OVERCOMING MASTURBATION Jive
a Guide to Self Control...
...distributed by: Mormon Church
at Brigham Young University
T he attitude a person has toward his problem has an effect on how easily it is overcome. It is essential that a firm commitment be made to control the habit. As a person understands his reasons for the behavior, and is sensitive to the conditions or situations that may trigger a desire for the act, he develops the power to control it.
We are taught that our bodies are temples of God, and are to be clean so that the Holy Ghost may dwell within us. Masturbation is a sinful habit that robs one of the Spirit and creates guilt and emotional stress. It is not physically harmful unless practiced in the extreme. It is a habit that is totally self-centered, and secretive, and in no way expresses the proper use of the procreative power given to man to fulfill eternal purposes. It therefore separates a person from God, and defeats the gospel plan.
This self-gratifying activity will cause one to lose his self-respect and feel guilty and depressed, which can in the extreme lead to further sinning. As a person feels spiritually unclean, he loses interest in prayer, his testimony becomes weak, and missionary work and other Church callings become burdensome, offering no joy and limited success.
To help in planning an effective program to overcome the problem, a brief explanation is given of how the reproductive organs in a young man function.
The testes in your body are continuously producing hundreds of millions of reproductive cells called spermatozoa. These are moved up a tube called the vas deferens to a place called the ampulla where they are mixed with fluids from two membranous pouches called seminal vesicles and the prostate gland. The resultant fluid is called semen. When the seminal vesicles are full a signal is sent to the central nervous system indicating they are ready to be emptied. The rate at which this filling takes place varies greatly from one person to another, depending on such things as diet, exercise, state of health, etc. For some it may be several times a week, for others twice a month, and for others hardly ever.
It is normal for the vesicles to be emptied occasionally at night during sleep. This is called a "wet dream". The impulses that cause the emptying come from the central nervous system. Often an erotic dream is experienced at the same time, and is part of the normal process. If a young man has constantly masturbated instead of letting nature take its course, the reproductive system is operating at a more rapid pace, trying to keep up with the loss of semen. When he stops the habit, the body will continue to produce at this increased rate for an indefinite period of time, creating sexual tensions and pressure. These are not harmful and are to be endured until the normal central nervous system's pathway of release is once again established.
During this period of control several things can be done to make the process easier and more effective. As one meets with his priesthood leader, a program for overcoming masturbation can be implemented using some of the suggestions which follow. Remember it is essential that a regular report program be agreed on, so progress can be recognized and failures understood and eliminated.
STEPS IN OVERCOMING MASTURBATION
Be assured that you can be cured of your difficulty. Many have been, both male and female, and you can be also if you determine that it must be so.
This determination is the first step. That is where we begin. You must decide that you will end this practice, and when you make that decision, the problem will be greatly reduced at once.
An abridged version of this article can be found in the December 1998 edition of "Charisma Magazine"
After ten years of celibacy, Jim (not his real name) had concluded that masturbation was his consolation prize - door number three in a world where the big deal of the day was behind door number one. "It was God's provision for single people and for those in sexually unfulfilling marriages," he surmised, concluding that it would be unfair for God to have made things any other way. "Even more," he thought, "it was necessary to maintain healthy physiology. After all, the Bible was silent on the issue wasn't it?"
For some reason, the Church has never found it easy to talk about sex. I'll never forget the time I was talking to some colleagues at a large gathering of religious broadcasters and was asked what I was working on. "I've been writing a chapter on masturbation for my new book," I replied. You'd of thought I had exploded a stink bomb. The man who asked the question visibly blanched and stumbled backward, exclaiming, "Well, why don't you just say the word!" He then furtively looked around to see if anyone had overheard the "M" word being said in conversation with him.
The Bible has no problem talking about sex, but the people of God have somehow gotten the message that it is a subject best not mentioned - especially that "dirty little habit" called masturbation. Little do we realize that by keeping this issue in darkness, we are playing right into Satan's hand. Darkness is where he keeps people isolated, ignorant, afraid, shameful and hopeless.
Modern psychology and medicine would have us believe that masturbation is healthy and natural, persuading many Christian leaders to communicate the same message.
For others in bondage to performance and legalism, it is a horribly embarrassing behavior, something they are certain will send them straight to hell. Satan keeps them locked in a dungeon of shame and self-hatred. "If you were normal (healthy, attractive, etc.) you wouldn't be doing this", he whispers. He causes you to believe that you are the only one who does it, or that the sexual thoughts that you have are far more perverted than anyone else's. The pain of your ongoing failure fuels further flights into self-relief.
Sex addiction expert Dr. Patrick Carnes has written that masturbation often becomes so obsessive that 45% of males and 33% of females will engage in the practice to the point of physical injury. Thus, Satan's masterful game of isolation and attack buries you deeper into anger, frustration and obsession.
So let's get this thing out into the open. Let's first take a look at what medicine really teaches. Dr. Reginald Cherry, a diagnostic internal medicine specialist from Houston, Texas says there is no physiological need for a person to practice masturbation. In both men and women, the body naturally adjusts itself through periodic emissions of fluid during sleep. Sometimes, even these become an unnecessary source of guilt for people who do not understand what is happening. Dr. Cherry says that the idea that someone who lives a celibate life must relieve sexual pressure through masturbation is medically unsound. "There is no reason to be concerned healthwise when there is no sexual activity", he states. "Furthermore," he says, "attempts by many medical professionals to certify masturbation as healthy is really just a clumsy effort to alleviate the guilt that many people feel from their participation in the behavior. They have no basis in science or medicine."
What Does the Bible Say?
One of the most prevalent rationalizations that people use is that the Bible never mentions masturbation and that it must therefore be alright. Is that logical? Is child molestation alright then? It's not specifically forbidden in the Bible. How about shooting heroin? Or how about torturing someone? Not mentioned! You see how illogical the argument quickly becomes.
How do we know that smoking dope is against the will of God, for example? We discover the answer by uncovering the principles found in scripture - most specifically those concerning the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit and those commanding us to obey governmentaluthority. We also know sin by the witness of the Holy Spirit within, provided we haven't quenched that witness through ongoing rebellion.
The most obvious biblical principle that is applicable to masturbation is found in Mt 5:28 where Jesus indicates that lusting after someone in the heart is the same as actually doing it. I am violating whomever I am picturing in my mind during the act of masturbation. It really doesn't matter whether it is a picture from a magazine, (Those are real people!), or someone I've met or a memory of some act committed in the past.
And if I can discipline my mind to think of no one, what of that? Attainment of such focus only serves to make obvious the desperation and obsession that drives us to such lengths. The principles found in 1 Cor 6:12; 2 Pet 2:19; and Rom 6:14 clearly emerge as foundational to our plight - that we are slaves to whatever masters us. When we get truly honest about the habit of masturbation, it is clear that it is a behavior that controls us - one that we use to medicate pain, to alleviate stress or to forget rejection. In that way, it is similar to a drug habit - just one more vehicle to avoid turning to God.
Why won't we turn to God? We may be ashamed. We may believe that He's going to judge and punish us. We may not trust Him. Or, it simply may never occur to us. We don't normally see God as being involved in the fulfillment of our sexual lives. He's a Spirit after all and we are physical creatures. And yet, He is in fact the answer to every problem. He can quench our unholy desire and He can teach us to respond to problems by working through them rather than from running from them.
Confessing the Right Things
It is important that I discover the root sin issues so that I can repent of them. If I am unaware of one or more of these strongholds, I will inevitably remain bound because my unrepented sin will continue to give Satan ground to hold me in bondage. Much of the transformation process involves discovering where Satan's ground is and removing it with the tools that God has provided. What then are some of the root sin issues that need to be confessed?
1. Unbelief - the doubt that God is really good. When I sin any sin, I am in that moment doubting that God is really there for me, that He cares, and therefore, that He is good. I am re-enacting the first sin committed in the Garden of Eden, when Eve became convinced that God was keeping from her something that was good.
The truth is, God has something better than the coping mechanism of masturbation - even for the single person. He has something higher, something that will bring completion and satisfaction to one's sexual self. It is this truth that is most effective in being persuaded to forsake the sin.
2. Idolatry - Ephesians 5:3-5 clearly teaches that sexual immorality is a form of idolatry. Often masturbation becomes a source of life and peace, especially for those who have lived through great pain. It becomes a substitute god. Should the Spirit come to offer freedom, many will recoil in terror at the realization that they are being asked to live without something that has been a primary source of peace in their lives - something that has kept them from falling apart. The behavior becomes so entrenched in their sense of being that life without it becomes unimaginable.
Like the worship of any god, masturbation has its own fetish objects and rituals - times, places, triggers, ritual objects, and ritual patterns that draw the person into an almost trance-like progression toward the peak experience and denouement. Confessing the ritual worship and removing or renouncing its various components is key to seeing its power broken.
3. Rebellion - Sometimes we simply refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit or pretend not to hear Him. The self-care of masturbation often cloaks anger and distrust of God, who never seemed to be there when we needed Him. Often in childhood, when God doesn't rescue us or change us upon demand, we judge Him in our hearts and develop a root of anger that must be removed through confession and repentance. That means we acknowledge our rebellion and make concerted choices to love Him and to believe that given the context of human free will, God operates with complete integrity and love.
4. Love of Sin - This one is often buried under mounds of rationalizations. We pretend that we need to practice the sin, we deserve to practice it, it's the least God can do to allow it considering what we've gone through, etc., etc., etc. But the truth is, we love it more than we love God. In order to change this, we need to discover how to love God more. Greater love for God comes as a fruit of taking the time to know Him intimately. A lifestyle of worship is important. The demonic realm cannot stand that.
Meditating on the Cross is also a major key. As we gain a deeper appreciation for our Lord's suffering, we become more willing to jettison the "things that have charmed us most" (as the old hymn says). When tempted, we only need ask ourselves, "Who do I love right now - the sin that is tempting me, or the One who loves me so deeply that He died on the Cross for me?" Put that way, the choice becomes far easier to make.
