C Rulon: Christianity & Solitary Vice

By | October 10, 2011

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & health Sciences
Long Beach City College

Q. How about having our schools and media encourage frequent masturbation as a substitute for sexual intercourse?

A. Ah! A brilliant partial solution to overpopulation, poverty, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases! In many ways masturbation is perfect. Not only does it relieve the sexual tension that partly drives people to have sex in the first place, it also requires no devices or hormones, is free, safe, available to everyone, and requires no seduction games. It’s also easy to learn, is very pleasurable, and dramatically increases the number of female orgasms. It might also strengthen your arm. Sex educators and sex therapists have long taught that masturbation is no less natural or healthy than sex with a partner. And as Woody Allen once quipped: “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s having sex with someone I love deeply.”

In women the clitoris, not the vagina with its few nerve endings, is the site for orgasms. Sexual intercourse without clitoral stimulation seldom leads to orgasms in women. But masturbation does. So if we value a society in which women also have the opportunity for considerable sexual pleasure, then masturbation (and oral sex) must rank high on the list.

Q. So why haven’t our secondary schools been required to teach the virtues of masturbation?

A. Because we’ve all been raised in a sexually confused culture when it comes to any form of sexual pleasure outside of marriage. Even though the Bible never specifically refers to masturbation (nor to birth control, oral sex, or abortion for that matter), many conservative churches still see sex as a powerful urge which tests a person’s willingness to conform to religious values. Resisting such a powerful impulse demonstrates religious commitment. Not masturbating is still thought by these churches to be spiritually character building. It represents a form of self control over a strong sexual impulse that is considered morally wrong, particularly if accompanied by lustful and immoral sexual fantasies. (Ouch(!), since at least 80% of all males and 50% of all females engage in “lustful and immoral sexual fantasies” when they masturbate).

“The facts of life can be told in 15 minutes … The way sex education is taught in the schools encourages experimentation… It’s the cause of promiscuity and destroys the natural modesty of girls.”

—Phyllis Schlafly

Q. Where did we get such sex negative beliefs in the first place?

A. From Christianity, which evolved as a very sex-negative religion. For example, the biblical Jesus taught that the sin of adultery was committed in a man’s heart if he looked at a woman with lust (Matt. 5:27-8). Since sexual passions and lust are deep-seated in human nature, Jesus’ admonition furnished a basis for the Apostle Paul’s and then Augustine’s pronouncements regarding sex.

Saint Augustine, a founding church father, proclaimed that sexual intercourse was inherently evil, a product of original sin and justifiable only when the intent was procreation. Married couples who used an “evil appliance” (some form of primitive birth control) to forestall conception were in mortal sin. He also severely condemned all non-marital sexual outlets including masturbation, premarital-sex, oral sex and homosexuality. Even thinking lustful thoughts or having a wet dream required penance.

These pronouncements resulted in extreme sexual repression and in warfare against the human body, which became seen as sinful and corrupt. Everything sexual was considered rooted in “lowly bodily strivings” that detracted from seeking God.

Now zoom ahead in the United States to only a century or so ago. Masturbation, referred to as “self-pollution”, was purported to cause insanity, blindness, epilepsy, paralysis, homosexuality and even genital cancer. Thousands of girls caught “excessively” masturbating had carbolic acid or a hot iron applied to their clitorises, or even had their clitorises cut off. And boys caught engaging in “self abuse” could have their penises blistered with mercury ointment. [1]

Q. What about today?

A. Today, many who masturbate still report feelings of guilt, shame and disgust. Few can bring themselves to tell their mates, lovers or friends that they masturbate. The entire issue is further complicated by our insecurities and by widespread misinformation: “You won’t enjoy sex as much,” “It’s a sign of psycho-sexual immaturity,” “People who masturbate are lonely and too unattractive to find a mate,” “If I really turned my partner on, she wouldn’t need to masturbate,” and “It’s condemned by God.”

Accepting masturbation and oral sex have been difficult for our culture. Until 2003 oral sex was actually illegal in many states — a “crime against nature”. And the powerful Roman Catholic Church still takes a strong position against masturbation, declaring it to be “an intrinsically and seriously disordered act.” President Clinton (under extreme pressure) even fired his Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders, in part, over a comment she made regarding the value of masturbation to help prevent the spread of AIDS.

[1] Of particular interest, see Alex Comfort’s book, The Anxiety Makers. The web also has many relevant articles on devices to prevent masturbation and on masturbatory insanity.

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