With the posts this week, I think it’s only fitting that my “Moment of Zen” this week be dedicated to masturbation.
Tag Archives: Sexuality
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.
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)