began masturbating every chance I got. I couldn’t steal my dad’s porn, but I do remember having the movie “Bachelor Party” on VHS and really enjoying the scenes when the women went to see the male strippers.
But, what effect did watching porn have on me, as a teen and as an adult? For instance, I sometimes wonder if there’s an upside to looking at or watching porn and likewise, I wonder if there’s a downside (a real danger to indulging in the practice). For me it was a question of getting caught and feeling guilt of a religious nature. It isn’t about going to Heaven or Hell, yet more of was certain bad things that were happening in my life were because I indulged in porn. Was God punishing me? Through a lot of prayer and meditation, the same technique I used to come to terms with my homosexuality, I came to the decision to believe what my preacher had always preached: God does not punish us for sins in this life, but in the next. Read my post from Sunday to understand my full stance on the issue of the porn and sin.
I can say that when I first began looking at porn it was all about escaping the “traditional” reality that was expected of me in the face of the very “non-traditional” existence I believed/believe I was meant to live. Though I also understood that porn was a fantasy. Men that good-looking and well-endowed rarely existed in the real world. The real question, I suppose is just how much are someone chooses to FOCUS on pornography? Are those fantasies (while indulging in porn) preventing you from keeping your feet firmly planted in the real world? Are you spending so much time “living a fantasy life, through porn” that your own REAL life is passing by, unnoticed and unappreciated?
So I turned to porn when I became horny, or sometimes stressed, and I would watch a video or look at pictures, masturbate and then I felt better. However, it never ruled my life. I never allowed it to do so.
Most of us know that porn is a cheap imitation of the real thing. Real sex can be wonderful, and is most of the time, though sex is not always good. Sometimes we need the fantasy of porn, where the sex always looks perfect. The reality of porn is that the actors work very hard (no pun intended) and have long days. Porn actors constantly discuss in interviews that it is never as easy as it looks. However, some do porn because they want to give others pleasure; most do porn for the money. We usually don’t know what particularly the need the money for: college, a car, debts, drugs, etc. I tend to dislike the studios who are known to prey on drug addicts. When there is a vinous drug abuse, it’s a major turn off to me.
So what effect does watching porn have on your life?
Porn is a controversial subject. Some people feel that pornography damages society or is unhealthy, others believe it may actually be beneficial. Many studies have been done on the effects of porn, for example, whether it causes increased violence against women (it doesn’t) or leads to unrealistic expectations (it can in certain people). This is a discussion about the ways porn is good or bad, and the situations in which it can be beneficial or harmful.
The easy access afforded by the massive boom in online porn led many of us to our first experiences with it at a young and curious age. It showed us what a naked body looks like up close and what sex actually is. It introduced us to a world of sex acts, kinks, and fetishes, some of it beyond our imaginations. As we moved beyond curiosity, it provided us a tool to help with arousal and masturbation. Visual stimulation can be very sexually arousing of itself, and it saves you from having to do the fantasizing on your own.
For the majority of people, there is nothing wrong with porn. With experience, most of us learn that sex isn’t always or even usually like it’s portrayed in porn. Every naked body looks different, we don’t all react and respond in the same ways, we choose which sexual acts we enjoy taking part in, and we learn that each interaction and partner differs from the last.
It is important to realize that porn is not reality. It uses actors and it follows a script. Yes, some porn is more realistic than others, and amateur porn or videos shot by good quality production companies can seem very realistic, but most pornography depicts something very different from the sex you would have with a partner. If most of your exposure to sexuality has been from from the scenes you’ve seen in porn, it may be a letdown when you finally get a chance to have sex with someone if you’ve let that shape your expectations.
For this reason, experts in the field are stressing how important it is for parents to talk to their kids about porn, especially if they know their child is watching it. There is a drive for it to be part of high school sex-education curriculum, but anti-porn activists are fighting to prevent this from being discussed in classrooms. As long as we understand the realities of porn, I don’t see a problem with it as long as it has it’s proper place in our sexual explorations.
Some people, especially those with a history of problems with addiction, can become addicted to porn. If your porn watching negatively affects your life, you may have a problem. If you cancel or miss plans with others, fall behind in work because of porn, or anything else like that, it’s a problem. If your porn habit prevents you from being sexually intimate with your partner, that’s a problem too.
