Masturbation Argument Debate Pro Masturbation

Masturbation is a gift of God. Sex is a gift of God to us. Sexual lust is not evil lust, it is God designed human nature. Evil lust is hurtful and harmful to humans. Masturbation is healthy. Masturbation is good. Masturbation is God designed. Masturbation is good for you. Masturbation is for everyone to enjoy.

 

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Theological Arguments Against Masturbation

Now, on to the arguments used by Christians to "convince" people that touching themselves too much is sinful in the eyes of their peeping-tom God:

Masturbation is just a bad habit:

Psychologists and sex researchers tell us otherwise. Masturbation is a normal part of human development.

Masturbation is something which goes away when people get married:

Again, research shows that this is seldom the case. Masturbation is our baseline sexuality and while sex with a partner satisfies many needs, for most people it doesn't erase the need we have for tender sexual moments while alone. In fact, studies show that the use of masturbation actually increases for older people, particularly women.

Masturbation is a sign of spiritual immaturity:

What is "spiritual maturity" anyway? Is it spiritual maturity to try to sublimate our natural sexual needs?

Is it spiritually healthy to repress the aching desire for orgasm and sexual intimacy (with ourself or with others)? Modern research shows that people who repress and abstain from orgasms have a higher risk of certain serious mental and physical health problems. That definitely cannot be conducive to what Christians would classify as "spiritual maturity." But, then, maybe it is. Perhaps being up-tight, repressed, unfulfilled, wallowing in self-administered anxiety and guilt is what makes a Christian "spiritually mature." It certainly matches what I've observed in the lives of most of the zealous Christians I've known.

Masturbation almost always is accompanied by fantasies and/or pornography:

So what? Research shows men and women utilize fantasy both in masturbatory and partner sex. It is a normal function of sexual behavior. Passion is part of sex, whether the Christians like it or not, and fantasy fuels passion. In the sermon on the mount, however, Jesus clearly states that one can commit adultery in one's mind and that the thought makes one as guilty as the actual unauthorized sexual act (Mat. 5). To the Christians, the therefore, fantasies involving longed-for sexual partners or fantasies about "forbidden" or "sinful" sexual practices makes the thinker guilty of fornication and sexual uncleanness. This is sin, they say. I say, "bunk." Jesus, I feel, was way off base with this comment, if he ever made it at all. Christians have gone into left field by claiming fantasy and use of sexual images is a form of idolatry which involves the worship of another person (or persons) or the worship of sex itself. I personally think this is a radical, extreme argument designed to coerce Christians into following the straight-and-narrow path the church sets out for them--a path, by the way, which attempts to regulate how much pleasure one is entitled to. But for those who think they can't live without following the teachings of Jesus, let them dwell upon his statement where he says it is preferable that his followers be castrated (Matt. 19:12).

The porn issue is a complex one which has been treated by many writers. Yes, many people do use sexual images (photos, videos, even works of art hanging on museum walls) to enhance their masturbatory sexual pleasure. Surveys show use of such aids is increasing for both men and women. I say "if it feels good, do it." But so many in our culture are hung up on this "purity" thing. To view sexual images or read erotic literature isn't thought of as good, proper or politically correct. For in-depth examination of this issue I refer the reader to the titles in the bibliography below by Verda Burstyn, Nadine Strossen, F.A.C.T., Wendy McElroy and Andy Polaine. There are many others as well.

A person who masturbates and uses fantasies will not do well when attempting to relate with a real marriage partner:

This is more bunk which is easily disproved by sexuality research. In fact, most sex therapists recommend that their clients masturbate in order to improve their sexual functioning. Books listed below by Betty Dodson and Lonnie Garfield Barbach show the efficacy of this therapeutic practice.