5. Self-deception - It is a humbling thing to realize that over the years we become masters at deceiving ourselves into believing we want freedom from something that we will not give up. Like an onion, we lay down layer upon layer of self-deception, saying the right religious words and thinking the right religious thoughts, while still refusing to forsake the desire for the sin that lingers in our hearts. We need to acknowledge before God the ongoing impurity in our motivation, the depravity in our heart, and our need for Him to give us the true heartfelt desire to be holy and pure.
6. Performance-Righteousness - Most of us, even those who know better, continually fall into this trap. Though we talk of "grace alone" and being able to do "nothing without Christ", our fallen nature continuously seduces our minds into believing that we must earn God's love and acceptance and that we must develop our own righteousness. Over and over again we try to make ourselves holy and pure rather than suffer the humiliation of the flesh and truly become dependent on God for the power to live the kingdom life that He won for us on the Cross.
The Long and Winding Road to Freedom
It would be nice if God would just zap us and make us permanently free from sin and bondage. But the process of sanctification is often arduous. Through it we learn to value the end result, depend on Him, love Him, trust Him, hate evil and give all glory, praise and honor to God and God alone.
The foundational principles by which our Lord sets us free from masturbation are no different than those for any other sin and bondage. Simply put, set your focus on Him (rather than your problem) and let His Spirit guide you the rest of the way. In moments of intimacy with Him, God will lead you through a complete shift in your priorities. He will transform your affections and belief systems. He will deepen your desire and determination to be liberated. He will expose and heal the hidden emotional and sin problems that have fed your bondage. And He will strengthen your willingness to believe and to act on His promises.
1. Learn to give yourself grace. It took you a long time to develop the problem, so in moments of failure, turn and receive the love and grace of God. He is pleased with you because of Christ's sacrifice on your behalf and because deep in your heart, you loved Him enough to commit your life to His Son. God has grace to spare. In fact, it is His grace in the midst of our failure that ultimately yields the fruit of obedience (see Titus 2:11-14).
2. Permanently set your heart and mind to turn to God at the first moment of temptation and with acknowledged weakness and dependency, cry out to Him for His power to quench the fiery darts of the enemy. Commit to being ruthless with temptation - giving it no place. Let Christ answer the door when it comes knocking!
3. Remove every influence that leads you into desiring and repeating the behavior. Ask God to show you what these are. Break the ritual patterns and remove the ritual objects as God reveals them to you.
4. Practice believing that God has something better - that He can indeed fulfill the needs that are temporarily being met through the illegitimate means of masturbation.
5. Spend significant, quality time with God in praise, worship, prayer and scripture reading. Pour out your heart to Him. Develop the same intimate relational knowing of God that you would with a spouse. Ask Him to implant within your mind a healthy view of sex and the sexuality of others. Ask Him to give you a love of purity, seeking Him passionately in the beauty of His holiness (Ps 96:9). Listen to Him as He unlocks for you the unique keys to your transformation. Listen with a heart set on obeying His direction no matter what He may suggest.
6. Refuse to submit to Satan's barrage of self-condemning thoughts when you fall. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). Call any thought or feeling to the contrary the lie that it is and reject it. Repent and then run back into your Daddy's arms.
7. Learn what God really thinks of you by meditating on the Cross. Reject the lies of self-hatred, loathing and shame that are in actuality, elaborate challenges to the Cross of Christ and the promises of God.
Know that God has the will and the power to set anyone free from anything. Go for the "free indeed" promise. Seek not the maintenance program of the world, but the transformation program of the kingdom of God!
You may visit Charisma magazine at their web site:
|Steps in Overcoming Masturbation go to links|
|Mark E. Petersen
(This is not a complete text, but fairly
Council of the 12 Apostles
Be assured that you can be cured of your difficulty. Many have been, both male and female, and you can be also if you determine that it must be so.This determination is the first step. That is where we begin. You must decide that you will end this practice, and when you make that decision, the problem will be greatly reduced at once. But it must be more than a hope or a wish, more than knowing that it is good for you. It must be actually a DECISION. If you truly make up your mind that you will be cured, then you will have the strength to resist any tendencies which you may have and any temptations which may come to you. After you have made this decision, then observe the following specific guidelines:
A Guide to Self-Control
1. Never touch the intimate parts of your body except during normal toilet processes.
2. Avoid being alone as much as possible. Find good company and stay in this good company.
3. If you are associated with other persons having this same problem, YOU MUST BREAK OFF THEIR FRIENDSHIP. Never associate with other people having the same weakness. Don't suppose that two of you will quit together, you never will. You must get away from people of that kind. Just to be in their presence will keep your problem foremost in your mind. The problem must be taken OUT OF YOUR MIND for that is where it really exists. Your mind must be on other and more wholesome things.
4. When you bathe, do not admire yourself in a mirror. Never stay in the bath more than five or six minutes -- just long enough to bathe and dry and dress AND THEN GET OUT OF THE BATHROOM into a room where you will have some member of your family present.
5. When in bed, if that is where you have your problem for the most part, dress yourself for the night so securely that you cannot easily touch your vital parts, and so that it would be difficult and time consuming for you to remove those clothes. By the time you started to remove protective clothing you would have sufficiently controlled your thinking that the temptation would leave you.
6. If the temptation seems overpowering while you are in bed, GET OUT OF BED AND GO INTO THE KITCHEN AND FIX YOURSELF A SNACK, even if it is in the middle of the night, and even if you are not hungry, and despite your fears of gaining weight. The purpose behind this suggestion is that you GET YOUR MIND ON SOMETHING ELSE. You are the subject of your thoughts, so to speak.
7. Never read pornographic material. Never read about your problem. Keep it out of mind. Remember -- "First a thought, then an act." The thought pattern must be changed. You must not allow this problem to remain in your mind. When you accomplish that, you soon will be free of the act.
8. Put wholesome thoughts into your mind at all times. Read good books -- Church books -- Scriptures -- Sermons of the Brethern [sic, Cistern too?]. Make a daily habit of reading at least one chapter of Scripture, preferably from one of the four Gospels in the New Testament, or the Book of Mormon. The four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- above anything else in the Bible can be helpful because of their uplifting qualities.
9. Pray. But when you pray, don't pray about this problem, for that will tend to keep "it" in your mind more than ever. Pray for faith, pray for understanding of the Scriptures, pray for the Missionaries, the General Authorities, your friends, your families, BUT KEEP THE PROBLEM OUT OF YOUR MIND BY NOT MENTIONING IT EVER -- NOT IN CONVERSATION WITH OTHERS, NOT IN YOUR PRAYERS. KEEP IT OUT of your mind!
The attitude of a person toward his problem has an effect on how easy it is to overcome. It is essential that a firm commitment be made to control the habit. As a person understands his reasons for the behavior, and is sensitive to the conditions or situations that may trigger a desire for the act, he develops the power to control it.
We are taught that our bodies are temples of God, and are to be clean so that the Holy Ghost may dwell within us. Masturbation is a sinful habit that robs one of the Spirit and creates guilt and emotional stress. It is not physically harmful unless practiced in the extreme. It is a habit that is totally self-centered, secretive, and in no way expresses the proper use of the procreative power given to man to fulfill eternal purposes. It therefore separates a person from God and defeats the gospel plan.
This self-gratifying activity will cause one to lose his self-respect, testimony becomes weak, and missionary work and other Church callings become burdensome, offerings.
1. Pray daily, ask for the gifts of the Spirit, that which will strengthen you against temptations. Pray fervently and not lout when the temptations are the strongest.
2. Follow a program of vigorous daily exercise. The exercises reduce emotional tension and depression and are absolutely basic to the solution of this problem. Double your physical activity when you feel stress increasing.
3. When the temptation to masturbate is strong, yell STOPto those thoughts as loudly as you can in your mind and then recite a prechosen Scripture or sing an inspirational hymn. It is important to turn your thoughts away from the selfish need to indulge.
4. Set goals of abstinence, begin with a day, then a week, month, year and finally commit to never doing it again. Until you commit yourself to "never again" you will always be open to temptation.
5. Change in behavior and attitude is most easily achieved through a changed self-image. Spend time every day imagining yourself strong and in control, easily overcoming tempting situations.
6. Begin to work daily on a self-improvement program. Relate this plan to improving your Church service, to improving your relationships with your family, God and others. Strive to enhance your strengths and talents.
7. Be outgoing and friendly. Force yourself to be with others and learn to enjoy working and talking to them. Use principles of developing friendships found in books such as How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
8. Be aware of situations that depress you or that cause you to feel lonely, bored, frustrated or discouraged. These emotional states can trigger the desire to masturbate as a way of escape. Plan in advance to counter these low periods through various activities, such as reading a book, visiting a friend, doing something athletic, etc.
9. Make a pocket calendar for a month on a small card. Carry it with you, but show it to no one. If you have a lapse of self control, color the day red. Your goal will be to have no red days. The calendar becomes a strong visual reminder of self control and should be looked at when you are tempted to add another red day. Keep your calendar up until you have at least three clear months.
10. A careful study will indicate you have had the problem at certain times and under certain conditions. Try and recall, in detail, what your particular times and conditions were. Now that you understand how it happens, plan to break the pattern through counter activities.
11. In the field of psychotherapy there is a very effective technique called "aversion therapy." When we associate or think of something very distasteful with something which has been pleasurable, but undesirable, the distasteful thought and feeling will begin to cancel out that which was pleasurable. If you associate something very distasteful with your loss of self-control it will help you to stop the act. For example, if you are tempted to masturbate, think of having to bathe in a tub of worms, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, and eat by several of them as you do the act.
12. During your toileting and shower activities leave the bathroom door or shower curtain partly open, to discourage being alone in total privacy. Take cool brief showers.
13. Arise immediately in the mornings. Do not lie in bed awake, no matter what time of day it is. Get up and do something. Start each day with an enthusiastic activity.
14. Keep your bladder empty. Refrain from drinking large amounts of fluids before retiring.
15. Reduce the amount of spices and condiments in your food. Eat as lightly as possible at night.
16. Wear pajamas that are difficult to open, yet loose and not binding.
17. Avoid people, situations, pictures or reading materials that might create sexual excitement.
18. It is sometimes helpful to have a physical object to use in overcoming this problem. A Book of Mormon, firmly held in hand, even in bed at night has proven helpful in extreme cases.