Masturbation, with or without porn, is a normal and healthy activity even when you’re in a relationship, but if you’d rather watch porn than be sexual with a partner, you should evaluate the situation. Have you lost your attraction for your partner, or do you have a pornography addiction problem?
If the porn you watch makes you uncomfortable (due to its subject matter) or if it’s leading you to act differently with your partner(s), it may be a good idea to switch up the porn you’re watching or even take a short break from porn altogether.
Porn should be a positive and healthy experience that provides an escape from reality, gets you aroused and ready for sexual stimulation, and can give you ideas to incorporate into your personal sex life. If you remember that it isn’t reality and that your partner still likes you, there should be no negative effects of watching porn.
PS. THE GUY IN THE PHOTO LOOKS AMAZINGLY LIKE THE GUY I HAD A CRUSH ON IN HIGH SCHOOL WHO WAS MY MOST OFTEN MASTURBATORY FANTASY IN MY TEEN YEARS.
Punishments For Masturbation Throughout History
The practice of punishing the perpetrator of the act of masturbation is one that can be traced in documented form to the time of the Roman Empire.
The matriarchal society that was a feature of Roman life, tended to view male masturbation as an unwelcome, undesirable act, directly affecting procreation, so important to the future of the Empire.
During the first century AD, Christianity defined the act as a ‘Mortal Sin’ and the spread of Christianity brought with it the firm belief that self-abuse should be strongly discouraged in a Christian household. Even today the Catholic Church still categorises self-abuse as a ‘venal and mortal sin’.
Archbishop Borders of Baltimore, in his 1987 pastoral, ‘On Human Sexuality’, writes ‘Authentic human sexuality should open one to another in a deep and abiding relationship. It is neither unitive (sic.) nor procreative, and is merely sexual actuation with very little true sexual meaning’.
In 1992 Father Mateo wrote on the Internet: ‘In itself, masturbation is a mortal sin because it negates the whole purpose of our most sacred powers, the power to fashion family and procreate human life.’
That then is the view of God and the punishments distributed by Priests throughout history have been many and varied. In Ireland boys were regularly caned and whipped in addition to more normal religious impositions. Irish parents thrashed their male offspring when evidence of self-abuse was discovered, and the same scenario is echoed through many other countries of the Catholic world. What emerges from this investigation is the surprising fact that punishments for masturbation have changed very little over the years and, moreover, that it has been predominantly the female in the household who has been more tasked to seek out and deal with the male self-abuser.
Punishment for self-abuse was at its height during the Victorian era and much of it was delivered by the Nanny, Governess or indeed by other female members of the household staff. In most cases the females were spinsters of mature age and the possibility of their being somewhat disenchanted or even unaware of sexual pleasures, only serves to explain their particular preference in dealing with young male abusers in their charge, by means of potions, restraints and canes. In public schools of the time masturbation was not condoned and discovery of an offender would earn him a severe thrashing as described by an author of the time, Edward Whittaker in his ‘Memoirs of an Eton Housemaster’; “Use of the cane and birch was widespread and the cane was administered by both Staff and Prefects. Offences were the usual acts of high-spirited boys, which led to class or dormitory disruption, lack of hygiene, failure to meet academic standards and general disobedience. These would be promptly and properly punished with a number of strokes from the cane on the tight trousers of the bending boy. The birch was reserved for more serious offences such as stealing or self-abuse, and was administered on the bare backside of the unfortunate pupil, as he lay firmly secured across the birching block. Only the Headmaster flogged with this implement, which was harsh in the extreme!
The most common punishments for this ‘crime’ throughout history were physical denial by various means and flagellation. As remarked on before, more often than not, this was administered by a female to a male in the first flush of puberty. I’m not going to dwell on the psychological damage that was often inflicted as a result of this situation, suffice to say there are many females who are grateful for the fact that it did.
References to the punishment of masturbation prior to the 18th century are few and far between. It may be assumed that in the Middle Ages, Jacobean and Elizabethan eras, a more liberal attitude was adopted by a society which regarded such activities as normal, however it is also true that males were far more likely to be experiencing full heterosexual intercourse often from the tender ages of nine years old. There are many accounts of royal marriages being arranged for couples barely in their teens. In addition the Reformation of Tudor times destroyed the Catholic teachings and spread a somewhat barren moral wasteland before the confused and increasingly apathetic population.
