Religious views on masturbation

Religious views on masturbation

Among the world's religions, views on masturbation vary widely. Some religions view it as a spiritually detrimental practice, some see it as not spiritually detrimental and others take a situational view. Among these latter religions, some view masturbation as allowable if used as a means towards sexual self-control, or as part of healthy self-exploration, but disallow it if it is done with wrong motives or as an addiction.


Asian societies shaped by Buddhist traditions takes a strong ethical stand in human affairs and sexual behavior in particular. However, unlike most other world religions, most variations of Buddhism do not go into details what is right and what is wrong in mundane activities of life. Masturbation (or any other detail of human sexual conduct for that matter) is not specifically mentioned in any of the religious scriptures. The most common formulation of Buddhist ethics are the Five Precepts and the Eightfold Path, one should neither be attached to nor crave sensual pleasure. These precepts take the form of voluntary, personal undertakings, not divine mandate or instruction. The third of the Five Precepts is "To refrain from committing sexual misconduct". It is possible that masturbation itself could constitute "sexual misconduct". [cite web
last =Higgins
first =Winton
title =Buddhist Sexual Ethics
work =
publisher =BuddhaNet Magazine
date =
url =
accessdate = 2007-01-15
] However, "sexual misconduct" is such a broad term, and is subject to interpretation relative to the social norms of the followers. In fact, Buddhism in its fundamental form, does not define what is right and what is wrong in absolute terms for lay followers. Therefore the interpretation of whether masturbation for a layperson is right or wrong is not a religious matter as far as Buddhism is concerned.

Rules and vows for fully ordained Buddhist monks

The craving for sensual pleasure is described in the Second Noble Truth as the cause of suffering, as they are attachments.Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11), trans. Bodhi (2000), pp. 1843-47.] Masturbation can be a distraction or means of avoidance of spiritual practice or development. To provide a complete focus on spiritual practice, fully ordained Buddhist monks may, depending on their tradition, be bound by hundreds of further detailed rules or vows that may include a ban on sexual relations, including masturbation. As for laypeople, however the matter is more of a personal choice defined by the circumstances. It can be argued that even for a layperson, excessive focus on sexual pleasure by way of masturbation can be said to be an attachment, and not following the middle path. [cite web
coauthors=Ajahn Brahmavamso and Ajahn Nanadhammo
title =Buddhist Sexual Ethics - A Rejoinder
work =
publisher =BuddhaNet Magazine
date =
url =
accessdate = 2007-01-15


Eastern Orthodox Christianity

The Eastern Orthodox Church or "Orthodox" Christian Church views sexuality as a divinely given gift from God that finds its fulfillment in the marital relationship. The Orthodox Church does not view sex as a sin, but the misuse of the gift of human sexuality as sinful. Because the act of Masturbation is self-directed, and by its nature is incapable of expressing love and concern for an other person, it is viewed as a distortion of the use of the gift of sexuality. This is especially apparent when masturbation becomes an addiction. In the least, the practice of self-pleasure is not viewed as honoring the purpose of God's gift of sexuality. [cite web
author =Fr. John Matusiak
title =Church's view of masturbation
work =
publisher =Orthodox Church in America
date =
url =
accessdate = 2008-06-26

From the great bishops and theologians of the early Christian church, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil the Great (330 AD) to modern-day Orthodox Christian theologians, such as Stanley Harakas, Alexander Schmemann and Thomas Hopko, the Orthodox teaching on sexual morality remains consistent. God wants us to turn away from immorality and sin, and to "hold fast to what is good." (Romans 12:19)

The sexual sins of fornication and adultery, masturbation and "cyber sex" as well as hatred, jealousy, drunkenness and other sins are sins of the heart as much as the body. Turning away from sexual sin is turning away from self indulgence for the purpose of self gratification. Instead of turning to the desires of the “flesh” the Orthodox Christian turns to the “holy spirit”, whose fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against these, there is no law. (Gal. 5:17-25). [cite web
author =Archpriest Joseph F Purpura, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
title =Pre-marital Sexual Relations
work =Moral and Ethical Issues: Confronting Orthodox Youth across North America
publisher =Author Books and Barnes & Noble
date =
url =
accessdate = 2008-06-26


Protestantism has traditionally condemned the pratice of masturbation, however some denominations today have varying points of view. Theologians toward the middle of the 20th century began revising previous teachings, and some today even take pro-masturbation viewpoints. Most conservative denominations view it as an act of self-indulgence and a sin of the flesh and believe that the practice is rightly considered a sin because of its invitation to lust. cite book || last=Miller| first=Jeff |date=2008| Reference|] . Those who view it within the range of allowable sexual behavior encourage it as guard against adultery, pre-marital sex, or other forms of non-allowable sexual behavior.

