MASTURBATION: Mortal sin moral disorder?

July 13, 2018
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•Masturbation is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act that constitutes a grave moral disorder  -Excerpt from the Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics

Masturbation has benefits for both men and women but the problem is that people can be addicted to it and it sometimes causes collapse of relationships


By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna

Guests at a highbrow housewarming party in Lagos were taken aback recently when the host’s middle-aged brother who had probably had a few drinks too many, at one point, loudly announced that he enjoyed masturbating.

“I love to masturbate, but it’s not just me. Everybody masturbates. There’s nothing wrong with doing it, but just keep it to yourself, okay?” He yelled with a grin.

The embarrassed host quickly had the drunk man removed from the scene, but even as the party continued, masturbation had become the dominant topic for discussion between the guests.

Ade and Toyin – a young married couple at the party found the development quite amusing. “I know people like to publicly brag about the things they do, but masturbation? Why on earth would anyone brag about such a thing? Are they just trying to be shocking? Toyin remarked in disgust.

But Ade’s reply was almost certainly unexpected. “Let’s not crucify the guy. He’s right you know, I masturbate quite often. It’s not a big deal.”

Toyin’s jaw dropped. “You what?” She exclaimed, staring at her husband in disbelief.

Ade’s remark was loud enough for nearby guests to hear: “I said I also masturbate and it doesn’t stop me having and enjoying sex with you. And don’t pretend as if you don’t masturbate too.”

“Me? God forbid.” Toyin retorted.

But Ade had the last say. “Don’t lie, you do. I’ve heard you doing it in the bathroom before. We all do it. It’s harmless.”

Apparently unprepared for such blunt response, Toyin could only sit and stare in shocked, angry humiliation as her spouse engaged the other guests in lewd discussion about masturbation. She was so upset she refused to join the conversation and deliberately did not speak to Ade for the rest of the party.

This scenario typifies public attitude towards the phenomenon called masturbation. To some people, masturbation is a word that is as irritating as what it stands for, yet masturbation is common behaviour even among people with normal and regular sexual relations.

To some persons, the word masturbation is okay, while to others, the mere mention of the word is as irritating as what it stands for. Yet masturbation is common behaviour, even among people who have normal and regular sexual relations with a partner. The experts say masturbation is the experience of sexual orgasm through self-stimulation. “Virtually every man and almost every woman masturbates or has masturbated at one point or the other,” a public health expert declared. Unmarried men are most likely to indulge in the practice more frequently than women do.

Findings by  Saturday Vanguard  reveal that masturbation is the first sexual act experienced by most males and females. In young children, masturbation is a normal part of the growing child’s exploration of his or her body. Most people continue to masturbate in adulthood, and many do so throughout their lives.

But with such a bad reputation, mainly because morality considers it taboo, masturbation is an uncomfortable topic to talk about. There is so much secrecy about masturbation. Everyone does it, yet only few ever admit their indulgence. Others keep it a closely guarded secret. In many settings, masturbation is considered evil.     Apparently, not many would want to talk about it either because of their religious background, morality or it is simply because they consider it absurd.

In this part of the world, masturbation is taboo, but nevertheless quite common and almost a natural activity among men and women and even children. Everyone masturbates, yet masturbation is such an embarrassing topic for many.

Saturday Vanguard  went to town on this issue and observed that the silence around masturbation is as deafening as it is disturbing. There is so much secrecy about masturbation. Most people keep it a closely guarded secret for no particular reason. The blanket condemnation around the topic is often based on faulty conceptions. There is a big division surrounding the moral wrongness and medical rightness of masturbation.

Findings reveal that a significant number of Nigerian men and women have deep-set and preconceived notions about the act of self-gratification in masturbation, and even though only  a handful candidly share their personal experiences  about it. It’s the culture of silence.

