Straight Talk Advice

Mar 23, 2011

Senseless war against masturbation still rages

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: This sounds like a Seinfeld episode, but my mom came home unexpectedly and caught me masturbating (something I normally do under the covers). She believes sex is immoral except for procreation, so she was furious and called me “indecent and immoral.” Not wanting her to think I’m the only one who masturbates, I revealed that my sister does it, too. Now we’re both grounded to our room with our TV removed, forced to read the Bible an hour a day. We’ve tried telling her that everybody masturbates, but she says she never did, nor does anyone who is “moral.” We are going crazy grounded to our room and would like the panel’s opinion on masturbation. — S.D., Toledo, Ohio

Catherine 23, Amherst, Mass. Ask me a question

A college friend was so sheltered by her Catholic community that she had never touched herself, even non-sexually. “The Vagina Monologues” inspired her to begin exploring her body. Masturbation can be healing for victims of rape or female genital mutilation. It also relieves emotional stress, headaches, cramps, and increases confidence. I know nobody my age who believes masturbation is “wrong.” Even my religious friends have found peace with it.

Charles 24, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

All my female friends masturbate, including several conservative Christian girlfriends (yes, we talk about it). For either gender, there is no shame in it. It is accepted as normal, healthy — and moral.

Rachel 19, Los Angeles, Calif. Ask me a question

As a Sexual Psychology major, trust me: many girls masturbate. Those girls know themselves better and go on to have better sex lives. Many women with religious beliefs still believe sex is only for procreation. But why would women have a clitoris, the only organ designed purely for pleasure? Just hide under the covers.

Farren 23, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

“Anthropologists have recorded the existence of masturbation, with varying levels of acceptance, in nearly every culture on earth.” (From “The Joy of Self-Pleasuring,” by Edward Rowan, Ph.D.) Your mom’s perspective stems from fear and misguided morals. When she is done exercising her false power over your body, masturbate in the bathroom and lock the door.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

While masturbation isn’t “immoral,” it can lead to the temptation of casual sex. Just because “everybody” does it (which isn’t true), doesn’t make it right. You can find other ways to have pleasure. However, I wish your mom would stop espousing “sex for procreation only” because sex within marriage is totally okay for pleasure. Her outdated viewpoint could backfire and push you into promiscuous culture.

Jesse 18, Brockport, N.Y. Ask me a question

My mom talks openly about sex. Masturbation is a natural human thing. America has become insecure about sexuality.

Jessie 18, Eugene, Ore. Ask me a question

Private masturbation is normal and healthy — not a perverted act! Many of my girlfriends do it. It increases sexual health and releases endorphins which boost mood. It’s a safe alternative to intercourse and the first step anyone should take before becoming sexually active.

Mark 24, Laguna Niguel, Calif. Ask me a question

Your mom won’t change her views. But you don’t have to change yours either. Keep believing what you know is right while following her rules until you move out. Use being grounded to bond with your sister. For the benefits of masturbation, see www.womentowomen.com.

Peter 23, Monterey, Calif. Ask me a question

The classic Biblical reference to masturbation is Genesis 38:9-10, which, actually, is about withdrawal. There are also smatterings of references to “sexual immoralities” and “self-harm,” but none refer to masturbation directly — and since masturbation has known health benefits (given it doesn’t become obsessive or interfere with relationships), it is hardly “harmful.”

*DEAR S. D.: Amen. Masturbation is perfectly natural and healthy. Yet the war against it still rages. Shame is this war’s weapon, so forget arguing with your mother. Love her anyway, repel the shame, and have peace knowing you’ll be on your own soon.

Editor’s Note: Talk about a senseless, destructive war. Millions, if not billions, of people, continue to infect children and teens with shame over masturbation. People are still so touchy about the subject that in 1994, pediatrician Joyce Elders was forced to resign as U.S. Surgeon General for saying that masturbation “is part of human sexuality.” It took until 1972 before the American Medical Association finally declared, “Masturbation is a normal part of adolescent sexual development and requires no medical management.” The medical management they were referencing was the rise of male circumcision that began in the late 1800s, which most people don’t realize was not for religious reasons or for good hygiene, but because it was thought to prevent boys from becoming masturbators. (We all know that didn’t work.) Female sexuality is even more feared. The World Health Organization estimates that 100-140 million females currently suffer some form of genital mutilation, mostly carried out on young girls. It’s purpose: to prevent genital pleasure permanently. (Sadly, this does work.)

The war against sexual pleasure carries a huge price tag. Anything basic to human nature that is unnaturally and horrifically repressed, will rear up in an opposite and equally distorted form. Witness the pornography epidemic.

  1. By Molly, age , from Carmichael, CA on 03/23/2011

    I agree that this is totally normal and nearly everybody, both guys and girls, do it.  However, as S.D.‘s experience shows you do have to be careful since you don’t know how a parent or someone else may react.  My sister caught me doing it one time when she came home unexpectedly when I was doing it in our room.  She wasn’t offended; she just laughed at me.  At first I was mad, but then I saw the humor in it and started laughing too!  She still teases me about it and it’s become kind of a private joke between us.  As sisters who share a room we undress in front of each other and see each other nude everyday and even see each other “on the facility” when we share the bathroom in the morning, so it was no big deal for her to see me nude and masturbating.  However, I realized that it could have been my mom or even my dad.  I really don’t think they would have reacted like S.D.‘s mom, but I’d rather not find out and in any event, I wouldn’t want them to walk in on me at a time like that, so ever since I’ve been very careful to only do it when I’m properly covered up and so does my sister.