The earliest reference to the use of punishment to deter the masturbator can be found in an account of the Roman household by Peter Moorview in his book, ‘The Roman Citizen’, a factual description of domestic life at the time of the Roman Empire. According to the author, many of the young male slaves had their penis ringed with iron or their urethra pierced to discourage erections and to avoid the possibility of them attempting rape. Other male slaves found they were obliged to carry out ‘bedroom duties’ (sic) as well as their normal domestic chores within the house:
The frequent absence of the Master of the house, (eg. in the case of military personnel), often led to illicit and furtive sexual activity between slave and Mistress and in order to ensure confidentiality, slaves were subjected to the most horrendous acts of cruelty to ensure their obedience and silence. Well-endowed and virile young slaves were much in demand and were available at public auctions to privileged sections of Roman society. Slaves purchased solely for the purpose of providing sexual gratification for their Mistress often had their genitalia permanently restrained within purpose made metal chastity belts to prevent unauthorised masturbation. Those free to masturbate would face a severe flogging with a rod if discovered and subsequently their genitals would be bound in bandages soaked in a mixture of herbs and peppers, which inflicted excruciating pain on the treated parts. Persistent offenders were generally discarded and punished by castration and removal of their tongues to ensure their secrets would never be disclosed.
Before 1700, medical references to the harmful effects of masturbation were scarce. In the eighteenth century two works, Contra: or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its frightful sequences, (by an anonymous author) and Samuel Tissot’s Treatise on the Diseases Produced by Onanism introduced concepts that a certain Sylvester Graham adopted and helped to popularize.
Tissot’s claim that loss of semen under any condition caused health hazards spread rapidly throughout the world’s medical profession and Graham’s Lecture to Young Men (1834) was the first of its kind and launched a whole genre of medical tracts on masturbation, known then as ‘self-abuse’ or ‘self-pollution’. In America, where he lectured, a peculiar flowering of myths involving masturbation took place during the 19th century. The predictable culprits… Victorian prudery, evangelical Christianity, entrepreneurialism are all part of the picture, and Graham, knowing his audience, and with a solid grasp of rhetorical devices made claims that no one could disprove. Or rather, would disprove. According to Graham a masturbator grows up ‘with a body full of disease, and with a mind in ruins, the loathsome habit still tyrannising over him, with the inexorable imperiousness of a fiend of darkness.’
Hardly surprising then that fond parents, Nannies, and Governess’, the world over, felt justified in meting out the most horrific punishments to save their charges from the devastating medical prognoses, and the hell-fire that lay ahead for the unfortunate self-abuser when he was finally laid to rest! Thus, the scene was set for the next 100 years or so…. ‘Punish or He’s Damned! …. was to be the cry.
Treatments for self-abuse, both physical and dietary abounded. Dr John Harvey Kellog, (brother of the founder of the Kellog’s Corn Flakes Company) suggested: ‘A remedy which is almost always effective in small boys is circumcision…. the operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anaesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind…. In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement…’ the chance of disease and death’.
General medical opinion weighed in with their recipe for healthy minds and bodies. Sexual moderation (no more than 12 times a year for married couples), exercise (to help prevent nocturnal emissions), no masturbation and a proper diet (to facilitate free peristaltic action of the bowels).
Masturbation led to madness and nocturnal emissions probably would as well. Spermatorrhoea was recognised as a disease, causing complete lack of energy and exhaustion. Rapid dissemination of these theories on the dangers of self-abuse among the upper and middle class citizens of Great Britain in particular during the 19th century led to an explosion in the sale of implements of correction, chastity devices, potions and lotions and increased demand for the services of Governess’ and Nannies to provide 24 hour observation of their charges and to provide the necessary moral guidance, physical treatment, and punishment that would be needed to educate their children and save them from a fate worse than death.
The Governess or Nanny used a wide variety of what we today would consider torture devices as punishment. Some people may still consider masturbation to be a sin, but at least boys are not punished in this way in this day and time. Submissive/masochistic men may allow someone to restrain them from masturbation (a wide variety of male chastity devices exist) or allow themselves to be punished for masturbation, but they have that choice and usually derive pleasure from the experience. However, young boys in the past must have been terrified of leaving evidence of masturbation or even nocturnal emissions, which they had no control over.