Evangelical Protestantism

James Dobson, chairman of the board of Focus on the Family, a nonprofit Christian organization, considers it part of normal adolescent exploration and strongly urges parents not to shame their children over the act lest they have marital difficulties later because of shame over their sexuality. At the same time, he believes that it becomes an addiction and an escape from intimacy for some and argues against it in that case. Richard Dobbins "Teaching Your Children the Truth About Sex" takes a similar approach. His overall approach is one of "neither condemn nor condone" the act. He looks at it multifactorally to determine its ethics. He gives a lot of advice to parents in the matter. Herbert J. Miles in "Sexual Understanding Before Marriage" also takes a similar approach. He views the act as a controlled tool of sexual self-control for single males and advises them in that way, while also pointing males to nocturnal emissions. His view toward single females in the matter is different per their biology and lack of semen buildup, and he urges young women to wait to experience their first orgasm with their husband, while not making it a sin if they masturbate. Both Dobson and Miles go so far as to discuss what they feel in their opinion is Biblically permissible for people to imagine while masturbating. Dobson says fathers should urge their sons, if they masturbate, to imagine their future wife, and never some girl they may knowFact|date=October 2007. These opinions, however, may not reflect the views of conservative Evangelical denominations.

Roman Catholicism

The Roman Catholic Church's teaching on the matter of masturbation is a reflection of its overall stance on human sexuality. It says that the deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.

The Church views sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage to be a sacred, even sacramental, act. Consequently, all other sexual activity including masturbation, fornication (sex outside of marriage), homosexual acts, acts of sodomy, and the use of artificial contraception are morally disordered as they frustrate the intention of God "written" in the design of the human body. Pope John Paul II in his book, "Theology of the Body," coined the expression, "the nuptial meaning of the body" to describe this divine intention physically expressed in the body. [ [ Theology of the Body Chapter 14: Revelation and Discovery of the Nuptial Meaning of the Body] ] His elucidation of human sexuality is that to fulfill its sacred character, sexual expression must be a complete act of mutual self-giving only possible between a married couple open to the conception of a new child.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists masturbation as one of the [] Offenses Against Chastity [] :

By masturbation is to be understood the "deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure." Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action. "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. [cite web | title = Catechism of the Catholic Church | publisher = Vatican | url =]

Other denominations

Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the mid-1800s claimed to have spirtual visions from God that gave her guidance on the Christian life. She warned against overly-stimulating foods, sex, and masturbation, which she referred to as "solitary vice." She warned her followers of her visions of disfigured humans and the consequences of masturbation not only destroying one's life, but preventing access to Heaven in the afterlife. She made claims that masturbation was the cause of many sicknesses in adults from cancer to lung disease. White even stated that masturbation claimed many sinners' lives prematurely. She believed that one's diet had a direct correlation with one's urge to masturbate. She claimed that a bland diet consisting of vegetables, wheat breads, and water would lead to a diminished urge to masturbate and thus would lead to a healthier and more fulfilling life. To ultimately produce a guide for future generations she claimed solitary vice was the cause of hereditary insanity, cancer, and other deadly diseases; clearly appealing to parents to protect their children by not engaging in solitary vice. [Numbers, Ronald L, "Sex, Science, and Salvation: The Sexual Advice of Ellen G. White and John Harvey Kellogg," in "Right Living: An Anglo-American Tradition of Self-Help Medicine and Hygiene" ed. Charles Rosenberg, 2003., pp. 208-209]

Mormonism teaches that "masturbation is a sinful habit that robs one of the Spirit and creates guilt and emotional stress."Cite web
title=Masturbation And The Bible
publisher=L Dolphin
author=Lambert Dolphin
Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strongly urged Mormons to abandon the habit before going on a mission, receiving the holy priesthood, or going into the temple for blessings. He taught that masturbation indicated "slavery to the flesh, not that mastery of it and the growth toward godhood which is the object of our mortal life".cite book
title=The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
first=Spencer W.
coauthors=Edward L. Kimball (ed.)
location=Salt Lake City
] “Masturbation … is not approved of the Lord nor of his church, regardless of what may be said by others whose ‘norms’ are lower” (President Kimball Speaks Out [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981] , p. 10).