Masturbation naturally results in shame:

No, that isn't the case. Shame is a learned behavior and it is taught by the church and by parents who have been indoctrinated to the idea that masturbation is shameful. There is no holy spirit "convicting" people of their sins; we learn these feelings from others. Sex Without Guilt (1958) by Dr. Albert Ellis is a classic in this area of sexual feelings. People troubled by guilt or shame should have this volume by their bedside at all times.

Masturbation is never fulfilling or satisfying because it is an incomplete act without a partner: Sex with a partner is often very fulfilling. But ask any woman who has an inconsiderate partner that doesn't help her reach orgasm how fulfilling her sex life is. To that person masturbation would be an incomparable improvement over the oaf who lays next to her in bed. The fulfillment or satisfaction one receives from any sexual experience is self-determined. If an individual labors under the church's teachings, then masturbation will not be fulfilling. If one strikes out on their own and takes the masturbatory experience for what it is, it will be immensely satisfying.

The Christian argument about how unfulfilling masturbation seems to be is based on a complex string of concepts. They stress, and even many non-Christians echo their flawed logic, that sex can never be satisfying, fulfilling, "complete," etc., without being accompanied by "love." If that is the case, then solo sex, according to them, can never be seen as a valid sexual expression. Liberal Christian writers who acknowledge that masturbation is not specifically prohibited by their Bible are fond of using analogies like comparing sex to dessert. Masturbatory sex is like plain cake--it's ok if absolutely necessary, but very ho-hum when contrasted with cake covered with delicious frosting (the frosting in this analogy is love--a very narrowly defined love at that: god-inspired love which can exist only between married partners of the opposite sex).

These Christian apologists argue that masturbation is all

right if you "have" to have an orgasm (for example, when your partner is away and you are just foaming at the mouth for sex), but it is woefully inferior to sexual intercourse with your spouse. Such conditioning is bound to produce the desired social effect: make people feel empty, unfulfilled and guilty whenever they masturbate. Each time they touch themselves, these negative attitudes return with even more force.

God did not design sex to be a solitary experience:

Says who? To me, my body is designed perhaps even better for solitary sex than for sex with a partner. The penis is easily manipulated to orgasm as is the clitoris. Body design has nothing to do with any prohibition on masturbation.

What the church is saying is that they don't think masturbation is "natural" for humans. That is a value judgement. Many animal species have been observed to masturbate and certainly humans find it quite easy to do so. It appears to be natural for organisms to manipulate themselves to orgasm. There is nothing in human experience to verify the Christian contention that sexuality is, by design, reserved exclusively for partner-to- partner union. That argument is entirely theological in nature.

Masturbation is, by its nature, narcissistic: Narcissism is defined as "self-love" or obsession with one's appearance, comfort, importance, etc. The Christian way is to set aside all aspects of self. Self-esteem is considered by many Christians as evil; we need, they say, to see ourselves as we are--sinners, rotten to the core. Anything which helps build up our self-image is therefore wrong. Fundamentalists in many states in America have objected to school curriculums which teach self-esteem because of their theological view that we should not think anything good about ourselves.

Another weird twist shows up in Tim LaHaye's book The Battle for the Mind (1980--LaHaye is a Christian evangelist) where he asserts that any school system advocating freedom of thought is bent on brainwashing our children. These same Christians claim that masturbation places emphasis upon the self and gratification of personal needs instead of upon God and one's family. I think it's another extreme theological argument with no basis in reality.

Self-debasement isn't healthy. Neither is an obsession with some other-worldly god. Masturbation is good for the self-image, if one doesn't succumb to church-inspired guilt, and a good self-image helps individuals relate in a positive way with others.

I'm tempted to quote the famous Max Otto who wrote, "Need we ask why we cannot forget about authoritarian religion and concentrate upon the problem of a good life in a good world? We are not allowed to. Reactionary forces are at work among us--well-organized forces- -often under the leadership of able, high-minded and sincere persons, and they are seeking to take advantage of the present sense of confusion and uncertainty to fasten the grip of a supreme authority in the name of God over the whole of human life, although these forces reflect an outgrown stage in man's intellectual and spiritual evolution."