    Molly

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  2. By L.C., age , from Roseville, CA on 03/23/2011

    Nobody has mentioned mutual masturbation, but I don’t see anything wrong with that either even though I am sure that many would disapprove and think it means you’re gay.  I see it as part of coming into sexuality.  I’ve engaged in it with my stepsister who is also a close friend when she stays with us and shares my room and with a few close friends.  And all of us are totally straight!  It’s kind of a bonding experience to do it together and see how others do it and exchange techniques.  We only touch ourselves, not each other.  However, we make sure the door is locked because our moms would probably freak out if they caught us doing it. 

    L.C.

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  3. By J.D., age , from Salinas, CA on 03/23/2011

    My little sister walked in on me doing it and my mom was furious.  Not because I was doing it, but because my sister saw me.  I’m 14 and she’s 9.  She’s always trying to barge in on me even though she’s supposed to knock before coming into my room, and I really thought I had locked the door.  Before this nothing worse had happened than her sometimes walking in on me naked which is no big deal since we’re both girls and sisters.  But when this happened she ran and told our mom that I was “doing nasty things” and starting asking questions that our mom didn’t want to try to answer and blames me for not being more careful.  So ever since I both lock the door and cover up to make extra sure it doesn’t happen again. 

    J.D.

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  4. By Jim, age , from Toledo, OH on 03/26/2011

    I’m a 16 year old guy and still have to share a room with my 17 year old sister since our mom can’t afford a bigger apartment.  Like other guys in my situation who have written in response to other Straight Talk columns, my sister isn’t shy about undressing in front of me and it gives me sexual feelings, but there is no way that I could tell her or our mom about this.  The sexual tensions I feel are overwhelming because of this and just because of being a guy my age coming into sexuality.  There has to be an outlet for feelings like this and I think that masturbation is the only proper way.  I mean, the only other outlet would be to have sex with my sister or another girl.  Would those who think masturbation is wrong really recommend this?  I seriously doubt it.  However, you do need to be discrete about it.  It’s not that difficult to do it quietly under the covers or in the bathroom with the door locked, and that way there’s no way that someone will catch you doing it.  I have a hard time understanding how so many kids seem to get “caught” doing it.

    Jim

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  5. By Tina, age , from Rocklin, CA on 03/27/2011

    I agree that there is nothing wrong with masturbation.  However, I believe that it should be done privately and precautions should be taken so that no one else sees you.  I accidentally walked in on my stepsister who I share a room with on visitations doing it.  Believe it or not, it didn’t phase her at all; she just laughed.  But I was really embarrassed to unexpectedly see her at a time like that.  She said what’s the big deal since we see each other naked when we share a room and I must do it too.  While that may be true, I still don’t think it should be done in front of others and it’s not that difficult to at least have a blanket or bedcover over you.  I’m not a prude.  My stepsister’s very casual about nudity in her room when I’m there and that doesn’t bother me in the least and I could care less when she sees me nude.  But I wouldn’t think of doing this in front of her or anyone else and it really bothered me when this happened.  She should have know that I might come in as she’s never indicated that she needs me to knock before coming into her room. 

    Contrary to L.C., I also do not think that mutual masturbation is appropriate and part of coming into sexuality.  While it may not lead to gay sex in all cases, it could be the beginning of inappropriate relations similar to the problems created by bed sharing in some cases as was written about in earlier Straight Talk columns.  Most people would think it is harmless for 2 girls to share a bed, but the responses showed that it can lead to the wrong thing in some cases.  I think the same can be true for mutual masturbation.  That’s my opinion.

    Tina

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  6. By J.L., age , from Roseville, CA on 03/27/2011

    I don’t know about girls, but Jim is right when it comes to teenage guys.  Sexual desires are overwhelming and there has to be an outlet and if we didn’t masturbate we’d either go crazy or maybe do something much worse!  They used to say that masturbation caused insanity if you can believe that.  I think the opposite is true and it keeps us from going crazy.  I also agree that it should be done in complete privacy.  I’m 15 and share a room with my 11 year old brother.  Since he’s my brother I’ve never seen a reason to hide my body from him, so he sees me naked. Like most guys my age, I get erections all the time and the first time he saw me with one he was very curious and I just explained that it’s something that happens to guys when the get older.  He was satisfied with that and lost interest, so I don’t worry about him seeing me that way.  But I’m careful to make sure that he doesn’t see me masturbating as I really don’t want to have to explain that to him and knowing our mom, I think she’d be really mad if I discussed something like that with him at his age.  She probably knows that I do it, but I would never be comfortable discussing something like that with her.  It’s not that difficult to make sure nobody sees you, even if you share a room.  You can either do in under the covers or in the bathroom with the door locked, so there’s no excuse being “caught” by someone who shouldn’t be seeing you doing this.