Ode to Masturbation
Ode to Masturbation
By Ocean Vuong
Pearled semen trickles from vessel
as the silence of possibilities dries
on the floor and inside my palm.
Even now, as the body trembles
from the pleasure of its making,
somewhere, a plane
is pregnant with death.
When starlight sparkling
on the surface of falling bombs
and flames turn muscle
into pompous, skin into ash,
the sound of a scream in mid-death,
straining to push the weight
of last words, can you blame the hand
for craving the softest parts?
Reach down, there is music
in the body, play yourself
like a lyre, insert the finger
into sanctum, feel
the quivering of crevices, skin
palpitating ripples as if stretched
Reach down. Let explosions be muted
by climaxes, the Holy Water
between your thighs flow
into rivulets of cleansing,
let it rinse the soil of drying blood.
Reach down, there is music
in the cunt, the cock,
the asshole. Grab your balls—
that grenade of white flowers.
Reach down as fathers destroy the sons
and daughters of other fathers,
as faces emerge from wombs
and exiled into memory.
Reach down as a thousand I love you’s
fail to reach the man caressing
the trigger’s black tongue.
Because even now, in a city shimmering
from shards of broken halos,
we are not holy, only beautiful.
Because even now as I kneel to wipe
this cooling pool of sperm,
down the hall—a man
is beating madness into a child’s skull,
and not once will I ask
my unborn children
Born in 1988 in Saigon, Vietnam, Ocean Vuong was raised by women (a single mother, aunts, and a grandmother) in housing projects throughout Hartford, Connecticut and received his B.A. in English Literature from Brooklyn College.
He is the author of two chapbooks: No (YesYes Books, 2013) and Burnings (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2010), which was an American Library Association’s Over The Rainbow selection and has been taught widely in universities, both in America and abroad. A recipient of a 2013 Pushcart Prize, other honors include fellowships from Kundiman, Poets House, and the Saltonstall Foundation For the Arts, as well as an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Connecticut Poetry Society’s Al Savard Award. Poems appear in Denver Quarterly, Quarterly West, Passages North, Guernica, The Normal School, Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Best of the Net 2012 and the American Poetry Review, which awarded him the 2012 Stanley Kunitz Prize. Work has also been translated into Hindi, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian.
From Atum to Kinsey
Since we are on the discussion of masturbation, I thought I would write a post on the history of masturbation. As an historian, I always find the history of almost any subject very interesting. So I did a little research on the history of masturbation.
It seems likely masturbation has always been the most common and universal of human sexual experiences – but only in recent decades have attitudes toward sexuality in general, and masturbation in particular, begun to improve. There never has been a “golden age” of sexual freedom and tolerance, though specific taboos have always varied widely. The frequent condemnation of masturbation apparently stems from a surprisingly simple mandate: there’s safety in numbers. For centuries, all forms of sexual pleasure unlikely to result in population increase have routinely been denounced as wrong. Which is the major reason that I believe that in most societies there is a prohibition on homosexuality.
In order to understand current attitudes, it helps to examine earlier human cultures. Before history, which is defined by the existence of written records, the evidence proves sketchy. Prehistoric petroglyphs and rock paintings from around the world evidently depict male masturbation, though these are entirely matters of interpretation. Most early people seem to have connected human sexuality with abundance in nature. A clay figurine of the 4th millennium B.C., from a temple site called Hagar Qim on the island of Malta, depicts a woman masturbating. However, in the ancient world depictions of male masturbation are far more common. A figure of a masturbating male from a Neolithic cemetery in Greece is roughly contemporary with the Malta image and likewise suggests fertility rites. From the Sumerians, who invented the first written Western language, we find references to the Mesopotamian god Enki masturbating, his ejaculation filling the Tigris River with flowing water.