Abstinence and celibacy are the best choice for singles before marriage. Total sexual inactivity before marriage is best because premarital affairs, masturbation and other sexual expression make the marriage much less than it ought to be: Tell someone something often enough and they will eventually believe it. The Christians who say they regret sexual expression, including masturbation, prior to their marriage have probably been convinced to regret it because their church tells them those activities were wrong. They aren't necessarily wrong in my opinion. And, certainly, just because the church says it is wrong doesn't convince me it really is.

Christians will tell me that I'm only deceiving myself about this;

I really DO regret what I did sexually before my marriage. Andy Polaine makes an excellent point when he says that "people deceiving themselves has long been an argument that groups wishing for, or fearing loss of, control have used in their struggles to persuade the `ignorant' that they will only find the answers, the truth, if they follow the examples set by these `leaders,' whether moral or political or both. It is a patronizing and desperate attempt to `convert' people who have already made their own decision on a subject." Whereas many Christians will admit their regret, many non-Christians will do nothing of the sort. And I dare say that there are many Christians who secretly think back on earlier escapades with longing and pride. As for myself, I regret nothing except for the years that I denied myself pleasure and wrestled with the problems foisted upon me by fundamentalist Christianity. I am angry that I allowed myself to come under the control of guilt-possessed, anti-body people who got their kicks out of seeing others wallowing in their negative theological muck.

Our purpose in life is to deny the flesh and please God, not ourselves. Masturbation interferes with this because it is caving in to our sensuality and lust; we should be focusing on the word of God: Well, I disagree. After all, didn't Jesus say we are to love our neighbor as we love ourself? Self-loathing, calling our natural biological instincts vial and continually denying and mortifying the body is anything but constructive or self-loving. Jesus' own saying about love of self should inspire Christians and other religious people to rethink their doctrines. It seems that his statement really says that a high level of self-esteem (or self-love) is essential to individuals who want to interact constructively with those around them. Masturbation is not caving in to uncontrollable instincts; it is a natural, beautiful, tender act with many physical and emotional benefits.

According to psychiatry professor Dr. Wendell W. Watters (see bibliography on this website), "Self-esteem refers to the value an individual assigns to himself or herself as a person. High self-esteem needs to be differentiated from narcissistic bliss, manic euphoria, and competitive triumph, which are all, in a sense, defensive reactions to low self-esteem. Nor should self-esteem be confused with self-indulgence or smugness. It simply refers to the degree to which one accepts and values oneself, warts and all. Although psychiatrists and psychologists are noted for disagreeing on just about everything, they do all agree that self-esteem, as understood here, is one cornerstone of sound mental health. People who are considered mentally sound generally have a high level of self-esteem; they feel reasonably competent and secure as people; they generally like themselves, and feel capable of being liked and loved by others. In addition, they are capable of manifesting genuine liking and loving for others. People with high self-esteem are able to be appropriately assertive in trying to have their needs met in a non-manipulative, nondestructive way. Conversely, the one feature common to all psychiatric patients and many chronically ill patients is low self-esteem....[The Christian church's] teachings are uncompromisingly antithetical to the development of self esteem....According to Christian teachings, the self is to be abased, not esteemed." (pages 50-51)

