Some religious groups have condemned masturbation because sexual organs are designed by God for procreation. Since masturbation involves only one person it cannot lead to pregnancy. It has been called an "unnatural act" for this
Others stress that God created sex with the intent that it be enjoyed between a married
couple: one man and one woman. Physical closeness promotes emotional closeness. Again,
masturbation is a solitary practice and thus is to be avoiced.
Religious opposition to masturbation has softened greatly in recent years. We expect
that masturbation will eventually be ignored by most churches.
Neopagans represent less than 1% of the population of
North America, and their religious tradition is very different from that of most
Many of their beliefs about masturbation and other topics are
significantly different from larger faith groups. We include them here in order to give a
better representation of the full range of religious thought in North America.
The largest group within Neopaganism are the Wiccans. Rather
than viewing human sexuality as separate and often antagonistic to religion, many Wiccans
integrate sexuality, faith and practice. The Council of American Witches issued a
statement about their religion during their Spring Witchmeet of 1974, held in Minneapolis,
MN. It says, in part:
"We value sexuality as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of Life, and as
one of the sources of energies used in magickal practices and religious worship."
They regard human sexuality as a gift of the Goddess and God. It is an activity to be
enjoyed responsibly in accordance with the Wiccan Rede. One modern form of the
"Do what you wish, as long as it harms no one, including yourself."
Neopagans carefully consider any act in advance, and avoid those that are harmful to
themselves or others. Masturbation is no exception. It is not harmful to other people,
because (by definition) it is performed while one is alone. Most Wiccans agree
with the best medical information
indicates that it is not harmful to the individual either, but rather offers many
The "Charge of the Goddess" is an instruction of unknown antiquity
that is recognized by many Neopagans. One part of it reads: "All acts of pleasure
are my rituals." We have communicated with one Wiccan coven which has modified
the Charge to read "All responsible acts of pleasure are my rituals."
Responsible, in this case, would mean a sexual act that is free of any negative outcomes
like pregnancy or disease. And it would also need to be non-manipulative, non-dominating,
non-controlling, non-coercive, and consensual. Some Wiccans engage in the Great Rite which
includes sexual intercourse in private between a committed couple as part of a circle
religious ritual. We suspect that masturbation by solitary practitioners also forms part of some
solitary Wiccan rituals.
There are no passages in the Bible that discuss this topic directly. Jesus did not give
his opinion on masturbation. Although he gave hundreds of
instructions to help us govern our lives, he apparently did
not consider the topic of
human sexuality of great importance. His only recorded reference to human
sexuality is his association of adultery with sin in John 8:1-11. This
passage is of doubtful authenticity because it apparently did not appear in the
original autograph copy of that Gospel. It is apparently a forgery written by an
About the fantasy aspects of masturbation:
One comment that Jesus did make about sexual fantasies is contained in Matthew 5:28, which states:
"...whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery
with her already in his heart." (KJV)
That is, a person who fantasizes about making love to another person has committed a
sin equivalent to adultery. This passage is important here, because fantasies are often
present when a person masturbates.
Liberal Christians typically do not base their moral code solely on the Bible. They
integrate findings of science, medicine, etc., including research into human sexuality.
Most sexuality and mental health professionals have concluded that such fantasies are
normal and healthy; they are not harmful. Sexual attraction to other people is natural
and, to a degree, an automatic and unavoidable response. They would thus tend to
not interpret the above passage literally. Of course, if a person acts upon these
fantasies inappropriately, then they can easily become sinful and even criminal.
Most liberal Christians probably ignore Matthew 5:28, just as they ignore passages
requiring women to cover their hair in church, which ban polyester-cotton clothing,
the eating of pork, shrimp, and cheeseburgers, or which ban
marriages, or regulate slavery. They would not treat the fantasy aspect of
masturbation as an item of concern.
