☠️ Masturbation is NOT healthy

Masturbation is NOT Healthy: What are the Risks of Doing It and Reasons Why Catholics Assert it’s Wrong?

We are not telling you how to think, we are telling you that you are not thinking enough.

Masturbation.

A topic that everybody is completely comfortable discussing in public and private situations.

Not sure where you are from, but everywhere I have ever lived, that last sentence is not true. Masturbation is under-discussed by secular and moral authorities alike. Even in the ever-growing discussion on whether porn should be legal to create and view, the actions associated with this porn viewing are hardly brought up.

Usually, it is only implied that a person is undertaking some type of physical stimulation whilst viewing erotica. In contrast, this post will be explicit (in a PG-13 way, never fear) about the dangers associated with and negative moral implications of normalizing and participating in masturbation and porn.

I, along with most people in America today, have directly experienced the pain and sadness stemming from disordered sexuality. We must strengthen the conversation on the side of holiness to fight the tide of masturbation, pre-marital sex, and other actions and symptoms of disordered sexuality.

I do not write this article to condemn, I write to bring hope to those struggling to see their passions overtaken by their victorious and virtuous will.

So…

What does the World Say about Masturbation?

According to the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, “among those aged 18-60 [in the United States], 38% of women and 61% of men reported any masturbation over the preceding year.” [1] (Though this study is 20+ years old, it is the least biased I could find.)

If you search online for statistics on the number of people who regularly masturbate (for post-writing purposes such as me, or just for curiosity’s sake), you will— much to your chagrin—stumble across more articles not sharing statistics, but emphatically stating that “masturbation is integral to normal sexual development.” [2]

There are even books written for children about masturbation, how to masturbate, and the benefits of it! [3] If you try to search for an article about the side effects of masturbation, the truth is buried beneath mountains of feel-good (literally, pleasure) articles stating that only good things come from masturbation.

Some of the biggest lies these articles (and society as a whole) say about masturbation are:

  • Masturbation is a normal part of every child’s sexual awakening
  • The best way for children to learn who they are is through sexual exploration (this makes me sick)
  • Masturbation has mental and physical health benefits

Just because masturbation is common in our culture, does not mean it is simply a natural process. Masturbation is morally wrong and it hurts men (and women) physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually.

In fact,

Masturbation is a disordered act contrary to natural law.

In Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyła (aka Saint Pope John Paul II), it is written: “Lack of information and especially lack of training in the correct attitudes may cause a variety of aberrations (such as infantile and adolescent masturbation.)” If children do not receive proper sexual education from their parents, they are subject to their friends’ (often immersed in secular culture) understanding of what ordered, healthy sexuality looks like.

Lack of Sexual Education

Just as it is very difficult to find non-biased facts about masturbation and sexuality online, so too is there a dearth of quality education regarding sexual urges and decisions. Sex-ed classes or speakers at public or private schools often do just as poor of a job as these biased articles and they allow parents to feel justified in not properly educating their children.

Many parents are guilty of not talking to their children about the natural processes of puberty, the importance of abstinence, or the dangers of what secular society teaches about sex and birth control. This failure in parenting leads confused children to their friends, or worse, the internet to discover what their sexuality means.

In middle school, jokes about masturbating run rampant and there is often a strong culture of shaming—those who masturbate make fun of/ feign surprise at their friends who do not. Children feel pressured (either by their friends, the stresses of their life, or boredom) and learn from others already committed to masturbating that it is a good way to wind down, relax, or just feel good.

As I stated earlier, a quick Google on the ‘normalcy’ of masturbating returns article after article about the health ‘benefits’ and ‘sexual freedom’ that frequent masturbation lends to people of all ages and both sexes. In reality, these click-bait articles only feed the addiction people have to getting pleasure.

Yes, I said it.

Masturbating is an Addiction

Some people don’t like calling their sexual habits an addiction. Other people don’t like to admit that their drinking has reached a point of perpetual craving.

I assure you, I am not pointing any fingers at anybody by calling it an addiction. It is critical to understand the physical danger of masturbation that the world refuses to accept.

Addiction to porn and masturbation is similar to smoking. Often, people begin to do so simply for the pleasurable buzz they feel from nicotine or orgasm. Over time, the frequency of the action increases, along with a person’s dependence on nicotine or orgasm to feel right.

This increase in frequency begins to have negative consequences on a person’s physical and mental health.

For men especially, masturbation wastes energy and nutrients. It leads to a lower level of testosterone, which has caused many professional athletes to maintain strict abstinence periods before events!

It takes about 65 days for the male body to complete “the progression from spermatogonial stem cell to mature sperm” [4]. When a man masturbates, not only will his hormones shift (higher levels of testosterone are recorded for men who undergo periods of abstinence [5]) but also he is wasting the proteins and energy it took for his body to create and release the sperm.