    J.L.

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  7. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 03/30/2011

    Thank you readers, for all the comments regarding privacy. In the original column, S.D. was intending to be private and got surprised. It can happen and I do recommend that extra precautions be taken. It isn’t hard to keep the covers on or make sure you are behind a locked door. And if your bedroom door doesn’t lock, like the case of S.D.‘s, then use the bathroom. The last thing you want is to expose a younger sibling or a non-understanding parent. Masturbation really is a normal thing, but it still freaks people out. You have to work with the reality you are given.

    Regarding the letter from L.C. about mutual masturbation, even though all the girls are straight in her example, the process does carry some risk of making the girls begin to desire one another. How much risk is difficult to say, and it will vary from girl to girl. But I guarantee that there is some. Solid scientific brain research shows that females have a “fluid” or “plastic” sexuality and can become turned on by almost all types of visual sexual stimulation, including girl-girl action. Whether they act on that stimulation is another matter, but almost all female brains register excitement, even as most females will claim (and even believe) it doesn’t. The opposite is true of men, who are almost always either gay or straight. The lines of their sexuality are much more black and white, with no cross-over, while a female’s tend to be gray.

    A healthy sex life is one of the most important parts of being an adult. Because this generation is experiencing a sexual revolution, there’s a lot of confusion today about what is “natural” versus what fits appropriately with society’s dictates. You may roll your eyes, but do not underestimate, how important feeling appropriate within society is in making you feel like what you are doing is healthy. No one is immune to their culture no matter how outdated or square one thinks it is. Treading carefully, using discretion, and seeking balance between the new and the old is the key to lasting change, no matter what the topic.

    Love,
    Lauren

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  8. By Michael, age , on 03/30/2011

    Lauren—

      I just read your column about the person who was “caught” masturbating by his mom — who freaked out.

      I highly recommend and suggest you read
    Ryan, Christopher & Cacilda Jethá, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, © 2010 by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jethá. Published by HarperCollins, NY, NY.
    http://www.sexatdawn.com/

      The book is highly readable, sprinkled with relevant humor, highly researched, etc. When you read it, check the endnotes as you read, as every 10th or so note is much more than a citation—it has additional information. (If that guy from Publishers’ Clearing House ever shows up with my check, I may buy several dozen copies and distribute them to various people and institutions, e.g., middle and high school sex-ed or health teachers.)

      Keep up your good work.

    —Michael

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  9. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 03/30/2011

    Dear Michael,

    I have read it. One of my panelists bought it for me. It’s the most important book I’ve read in over a decade and I recommend it to everyone.

    Thank you for writing!
    Lauren

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  10. By Alex A, age 21, from Grafton, WI, USA on 10/05/2014

    I am against masturbation and the Bible condemns it for the following reasons:

    1) When someone masturbates, what are they thinking about?  Usually lustful thoughts or some kind of sexual thought.  The Bible clearly condemns lustful thoughts.  Jesus said “Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.  Ladies, that applies to you also! Masturbation is a selfish act really, since God has created those body parts to be given in sex to your future spouse.  Sex is really more about giving than receiving and this is in line with what the Bible teaches. If you approach sex or anything sexual with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, then that approach will only reap failure.  Experimenting with anything sexual out of the proper confinement of marriage will reap only regret, shame, and unhappiness; trust me, I’ve witnessed plenty of people go down this path and everyone always has a regret.  However, I hear of none of my friends regret saving sex for marriage, and yes I have friends who are married and willing to talk about it.

    2)  As a Pharmacy Student, through my Biology classes, I have learned the effects that a repeated behavior can have on the brain. Our brains learn new things and neuroplasticity can lead us to beneficial behaviors or horrible addictions.  Repetition of an event creates new neural pathways in the brain that deepen with each additional repetition. This is where another factor comes into play, the Law of Diminishing Returns.  As more and more masturbation occurs, the brain has a higher demand for more and more amounts of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that pretty much makes you feel good.  Thus a person will go to other sexual things to satisfy his/her cravings: Pornography, sexual intercourse, etc.  I used masturbation as an example here, but this can happen with anything and it is important not to have your desires rule over you.

    This is what happened to me and I can finally put the science behind it although God’s Word was right from the very start.  I started out with masturbation when I was younger and made my way to pornography.  While I have never had sex as I am saving that for marriage, pornography has done it’s damage and masturbation has as well.  To those of you who say that it has health benefits, of course it does, but that release you feel is meant to be shared with your future spouse in a non-selfish way.  You don’t contain a fire by pouring gasoline on it.  And yes, your sexuality is like a fire; if it is contained, it is most beneficial but if you leave it be without control then it will burn your house down.  Human nature is the same, what happened to me can happen to anybody and anyone who’s reading this.  Don’t let it happen to you.  This isn’t only a physical and mental struggle, it is a spiritual one as well.  For those of you who are Christian and are doing this, the idea of a Christian is to imitate Christ and exhibit self control.  Self control is good to have, no matter who you are.

    “How can a young man stay pure? By living according to your word.”
    Psalm 119:9

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