Tina never leaves home without her battery-operated vibrator because she expects that a situation will come up where she has to masturbate immediately. “I don’t have a boyfriend or sex partner, but I masturbate regularly, and recently it’s been two to three times a day. I’m a human being with blood in my veins. I have feelings so it’s my hormones raging. It has nothing to do with sin or religion”, the 29-year-old spinster told  Saturday Vanguard.

Obi has been married 12 years but masturbates often. “Sometimes my wife doesn’t feel in the mood when I need sexual relief. I love my wife and would never cheat on her so I consider this better and much safer than having extramarital affairs or casual flings. I don’t really consider it a sin because I have no guilt doing it and I can control the urge.”

On his part, 40-year-old Kunle has no particular reason for masturbating. “I started the habit as a teenager in secondary school more than 20 years ago and continued even after I had become sexually active, and although I’m now married, I am used to it. My wife doesn’t know I do it because we have a good sex life.   I’m a Christian but I don’t think masturbation is a sin because the bible doesn’t specifically condemn it.”

Joan’s excuse for masturbating has to do with unsatisfactory sexual activity in her marriage. “My husband is a loving gentleman and a devoted father to our four children. I’m not proud to say it but he does not satisfy me sexually. I’ve a high sex drive and can only reach orgasm by masturbating. My husband knows I do it and it doesn’t affect our marriage. I can never commit adultery because that is a great sin.”

Religion does not promote masturbation

In December 1975, on behalf of Pope Paul VI, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a declaration entitled  “Persona Humana – Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics”. According to an excerpt from the Doctrine, “masturbation is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act that constitutes a grave moral disorder.”

Religion generally does not promote masturbation, but there are divergent views. A few years back, the General Overseer of a popular Pentecostal Church in Nigeria had argued that masturbation was not a sin but that Satan uses it to oppress people of God making them feel ineffective and inefficient in the things of God.

According to the preacher, God is not offended by the practice; rather, God is against any habit that takes hold of the mind. This position had elicited widespread condemnation. Religious belief denounces masturbation along with all other forms of sexual impurity and fantasy that would involve adulterous relationships whether actual or mental.

The religious bodies may have taken this position just like the Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org , John Piper   stated in his report, “Missions and Masturbation.”   Piper claimed in his report that one of the major forces preventing young people from obeying the call of God into vocational Christian service is defeat in the area of lust and that masturbation is a major factor and enemy of missions.   He argued that no one can imagine sexual orgasm in the loins without sexual image in the mind.

While the Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about masturbation, there is however, stern warning against “spilling your seed on the ground.”   This is the famous scriptural interpretation of Judah’s firstborn, Onan, whose wastage of seed was deemed wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him, according to Genesis 38:7-10.

However, contrary argument posits that what is actually condemned in Genesis 38:7-10 is not the wastage of seed, but Onan’s refusal to raise children for his brother. According to another argument which opines that a child is contained in the male seed, masturbation by a man, leads to wastage of the male seed and is tantamount to wastage of human life.

While theologians often theorise that masturbation is sin, medical experts debunk such claim stating that although every male ejaculation releases nearly 400 million seeds, only one is necessary for fertilisation.  In view of such present-day knowledge, modern moralists are compelled to agree that the “wastage of seed” may not be sinful after all.

Many Christians posit that in order to masturbate, individuals have to get vivid and exciting thoughts or images into the mind which is done by pure imagination or by pictures or movies or stories or real persons, which is considered as a sin by God.   Religious leaders often quote certain Bible verses that in respect of this topic never hit the nail at the head but most men of God have continued to vote against it.

For instance Romans 8:8 – “And those who are in the flesh cannot please God.,” and   Romans 8:13 – “For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Also 1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? According to Galatians 5.19 – “Fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility …. I warn you that those who behave like that will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  None of the terms used, however, refers to masturbation. They all refer to external breaches of marriage.  Basing a scriptural prohibition on those texts is not justified, as is now generally agreed. From these commonly quoted verses, there is a general biblical silence on masturbation.