About the act itself:
Masturbation may be considered to be composed of three to five components. A liberal Christian might analyze them as follows:
Manually touching one's genitals: The human body is a magnificent
structure, and no part of it is inherently dirty, evil, or untouchable. Extreme
photograph (say, a 1/8" square piece of skin) in the area of the foreskin, penis,
clitoris, vulva, palm, chest, or neck will show basically the identical structure. If skin
throughout the entire body has the same construction and is formed from
materials, why should one part be untouchable and the other touchable? A religious liberal
would probably conclude that touching one's genitals is not considered an evil or sinful
Enjoying the feelings arising from manual stimulation: There are many
forms of body stimulation that generate pleasurable feelings: luxuriating in a perfumed
bath, lying on the beach and feeling the sun's rays beating down on you, manually
stimulating the genitals, experiencing a sensual massage. In each case, some external
agent stimulates nerve endings which in turn generate pleasant feelings. The only
difference with masturbation is the intensity of those feelings. A religious liberal would
probably conclude that manual stimulation of the genitals is in no way sinful.
Fantasizing about a person who one is in love with or would like to be in love
with: Fantasies are internal thoughts that bring pleasure and do not impact on
anyone else. As noted above, they are harmless.
Optionally experiencing an orgasm:
An orgasm is a very intense,
joyous, sensual experience. Physiologically, the closest experience to an orgasm is the
act of sneezing. A religious liberal would probably conclude that an orgasm is a morally
neutral, and very pleasant experience. Again, it harms nobody and is thus
free of sin.
In the case of a male: having an ejaculation of semen: The testicles
produce semen at the rate of thousands of sperm a second. Reservoirs near the prostate
gland are continuously being refilled. Each ejaculation partially empties the chambers.
But more sperm will arrive to refill them. If they are not emptied by masturbation or
intercourse, they will automatically be voided during sleep in the form of nocturnal
emissions. A religious liberal would probably conclude that an ejaculation is harmless.
It merely speeds up a natural process.
Most liberal Christians would conclude that masturbation is a harmless activity,
one that is not
particularly sinful. It generates considerable pleasure, and teaches the
individual about their body's responses -- useful knowledge when one is sexually active with a partner. The findings of two studies that
masturbation lessens one's chances of prostate cancer is a bonus.
A Speech to Mormon Youth on Masturbation:
The late Mark E. Petersen was a member of the Council of the 12 Apostles of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - the Mormons. He allegedly wrote an article
circa 1970 CE titled "Steps in Overcoming Masturbation."
The essay is widely published by a number of anti-Mormon web sites,
and allegedly has been distributed to students at Brigham Young
University. We have
asked the LDS repeatedly to check the authenticity of this document and to confirm that
it is not a
hoax. 3 We have never received a response.
This article continually refers to masturbation as "the problem."
"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
"This self-gratifying activity will cause one to lose his self-respect, testimony
becomes weak, and missionary work and other Church callings become burdensome,
"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 Apostle offers some practical suggestions for overcoming "the problem:"
avoiding being alone; praying; exercising; yelling "stop" when tempted;
reciting a passage of a Gospel or the Book of Mormon; singing a hymn; setting goals for
intervals of abstinence; imagining yourself as strong and in control; "dress
yourself for the night so securely that you cannot easily touch your vital parts,"
use aversion therapy [for example, if you are "tempted to masturbate, think of
having to bathe in a tub of worms, and eat several of them as you do the act."];
reducing the consumption of fluids in the evening; reducing spices; "Wear pajamas
that are difficult to open, yet loose and not binding." "In very severe
cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to the bed frame."
A longer version of the essay, allegedly distributed by the LDS church at
Brigham Young University is also available online. 2
A Second Mormon Speech on Masturbation:
Boyd K. Packer gave a talk to a group of young Mormon men at the General Conference
Priesthood Session, held on 1976-OCT-2. He said in part:
Within your body you have the power of creation.
This is a very sacred power. The Lord has commanded that you use it only with one to
whom you are legally and lawfully wedded. He has decreed serious penalties indeed for the
misuse of it.
When this power begins to form, it might be likened to having a little factory in your
body, one designed to produce the product that can generate life.
There is, however, something you should not do. Sometimes a young man... might fondle
himself and open that release valve. This you shouldn't do, for if you do that,
the little factory will speed up. You will then be tempted again and again to release it.
You can quickly be subjected to a habit, one that is not worthy, one that will leave you
feeling depressed and feeling guilty.
Mark E. Petersen, Council of the 12 Apostles [Mormon], "Steps in
Masturbation," at: http://qrd.tcp.com/
The article was apparently written circa 1970 CE. It is replicated at many locations
across the Web.