Five Myths About Masturbation
Five Myths About Masturbation by Brian Kissinger
I have read a few books, I have even taken courses on the subject, but nothing could have fully prepared me for teaching a year-long class of Theology of the Body to 150 freshman boys. Words can't quite describe the awkwardness of a room full of 14-year-olds trying to maturely discuss the mechanics of the male reproductive system. One day, as class was ending, one of the students asked me a question that I thought had to be a joke. He wanted to know if it was true that 'people will explode' if they don't masturbate regularly. It took me a little while to realize that he was being completely serious, and it was then that I realized just how confused our world has become.
Here are five lies about masturbation that I believe have infected our culture:
Myth #1: Only Boys Struggle With it
Even though boys are usually the ones joking about masturbation, the truth is that this is an issue for many women as well. Like other issues of sexuality, this subject of jokes for boys is often a source of shame for the girls who struggle. Even in youth ministry, chastity talks for boys often include mention of masturbation while the topic isn't, unfortunately, addressed as frequently with girls.
Myth #2: It Can't Be A Sin; It's "Natural"
The existence of something in nature is never a good argument for moral issues. I've heard people bring up this argument after discovering that certain animals have been known to masturbate. Anyone who's been outside can tell you that animals do a lot of weird stuff. I've seen dogs eat their vomit and monkeys play with their crap, but neither of these "natural" examples should inspire imitation.
Myth #3: It Doesn't Hurt Anyone
Everything we do in life is training, either toward virtue or vice. Every athlete, musician, actors, and cage fighter can tell you that practice matters. Masturbation trains us to think that sexual desire is something that should be satisfied immediately, and it reinforces the idea that sex is about selfish instant gratification. While love is all about giving and sacrificing one's desires for the needs of another person, masturbation is all about training us to do whatever we want to feel good. Masturbation slowly but surely destroys our ability to give and receive love.
Myth #4: It's Just A Way To Release Sexual Tension
Did you see that news story about the teen who spontaneously combusted because of pent-up sexual tension? Yeah, me neither. According to this logic, the people who masturbate the most should be the most peaceful and sexually pure people around. That's like telling someone with 'anger management' issues that fist fights are a good way to relieve the tension. A momentary sense of relief is not worth the guilt, shame, and loneliness that are tied to the sin.
Myth #5: It's Just A Phase You're Going Through
Like all sins, masturbation doesn't just go away over time. In fact, the opposite is true: the more we do it, the more we become attached to the habit. It's not a problem that magically disappears when you get married. So many marriages have been ruined by a spouse's addiction to masturbation. When a husband or wife turns to themselves for sexual gratification, the other spouse will naturally feel like they're inadequate. Regardless of your past, your habits, or your lack of will power, there is hope. God's not cheering for you from a distance; He's living in you to bring power where you are weak.
Run to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and you will find both healing and freedom.
This article was also published in Worth The Wait: A Catholic Teen's Guide To Dating, Marriage, And Happiness.
Brian Kissinger lives in Fairfax, Virginia, where he serves as a youth minister and high school Theology of the Body teacher. He has a passion for sharing the Gospel, and he emphasizes a message of hope in a culture that has lost its sense of purpose. Brian graduated from Franciscan University and completed his master's degree in pastoral theology at the Augustine Institute.
See also The Chastity Project site (Jason and Crystalina Evert)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church on sexual purity and chastity:
The Vocation to Chastity
2337. Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man's belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.
The integrity of the person
2338. The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech (cf. Matthew 5:37).
2339. Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy (cf. Sirach 1:22).
2340. Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God's commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer.
2341. The virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason.
Offenses against chastity
2351. Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.
2352. By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium 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." (CDF Persona Humana, 9)
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, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.
2353. Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.
2354. Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.
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