Medical opinion:  Masturbation is beneficial to health

In the Middle Ages, there was strong conviction that masturbation was bad for health and wellbeing. Hippocrates, the Greek physician and the Father of Medicine, had postulated that loss of the seed (semen) would lead to spinal problems. In the Middle Ages. Medieval doctors also declared that seed was a powerful fluid and its loss weakened the body.

There were so many ills associated to the wasting seed, linked to the Illnesses caused by masturbation, ranging from Tuberculosis, loss of vision, digestive problems, impotence and madness. In 1812  Benjamin Rush, the acclaimed “Father of American psychiatry”, attributed to masturbation: impotence, kidney failure, spinal cancer, lung cancer, indigestion, blindness, epilepsy, hypochondria, memory loss, prostate trouble, inner bleeding and death. Psychiatrists generally used to describe masturbation as an ‘illness’ moving through the stages of perversion of emotions and confusion of mind, to loss of intelligence, nightly hallucinations, homicidal and suicidal tendencies, and finally total madness.

Today, such medical opinion has been totally overturned simply because there is no evidence for any of the physical ills traditionally ascribed to masturbation, although, the practice of masturbation may, in the long run, turn the masturbator in on himself/herself because it largely deprives the human sexual act of its main purpose and context – creation of a “holistic” and intimate relationship.

By definition, masturbation means touching one’s own body, including sex organs, for sexual pleasure. It has raised a lot of controversy in religious circles. Many individuals wonder if the Bible talks about masturbation. However, while religion does not give thumbs up to it, scientifically, studies have shown that masturbating more can dramatically increase individuals’ health and cut the risk of infections.

Many young people masturbate. Older people too. A study published in European Urology noted distinct health benefits from masturbation for men including frequent ejaculation and reduced risk of prostate cancer.

According to another research, masturbation is important physically and emotionally. Findings reveal that as a result of cultural taboos, women are more inhibited in expressing sexual feelings and tend to feel that the urge or desire to masturbate is somehow wrong. But experts say there is enormous potential for healing, growth and well-being through exploring one’s sexuality, expressing it, and experiencing it with joy.

It is on record that women who masturbate experience less risk of cervical infections and obtain better relief from Urinary Tract Infections. When women masturbate, the orgasm “tent” opens the cervix. Many women with UTIs report desire to masturbate because it helps relieve pain, lubricates the vagina, and flushes old, “unfriendly” bacteria from the cervix. Again, studies have shown that masturbation is associated with improved cardiovascular health and lower risk of type-2 diabetes. In a number of studies, women who experienced more orgasms, and overall greater frequency and satisfaction with sex — with a partner or not — were shown to have greater resistance to coronary heart disease (CHD) and type-2 diabetes. Masturbation can help prevent insomnia naturally through hormonal and tension release.

However, certain masturbating habits can wreak havoc on sex life.     Studies have also identified negative effect of masturbation as its inability to help in terms of infertility. The frequent ejaculation of the fluid, semen   reduces the quality of the sperm as it gets watery. Experts say frequent masturbation can irritate the skin of the penis and constant masturbation with the penis pressed down against the sheets can injure the urethra such a way that urine leaves the penis, not in a stream, but in a hard-to-control spray.

Experts say that just about every man who can masturbate does. They told  Saturday Vanguard  that no one needs an expert to confirm that solo sex feels good, relieves stress, and is good for initiating sleep. According to the experts, there’s no such thing as “abnormal” masturbation, pointing out that there are only variations in both frequency and technique.

Dr Betty Dodson, a New York City-based sexologist and the author of “Sex for One”, says humans are too diverse to establish a norm for masturbation. On her own part, Martha Cornog, the author of The Big Book of Masturbation, “every man masturbates in his own way,   whether he “uses his hands, rubs against something, uses a sex toy or household object, wears special clothing, fantasizes, looks at a book or magazine, tries different positions, or looks in a mirror.”

