“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust is conceived, it gives birth to sin.”
-James 1:14-15, New American Standard Bible
Masturbation is an experience of sexual orgasm which is produced when an individual, irrespective of gender, self stimulates their genitals for sexual arousal or pleasure, which results in them releasing or not releasing their orgasm. It is common to all men and women and is important for the healthy development of sexual organs. There are a number of myths and bizarre claims surrounding the idea of masturbation, one of the most common being that an addiction to masturbation leads to blindness, low sperm count or penis shrinkage, which is nothing but bizarre.
Why do people masturbate?
73.8 percent of male and 48.1 percent of female adolescents who are aged between 14-17 years in the United States masturbate every alternate day in a week. It is a sexual development that is dynamic in its process and it is enduring in its componential release. If you go by science, you will be told it is integral to a normal sexual development in a person. Even older adults who are between the age group of 55-65 years of age masturbate to release their sexual tension. There is no one reason for people to masturbate. It could be simple pleasure, tension release or for fun. You could be masturbating alone or with partners. In this article, our focus is to make you realise about the factual understanding of masturbating and whether or not it is a sin.
What exactly is a sin?
If you go by the religious bounds of sin, sin is mostly the consequence to a lust or a self consumed desire that has negative consequences. In Matthew 5:28, Jesus says and we quote, “whoever looks at a woman to only lust her has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.These kind of sexual lusting can trigger masturbation of self stimulation. However, even though the Bible forbids all kinds of adultery, fornication, homosexual sex, incest, bestiality and lust (outside marriage) and consider them sin, it nowhere mentions masturbation as a form of sin.
Masturbation and sexual desires
- Masturbation could be a part of a sexual relation in a marriage. And marriage is considered sacred. If you are manually stimulating as a part of the process to give physical release to your partner then it cannot be considered a sin. God has himself created us with the capacity to have sexual desire and also to enjoy it. The Bible says that Jesus commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). This means that within marriage if you are active at masturbation and if it is for the good of both the partners and as long as it does not involve a third party, it is rightly approved.
- If you are masturbating to deny sexual intercourse to your partner then it could be destructive to your marriage and then it will be called a sin. Denying sex to your partner or performing sexual activity outside marriage is considered betrayal, and therefore a sin.
- Another opinion believes that masturbating is a kind of physical release of sexual tension, so if you are helping yourself release tension from your body to a certain limit without getting addicted to it then it is not a sin but a way of avoiding sin. If you are masturbating considerably, it is not a temptation because then it does not overtake you, it will be an escape. If you can endure it from becoming an addiction then it will only act as a channel to release sexual tension.
- Masturbation is unforgivable and unavoidable. If sex can be powerful, then masturbation can also become an addiction to you. Any form of addiction is dangerous as it then makes us it’s slave. And Bible says that we must only be “slaves of God” (Romans 6:22).
What do different religions say about masturbation as a sin?
Views on masturbation differ from religion to religion. Some religions feel it is a detrimental practise, while some believe it is not a detrimental practise. While some feel it is a healthy way of exploring oneself, others feel it is a wrong motive towards addiction. Let’s discuss in detail what different religions across the world have to say about masturbation being a sin or not.
Bible does not explicitly mention about masturbation as a sin. However, Catholic Church says that masturbation is a kind of moral disorder. The Church has always spoken about masturbation as a form of seriously disordered act. Even though psychology and science describe masturbation as a normal phenomenon, mostly among the youth, both the Magisterium and Church speak against it without hesitation and they believe that no matter what be the reason or motive to give in to masturbation, if one is deliberately giving into any form of sexual feel outside a sexual relationship that is accepted by society, then it is contradicting moral order.
As per the preachings of Hinduism, Kama forms one of the four main objectives of an individual’s life. However, if a person has taken the vow of Brahmacharya, then he or she has to be chaste and free from the grants of sexuality. Otherwise, Hinduism does not condemn masturbation. The treatise of Hinduism in fact explains the procedure of masturbation through Kama Sutra dated back to the 4th and 6th centuries AD. One begins their life at Brahmacharya when they are chaste and then they advance towards educationally and spiritually furthering themselves towards karma and dharma. Through this phase they reach Grihastya which is the household stage where they seek for kama and artha. Hence sexual pleasure which includes masturbation also becomes a part of it and hence one of the four goals of life.
Islam does not approve of masturbation at all, except if there is an extenuating circumstance. There is a quote in the holy book of Quran which says, “And those who guard their chastity, except from their wives for then, they are free from blame; But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are transgressors.” (23:5-7) If you are involved in some kind of sexual behaviour outside of your marriage then it is a sin of the highest order, for which you will be punished in this life as well in your afterlife (Qiyama). Despite knowing this, in case you are so overwhelmed by your sexual desires that you could commit the sin of having sex outside of your marriage, then masturbating can be considered permissible.
“But let them who find not (the means for) marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty. And those who seek a contract (for eventual emancipation) from among whom your right hands possess – then make a contract with them if you know there is within them goodness and give them from the wealth of Allah which He has given you. And do not compel your slave girls to prostitution, if they desire chastity, to seek (thereby) the temporary interests of worldly life. And if someone should compel them, then indeed, Allah is (to them), after their compulsion, Forgiving and Merciful.” Qu’ran 24:33
The core principle of Buddhism is to end suffering (dukkha) from this world and from an individual’s life. The ultimate goal of life is to escape from the cycle of existence (samsara) and attain liberation (Bodhi or nirvana). This is possible by conquering over ignorance (avidya), cravings (tanha) and the void nature of self (anatta). This can be attained by practising meditation, and also following the four noble truths and eightfold path so that one can control the passions of one’s mind and end the karmic cycle of suffering and rebirth. Hence, masturbation (sukkavissathi) is a form of carnal desire which refers to a strong desire for sex. So any form of craving or desire can cause problem for those who want to attain the highest goal of enlightenment and nirvana (liberation) from the karmic cycle of rebirth. Buddhism preaches compassion and mindfulness so if one masturbates they can abstain themselves from performing any kind of sexual misconduct on others and therefore it is encouraged and is also permissible.