Some Mormons disagree with the prevailing opinion against masturbation in Mormonism. They teach that masturbation is normal, healthy, developmentally appropriate and leads primarily to healthy marriage bonds. [Cite web
title=Masturbation as a Spiritual Celebration

Similar to Mormonism, the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that masturbation is a habit that is a "form of uncleanness", one that "fosters attitudes that can be mentally corrupting" [] , "How Can I Conquer This Habit?", Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site.] .


Masturbation is not specifically mentioned in any of the religious scriptures; however, many conservative Hindus see it as impure and addictive, while seeing it as a distraction from prayer and the pursuit of their vocations. Brahmachariya, which is an essential factor for religious advancement in Hinduism, condemns masturbation and sexual desire (Kama). In Yoga, one of the six orthodox systems of Hindu Philosophy, maintenance of Brahmachariya is the most essential prerequisite and forms the basis of Yoga--Yama. [25]


In general, masturbation (istimna [استمناء] in Arabic) may only be done in fear of committing adultery, and is not preferred (either getting married or fasting are preferred alternatives suggested in hadith).


Scholars of Islam do not generally approve of masturbation, except in extenuating circumstances. There is a statement in Quran "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)

In Islam, sexual engagement outside of marriage is a major sin, which cause the doer to be punished in this life and the Qiyama. Yet if one's desire is so overwhelming one might perform a greater wrong by having sex outside marriage, masturbation becomes permissible as a necessity but in that case it will be like eating the flesh of pig when no other food is available. So Quran says "And those who are not married should try to live in chastity, until God enriches them with His Grace" (Qur'an, 24:33)

Masturbation, like any form of sex in which seminal or vaginal fluids have been released, breaks one's fast if performed during the daylight hours and requires a major ablution if any seminal or vaginal fluids were released.

According to Sheikh Hamed Al-Ali: "Masturbation during the daytime of Ramadan breaks the fast, based on the Hadith that a fasting Muslim gives up eating, drinking, and sexual desire for the sake of Allah. Since masturbation is a kind of sexual desire, a fasting Muslim must avoid it. Therefore, masturbation invalidates the fast as does food and as it is one of the sins that if someone does it he or she would be violating the sanctity of this month."

Shi'a view

Masturbation is totally forbidden in the Shi'a sect. Imam Ali is reported as saying that "one who masturbates commits a sin equal to killing me eighty times". [ Marriage and Morals in Islam ] ]

Sunni view

The four Sunni schools of jurisprudence (known as Madhaahib - the "Hanafi", "Shafi'i", "Maliki" and "Hanbali" schools of "Fiqh") have differing stances on the issue. Some consider it forbidden in all cases [ [ The Islaamic Ruling on Masturbation] by Shaykh Muhammad bin Ameen] . Some see it forbidden in certain cases but obligatory in others. Another view is that it is Makruh but not expressly forbidden.


=Orthodox and Conservative Judaism=

Masturbation is not explicitly prohibited in the Hebrew Bible. The Talmud, however, forbids male masturbation, as it leads to unnecessary spilling of semen, or the impure thoughts of women other than the man's lawful wife. This prohibition is derived from the Biblical narrative of Onan (Talmud Niddah 13a). The Talmud ("ibid") likens the act to murder and idolatry. The wrath displayed by God toward Onan was invoked not through the act of spilling semen, but through disobedience to God's command for Onan to impregnate his brother's widow (see the story in Genesis 38:8-10). Others consider the death sentence excessive for failure to properly follow the laws of Levirate marriage — the Biblical punishment for refusing a Levirate marriage was to be spit on, in public, by the woman who was refused. Because Onan's punishment was so much more severe, they argue that the spilling of semen was the relevant offense. Onan was not masturbating, but practising birth control by withdrawal.