Cornog asserts: Masturbation is very safe   and just about the safest sex there is. Unlike sex with a partner, masturbation can’t give you a sexually transmitted disease. Nor will it subject you to the muscle strains, pokes in the eye, and awkward moments that can come with partner sex. But there are limits to this safety.

So essentially, although once was regarded as a perversion and a sign of a mental problem, consensus is that masturbation now is regarded as a normal, healthy sexual activity that is pleasant, fulfilling, acceptable and safe.

One   medical expert summed it up this way: “Masturbation is a good way to experience sexual pleasure and can be done throughout life. “It is only considered a problem when it inhibits sexual activity with a partner, is done in public, or causes significant distress to the person. It may cause distress if it is done compulsively and/or interferes with daily life and activities.”

Masturbation is useful in infertility treatment  —Adebayo

In an interview with  Saturday Vanguard, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, General Hospital, Ifakoijaye,   Dr.   Samuel Adebayo, explained that masturbation has its own medical indications as it is used in infertility treatment. He said masturbation is the best process to be used in getting sperm for a test in an infertile patient.

“Masturbation is used in the case of a sexual examination while getting sperm for a test of an infertile patient and that is the best method. Also for people that suffer from premature ejaculation studies have shown that if they indulge in masturbation, they get some level of improvement.”

Adebayo who explained that from a spiritual point, it could be seen as taboo, said spiritually, it is seen as a coup against spiritual belief and culture.

Speaking on the effect of masturbation on health, he said: “Medically, masturbation exposes ones health to grave danger as the sensitive part of the body is exposed to several infections from bacteria and toilet infections.

“Indulging in masturbation is based on the choice of religion and belief of the individual. The above has been outlined as several medical benefits and uses of masturbation but in situation where the patient believes are against the adoption of masturbation, there is a breach of decision.

“But personally, in my opinion on a spiritual ground,   I will not prefer masturbating because whoever is masturbating has conceived some certain immoral thoughts in a bid of arousal or the process of getting pleasure from masturbation itself. Based on the spiritual faith, after masturbating some individuals are clothed in guilt and whatever condemns one is not good for your spiritual life,” he stated.

It helps in stress management  —Dr. Banji Adesoji

A Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the General Hospital Ikorodu, Dr. Banji Adesoji , explained that masturbation is about downloading images   in the mind to get an erection said although it helps men to ejaculate which is good for men’s health but could destroy relationships if a person becomes addicted to it.

Adesoji said spiritually, for religious people, masturbation is like committing fornication with yourself but it could be good and bad for your health.

“Is it good for your health? Yes, because sex is a good thing and ejaculation is good for men but the only issue is when you are in a relationship and find yourself addicted to masturbation before you can achieve sexual satisfaction or reach your highest peak of satisfaction, then it becomes a problem.”

Adesoji said masturbation is good for management of stress. “Basically the aim of sex is for orgasm to be achieved which helps you in terms of stress management and masturbation achieves that for some people and in such cases, it is beneficial.

“If you are able to achieve orgasm and that helps you lot in stress management that definitely is fine but it becomes a problem when you begin to do it more often and you still do not get aroused.”

Further, he dismissed any insinuation that masturbation has link with mental health saying: “The only link between masturbation and mental health is if somebody decides to indulge in masturbation rather than having normal sexual relations because of a vague mindset of non attraction to the opposite sex or thoughts of lack of desire by their spouses and because of that they choose to have sex with themselves.

“The reason for masturbating rather than sex is linked to the mental state but masturbation by itself is not directly linked to any mental health disturbance. Unless a person is depressed anxious or has low self esteem and the thought of having sex with himself/ herself arises that is when masturbation is linked to a mental disorder,” he explained.

Adesoji explained that sex is the Number 1 stress management technique and masturbation can be termed for those that are really stressed up, regretting that most people don’t think of it that way.

He, however, maintained that sex with a partner was one of the greatest forms of exercise and stress reliever.

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