The energy and nutrients utilized in the creation of sperm could be used for other bodily functions. In fact, after a couple of weeks, the body absorbs the proteins from the semen and expels the waste it cannot use.

As discussed by Martin Prescott, author of Quit Porn and Get Rich: The Unspoken Rule of Successful People, sperm is made up of “enzymes, proteins, amino acids, flavonoids, zinc, selenium, and vitamin C. Most of the chemicals necessary to create a new supply of sperm are also needed for the proper functioning of other organs. If these components are excessively used to produce ejaculate, the body may become deficient in them. A single ejaculation can cause slight fatigue in the body, whereas frequent ejaculation can result in a deficiency of micronutrients and vitamins, even faintness.” [6]

When people tell you it isn’t harmful to masturbate (and claim that it is healthy) they are ignoring the blatant misuse of a natural bodily function—not to mention the spiritual effects I will touch on shortly.

Nobody (excuse the pun) was meant to orgasm and/or ejaculate daily 365 days a year.

Now you might be wondering…

What if I want to have sex with my spouse every day?

For one thing, if utilizing Natural Family Planning (NFP), there are times of abstinence every month in order to avoid pregnancy. In that case, you would not be having sex daily, and both spouses are granted time for their bodies to take a break—male bodies won’t have to work so hard to produce sperm and female bodies can focus on ovulating.

Even if having sex daily for an extended period of days (as possible in the dry post-peak period of the Creighton Model of NFP [7]), there is a chemical difference between masturbating and having sex with your spouse.

“For both sexes (adjusted for prolactin changes in a non-sexual control condition), the magnitude of prolactin increase following intercourse is 400% greater than that following masturbation.” [8] Prolactin is a “neurohormonal index of sexual satiety” meaning the body is not only more satisfied but also ensuring that the dopamine levels from sexual activity decline steadily (without feeling its absence like withdrawals after eating a chocolate chip cookie late at night or shooting up heroin).

This feeling of physically missing something that occurs after masturbation is addictive and can lead to depression—starting a vicious cycle of addiction.

So yes, having sex with your spouse daily is different from masturbating daily, because your body physically understands (evidenced by these hormones) the difference between masturbation and sex.

It stands to reason, then, that with the rhythm of intercourse and abstinence found in NFP and the increase of post-coital prolactin after intercourse, our bodies are significantly healthier when not masturbating.

A hyper-active dopamine rush (masturbating) without the bodily release of prolactin leads to decreased levels of happiness just like most other addictions.

A Little Bit of Natural Law

God created our bodies (and the natural order of all things) to function in a good, moral way. After the fall, we require cleansing to become holy once more, but our bodies are still good when utilized virtuously.

It is incredible to think about the natural markers God connected to our moral actions.

Not to mention another physical (and Biblical) fact against masturbating:

There’ll be no posterity!

8 Juda, therefore said to Onan his son: Go in to thy brother’s wife and marry her, that thou mayst raise seed to thy brother.

9 He knowing that the children should not be his, when he went in to his brother’s wife, spilled his seed upon the ground, lest children should be born in his brother’s name.

10 And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing.” [9]

It is detestable for men and women to sexually pleasure themselves without accepting God’s will: the natural progression of events that often result from the marital act (including, but not limited to, that release of prolactin and pregnancy!).

“As they had received from God the promise that in the seed of Abraham all nations should be blessed,” it was justly considered by them to be a very pious duty to bring forth children, and thus contribute to the propagation of the chosen people from whom Christ the Lord and Saviour was to derive His birth in His human nature” [10].

The physical pleasure of sex is not meant to be enjoyed outside of the ends God created for it—whether that is the Mosaic divinity of marriage or the Christ-indued Sacrament entailing the total self-giving of spouses to one another.

Now that we have covered some of the physical side affects of masturbation, now let’s take a look at what it is doing to your soul.

Masturbation and the Spiritual Side of You

Let’s get this out there: masturbation is a mortal sin if done willingly and knowing its sinfulness. It is a grave perversion of the sexual act and manipulation of one’s own physicality for lustful pleasure. All mortal sin cuts a person off from God and must be remedied through reconciliation to God through confession or an act of perfect contrition.

It is easy to see how viewing porn is sinful: one is hurting other people by objectifying their bodies. [10] Since masturbation is (usually) a single-person venture, it is tempting to argue that the only person it hurts is oneself.

Masturbation is wrong for a similar reason to why homosexual actions and contraception are immoral, we cannot use the sexual organs in a way God did not intend for them to be utilized—chiefly, lustfully and without the openness to procreation.