According to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, "It is forbidden to discharge semen in vain. This is a graver sin than any other in the Torah".Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, סימן קנא: א (Chapter 151: 1); Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, translation by Rabbi Avrohom Davis; Copyright © 1996 by Metsudah Publications] However, "Beis Shmuel" expounds that this is not literal, but rather serves to frighten man into avoiding the sin.Zohar, Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha'Ezer 23:1]

There is disagreement among the "poskim", decisors of Jewish law, whether masturbation is an acceptable way of procuring semen for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation, [ [ Jewish Law - Articles ("The Use of Cryopreserved Sperm and Pre-embryos In Contemporary Jewish Law and Ethics") ] ] as well as prevention of adultery.Fact|date=January 2007

Judaism in general neither prohibits nor discourages female masturbation, although some authorities consider female masturbation as necessarily involving "impure thoughts". [ [ Kosher Sex ] ]

Mutual masturbation

Johnathan Margolis discerns in the Song of Solomon a direct instruction for a man to please his female partner by masturbating her before intercourse: "Let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me". [Johnathan Margolis, "O: The intimate history of the orgasm", 2003. p133]

Other movements

Rabbis from the Progressive movements (i.e., the Reform and Reconstructionist movements) have come to more liberal conclusions. Reconstructionist Rabbi Alexis Roberts maintains that masturbation is "harmless, natural and healthy. It may provide release and pleasure, as well as self-knowledge that is useful for pleasurable sex with a partner. It may make it easier for young people to have sexual release in the years when they are too young for a mature, committed, loving relationship." [" [ Masturbation: Is It Kosher?] ". Beliefnet.] Reform Rabbi Jonathan Stein, in a proposed schema for normative Reform evaluation of different sexual activities, proposed that masturbation be considered "mutar", a term generally translated as "permissible", but which he renders as "tolerable". [ cite journal
last =Stein
first =Jonathan
title =Toward a Taxonomy for Reform Jews to Evaluate Sexual Behavior
journal =CCAR Journal
volume =
issue =
pages =
publisher =Central Conference of American Rabbis
date =Fall 2001
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-27
] Rabbi Walter Jacob, writing on behalf of the Reform responsa committee, asserts, "Although the statements of tradition are very clear, we would take a different view of masturbation, in the light of current psychological thought. Masturbation should be discouraged, but we would not consider it harmful or sinful." [cite journal
last =Jacob
first =Walter
title =Masturbation
journal =American Reform Responsa
volume =
issue =
pages =
publisher =Central Conference of American Rabbis
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-28


Some teachers and practitioners of Traditional Chinese medicine, Taoist meditative and martial arts say that masturbation can cause a lowered energy level in men. They say that ejaculation in this way reduces "origin qi" from dantian, the energy center located in the lower abdomen. Some maintain that sex with a partner does not do this because the partners replenish each other's qi. Some practitioners therefore say that males should not practice martial arts for at least 48 hours after masturbation while others prescribe up to six months, because the loss of Origin Qi does not allow new qi to be created for this kind of time.

Taoists strongly discouraged female masturbation. Women were encouraged to practice massaging techniques upon themselves, but were also instructed to avoid thinking sexual thoughts if experiencing a feeling of pleasure. Otherwise, the woman's "labia will open wide and the sexual secretions will flow." If this happened, the woman would lose part of her life force, and this could bring illness and shortened life. [Wile (1994), p. 59.]


Wicca, like other religions, has adherents with a spectrum of views ranging from conservative to liberal. Wicca is generally undogmatic, and nothing in Wiccan philosophy prohibits masturbation. On the contrary, Wiccan ethics, summed up in the Wiccan Rede "An it harm none, do as thou wilt", are interpreted by many as endorsing responsible sexual activity of all varieties. This is reinforced in the "Charge of the Goddess", a key piece of Wiccan literature, in which the Goddess says, "all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals". [cite web | title =Alternative Sexuality | publisher =Tangled Moon Coven |date=2006-08-08 | url = | accessdate = 2006-12-30 ]


In the modern St. Priapus Church, group male masturbation is a method of worship. [Wayne Dynes (ed., 1990). "Encyclopedia of Homosexuality" (New York: Garland) p. 779.]


*Wile, Douglas. "The Art of the Bedchamber: The Chinese Sexual Yoga Classics including Women’s Solo Meditation Texts". Albany: State University of New York, 1992.

*Numbers, Ronald L, "Sex, Science, and Salvation: The Sexual Advice of Ellen G. White and John Harvey Kellogg," in "Right Living: An Anglo-American Tradition of Self-Help Medicine and Hygiene" ed. Charles Rosenberg, 2003.

[ Christians and Solo Sex] =Solo Sex; Sinful or Sanctified? A fresh look at masturbation from a positive Biblical perspective.=

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