Male masturbation became an even more important image in ancient Egyptian cosmology. When performed by a god it could be considered a creative or magical act, but a mortal human masturbator might not receive such approval. According to one major creation myth the god Atum appeared on the Primordial Mound out of the void of Nu. As the first “thing” in the midst of nothingness, Atum relieved his loneliness by masturbating. His ejaculation resulted in the appearance of the first god and goddess, Shu and Tefnut, who became the parents of all other elements of the world. An alternate version indicates that the god Ptah, architect of the universe, maintains cosmic order through continual masturbation. The yearly flooding of the Nile, on which Egypt depended entirely, was also said to flow from the secretions of the Nile god Hapy. Min, the god of male potency, was always shown standing with an immense erection, often held in his own hand. Min represented the sexual potency of the Pharaoh, the Great House, an aspect of the Good God considered necessary to the fertility of the Nile valley. During the annual festival of Min men engaged in public acts of masturbation, but otherwise such exhibitionism would not have been tolerated. So even in that pleasure-loving culture the attitude toward masturbation depended entirely upon context.
Far Eastern cultures are sometimes viewed as more sexually tolerant, but this may often be a case of social cosmetics. “Out of sight, out of mind” can mean that human nature (including sexual behavior) is tacitly accepted, so long as it is kept private or unseen. A Hindu myth from India described the phallic god Shiva being masturbated by Agni, the god of fire, who swallowed his semen. Agni then gave birth to Skanda, a god of male beauty. But the Hindus, like later Buddhists, often denounced attachment to sexual pleasure as a cause of human suffering. The oldest Chinese traditions of Taoism equated certain forms of sexual pleasure with generating chi, or life force. As “cultivation,” prolonged masturbation without ejaculating was believed to enhance health and well being. At the same time, frequent ejaculation was considered a waste of this same precious chi.
The ancient Greeks had a more natural attitude toward masturbation than the Egyptians did, regarding the act as a normal and healthy substitute for other forms of sexual pleasure. They considered masturbation a safety valve against destructive sexual frustration. Numerous vase paintings depict male masturbation as a regular part of daily life, neither a virtue nor a vice. Greek culture was extremely phallocentric, meaning the erect penis was a major object of veneration, both spiritually and in daily life. Women did not enjoy a high status in the male-dominated culture, being primarily confined to roles of breeding and motherhood. The society was largely segregated by gender, men spending most of their time with men and women with women – yet the Greeks considered procreation and the family unit of supreme importance. They tolerated male masturbation in daily life only to the extent that it did not interfere with the stability of the family or protection of the state.
In a wonderful Greek myth, Hermes invented masturbation. He taught the practice to Pan, so that the woodland god no longer suffered his habitual frustration. Thereafter Pan learned to give pleasure to others as well as to himself.
More unusual for the ancient world, the Greeks also dealt with female masturbation in both their art and writings. Having ample reason for frustration, Greek women were often depicted using dildos or artificial phalluses made of leather, wood, or ivory for their self-satisfaction. The city of Miletus in Asia Minor was well known as the source of the best such instruments, as was the Island of Lesbos, the home of the legendary poet Sappho.
When the Roman Empire began dominating the Western world, an obsession with distinguishing virtue and vice became increasingly important. Though we often consider the Romans decadent, in fact they practiced a kind of prudish hypocrisy. The Latin term masturbari was only one among half a dozen terms they used for the act. Originally it meant only to rub by hand or to agitate, without negative connotations. Over time, however, the term gained associations of disturbance and defilement. Some authors came to associate the term with manus sinistra, meaning the left hand, indicating uncleanliness, since the Romans linked the left hand with elimination functions. The cosmopolitan civilization of Rome had no consistent attitudes toward sexuality, only a growing intolerance for diversity and concern over distinguishing virtue and vice.
Sexuality began to suffer a stigma with the growing influence of the Christian Church. Such figures as the apostle Paul (of the first century), Augustine (A.D. 354-430), and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) contributed to increasingly negative attitudes toward the human body and all forms of pleasure in general. Paul fostered misogyny, or anti-female sentiments, starting a trend which has been interpreted by many as condemning all forms of sexuality other than heterosexual intercourse for the purpose of reproduction. This continued an existing philosophical trend of separating the physical and the spiritual, considering them as conflicting opposites. Augustine institutionalized the religious distaste for sexual union itself, while Aquinas particularly vilified homosexuality. An early medieval manual of punishments to be bestowed by priests prescribed severe penalties for men over 20 who engaged in mutual masturbation. Men under that age were punished less severely, and boys under 14 engaging in solo masturbation were punished the least. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, the Bible itself never mentions masturbation specifically: the “sin” of Onan was clearly coitus interruptus, or early withdrawal to prevent conception. Still, this misconception persists.