19. In very severe cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to the bed frame with a tie in order that the habit of masturbating in a semi-sleep condition can be broken. This can also be accomplished by wearing several layers of clothing which would be difficult to remove while half asleep.
20. Set up a reward system for your successes. It does not have to be a big reward. A quarter in a receptacle each time you overcome or reach a goal. Spend it on something which delights you and will be a continuing reminder of your progress.
21. Do not let yourself return to any past habit or attitude patterns which were part of your problem. Satan Never Gives Up. Be calmly and confidently on guard. Keep a positive mental attitude. You can win this fight! The joy and strength you will feel when you do will give your whole life a radiant and spiritual glow of satisfaction and fulfillment.
|The Addiction Nobody Dares to Talk About||Awesome site with personal experience.|
|For those who want to make a difference and shine a light||Message board to help you.|
|Elder Mark E. Petersen's Thoughts on Sex||(Thanks to email@example.com for the link).|
|Addicted to Masturbation? Let Prayer and Open Discussions Help You.||Praying and discussion.|
|Overcoming Temptations||Articles on overcoming temptations.|
|Reader's Forum||How readers overcame masturbation. Please share your ideas.|
|Self Pollution||An article by T.W.Shannon on how masturbation pollutes mind and body.|
|Breaking Pornography Addiction||A person's experience in overcoming porn addiction.|
|How and Why They Quit Pornography||A person's view on pornography. Why pornography is deceiving?|
|Do you have some issues on the Christian faith, doctrines, or even personal problems?||Answers to many tough questions.|
|Personal problem on pornography, masturbation and premarital sex.||Masturbation and pornography are sinful and violations of the Seventh Commandment.|
|Sources to help you with AID, abuse, sexual addiction, Multiple Sexual Sin Problems , etc.||Many sources.|
|24 Hour prayer||International Prayer. Open 24 hours a day.|
|Kids in Crisis||Sources on dealing with problems- suicide, violence, hate, sex related problems, etc.|
|Answers to Tough Questions||Categories of interesting questions.|
|Answers to the masturbation problem|
|Masturbation Debate||Is it sinful? Is it bad?|
|Masturbation And The Bible|
|Testimonies of recovering Christians|
|Fascinating world of sexual addiction|
|Become an Winner|
|Books, tapes, videotapes on dealing with the evil||Sources on dealing with all kinds of sex problems.|
|Last Updated January 06, 2001
Medical textbooks prior to the 18th Century seldom mentioned masturbation at all. In 1758 a Swiss physician named Tissot published a treatise claiming that masturbation* was the principal cause of mental illness---a terrible sin to be avoided like the plague. In spite of many rebuttals and critiques by contemporaries, Tissot's views became a standard reference found in most all medical textbooks published until the early part of our century.
In 1834 Dr. Sylvester Graham wrote that the loss of semen during sex was injurious to health (a popular idea at the time); men, Graham believed, should not have intercourse more than twelve times a year. Masturbation was especially pernicious, he said. To reduce sexual cravings, Graham advised mild foods to decrease sexual appetites. The graham cracker was the result! In 1884, this curious connection between food and sex appeared in another guise. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg created cornflakes to curtail children's inclinations toward masturbation. Kellogg, who was quite a health eccentric, wrote:
"The use of the reproductive function is perhaps the highest physical act of which man is capable; its abuse is certainly one of the most grievous outrages against nature which it is possible for him to perpetrate."
See Porn Flakes: Kellogg, Graham and the Crusade for Moral Fiber. (Disclaimer: I do NOT agree with Dr. Kellogg and his school of thought. This link is for information purposes only.)
William Acton, a late 19th century prominent physician, wrote: "There is now in Pennsylvania---it seems unnecessary to name the place---a man thirty-five years old, with the infirmities of 'three score and ten.' Yet his premature old age, his bending and tottering form, wrinkled face, and hoary head, might be traced to solitary and social licentiousness." Many doctors of that time taught that masturbation led to insanity, dark rings under the eyes, and other terrible maladies. Guilt and fear were instilled in young people from an early age.
Between 1856 and 1919 the U.S. Patent Office granted patents for forty-nine antimasturbation devices. Thirty-five were for horses and fourteen for humans. The human devices, made for boys, consisted of either sharp points turned inward to jab the penis should he get an erection during the night, or an electrical system to deliver shocks. How many of these devices were actually used, or what effect they had on the children no one knows. Masturbation by girls was even more shocking, shameful, and unmentionable! The pendulum of sexual mores has now most certainly swung to the opposite extreme in the last half-century.
Secular medical authorities nowadays universally proclaim that masturbation is physiologically harmless and that it may even be a normal, natural form of release. Physiologically there seems to be no harm in masturbating, though most psychology text book writers admit that associated guilt and shame afflict millions, especially during adolescence. This guilt is usually blamed on strict and legalistic religious upbringing and Victorian prudishness about sex. Textbooks on human sexuality seem to all go to great length to explain away the guilt that results from illicit sex, and thus many of these secular writers end of writing polemics against the Bible and openly endorsing hedonistic living that is in reality pagan.
Because the Bible says nothing specific on the subject, Christian counseling books vary in their approach in dealing with masturbation. Few Christian youth pastors or psychologists are willing to endorse masturbation as normal and natural, however a minority are willing to suggest that self stimulation can provide a release from excessive tension when one is single. "Better masturbation than excessive obsession with sex," they say, "and better masturbating than risking a fall into more serious sexual immorality involving another person." The Bible does not suggest such a rationalization, however---in 1 Cor. 7:9 the Apostle Paul cites marriage as God's alternative to "burning with passion."
Since scripture does not specifically name masturbation as a sin, some claim masturbation is evidently not critically important as compared, say, to fornication. This argument is not conclusive since the word "fornication" (porneia) is a broad word in the New Testament, actually encompassing all forms of sexual immorality. Youth pastors also know from counseling experience that masturbation is often a huge source of guilt and anxiety for many Christian young men. Therefore they feel the problem is best dealt with by reassurance of God's grace and forgiveness and by focusing on spiritual growth to the end that the individual moves on to spiritual and emotional maturity, leaving masturbation behind as a symptom of spiritual immaturity.
Counselors who work with adolescents also sympathetically recognize that masturbation can be a tenacious habit not easily overcome---a habit only made worse by prohibitions, stern warnings or a critical, judgmental attitude. Vows to quit masturbating seem always to fail and cold-showers are sometimes to no avail. Masturbation can become obsessive to some, producing endless guilt and self- consciousness in young sufferers who find they can not overcome the habit by their own self-effort. Some young people may even feel they are committing the unpardonable sin.
Masturbation often goes unresolved for many years, perhaps as a "secret sin," until the desperate sufferer gets up the courage to share with a fellow-Christian or a pastor. Many married men admit to masturbating surprisingly often, even when they also claim to be enjoying a happy marriage and normal sex life with their partners.
Sharing the secrets of one's defeats in masturbation with a trusted Christian brother, mentor, or accountability group usually brings a real sense of relief and helps the person to be more objective about himself and his place in the world. All of us are sinners and we are only sinners who have been justified by God and made---by grace---worthy members of the kingdom of God. False guilt and self-condemnation (especially in "shame-based" individuals) surely is more serious source of defeat for some people than their true moral guilt before God who is gracious and full of mercy. "As a Father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust." (Ps. 103:13, 14)
Although the Old Testament records the sexual failures of a number of men and women there are non-sexual sins that are more serious in the eyes of God, though they usually get less attention than sexual failures (see for example Proverbs 6:16-19). For instance, Jesus was merciful and compassionate towards a woman caught in the act of adultery, but he was scathing in his devastating rebukes of the arrogant self-righteousness of the Pharisees.
|Circumcision in Ancient Egypt (6th Dynasty). This ancient ceremony, instituted between God and Abraham as a sign of their covenant, symbolizes the consecration of one's sexuality and one's life to God. (Genesis 17). In the New Testament, circumcision is accomplished in the inner man, "by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ," acccording to Colossians 2). The health benefits of male circumcision are debated today but this issue is not a relevant Biblical issue any longer under the terms of the New Covenant.|
Most Christian writers on Biblical mores and ethics point to the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:27-20) where the Lord teaches that it is possible for a person to commit sexually immoral acts in one's fantasy life. The thoughts and intentions of the heart can be very important and as implicating as outward acts. Although deliberately feeding on lustful thoughts and acting them out in one's mind is "already adultery" in the heart, according to Jesus, temptation which is not acted upon is not constitute sin. As an old Proverb says, "One can not prevent the birds from flying over one's head, but one can keep them from building a nest in one's hair." When the factor of fantasies is added into the equation of masturbation there is no doubt we are now referring to fornication and sexual uncleanness. One can no longer claim that masturbation is a "gray area."
In actual fact, masturbation is virtually always closely connected with lustful thought life. Pornography is everywhere in today's society, suggestive TV programs and films laced liberally with sexual promiscuity and implicit sex can only be avoided with difficulty. Advertisements and a spirit of sensuality barrage the mind constantly in today's sexually permissive society severely aggravating the problem of gaining and maintaining purity and personal holiness as a Christian. Many individuals who masturbate will admit that they use pornography, photographs or sexually suggestive stories to heighten the pleasure and vicarious enjoyment of sex. All of these are, in reality, forms of idolatry involving the worship of another person, the worship of sex itself, or the worship of an "image,"--rather than God. An individual whose life is centered around fantasies is not likely to do well when attempting to relate with a real flesh-and-blood marriage partner and the demands of adult life and godliness.
"Jesus was condemning...those fantasies in which we see ourselves possessing that which we are not allowed to have. He is condemning those fantasies in which we manipulate people in our minds in ways that will appeal to and satisfy the lust of our imagination. Whether it be a forbidden partner or a forbidden sexual practice, we must be aware of the fact that the mind is capable of endless perversions" (Ref. 1, page 119).