What does science have to say about masturbation?
Both psychology and sociology consider masturbation as a normal phenomenon of sexual development. Masturbation can occur without any form of sexual immorality or lust. You can fantasize but it is not deadly for the mind or does not have the chance of corrupting your mind. For example, if you are masturbating thinking about a healthy and long lasting relationship with your partner it is a healthy fantasy and one that is in sync with your potential reality. It will remind you that as a human being you are sexually designed to be physically, and emotionally connected to someone else at a different human level. Let’s share with you some scientific facts about masturbation that you might not have known:
- High levels of testosterone is directly linked to having more desire to self stimulate or masturbate. However, this applies only to women because for men testosterone levels are not related to their desire for masturbation.
- Vibrators are used by a lot of women during masturbation but vibrators are not just for women. A survey in US found that about 16.6 percent of men also reportedly used vibrator during masturbation. The survey also found that these guys who used as a vibrator felt the best kind of erection and the highest form of sexual desire.
- Another survey found that clitoral stimulation is preferred by women over vaginal insertion when it comes to the more common masturbating technique.
- There is a common myth that watching too much of porn leads to erectile dysfunction but there is no strong connection between a man watching porn during masturbation and his erectile functioning.
- Often while masturbating our perception of something being sexually attractive changes and also the desire for it. If one is sexually aroused during masturbation, anybody could seem like sexually appealing in that moment.
- Science says that if you are not addicted to masturbation but prefer doing frequently it could be potentially good for your health. If you release orgasm during masturbation, the functioning of your immune system is enhanced.
So is masturbation a sin or not?
If you go by the preachings in Bible, there is a quote that states, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity.” It further states that if masturbating as a practise makes you feel that you are doing something to glorify God and in doing it you are not sure if He will smile upon you then it is a sin! (Roman 14:23)
Our body at the end belongs to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and since he has given it to us we need to take good care of it by keeping it pure. If you go by the preachings of religion, you will not find the mention of masturbation as a sin in most religious books but there is very little doubt that masturbation added with strong lust for other women can be soaked in as a sin, according to religion.
However, science will never consider it a sin or something that is harmful for your health. In fact you would rather be told it has good physical and mental health benefits such as the following:
- Reducing stress
- Releasing sexual tension
- It enhances sleeping pattern
- Boosting concentration level
- Elevating your mood
- Relieving women of menstrual cramp
- Improving sex
Masturbation is strategically identified as improving one’s sexual health and promotes more self pleasure, and also reduces the fear of unwanted pregnancy and prevents STDs. If you are the kind who prevents impulsive sexual activities, masturbating is a good sexual outlet. Even for older women, masturbating can relief one of vaginal dryness.
So the contradiction between religious preaching of masturbation as a sin and scientific understanding of masturbation as a healthy sexual development will continue to exist, irrespective of the number of debates around it.
What are the side effects of masturbating frequently?
- One major side effect of masturbating frequently can be the constant habit of self stimulating to an extent that if you are married also you will not enjoy the sex with your spouse. It will get difficult for you to stimulate your partner since your body will become used to reaching orgasm in a certain way. Bible speaks a lot about a healthy sexual union between husband and wife and one should know how to maintain it.
- A lot of people also go through a sense of guilt when they masturbate regularly. They feel lonely and feel like they are untouchable. But it is not the masturbation that is the problem but the urge that has driven them.
- Your daily life could also be disrupted if you masturbate frequently. You would feel the urge to self stimulate leading you to miss your work or school or other social events. It could even affect your relationships with others and will become your escape from your daily life.
If you feel masturbating is a sin or is bad for your health, how to stop it?
If you feel you want to change your behaviour of giving into masturbation, the first step should be your “want” to stop it.
- Meditate and talk to God: Sinning is a spiritual wrong doing so the escape from it is to confess to God about it and take to meditation to give yourself peace when you feel the urge to do it. Take it in a way that you would want to cleanse your system and hence it is intrinsic that you do not give in to something that you consider impure.
- A healthy distraction: If you want to get over a bad habit, replace it with a good habit. It could be anything from exercising to walking to cooking or by socialising more often. Whatever be the habit, make sure you stick to it for the next 21 days and soon it will come naturally to you.
- Differentiate between when sex is right and when not: Sex is not a sin. God has made us in a way to be driven by sexual desires but one needs to know when to channel out the desires and with the right partner which is mostly our spouse. Wait for the right time, do not give into your emotional and physical desires easily. The temporary happiness could be fulfilling but in the long run it could destruct your self esteem.
We, as humans, are used to finding channels to seek pleasure but some kind of pleasure only makes us feel more worthless and empty in the long run. If you feel masturbating is a sin and your religion or spiritual values are asking you not to – try to strengthen your urge to overcome it rather than easily giving in. Masturbation is normal but when you know you are within the limits of your conscious self and not lusting over people outside of your marital grounds.