Islam and Judaism share common roots with Christianity, yet both of these religions deal with masturbation quite differently. They maintain their own rigidly prescribed attitudes toward sexual behavior, advocating only heterosexuality within the context of marriage. Yet neither religion consistently condemns masturbation as Christianity has, in practice taking a more Eastern approach of tacitly accepting some aspects of human nature. On a more encouraging note, some Native Americans call masturbation by their young people “warming the heart.”
Unfortunately in the Western world attacks on masturbation grew increasingly irrational. A 1710 work titled “Onania, or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution,” blamed venereal disease on masturbation. By the 19th century the cereal magnate John Harvey Kellogg declared “sex for anything but reproduction” to be “sexual excess.” Kellogg and others began advocating routine circumcision of males as a deterrent to masturbation. Sylvester Graham invented the Graham cracker, believing it would diminish male sexual desire. (Though with s’mores being a popular camping treat, I don’t believe that it ever prevented randy boys/men from experimenting sexually on camp outs.) A variety of awful devices were employed in attempts to forcibly prevent masturbation. Much worse, female circumcision, or the removal of the clitoris, was sometimes advocated by the Victorians, preventing many females from ever experiencing orgasm. In 1864 Ellen G. White published a book claiming that the “solitary vice” led to everything from retardation to insanity and cancer.
As late as 1940, a pediatric text titled “Diseases of Infancy and Childhood” proclaimed masturbation to be harmful. Research suggests an overall agenda behind such anti-pleasure sentiments, the deeper motive being to increase population at all costs by controlling and denying non-reproductive erotic outlets. The more of “us” there are, the less we need to feel threatened by “them.” Until the last century, this kind of reasoning made at least some partial, rudimentary sense. But in our times of runaway overpopulation, when sexuality no longer remains tied to reproductive imperatives, it makes no sense at all.
Beginning with the Kinsey Report of 1948, masturbation has finally been demystified and even discovered to be beneficial. In 1966 Masters & Johnson revealed the practice to be virtually universal in North America, cutting across all boundaries of sex, age, race, and social class. In 1971 Goldstein, Haeberle & McBride determined masturbation to be the most common form of sexual activity among humans. Dr. Joycelyn Elders was far ahead of the political establishment in her 1993 suggestion that masturbation be taught in our schools. She is now being vindicated: Accurate information is being widely disseminated to autonomous learners through the “school” of the Internet.
Though ignorance and superstition linger, healthy and accepting attitudes toward masturbation are increasing. The eminent neuropsychologist James W. Prescott has said: “Deprivation of physical affection in human relationships…constitutes the single greatest source of violence in human societies.”
Adapted from “MASTURBATION THROUGHOUT HISTORY” By Bruce McFarland (http://www.jackinworld.com/resources/general-articles/masturbation-throughout-history)
Be Your Own Master
Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death also.
This is not my usual Sunday post, but I think it is certainly worth discussing. My post on Friday (Possible TMI…) mentioned that I had spent Thursday night drinking wine, watching porn, and masturbating. Some people might think that is contrary to my character as a Christian. As one anonymous commenter wrote:
Joe, As Christian, how do you reconcile masturbation and faith? As Catholic, I get incredibly guilty for wanking. Would like to know what you think and your experience.
Our bodies are a wonderful thing, and God created it as such to help us in many ways. As a Christian, though not Catholic, I do not believe that masturbation is a sin, though it can turn sinful. I didn’t feel that I could fully discuss this issue in a reply to a comment, so I promised to devote my Sunday post to the issue at hand (pun not intended).
So what does the Bible say? Many people would point to the story of Onan from Genesis, quoted above. Onan’s name is often used synonymously with masturbation, i.e. onanism. In the scripture, Onan was supposed to dutifully sleep with his late brother’s wife to produce an offspring for his brother. However, Onan decided that he did not want to produce an offspring that would not be his, so he ejaculated on the ground. There is great debate surrounding this scripture as an argument against masturbation, because Onan did not actually masturbate. He did actually have sex with his brother’s wife. The act he committed is actually called “coitus interruptus.” Yet, Christians who use this scripture refer to the self-pollution of Onan as an argument against the act of masturbation. Many Christian pastors have tried in vain to find mention of masturbation in Scripture so they can condemn and forbid it. Unable to find any verses on the matter, some have foolishly used the story of Onan in Genesis 38:6-10 as their proof text. To argue against masturbation with Genesis 38:6-10 is as ludicrous as arguing for masturbation with Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
Despite the widespread approval and practice of masturbation, people persist in feeling varying degrees of guilt about it. A 1994 University of Chicago survey used as the basis for the book Sex in America cites that about half of all men and women who masturbate feel at least a little guilty at least some of the time. The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior released in 1993 cited that just 13 percent of Protestants think masturbation is a natural part of adult life.
Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression. God has created us as emotional, spiritual, intellectual and sexual beings. He has created these capacities in the context of both relational purpose and self-sufficiency. Meaning we are social creatures – meant to thrive in relationship with others. At the same time, we are also individual creatures – and when not able to be in relationship have capacity to meet our own needs for certain periods of time depending on age and developmental stage.
We know we are born and die sexual beings. The capacity for marital sexuality only occurs through a set period of adult life – if it happens at all. Therefore, isn’t it wonderful that God would create a self-regulatory system where we can count on ourselves to experience the benefits of sexual release when it is not appropriate for us to be in sexual relationship with another person? Isn’t it wonderful that we would have a natural drive to self-explore – getting to know ourselves – as we prepare to share a sexual life with another person? If approached within this context, masturbation can be used to help our teens and single adults keep the law of chastity in ways that empower themselves regarding knowing and controlling their sexual drives/cycles and owning their sexuality in non-shaming and normative ways. For single adults who are not married, masturbation provides this release and its healthy ramifications. It can help with loneliness when single.
There are health benefits associated with masturbation:
1. It prevents cancer. A 2003 Australian study found that men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer. Disease-causing toxins build up in your urogenital tract and when you masturbate, you flush these toxins out of your system, says Brame.
2. It makes your erections stronger. As you age, you naturally lose muscle tone … even down there. Regular sex or masturbation works out your pelvic floor muscles to prevent erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
3. It increases your immunity. Ejaculation increases levels of the hormone cortisol, according to Jennifer Landa, M.D., a specialist in hormone therapy. Cortisol, which usually gets a bad rap as a havoc-wrecking stress hormone, actually helps regulate and maintain your immunity in the small doses. “Masturbation can product the right environment for a strengthened immune system,” she says.
4. It boosts your mood. Masturbating releases a slew of feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine and oxytocin that lift your spirits, boost your satisfaction, and activate the reward circuits in your brain.
I understand that like any normal human tendency, masturbation can become an unhealthy behavior. This is also true for eating – yet we don’t couch our physical desire to nourish ourselves with food as sinful. I believe it is unhealthy for masturbation to be done in a way which interferes with your daily functioning or quality of relationships.
As a single man, I, like most other men, have urges and sexual needs/wants. I believe that God works in mysterious ways, thus allowing us sexual release as a solo activity. So let me look,at this issue from a more theological perspective. I will turn to Rachel Held Evan’s blog and her guest blogger, Richard Beck, whom she had write about the subject. Richard Beck is Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Abilene Christian University. (Abilene Christian University is a private university located in Abilene, Texas, affiliated with Churches of Christ. Most Church of Christ schools require their faculty to be active members of the Church of Christ.) He is the author of Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality and The Authenticity of Faith: The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience. Richard is married to Jana and they have two sons, Brenden and Aidan. He blogs at Experimental Theology.
First, I’d like to bring up the issue of Internet pornography and its relationship to masturbation. With the rise of Internet porn, the consumption of pornography has reached unprecedented levels. And it’s difficult, to say the least, to reconcile that consumption and the support it gives to the adult entertainment industry with the Christian commitments of justice and love. To be sure, many will battle with pornography all their lives, like an alcoholic fights daily for sobriety. There must be grace for our failures, but this is a battle that must be fought.
And beyond issues related to justice, psychologists are only just beginning to grasp the full impact of pornography upon our brains and how those effects are creating sexual and relational dysfunction. For an introduction to the issues psychologists are beginning to examine see Gary Wilson’s widely-viewed TED Talk.