In those cases where masturbating is used occasionally to relieve what seem to be unbearable sexual pressures, then eliminating fantasies is certainly one step in the right direction. Many Christian young people can not imagine Jesus Christ loving them deeply enough to help them overcome the shame of their masturbation. Thus masturbation is not an area of one's life where Jesus is welcome---it is usually private and secret. Excluding Jesus from any area of our lives is of course risky since we are then left in darkness and in bondage to sin in one form or another. This is because "Anything not based on faith is sin." Nothing we do, even in private, is hidden from God. The Psalmist says, "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." (Psalm 90:8)
To be more objective, the Bible is clear that sexual activity is always wrong outside of marriage. Yet today's society promotes, encourages, and teaches young people to explore their sexuality and to become active in early adolescence. Biblical values have been overwhelmed and cast aside in most all schools today with the result that a whole generation has becoming openly pagan and promiscuous. This tragic, terrible state of affairs is associated with a breakdown in family ties and widespread divorce. It is therefore very difficult for Christian men and women who are not yet married to stay clear of sexual experimentation, pornography, and peer pressure to get involved.
Claims that all forms of sexual expression are normal, healthy, natural, and desirable may be fraudulent and false, but they are widely accepted today. In this environment modesty, chastity, purity and celibacy are virtually never discussed---yet they are paramount values in a Biblical view of godliness and spirituality. The fact that masturbation is "encouraged" as normal and healthy by a majority of educators and secular leaders today definitely does not mean that the majority viewpoint is the correct one---the opposite is more likely to be true. In overcoming the excessively inhibited sexual mores of an early generation, the sexual revolution has obviously gone completely over board in the direction of total moral looseness, unrestrained hedonism and unbelievable promiscuity. Billy Graham's wife, Ruth Bell Graham, has well said, "If God doesn't judge America for her immorality, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."
The fall of man in the Garden of Eden was a fall into self-centeredness. Our fallen natures are today often infected with lust and covetousness and envy. Our minds are easily programmed by TV, movies, and even school textbooks---all of which now bombard us with sensual images and antichristian values from the cradle to the grave.
It is plain to see that masturbation is usually narcissistic. Narcissus was the Greek youth who, upon seeing his reflection in a pool, fell in love with himself, then fell into the pool and drowned. In other generations masturbation was called self-abuse, solo-sex, self-love, or self-gratification. The emphasis is on "self," not on one's relationship with God or one's family. We can surely say the "solo-sex" is not part of God's original design for man which is for sexual expression in the context of love and commitment in a marriage. Masturbation can never be fulfilling and satisfying since it is inherently an incomplete act to which there is no response or appropriate answer-back from a complementary partner. Masturbation also tends to turn one's focus inward upon oneself, leading to shame, sometimes excessive introversion, often low self-esteem, self- consciousness and detachment from normal social roles.
God did not design sex to be a solitary experience. It is supposed to be shared with another, and only in marriage. Sexuality is intended to be part of the complementary interaction of self-giving love between a man and a woman who are committed to one another for life. (See 1 Cor. 7:4 where the Bible states that husband and wife are to give up the right to their own bodies to one another in marriage). Within marriage the dynamic interplay between opposites can bring healing and wholeness for both the man and his wife. Sexual expression in any other context is destructive to wholeness. The Bible certainly shows that God is not against pleasure, He wants us to say "no" to things that hurt us.
Because sexual activity results in pleasure, sexual habits such as masturbation are become conditioned responses that are reinforced with repetition. In a society where instant gratification is the goal of many, few of our contemporaries think in terms of self-control or long term fulfillment. Unlike hunger or other purely physical desires, human sexual response encompasses body, soul, and spirit. Without food and water man can not live, but living without sexual expression does no harm and can often be of great benefit because it allows libidinal energy to be refocused into socially redeeming activities. Abstinence and celibacy have always been prized by the church as healthy and desirable before marriage, and normative for singles. In the personal experience of countless pastors and counselors in the church of Jesus Christ, men and women are always far better off if they remained sexually inactive until marriage, and faithful to one's spouse thereafter. Countless married couples regret their premarital affairs and sexual expression prior to marriage because the effects show up later on in making marriage less than it ought to be.
Sexual selfishness is more difficult to cure than a tendency to eat too much apple pie or roast beef and potatoes. Even if one were to decide that masturbation is not a specific sin named in the Bible that does not mean it is a neutral issue. In real life not all choices are between right and wrong, but often between degrees of good and better. We can surely say that overcoming masturbation is the better course to seek after.
Unfortunately, once sexual desires are aroused it become difficult to reverse course and return to a celibate, virgin status. Regaining purity is, however, a requirement for Christian growth. In the Song of Solomon, the Shulamite maiden encourages the Daughters of Jerusalem to "stir not nor awaken love until it please," (i.e., until the proper time and place).
Admittedly, sexual desires are most intense biologically speaking when we are young and not yet able to marry. The spiritual victory to be gained (with the help of the Lord Jesus) is one of self-control (1 Thess. 4:1-8) and an inner purity that constantly vitalizes one's intimate personal relationship with Jesus the Bridegroom of the church. The Song of Solomon gives us a good picture not only of marriage but also of our individual relationship with Jesus Christ seen as a discipleship of love (Ref 2). God is working in us to produce wholeness and well-roundedness, a self-giving life style not a self-centered one. Previous generations of Christian leaders taught that instinctual energies could be sublimated and rechanneled into productive and creative actions in the world. This concept has largely disappeared in our time when the focus is on self, self-realization, and self-fulfillment.
Abstinence from sexual activity is not harmful to the body. In the male, semen may be occasionally released spontaneously in nocturnal emissions (wet dreams), or will be slowly absorbed into the blood stream. One can not survive without food and water, but many men and women live healthy, fulfilled, single lives in Christ without expressing themselves sexually.
Taking all these things together it is difficult to build a case for masturbation as something which is innocuous, though it may be less serious a struggle for some as compared to others. Christian life is neither easy nor free from temptation and even stumbling, falling, failing and starting over. The aim of our lives should be to please God, and to do that we must deny the flesh, put to death our selfish desires, starve the appetites of our inner sensualities and lusts, and feed upon the Word of God. We need to develop close friends we can share secrets with and who will keep us accountable in our spiritual walk.
A number of passages in the New Testament are applicable to growing out of and overcoming masturbation as we seek single sightedness, with purity of heart and motive in following Jesus the Lord.
"Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness." (Rom. 6:13)
"...make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb.12:13,14)
"But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints...Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience...Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light." (Eph. 5:3-13)
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming." (Col. 3:1-6)
Masturbation is usually not the crucial issue of anyone's Christian walk, though self-consciousness probably makes it seem so to some. God's loyal-love (hesed) is patiently committed to seeing to it that we become whole and fulfilled no matter how much extra grace we may think we need. Assuming that masturbation is indeed a sin for Christians, one would expect to find consequences, for "whatever a man sows that he shall also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Some suggested consequences include (a) increased self-consciousness, (b) lowered self-esteem, (c) depression, (d) reduced psychological and creative energy, (e) lessened interest in interpersonal relationships, and of course (f) guilt, shame, with fear of being found out. Preoccupation with sexual fantasies tends to substituted imagined relationships with real-life experiences with real persons. The progressively addictive power of pornography is well known. C.S. Lewis once wrote in one his letters,
"I know about the despair of overcoming chronic temptation. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience, etc. don't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of his presence."
1. In earlier generations some felt that Onan's sin, for which God ended his life, was masturbation (see Genesis 38). Onan disobeyed God's Word and failed to honor his obligation to his family as is clear from the context. Most all Bible scholars today do not fault his coitus interruptus as the root of his sin.
Journal Notes on Temptation by Bruce (PDF) | Some Comments by Larry Hoppis
2. The Book of Leviticus provides many illustrations of the defilements that we all inherited from Adam. Leviticus 15:16-18 refers specifically to uncleanness resulting from an emission of semen:
"And if a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water, and be unclean until the evening. And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the evening. If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water and be unclean until the evening."
Ray C. Stedman comments on this passage as follows:
"It would be a great mistake to judge from this passage that the Bible suggests in any way that sex in marriage is immoral or wrong. This is simply God's reminder of the pollution of nature, of the fact that the nature of humanity is fallen and that man cannot solve his problems himself. He desperately needs a Savior. And he passes on to his children the same fallen, twisted nature and propensities which he himself is born with...
"Life is continually confirming this great fundamental fact which the Scriptures set before us---that there is something wrong with nature. So all that God is doing here when he says that the act of sex results in an uncleanness until evening is simply reminding us that man is a fallen creature and that he must deal with that problem realistically. He can't avoid it. There is no way that he can eliminate it himself. God must handle it, and God has handled it. There is only one way it can be handled---the redemptive intervention of God---and if it isn't handled that way there is no escape from the defilement and the destruction of humanity which will follow. So God reminds us that even in the act of sex which results in conception there is a fallen nature involved." (Ray C. Stedman, The Trouble with Nature, from Commentary on Leviticus).
In the Bible Knowledge Commentary (Victor Books, 1985) F. Duane Lindsey comments on the above passage from Leviticus as follows:
"The second case pertaining to males was the periodic discharge of an emission of semen, whether possibly a nocturnal emission or one during intercourse. For this case no sacrifice [for sin] was required and the uncleanness was resolved by a simple wash-and-wait (till evening). It is noteworthy that while the normal sexual process between husband and wife made both partners ceremonially unclean---no guilt was involved and so no sacrifice was required." (Commentary on Leviticus, p. 195).
It would seem that all forms of sexual activity, even in a marriage where sexual expression carries God's endorsement and approval, carry the taint of original sin. Portions of Leviticus are designed to protect against sexually-transmitted diseases, and much of Leviticus contains the "holiness codes" for sexual conduct which were imparted to mankind as part of the Law of Moses.
3. A thorough discussion of masturbation and other topics of sexual morality is found in the book Sexual Chaos by John Vertefeuille, published by Crossway Books in 1988. The author is college pastor of Faith Chapel in La Mesa, California.
4. Dr. John White's new book Eros Redeemed (Intervarsity Press, 1993)---is must reading.
John White writes as follows (pp124-125),
"In Eros Defiled I wrote about masturbation with compassion. I still have compassion for the victims of masturbation, but the time has now come for me to challenge the views that prevail and to call on Christians to face reality. Masturbation is sin. It is not grave sin, not nearly as serious as pride, or cruelty, or even unkindness. But still it is sin.