When a person masturbates, he/she is saying:

I want sex (and am willing to use myself), but I don’t want any of the consequences or responsibilities that come with the pleasure.

Seeking pleasure as an end is foolhardy. Once you eat that 14th chocolate chip cookie, it is gone and you’ll have a stomachache. Ouch. After the initial rush of dopamine, masturbation (and intemperate cookie gluttony) ensures only the withdrawal from pleasure—that is not worth the original action!

There is no fulfillment when life is all about yourself. Think about this: masturbation is making love to yourself. It gives many a sense of narcissistic fulfillment. Others utilize it to try and ease their feelings of loneliness.

In our over-sexualized culture, it’s no wonder that so many people masturbate (and advocate for the normalization of the act). After all, it’s pretty easy to access and free. It is difficult (especially for young men with increasing sex drives) to withstand the temptation to masturbate. The media make it appear as though everybody is doing it constantly.

Fighting for chastity strains all four of the Cardinal Virtues in aspiring saints:

  • Prudence: Utilizing reason and cautiousness when first learning about masturbation and experiencing the peer pressure with which it is associated.
  • Justice: Not patronizing or distributing the unethical porn industry.
  • Fortitude: Strengthening your will and continuing to pick oneself up after falling into sin.
  • Temperance: Restraining your passions when tempted to utilize sex in a disordered way.

Action Item!

Stop making masturbation normal, and stop masturbating!

If you or somebody you love is struggling with masturbation, here are some suggestions to fight the temptation!

  • Find anything else to do. Try praying a rosary while exercising. Find a physical activity to distract wholly—mind and body—from the temptation to masturbate. This works best if this action can be taken at any time the temptation to masturbate happens. Dominate concupiscence.
  • Stay away from anything that can expose to pornographic images, videos, memes, etc. There are many dedicated programs for this such as Covenant Eyes.
  • Go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament any time you fall into sin. Be open to God, go to reconciliation to be forgiven by Him who is all-merciful!

“Do you want the Lord to give you many graces? Visit Him often. Do you want Him to give you few graces? Visit Him rarely. Do you want the devil to attack you? Visit Jesus rarely in the Blessed Sacrament. Do you want him to flee from you? Visit Jesus often!” —St. John Bosco

Spiritual warfare is real. Visiting Jesus is necessary to conquer the devil. This is one reason why we are obligated to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass weekly! St. John Bosco spent much of his life forming young men, and he focused a lot on the veneration of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As a human, you will struggle with intense spiritual warfare. Concupiscence is real. Satan and demons are real. Anybody struggling specifically with sexual sins must:

  1. Acknowledge their issue
  2. Decide to fight the good fight! (Goodness as defined by the Catholic Church. Do not let secular society trick you into joining the dark side simply because they have cookies…aka pleasure/the easy life)
  3. Fight with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be honest about your struggles with humans and with God. Do not fight alone. The Church militant is here to fight with you!

Everything that we do as Catholics gets us closer to Jesus. The saints, the sacraments, keeping our bodies holy, etc.

We are called to be open with our fellow man about our temptations and help them through their struggles as well. Masturbation hurts people. There is a lot of shame involved in the act, and the right thing to do is to actively fight the idea that acts of sexual sin are moral.

We must support our brothers and sisters who struggle with sexual sins just as we can lean on them for help struggling through our temptations!

☠️ Masturbation is NOT healthy
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Grace Brown Profile

The Author

Grace Brown, convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, military wife, and jazz singer is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s in English, minor in Performance Studies. She has written and researched extensively how Catholic theology relates to works written by authors such as Charlotte Brontë, Aphra Behn, and Mary Shelley, culminating in her Senior Research Thesis entitled “On Miltonic Hierarchy in the Paradisal Marriage of Adam and Eve.” Today, she is a full-time writer and supportive wife to her Marine Corps husband, currently stationed in Virginia. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

Further Reading

Love and Responsibility —Karol Wojtyła (more commonly known as Saint Pope John Paul II)

Quit Porn and Get Rich: The Unspoken Rule of Successful People—Martin Prescott

Resources:

[1] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00926230701385514?src=recsys an abstract citing the 1992 study.

[2] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/1107656 (I do not recommend actually listening to a word these folks say about normal sexuality)

[3] I am not linking to these books. It is horrifying. Trust me, they are out there, and they are aberrations.

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10095/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11760788

[6] Quit Porn and Get Rich: The Unspoken Rule of Successful People—Martin Prescott

[7] https://www.creightonmodel.com

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095799

[9] Genesis 38:9-10 Douay-Rheims Bible

[10] The Catechism of the Council of Trent; 213: http://www.saintsbooks.net/books/The Roman Catechism.pdf