That issue duly noted, let me get to my main points:
I think it is important to recognize how masturbation functions in the life of those who are single. And even for those who eventually get married, we need to note how marriage has become increasingly delayed in Western cultures. A 2011 Pew Report found that the median age of (first) marriages was 29 for men and 27 for women. In the 1960s the median averages for both genders was in the early 20s, and in ancient cultures we married as teenagers. Given this delay, how are we to manage our sex drive from the onset of puberty to wedding night? To say nothing of the sexual challenges involved in lifelong singleness.
All that to say, masturbation may be a vital aspect in how single persons cultivate and achieve sexual chastity. That is, masturbation may be a critical part in how a single person achieves emotional and sexual well-being if they hold to an ideal that sexual relations should only take place within a covenanted, life-long, monogamous relationship.
In short, I don’t think the physical act of masturbation should be moralized. The real issue in this conversation, the big elephant in the room, is Jesus’ prohibition against lust (cf. Matt. 5.27-28). Masturbation per se might not be a sin but what about the attendant lust? Can you masturbate to the point of orgasm without lust being a part of that experience?
And yet, I think this observation shifts the topic away from masturbation toward a theology of lust. What does it mean to lust? Should transitory erotic feelings be considered lust? Or is lust something more obsessive, persistent, greedy, covetous, acquisitive, and possessive in nature?
Because if transient erotic feelings are not lust then let me make a somewhat counterintuitive point: masturbation might be a great tool to combat lust.
Sexual arousal can be come psychically consuming, and debilitating, if not given a quick physiological outlet. We’ve all experienced this. When sexually aroused, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Our mind is fixated on the object of arousal. And trying to repress these feelings often exacerbates them. How, then, to get past these feelings and impulses? Physiological release can help here. Masturbate, clear your head, and move on with your day. When masturbation is treated in this almost perfunctory manner, as a physiological catharsis, it can be a very healthy means of quickly ridding yourself of unwanted sexual feelings and distractions.
To be sure, if masturbation isn’t being used in this perfunctory manner and is being accompanied by regular and possessive fantasies toward someone who isn’t, say, your spouse, then more might need to be said, (along with what I said above about pornography). But again, the issue then is less with masturbation than lust and how that lust might be symptomatic of relational issues that need attention.
Remember, we need to master our behavior, or else sin will master it for us. Even a good thing can become sinful without the right heart. Even if we don’t believe that masturbation is a sin, if it is controlling us then it is a sin.
1 Corinthians 6:12 –”All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will nor be dominated by anything.
Even though there are scriptures used as an argument against masturbation, they do not necessarily make masturbation as a sin very clear. Yet, it is important that a person look at the reasons for masturbation to see if the desire behind the act is actually a sin. Some Christians believe that, because masturbation does not hurt others, it is not a sin. However, other Christians ask a person to look deeper within to see if masturbation is building a relationship with God or taking away from it.
I see masturbation as a release. Yes, lust is involved, which is where the porn comes into play. Do I believe this separates me from God? No, I don’t believe it does. I do not sleep around with every man I meet, not that I meet that many. I also don’t have anyone to whom might be a potential partner. Therefore, I masturbate. It curves my lust, makes me a little less lonely, and it boosts my mood so that I remain a more positive individual. I do not find masturbation to be a sin; otherwise, there will be no men in heaven and relatively few if any women. I’m sure there are some people who’ve never masturbated, but they are few and far between.
-Christians & Masturbation: Seven Perspectives – Rachel Held Evans (rachelheldevans.com/blog/christians-masturbation)
-Masturbation And The Bible by Lambert Dolphin (http://www.ldolphin.org/Mast.shtml)
-Bible Verses About Masturbation (http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bible-Verses-About-Masturbation)
-My Official Stance on Masturbation by Natasha Helfer (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/mormontherapist/2012/08/my-official-stance-on-masturbation.html)
Home Alone + Bottle of Wine + Porn = A Fun Night
I had the house to myself tonight, since my roommate was away, so I took full advantage to get a bottle of wine (I rarely drink alone, but just wanted some wine), hang out in my underwear (ok, I was actually naked for most of the time), and watch a little bit of porn. We all masturbate, it’s part of life, and I needed a little stress release and decompression. I had a good, make that a great, night, but it also means that I wasn’t in the frame of mind to write a substantial post. As I am writing this I am a bit tipsy. Usually, I try not to write a post when I am drunk (not that I drink all that often), but what the hell! I enjoyed myself and wanted to share. TMI? Probably…