Let me state my reasons for calling it sin at all. It is sin because sexuality was not given us for that purpose. In masturbating we use our bodily parts for a purpose God never intended for them. To say that the release of sexual tension justifies it is what my grandmother would have called "all my eye and Peggy Martin"---or what logicians might call specious reasoning.
My first argument, then, for calling masturbation sin is what could be called the argument of design. My body is mine only in the sense that I am responsible for its proper use. I am its steward. For what was my body designed? The Westminster Confession asks a similar if not identical question. "What is the chief end of man?" The answer the authors give is, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."
Paul expresses the same end for our bodies. He concludes, "So glorify God in your body" (1 Cor 6:20 RSV). The argument I have been using from chapter three onward concerns the offering of our bodies to God as an act of worship. In the NIV version of Romans 6, Paul even mentions the parts of our bodies, saying, "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness . . . offer the parts of your body to him [God] as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master" (Rom 6:13- 14)
My body was not designed to masturbate. My body was designed to be used exclusively to glorify God. To use it in any other way is to rob God of something that is his by right, for there are no morally neutral actions.
You say: So everything becomes black and white. Are there no shades of gray? Yes, plenty of them. But even the whitest shade of gray has some black in it. So if you should go on to say, "Well, it really doesn't matter that much, does it?" then I must insist that sin always matters. Our sin brought about the death of Christ.
Just as speech was given to us in order that we might communicate truths rather than lies or gossip, so the sexual parts of our bodies were designed to copulate. Remember, copulation is far more than orgasmic experiences. It was to be a sharing, a sort of gateway to deeper sharing, a never-ending mutual revelation of the depths of our souls. Yet copulation can be entirely selfish, a mere using of somebody's body to gratify myself, which is little different from masturbation.
My second argument for calling masturbation sin---closely related to the first argument---is that masturbation is a form of idolatry. Our bodies are to be offered to God. Masturbation is to make a god of my bodily sensations, of relief from the tension that I feel. Again, I know that married lovemaking can itself be a selfish pursuit of bodily sensation. But I repeat: it was not designed to be. At that point it becomes lust.
Yet I know how some men and women struggle. How bitter some people feel in their vain struggle against it! Younger people, young marrieds away from their spouses, have a particularly difficult time. I know a man whose problem began with marriage. Like all sin, masturbation must be dealt with compassionately and in love. I may be in my sixties, but I remember very clearly what it used to be like. Those were dark days when I hated myself. (I do not excuse my past actions, even though, looking back, I can explain them. Nor did my release from the habit occur gradually, dying out as the need for it diminished. It came by the Spirit's revelation.) Let us be compassionate with those who struggle."
As a footnote (Chapter 5) in his very latest (and excellent) book, The Path of Holiness: A Guide for Sinners, (IV Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 1996) Dr. John White says this,
I am fully aware that few Christians nowadays regard masturbation as sinful. If some sins are worse than others, as I believe from Scripture, then sexual sin in general, and masturbation in particular, would be relatively unimportant. Masturbation never used to be talked about. Pastors rarely mention it. But during the last forty years or so, during which time psychology, psychiatry and various forms of Christian counseling have got into the act of giving "expert" opinions on the subject, it has become an understandable and relatively respectable activity, especially for young people. My opinion is at present a minority opinion.
Yet majorities are frequently wrong, and I refuse to follow this one. Masturbation is not merely a habit of young people but continues throughout active sexual life. Some people continue it into their eighties. Significantly many people, in spite of assurances as to its innocence, are deeply ashamed of it, more ashamed than they would be of confessing illicit sexual relationships. Some men, virgin before they married, begin it after they have married.
I believe It is sinful because our sexual parts were not designed for masturbation, but for coitus within marriage. We are using our bodies wrongly when we masturbate, and for purposes they were not designed for. While I lament the excessive guilt of past religious condemnation, I regret equally the present permissiveness. Continence would require only an openness between parents and children.
God forgives absolutely. Our problem is coming to him again and again.
5. Watchman Nee, Song of Songs, Christian Literature Crusade, 1965.
6. Additional references of relevance are listed in the essay Aberrant Sexuality. A short article, Sexual Sin in General compares briefly the Old Testament and New Testament norms for sexual expression. The fact that man created in the image of God is represented by two complementary sexes, not one, is the subject of a discussion Made in the Image of God Several years ago Leadership Magazine published two articles which proved extremely popular and very helpful, The War Within: An Anatomy Of Lust. Self-centeredness is at the heart of what the Bible describes as man's fallen condition. Masturbation has occasionally been symbolized since ancient times in various cultures by the figure of a snake chasing its own tail, The Uroboros Symbol. The Uroboros is fitting symbol for man's basic self-centeredness in all areas of life. Highly recommened is Sex: Should We Change the Rules? by Bishop John W. Howe This booklet on sexuality was prepared by the Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida and is now online on these web pages. See also on this web site,
7. The Courage to be Chaste by Benedict J. Groeschel, Paulist Press, New York, 1985, is an exceptionally fine book which I recently discovered and recommend highly. (2/1/00)
8. A Mormon view: Steps in Overcoming Masturbation, (Anonymous author but attributed to Mark E. Petersen), is interesting. I have added editorial comments to this paper highlighting a number of theological errors in this approach. The article may nonetheless offer helpful pointers for some.
9. The Roman Catholic Position:
Offenses against chastity: 2352. By _masturbation_ is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magesterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful, have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability. (1992 Catechism).
10. Outstanding Recent Book: The War Within: Gaining Victory in the Battle for Sexual Purity, by Robert Daniels, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1997. Practical, transparent, realistic, and relevant. Highly recommended
11. The importance of dealing with the inner idolatrous roots of our sexuality is the subject of Leanne Payne's book, The Healing Presence: Curing the Soul Through Union with Christ, Baker Books, Grand Rapids 1995. I know of no book with deeper insights in this area.
12. Dr. Grant Martin's book When Good Things Become Addictions: Gaining Freedom from our Compulsions, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois,1990, is very good and will be helpful to many.
13. Excellent book on sexuality, religion and culture: The Sanctity of Sex, by Charles Pickstone, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1996, ISBN 0-312-15516. WHERE RELIGION ONCE was ubiquitous, we now find sex. It appears in art, literature, music, film, television, and ads. It occupies a near-sacred spot in our regular activities and dominates our consciousness. In this fascinating new inquiry into contemporary culture, Charles Pickstone, a priest, argues that the pervasiveness of sex in our society mirrors religion's former glory. Indeed, according to Pickstone, sex has usurped religion's position on the spiritual pedestal. In this time of increasing secularization, our traditional views of sex have fallen by the wayside. The religious right bemoans our so-called hedonism as a retreat from religion and values. Yet Pickstone challenges the belief that we have lost our spirituality and have become a world of lost souls damned for eternity. His book provides a sober and lucid response to our concerns about where our society is headed. As he cogently argues, people today have not lost their religious passions and convictions. Pickstone cites one example after another of how we instead find religious ecstasy in sexual intercourse. These powerful examples are clearly linked in an argument that is hard to refute. Pickstone's brilliance lies in his ability to examine what we take for granted and expose its spiritual significance. Whereas one used to pray to ease one's suffering, sex today provides the most commonly used relief from stress. Pickstone clearly demonstrates how we often describe sex in metaphors of natural, and even supernatural phenomena: The earth moves, oceans swell, and storms rage. Moreover, Pickstone argues, we find in both sexual and religious passion the same transcendence of self that constitutes a spiritual experience. Barriers break down as we are transported to another reality of ecstasy and heightened experience. Using diverse and accessible examples, Pickstone charts the seismic shifts in consciousness that have taken place over the last century and a half in a book that may challenge and change the way we think about the world and ourselves. CHARLES PICKSTONE is an Anglican priest who has led congregations in San Rafael, California, and England, where he now lives.
14. Excellent Book: Whole and Holy Sexuality," by Kraft, William F., PhD., Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR 1998. "Masturbation is a common form of genital gratification. By age twenty-one, most men have masturbated. Women masturbate less; however, the percentage gap between male and female masturbation is narrowing. Increasingly more people feel little or no compunction about masturbating. This was not always the case….
In the "old days" (not very long ago), many people were taught that masturbation is one of the worst sins. It was suggested that masturbation was a cause of mental and physical illness, even that surgical intervention could be a treatment for masturbation. It seems masturbation evoked more guilt than dishonesty or injustice. In those days it was common to overemphasize sexual sins. Masturbation--even the mere thought of it--guaranteed a one-way ticket to hell. Sexuality was treated as an "enemy" or as exclusively a means for procreation rather than a gift and opportunity from God for spiritual and psychological growth.
Because of the negative assessment of sexuality, the approach to sexual feelings was to ignore or repress them. As we have seen, however, denial increases tension rather than purges it, resulting in frustration, anxiety, and guilt. Individuals, acting sincerely, tried to silence the potentially redemptive message of their uncomfortable feelings. Consequently, they escaped self-confrontation by overindulgence (eating, drinking, working), irritable behavior (toward authorities, peers, or subjects), or acting out (with others and/or self in fantasy and/or reality). When masturbation (acting out) was the coping mechanism for repressed or nonintegrated sexuality, a circular and frustrating pattern would emerge: masturbation to relieve tension, followed by guilt, followed by tension, which led again to masturbation and so on and on.
The "new ways" are expression and guiltlessness. Many health specialists consider masturbation a sensible source of pleasure, a convenient tension reducer, a productive way to realize body awareness and potential-in general, a healthy practice. Satisfying "my own" needs, insisting that "my body is mine," and having "good" feelings are conventional justifications. Since discomfort is assumed to indicate something wrong, the practices of suppression, mortification, and sublimation are judged masochistic, old-fashioned, or simply naive and dumb.
From a wholistic perspective, I personally support neither the new nor the old position. I contend that masturbation is seldom unhealthy in and of itself. Unlike many professionals, however, I do not believe masturbation should be recommended. Psychologically, masturbation is neither a one-way ticket to hell or to heaven. Masturbation is an earthly matter, neither unhealthy nor healthy. It is a conventional way of reducing tension, evoking pleasure, and acquiring a degree of normal maintenance.