The Bible specifically prohibits "Onanism" or masturbation: This objection relates to the story (fable?) of Onan in the Old Testament (Gen. 38). Onan was told to copulate with his dead brother's childless widow according to the custom of the Hebrews (a commandment by God, actually). Onan inserted his penis into her but withdrew just prior to ejaculation. This act allegedly angered God who struck him dead as he rose from between the poor woman's legs. A misreading of the text over the centuries has inferred that Onan was slaughtered by God for masturbating. Virtually all Biblical scholars agree that this is not the case; Onan's death was the result of his disobedience and his "coitus interrupts," not masturbation. An interesting tale perhaps, but completely without relevance to today's world or our discussion of masturbation. Nowhere else in the Bible is masturbation mentioned or implied. However, churchmen lump it in with references to "sins of the flesh," "fornication" and other words which relate to forbidden sexual practices. Remember, these are the same people who tell us oral sex of any kind, same-gender sex, even thinking sexy thoughts is abominable to God. Where should you place your trust? In these self-righteous theologians or your natural instincts and reason? If we listen to the theologians, we will come to believe that anything that happens between our legs is bad. There has to be a better rule to follow than that which has been provided by the Christian churches.

Religion doesn't play an inhibiting role anymore; people are still practicing their faith and not having conflicts between the religion and masturbation: Research would tend to disagree with any statement that says religion is no longer negatively influencing the ability of humans to explore and enjoy, guilt-free, their sexuality (particularly sex play enjoyed in solitary). The Janus Report on American sexuality shows a direct correlation between religious preference and participation in masturbation. In answer to the survey statement, "Masturbation is a natural part of life and continues on in marriage," 63% of Protestants and 67% of Catholics either agreed or strongly agreed. However, this contrasts with 75% of Jewish respondents who agree or strongly agree and 77% of respondents with no religion. Protestants and Catholics who disagreed with the statement were twice as numerous as those who were Jewish or had no religion. Interestingly, the Janus report found that enjoyment of masturbation was much more prevalent in the West and Northeast parts of the U.S. than in the Midwest or South where church-going is more popular. Survey findings in Sex in America do not cover relationships between masturbation and religion but there is one survey question, relating to masturbation and guilt (page 167), which reveals that masturbators are more often than not subject to guilt when they pleasure themselves. Guilt, as we know, is often, if not usually, associated with religious training.

Masturbation is a bad sexual practice because, being solitary in nature, it does not permit possible conception. Sex is for reproduction only. This, of course, is the major argument Roman Catholics use against masturbation and homosexuality. The premise is that sex engaged in for pleasure alone is wrong; there has to be that possibility of conception to make it legitimate. Hence, the church attacks masturbation, homosexuality, contraception, rubbers, and so on. They have boxed themselves in to a very difficult corner and many Roman Catholics are rebelling. According to Dr. Wendell Watters, M.D. (see bibliography below), "In devising a code of sexual behavior that would guarantee the survival of the church, the early fathers left no stone unturned in their determination to convert the female uterus into a factory for turning out Christian babies. Since masturbation is the simplest form of sexual gratification, and requires no partner, special condemnation was reserved for it. According to Tannahill [Sex in History], the West's Christian society is the only one in which masturbation was totally proscribed." As late as 1975 the Vatican reaffirmed that masturbation was "an intrinsically and seriously disordered act." It isn't! It's a normal part of human sexual development and behavior. And it's a marvelous form of birth control. Perhaps the Catholics, who harangue continuously about abortion, should see the light and realize that if more people masturbated there might be fewer unwanted pregnancies and, hence, fewer abortions.

Other Religions

I have focused on Christianity in this essay (and Judaism since in our culture the two share common attitudes toward masturbation) for the obvious reason that it is the religious philosophy which is predominant in my culture and, in many respects, it is one of the most anti-sexual religions the world has ever seen. But non- Christian religions also have something to say about masturbation. As could be expected, Islam, which shares a Jewish heritage with Christianity, has a similar strict prohibition against masturbation. Oriental religions are a bit more tolerant, especially of female masturbation. Male masturbation is thought by practitioners of Oriental religions to be harmful because of the loss of semen. Semen is considered a vital substance and keeping it within the body is supposed to be spiritually advantageous. In contrast, modern medicine tells us that periodic release of semen is physically advantageous. We are told that traditional African religions tolerated masturbation.

If you have access to scholarship describing cultural-religious attitudes toward masturbation, please e-mail us about it.

 

 

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