Masturbation ‘n Church

As a female, I was never taught directly about masturbation.

When the guys and gals would be separated for our gender appropriate lectures, I got to hear about modesty and how to be a ‘good’ wife.  (Chaste, modest, quiet, submissive… not anything about communication or being a whole person without a husband, sigh.)

The boys got to hear about leadership and occasionally, about masturbation.  I’m not sure what they said about it, but I remember the gloomy faces slinking out of the boys lecture room one of the days they spoke about it. 

However, our church policy was not entirely draconian.

Once my uncle told me as a teen he ran across a mentally disabled boy jacking off in the boys dorm.  He was so disturbed he told the elders.  They informed him that in this circumstance it was fine since they didn’t want the boy channelling his sexual urges towards any of the girls.

I have no idea why my uncle thought this story was important to tell me.  I was horrified because he felt he had to tell the elders about this behaviour, but I think he assumed my reaction was about the masturbation since he kept talking.

Whatever the official stance on it was, the attitude about it was clear. 

Bad.  Dirty.  Only for desperate circumstances.  Not to be talked about.  A male issue only.

A friend of mine told me that her mother had been praying for my friend’s sons since they were little.  About their “sinful hands”.  The assumption was that all boys would, you know.  And that it was sin.

Well, first of all, not all boys do.  I have actually dated a few who didn’t know what it was.  One was enlightened after a radio interviewee was giving instructions on how to clean smegma.  Which the guy didn’t know about.  If it didn’t change his life, it did change his shower routine.

Secondly, and more importantly, it is not sin!

I was told through written Christian sources that masturbation was selfish, ‘stealing’ from your future/present partner, and would lead to sexual frustration.  Ha, the irony.

Churches should talk about it, but from a more informed position.  Apparently,  the consequential speed of action and shame association that comes from guilt leads to sexual dysfunction in a partnered relationship.  The action itself is neutral.

And what is more selfish: demanding sexual release from a tired/sick/___ partner or getting it yourself?  Or, not getting release and inflicting your hormonally driven rage on your family? 

The only time the Christian literature I read to allowed masturbation was for married women.  They were encouraged find out what felt good so that they could tell their naive husbands what to do.  Enjoyment of self-pleasure was not part of the equation, it was purely educational and needed be done only once, maybe twice.

I wish I had been taught:

– what it was (and that you don’t need a penis to do it)

– that it is normal and healthy

– that it will not ruin a relationship

– that it helps you sleep and can ease menstrual cramps

Perhaps it wouldn’t have changed my life but I probably would have been a little less grumpy.

20 thoughts on “Masturbation ‘n Church

  1. Ahab says:

    It never ends. Conservative churches never tire of taking healthy aspects of our being and either ignoring them or repressing them.

  2. Women are bad. Sex is bad. Church and their version of God is good.

  3. God is a very dirty old man, way too obsessed with other people’s sexuality. I wish I’d seen him in his true light a lot sooner than I did.

  4. JZ says:

    An orgasm is a beautiful thing. A natural thing. Men are just afraid of a little battery-powered competition.

  5. Astasia says:

    This reminds me of that politician/bureaucrat (she was in the Clinton administration, I believe) who got in so much trouble for suggesting masturbation as an alternative to young teenagers having sex.

    I never understood the backlash against that idea – it made so much sense to me. Teenagers are always going to want to explore their bodies and of course they are going to have interest in sex. So, instead of just forbidding everything sexual, why not give the alternative of masturbation. It seems like even conservatives could be okay with that.

  6. prairienymph says:

    The problem with masturbation is that it gives the person too much control over themselves! Autonomy is a bad thing for hard core conservatives.

    Actually, a health worker told me that masturbation is often important in getting people to leave abusive relationships. It is one step in the direction of freedom from unhealthy reliance and lack of self confidence. Never would have thought of that.
    (It was in a class presentation. Honestly, I don’t talk about sex to every person I meet!)

    • Grace says:

      A friend pointed out that encouraging masturbation can be particularly beneficial for girls, especially straight girls, in teaching them that their sexuality is their own, not anything that depends on someone else for fulfillment… so they might be less likely to become enmeshed in emotionally unhealthy or unsatisfying relationships because they think they have to be dependent on their partners for sexual satisfaction, or confuse sexual pleasure with romance or being in love. Sounds like a similar argument to what the health worker said to you…

  7. Lorena says:

    Wow! It’s official. I’m weird.

    I didn’t know about M. It never crossed my mind. I never felt any sexual desires. I’m not sorry I didn’t know about it.

    But, then, I was a nerdy kid getting A’s in school, not dating at all. Once I started dating–as an adult–I felt urges, but it never got bad enough to make me wish for anything.

    That’s one of the perks of being unattractive, I guess.

    • D'Ma says:

      Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger! I guess I’m weird, too.

      • prairienymph says:

        I never had ‘urges’ either – if I had, I prolly would have figured things out.
        I think it was a deliberate choice to be ignorant of such things, but also because I was too busy with school and work and church. I developed a great barrier to all things sexual. Partly because it made people laugh when I didn’t get any double entendres, but partly because I had a horror of all things sexual making me tainted.

        Unattractive? Ha! I don’t believe you. Unless you mean that you showed people an unattractive personality and deliberately pushed them away.

      • Lorena says:

        Prairie, good point.

  8. grasshopper says:

    I pity the young christians who get married and then have to figure sex out. Must be a confusing, uncomfortable ride.

  9. theagnosticswife says:

    When I was growin up the boys were discouraged from doing it, I don’t remember anyone saying anything to the girls. I guess they assume girls don’t have the same urges, but I did.

    I remember doing it and then feeling guilty but not guilty enough to stop doing it. It was a vicious cycle. It also caused issue in the beginning of my marriage because I thought now that I was married I didn’t need to do that and neither should my husband. When I found out he was I felt like he cheated on me. How silly!

    Anyway not a issue anymore 🙂

  10. prairienymph says:

    I used to worry that if I did, after I was married, then I would betray my husband. Isn’t it great to be free from that 🙂

  11. naturegirl1 says:

    I’m not sure how many of the people who commented here are european, but I wonder if it’s more of an issue in the “conservative” states. Here in Europe we have been teaching in schools that masturbation is not only harmless but was to be encouraged as it can be a way of avoiding unwanted consequences like STDs or pregnancy. It’s something that didn’t sit too well with the Roman Catholics. But take liberated Holland as an example, there teenage pregnancy rates are at an all time low (way lower than here in the UK), sexually transmitted diseases are equally low, yet here is a society that has legalised prostitution, has opened up pornography so that it is almost “mainstream”, has no watershed regarding nudity on television channels, has almost as many nude beaches as it does non-nude beaches and I dare say most teenagers there would not hesitate to admit to masturbating if asked!
    Prairienymph, you already know my views on religion, what I have read here only reinforces my opinion!

    • prairienymph says:

      I am from Canada, which is supposedly more European than the US, but my subculture of rural conservative evangelicalism is simliar to the Americans. The Catholics from my small town were the ones who could drink, dance, and talk about birth control.
      Porn is all blackmarked here and there is no differentiation from misogynistic porn and that which encourages respect and different kinds of bodies.
      I go back and forth between hating religion and how it has been used to hurt people, and from appreciating the gathering place for community it could be. What are the public forums in the UK? Pubs? Facebook? Parks? There are none?

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