Sociologically, masturbation is "normal" in that most people at some time in their lives practice it more or less. It falls within the parameters of "normal" and often expected behavior. Psychologically, masturbation can be considered "normal" because it can temporarily reduce tension that may make life easier immediately (though not better) and help one to cope in the short run. Nevertheless, although masturbation can be considered "normal" in this sense, I contend it is not healthy because it impedes spiritual growth…
To understand the dynamics of masturbation, it is important to look at the life of one who masturbates. The act should be seen in light of a total process. One element of this context is age. For example, adolescents usually feel more strongly than children and adults the urgency and confusion of new genital desires. Also, they experience peer and cultural pressure to satisfy them. An adult who has repressed his or her genital feelings may masturbate for reasons like those of an adolescent: urgency, novelty, pleasure, curiosity, environmental pressure.
Frequency and intensity are also important factors. Masturbating once a month differs from doing it once a day in terms of psychosocial and spiritual impact. Compulsive masturbation involves a significant part of one's life. In contrast, some people generally abstain from masturbation but periodically "act-out" for a relatively short time. Others follow a cyclic pattern: they allow tension to build up periodically relieve it and wait for is to increase again
Here's one adolescent's reflection on masturbation: "I'm not real guilty about it, but I'm not proud of it either. Most of the guys do it at some time or another. There are some guys who don't masturbate so I guess it can be done. I masturbate when I'm especially horny, or when I'm bored and have a lot of time. It relieves the tension, but I have to admit that the tension always returns Masturbating doesn't seem to get you where.
Intensity of involvement is significant also. The amount of time, as well as quantity and quality of self-investment, determine the impact masturbation has on one's life. Someone who masturbates daily for an hour with intense fantasy as the primary source of intimacy will differ significantly from a person who masturbates infrequently and has healthy experiences of intimacy.
Masturbation is particularly seductive because it is an easy and accessible way to reduce tension and to explore genital feelings and fantasies without interpersonal vulnerability, responsibility, and accountability. It seems we have a license to masturbate almost whenever we feel like it. We need not worry about other people or social consequences; it can be kept to oneself…
Part of masturbation's lure is the safe secrecy lure; one does not have to risk rejection, embarrassment, or failure; it gives the illusion of being open, and perfect. Instead of engaging in mature relationships, the individual can create a world of make-believe people where anything is possible and there are no limits.
A subtle attraction of masturbation is that the initial choice often emerges from nongenital experiences: boredom, anxiety and especially loneliness may pressure us to masturbate. Masturbation can numb the discomfort of emptiness and incompleteness and promise some semblance of being one with self and other. But these rewards are short-lived. The frustrating irony is that the escape from loneliness actually impedes the attainment of the true goal: intimacy." (pp. 102-104)
15. A Note of Explanation. This article was written mainly for Christians. It remains the most frequently accessed article on this web site. Most of the email is highly favorable. Non-Christians and moral relativists do write me less frequently. A typical email in the latter category is the following: "You really are making a fuss about nothing! I used to think that masturbating was a stupid, strange thing to do, so I stopped. Then I grew up and realised that there is nothing WRONG with doing this, nothing wrong at all. You enjoy your life. But I promise you, mine will feel better!" I have no quarrel with this writer--but he does not state his basis for his beliefs nor cite the moral authority by which he lives his life. To me the the fundamental issue for the non-Christian is establshing a relationship with God. Apart from such a relationship a person can not please God in the first place. To the person who has established a personal relationship with the living God, everything matters, and "the unexamined life is not worth living."
16. Excerpt from the book A Plea for Purity: The desecration of love is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. Increasingly, love is understood as nothing more than selfish desire, and the satisfaction of this desire is seen as fulfillment. People talk about sexual liberation but remain trapped in bondage to their sexual desires; they talk about true love but live in self-absorbed estrangement. Our age is a loveless age: relationships and hearts are broken everywhere, millions of human lives are discarded almost before they have begun, thousands of children are abused or abandoned, and fear and mistrust abound even in supposedly healthy marriages. Love has been reduced to base sex. Because of this, it is nothing more than a delusion for many - short-lived intimacy followed by gnawing emptiness and anguish.
How can we rediscover the real meaning of love? So many things in the world today take away our belief in lasting and unconditional love. So much of what has to do with "love" these days really has to do with the excitement and passion of lust. We live in a sex-obsessed, sex-crazed society, and everything reeks of it - advertising, literature, fashion, and entertainment. Marriage has been the first casualty: its significance has become so distorted that its true meaning has been lost.
Of course, no honest person can lay the blame for all of this at the door of the media or of some vague force in society. Certainly, the media has confused thousands of people and left them hardened. But it is we - each one of us -whose souls are burdened by the sin of our own lust, whose marriages have fallen apart, whose children have gone astray. We cannot ignore our own misdeeds; we must take responsibility for our own actions, for every instance where we have accepted the spirit of impurity and let evil into our own hearts. We have mocked and twisted the image of God and separated ourselves from our creator. We must learn to listen again to the deepest cries of our hearts, and repent and turn back to God.
Thirty years have passed since the beginning of the sexual revolution, and its devastating aftermath should be obvious to anyone: widespread promiscuity; rising rates of teen pregnancy and suicide; tens of millions of abortions; the spread of sexually transmitted diseases; the erosion of the family and home life; and the rise of a violent new generation. "We have sown the wind, and reap the whirlwind" (Hosea 8:7).
Our time grossly overestimates the importance of sex. Whether on bookstands, in convenience stores, or at supermarket counters, its significance is exaggerated in a thoroughly unhealthy way. Love between man and woman is no longer regarded as sacred or noble; it has become a commodity seen only in an animal sense, as an uncontrollable impulse that must be satisfied.
As a tool of the sexual revolution, modern sex education more than anything else is responsible for all this. Sex education was supposed to bring us freedom, enlightened attitudes, responsibility, and safety. Isn't it obvious by now that it has been a failure? Haven't we seen by now that knowledge is no safeguard, and that sex education as taught in most schools has only increased sexual activity?
True education for the sexual life instills reverence. Most parents have very little, if any, idea of what their children are taught in sex education classes. Sex education has never been a simple presentation of biological facts. In many curricula students are graphically taught (sometimes by way of films) about various sexual practices, including masturbation, and about "safe" sex. In others, sexual perversions are openly and explicitly discussed and presented as normal ways of finding sexual "fulfillment." in some school districts an appreciation and understanding for the homosexual lifestyle is encouraged: it is, our children are told, a perfectly acceptable alternative to heterosexual marriage. Some schools even have students pair off to discuss topics such as foreplay and orgasm. Antibiotics and abortion are presented as positive safety nets in case contraception and safe sex practices fail. Abstinence, if not entirely ignored, is mentioned only in passing. As William Bennett, former Secretary of Education, writes:
"There is a coarseness, a callousness, a cynicism, a banality, and a vulgarity to our time. There are too many signs of a civilization gone rotten. And the worst of it has to do with our children: we live in a culture that at times seems almost dedicated to the corruption of the young, to ensuring the loss of their innocence before their time."
Sex education is little more than "safe" sex training. Initially, it was instituted as an attempt to bank the fires of teenage sexuality; instead, it has only fanned the flames. Most people seem to take it for granted that teenagers will and should express themselves sexually. Our era is one of millions of abortions, of countless unwed mothers on public support, and of epidemic sexually transmitted diseases. Clearly, the idea that accurate knowledge fosters responsible behavior is nothing less than a grand myth.
In general, much of what is taught today in the name of sex education is a horror, and as Christians we must protest against it. It is often little more than the formalized training of irreverence, impurity, and rebellion against the plan of God.
True education for the sexual life takes place best between parent and child in an environment of reverence and trust. To educate anyone about sex through anonymous images and impersonal information will only awaken the sexual impulse of a child prematurely and, in his mind, separate sex from love and commitment.
Obviously we should not be afraid to talk freely with our own children about sexual matters, especially as they approach adolescence. Otherwise they will learn about these things first from their peers, and rarely in a reverent atmosphere. All the same, there is a danger in giving a child too many biological facts about sex. Often, a factual approach to sex robs it of its divine mystery.
To the Christian parent, sex education means guiding the sexual conscience of his or her children to sense their own dignity and the dignity of others. It means helping them to understand that selfish pleasure, whether it "hurts" anybody else or not, is contrary to love (Gal. 5:13). It means teaching them that, separated from God, sexual intercourse or any other sexual activity burdens the conscience and undermines honest relationships. It means opening their eyes to see the deep emptiness that leads people - and could lead them too - into sexual sin.
A child can acquire a healthy attitude to his body and to sex quite naturally, simply by being taught that his body, as the temple of the Spirit, is holy, and that any defilement of it is sin. I will never forget the deep impression it made on me as a young teen when my father took me for a walk with him and told me about the struggle for a pure life and the importance of keeping myself pure for the woman I might find and marry some day. He said to me, "if you are able to live a pure life now, it will be easier for the rest of your life. But if you give in now to personal impurity, it will become harder and harder to withstand temptation, even once you marry.
Parents who want to protect their children from impurity should remember that the discipline of work - whether through chores, exercise, or through other activities - is one of the best safeguards. Children who have been taught to stick to a task and see it through will be better equipped to deal with sexual temptations than children who have been pampered and catered to.
Any misuse of sex cuts us off from our true selves and from each other. Young people underestimate the power of the demonic forces they allow into their lives when they give in to impurity. Take masturbation, for example. As children grow into young men and women, their sexual desire increases, and often their most immediate urge is to seek sexual gratification through masturbation. Increasingly, parents, educators, and ministers of our day claim that masturbation is healthy and natural; many see it as just another form of stress release. And the sexual activity it often leads to, even among children who have barely reached puberty, is considered by some to be normal.
Why are we parents and educators so afraid to speak the truth - to warn our children not only of the dangers of promiscuity but also of masturbation? (Proverbs 5:1ff) Aren't both illnesses of the soul? Don't both desecrate and betray the image of God, and undermine the marriage bond? Masturbation can never bring true satisfaction. It is a solitary act. It is self-stimulation, self-gratification, self-abuse - it closes us within a dream world and separates us from genuine relationships. When it becomes habitual (which it often does), it aggravates isolation and loneliness, and it intensifies feelings of futility and frustration. At its worst, as a breach in the bond of unity and love for which sex is created, it is comparable to adultery. I have counseled many young people who are enslaved by masturbation: they earnestly desire to be freed from their habit, but they fall into it again and again.
A person who struggles with masturbation is often too ashamed to talk about it with anyone. Yet it is important to realize that because shameful acts work in secrecy, their power can only be broken when they are brought to light. Certainly sharing one's burdens and inner feelings with a mentor or pastor can be painful, but this is the only recourse for anyone who wants to become truly free.
People may struggle with masturbation right to the end of their lives. I have counseled men in their eighties who still have not found freedom from it. The question arises whether there is anything one can do to be rid of this curse. My advice to those enslaved to masturbation is to seek strength through prayer. You will not conquer your addiction by will power alone. Before you go to bed at night, turn your thoughts to God and read something of an inner, spiritual nature. Even then the temptation to masturbate can arise. When that happens, find something to take your mind off it - get out of bed and take a walk, or do some household chore. often a simple activity provides the best means to overcome these strong temptations.
Frequently enslavement to masturbation is connected to another form of bondage: pornography. Very few people will admit an addiction to pornography, but the fact that it is a steadily growing billion-dollar industry shows how widespread it is, also among "Christians."
Many people claim that pornography should not be criminalized because it is "victimless." Yet anything that encourages impurity, even in the form of solitary sexual arousal, is a crime because it degrades the human body, which was created in God's image as a temple of the soul (1 Corinthians 6: 19). The so-called lines typically drawn between pornography, masturbation, one-night stands, and prostitution are actually an illusion. All of them are means used to attain sexual satisfaction without the "burden" of commitment. All reduce the mystery of sex to a technique for satisfying lust. And all of them are shameful - the secrecy of those who indulge in them betrays that fact more clearly than anything else (Romans 13:12-13).
Prayer and confession can free us from the burden of impurity. No one can free himself from impurity or any other sin in his own strength. Freedom comes through the attitude of inner poverty, through continually turning to God. The struggle against temptation is in everyone and will always be there, but through prayer and confession, sin can be overcome.
Whenever we let down our guard in the struggle for purity - whenever we allow passion and lust to overcome us - we are in danger of throwing ourselves completely away. Then we will not be able to drive away the evil spirits we have allowed to enter, and the intervention of Christ himself will be needed to bring freedom. Without this, there will be only deepening hopelessness and despair.
In the most extreme instances the desperation brought on by a secret life of impurity ends in suicide. This can only be described as a rebellion against God, a statement that says, "I'm beyond hope - my problems are too big - even for God to handle." Suicide denies that God's grace is greater than our weakness. If we find ourselves in the abyss of despair, the only answer is to seek God and ask for his compassion and mercy. Even when we find ourselves at the end of our rope, God wants to give us new hope and courage, no matter how deeply we feel we have betrayed him. God is always ready to forgive every sin (1 John 1:9); we only need to be humble enough to ask him. When someone is tempted by thoughts of suicide, the most important thing we can do is to show him love - to remind him that each of us was created by and for God, and that each of us has a purpose to fulfill.
To turn from sin and to realize that we are created for God is always a revelation and a joy. If we faithfully face God in our lifetime here on earth, we will recognize the magnitude of our wonderful task, the task of receiving his love and sharing it with others. There is no calling more wonderful. --Johann Christoph Arnold, A Plea for Purity: Sex, Marriage and God, The Plough Publishing Company Farmington, PA 15437, 1998
I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. "Shut up, I tell you!" he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.
"Off so soon?" said a voice.
The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.
"Yes. I'm off," said the Ghost. "Thanks for all your hospitality. But it's no good, you see. I told this little chap," (here he indicated the lizard), "that he'd have to be quiet if he came which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won't do here: I realize that. But he won't stop. I shall just have to go home."
"Would you like me to make him quiet?" said the flaming Spirit---an angel, as I now understood.
"Of course I would," said the Ghost.
"Then I will kill him," said the Angel, taking a step forward.
"Oh---ah---look out! You're burning me. Keep away," said the Ghost, retreating.
"Don't you want him killed?"
"You didn't say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that."
"It's the only way," said the Angel whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. "Shall I kill it?"
"Well, that's a further question. I'm quite open to consider it, but it's a new point, isn't it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here---well, it's so damned embarrassing."
"May I kill it?"
"Well, there's time to discuss that later.
"There is no time. May I kill it?"
"Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please---really---don't bother. Look! It's gone to sleep of its own accord. I'm sure it'll be all right now. Thanks ever so much."
"May I kill it?"
"Honestly, I don't think there's the slightest necessity for that. I'm sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it."
"The gradual process is of no use at all."
"Don't you think so? Well, I'll think over what you've said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I'd let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I'm not feeling frightfully well today. It would be silly to do it now. I'd need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps."
"There is no other day. All days are present now."
"Get back! You're burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You'd kill me if you did."
"It is not so."
"Why, you're hurting me now."
"I never said I wouldn't hurt you. I said it wouldn't kill you."
"Oh, I know. You think I'm a coward. But it isn't that. Really it isn't. I say! Let me run back by tonight's bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I'll come again the first moment I can."
"This moment contains all moments."
"Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn't you kill the damned thing without asking me before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had."
"I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?"
The Angel's hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.
"Be careful," it said. "He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you'll be without me for ever and ever. It's not natural. How could you live? You'd be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn't understand. He's only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn't for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren't they better than nothing? And I'll be so good. I admit I've sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won't do it again. I'll give you nothing but really nice dreams all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent...."
"Have I your permission?" said the Angel to the Ghost.
"I know it will kill me."
"It won't. But supposing it did?"
"You're right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature."
"Then I may?"
"Damn and blast you! Go on can't you? Get it over. Do what you like," bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, "God help me. God help me."
Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.
"Ow! That's done for me," gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.
For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialised while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man---an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinnying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.
The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse's neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other's nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse's back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I even knew what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see there they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.
(From C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 1946)
Visitors since July 28, 1995
|How Masturbation Pollutes Your Mind Back to Front|
|Scientific Knowledge of the Laws of Sex Life
T.W.Shannon, A.M. (Publisher: S.A. Mullikin, 1904)
The following is an excerpt from the book:
Chapter XV - Self Pollution
ITS EVIL EFFECTS - It is wholly unnatural, and, in every respect, does violence to nature. The mental action, and the power of the imagination on the genital organs, forcing a vital stimulation of the parts, which is reflected over the whole nervous system, are exceedingly intense and injurious; and consequently the reciprocal influences between the brain and the genital organs become extremely powerful, irresistible and destructive. The general, prolonged and rigid tension of the muscular and nervous tissues is excessively severe and violent. In short, the consentaneous effort and concentrated energy of all the powers of the human system to this single forced effect cause the most ruinous irritation, violence, exhaustion and debility of the system.
YOUTH SUFFERS MOST - All who are acquainted with the science of human life are well aware that all excesses and injuries of every kind are far more pernicious and permanent in their effects on the youthful and growing body than when all the organs and parts are completely developed, and the constitution and general economy fully and firmly established. This is the great reason why many men who fall into ruinous habits, after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, will live on, in spite of those habits, by the virtues of a well-established and vigorous constitution, till they arrive at what we commonly call old age; while the children of the same men, following their fathers' evil example and forming ruinous habits when very young, become early victims and fall prematurely into the grave.
WHERE BOYS FREQUENTLY LEARN - The common notion that boys are generally ignorant in relation to this matter and that we ought not to remove that ignorance is wholly incorrect. Most boys do know about this, even if they do not practice it. Servants and people of loose morals often become the secret teachers of children in this debasing sin. But it is more frequently communicated from boy to boy. One corrupt boy will corrupt many others.
NO SECOND PERSON TO RESTRAIN - It is a secret and solitary vice, which requires the consent of no second person, and therefore the practice has little restraint as to its frequency. The general conditions are such that the practice becomes more and more frequent.
DESTROYS BOTH BODY AND MIND - It impairs the intellectual and moral faculties and debases the mind in the greatest degree, and causes the most deep and lasting regret, which sometimes rises to the most pungent remorse and despair. It would seem that God, as an instinct law in the innate moral sense, remonstrates against this filthy vice; for, however ignorant the boy may be of the moral character of the act or of the physical and mental evils which result from it; though he may never have been told that it is wrong; yet every one who is guilty of it feels an intinctive shame and deep self-loathing even in his secret solitude, after the unclean deed is done! - and that youth has made no small progress in the depravity of his moral feelings who has so silenced the dictates of natural modesty that he can, without the blush of shame, pollute himself in the presence of another, even his most intimate companion! Hence all who give themselves up to the excesses of this debasing indulgence carry about with them, continually, a consciousness of their defilement, and cherish a secret suspicion that others look upon them as debased beings. They can not meet the look of others, and especially of the female sex, with the modest boldness of conscious innocence and purity; but their eyes fall, suddenly abashed, and the glow of mingled shame and confusion comes upon thier cheeks, when they meet the glance of those with whom they are conversing, or in whose company they are.
A WANT OF SELF-RESPECT - They feel none of that manly confidence and gallant spirit and chaste delight in the presence of virtuous females which stimulate young men to pursue the course of ennobling refinement and mature them for the social relations and enjoyment of life; and hence, they are often inclined, either to shun the society of females entirely or to seek such as is by no means calculated to elevate their views, or to improve their taste or morals. And if, by the kind offices of friends, they are put forward into good society, they are continually oppressed with shrinking embarrassment, which makes them feel as if they were out of their own element, and look forward to the time of retirement as the time of their release from as unpleasant situation. A want of self-respect disqualifies them for the easy and elegant courtesies which render young men interesting to the other sex; and often prevents their forming those honorable relations in life, so desirable to every virtuous heart; and frequently dooms them either to a gloomy celibacy or an early grave. This shamefacedness or unhappy quailing of the countenance, on meeting the look of others, often follows them through life; in some instances, even after they have entirely abandoned the habit, and become married men, and respectable members of society.
DESIRE DEVELOPED - One of the first effects of the abuse of the genital organs is the development in them of an unhealthy degree of their peculiar sensibility - rendering them far more susceptible of excitement and establishing something like an habitual desire for indulgence. Of course, this state of things can not be carried very far without considerably affecting the whole nervous system and disturbing the functions of the several organs, more or less, according to their relative importance to the immediate welfare of the whole body.
SEXUAL EXCESS ON THE NERVOUS SYSTEM - The nervous system is the grand medium of injury to all the other tissues and substances of the body. Not only are the nerves generally debilitated and the nerves of organic life tortured into a diseased irritability and sensibility, but there is also a great deterioration and wasting of the nervous substance. The special nervous properties suffer in due proportion - varying in different persons with different peculiarities. The sense of touch becomes obtuse and less discriminating, and in some instances a numbness of the extremities and limbs, and even of the whole body, is experienced, sometimes actually reaching that state which is called numb palsy.
EFFECT ON THE SENSES - The sense of taste is equally blunted, and loses that delicate perception of agreeable qualities on which the delightful relish of proper and healthful food depends; and hence the unnatural demand for vicious culinary preparations and stimulating condiments, and the utter distaste for simple diet. The sense of smell becomes impaired, and loses its nice, discriminating power, and but faintly perceives the rich fragrance which the vegetable kingdom breathes forth for man's enjoyment. The ear grows dull and hard of hearing, and oftentimes a continual and distressing ringing, like the knell of ruined health, and the prognostic of evils yet more fearful, is the only music which occupies it.
EFFECT ON THE SIGHT - But, of all the special senses, the eyes, more generally, are the greatest sufferers from venereal abuses. They become languid and dull, and lose their brightness and liveliness of expression, and assume a glassy and vacant appearance; and fall back into their sockets, and perhaps become red and inflamed, and weak and excessively sensitive, so that wind, light, etc., irritate and distress them. The sight becomes feeble, obscure, cloudy, confused, and often is entirely lost, so that utter blindness fills the rest of life with darkness and unavailing regret.
EFFECT ON THE BRAIN - The brain is neither last nor least in these terrible sufferings. Associated as it is with the genital organs, it participates largely in all their direct excitements. Its extreme irritability, and its morbid sympathy with the alimentary canal, heart and lungs, as a mere animal organ, cause it not only to suffer excessively from all their irritations, but to reflect those irritations back upon the same organs, and throughout the whole system, mental and physical.
DOCTORS DIFFER - There have been, unfortunately, many wretched books put forth upon this topic filled with overdrawn pictures of its result, and written merely for the purpose of drawing the unwary into the nets of unscrupulous charlatans. There is also a wide diversity of opinion among skilful physicians themselves as to its consequences. Some treat the whole matter lightly, saying that a large proportion of boys and young men abuse themselves thus without serious or lasting injury, and hold, therefore, that any special warning is uncalled for. On the other hand, the large majority of practitioners are convinced that not only occasionally, but frequently, the results are disastrous in the extreme.
QUOTATIONS FROM NOTED PHYSICIANS - "I could speak of the many wreaks of high intellectual attainments, and the foul blot which has been made on the virgin page of youth, of shocks from which the youth's system will never, in my opinion, be able to rally, of maladies engendered which no after course of treatment can altogether cure, as the consequences of this habit." "I would not exaggerate this matter or imply that those who have occasionally gone astray are necessarily incurably diseased, or their souls irretrievably lost. But I do consider that the effect upon the constitution is detrimental in the extreme. Enfeebling to the body, enfeebling to the mind, the incarnation of selfishness, hardly the person exists who does not know from experience or from observation its blighting effects." "The deleterious, the sometimes appalling, consequences of this vice upon health, the constitution, the mind itself, are some of the common matters of medical observation. The victims of it should know what these consequences are; for to be acquainted with the tremendous evils it entails may assist them in the work of resistance." "Nothing is more certain than that continued self-abuse will produce an enervation of nervous element, which, if the exhausting vice be continued, passes into degradation and actual destruction thereof." "I myself have seen many young men drop into premature graves from this cause alone." "I consider this one of the most certain means which shorten and derange life." These are well-considered views of the ablest men in the profession of medicine.
THE OTHER SIDE - That there are physicians who treat lightly this censurable indulgence is not surprising. We could readily quote equally high authorities who see no great dangers in the use of alcohol, of opium and of illicit amours. There are many, sat they, who yield to all these temptations, and yet do not obviously suffer, and ultimately reform. Is the counselor wise who therefore pooh-poohs their peril? Certainly not; for our part, we shall not, can not, follow their example.
ITS PREVENTION - It is in childhood, and in early boyhood, that in most cases it is commenced. But it is frequent about the age of puberty, when the passions become stronger, and local irritations of various kinds lead the thoughts and suggest the act. In childhood, degraded companions and vicious domestics instruct in bad practices; at puberty the natural passions often prompt, without the need of bad examples. In both cases an utter ignorance of danger is present, and this is the first point that the parent and teacher must make up their minds to face.
CHILDREN MUST BE TAUGHT - Children must be taught . There is no doubt that in many of them an improper tone of thought is established even before the period of puberty. For a boy to reach his teens without learning from his associates something of these matters is simply impossible. We urge, therefore, parents and teachers not to permit a natural, and under other circumstances very proper delicacy, to restrain them from their bounden duty to warn their charges of these dangers. If wisely done, there is no risk whatever of exciting impure thoughts; and if there *is* any risk, it is infinitely less than that of leaving children in ignorance.
READING AND DANCING - The regimen should be plain, and the imagination allowed to remain in abeyance. Sensational love stories, and even such warmly colored pictures as are presented in the Arabian Nights and the amorous poets, had better be tabooed. The growing custom of allowing very young people of both sexes to associate at parties, balls, dances and similar amusements can not be approved on the score of health. It is nearly certain to favor precocity.
ITS CURE - Many a victim with flagging body and enfeebled will is ready to cry out: Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Let them know for their consolation that very many men, now hale and happy, have met and conquered the tempter; that so long as the mind itself is not actually weakened, there is good hope for them; that the habit once stopped short of this point, the system recovers from its prostration with surprising rapidity; and that we come provided with many aids to strengthen their wavering purpose.
PURITY OF MIND - First and most essential, is the advice that they must resolutely strive for *purity of mind*. All exciting literature, all indecent conversations, all lascivious exhibitions must be totally renounced. Next, all stimulating food and drink, and especially coffee and alcoholic beverages, must be dropped. The mind and body must both be constantly and arduously employed, the diet plain and limited, the sleep never prolonged, the bed hard, the room ventilated, the covering light, and the habits as much broken into as practicable. Generally the temptation comes at some particular hour, or under some especial and well-known circumstances. At such times extra precautions must be taken to occupy the thoughts with serious subjects, and to destroy the old associations and opportunities.
MEDICAL AID - There are also medical means which can be employed in some cases with good success, such as the administration of substances which destroy desire, and local applications, and even surgical operations which render the action physically impossible, but these means we do not propose to enter into, as they can only be properly applied by the educated physician, and do not form part of a work on hygiene.
HOPEFUL CASES - When the habit is not deeply rooted, an earnest endeavor, backed by rigid observance of the rules we have laid down, will enable a youth to conquer himself and his unnatural desires.
WILL MARRIAGE HELP? - Certainly marriage need not be recommended to the confirmed masturbator in the hope or expectation of curing him of his vice. He will most likely continue it afterwards, and the circumstances in which he is placed will aggravate the misery and the mischief of it. For natural intercourse he has little power or no desire, and finds no pleasure in it; the indulgence of a depraved appetite has destoryed the natural appetite. Besides, if he be not entirely impotent, what an outlook for any child begotten of such a degenerate stock! Has a being so degraded any right to curse a child with the inheritance of such a wretched descent? Far better that the vice and its consequences should die with him.
MAN MAY RECOVER - We wish most clearly to be understood that even after great excesses of this nature, a young man *may* recover perfect health, and that where the habit has been but moderately fostered, in nearly every case, by simply ceasing from it, and ceasing thinking about it, he *will* do so. Therefore there is no cause for despair or melancholy.
BAD ADVICE - It is hardly credible, and yet it is true, that there are medical men of respectability who do not hesitate to advise illicit intercourse as a remedy for masturbation. In other words, they destroy two souls and bodies, under pretence of saving one! No man with Christian principle, or even with a due respect for the statutes of the commonwealth, can approve for a moment such a course as this. Careful regulation of life according to sound hygenic rules, aided perhaps with appropriate medication which the physician can suggest, will generally effect good results.
WHEN EVERYTHING ELSE FAILS, THEN WHAT? - When everything else fails we have no hesitation in recommending surgical treatment. This is of various kinds, from repeated blistering to that ancient operation which Latin writers tell us was practiced upon the singers of the Roman stage, called infibulation. This is of such a character as to render the act impossible or nearly so. Castration, which some have suggested, need never be resorted to. By one means or another we can say that there are exceedingly few cases, except the actually insane, who can not be broken of their habit, and considerably or wholly relieved of its after effects.
A GREAT STUMBLING BLOCK - A serious obstacle in the way of such reform is the unwillingness of sufferers to ask advice for fear of disclosing their weakness. They are ashamed to tell the truth about themselves, and, when they do apply to a physician, conceal the real cause of their debility, and deny it when it is asked. To such we may say that if they can not have implicit faith in the honor as well as the skill of a medical adviser, they had better not consult him, for on their frankness his success will often depend.
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An Online Anthology
Edited by Men Against Pornography
A variety of helpful ideas and inspirational personal stories from men who--perhaps like yourself--have struggled against the pornography industry's power over their sexual feelings.
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TOWARD SEEING WOMEN'S HUMANNESS
UNRAVELING A WEB OF LIES
RECOVERING FROM SEXUAL ADDICTION
HOW I GAVE UP PORNOGRAPHY
PATTERN FOR CHANGE
UNSPLITTING MY SEXUAL SELF
WITH GOD'S HELP
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