The question “Is masturbation a sin?” has been an ongoing debate in religious communities.
A sin is “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against supreme law.” If you commit a sin, you’re not necessarily punished by the creator as you reach the afterlife or receive bad karma from doing it.
Some say that masturbation isn’t a sin, but sexual thoughts that come with it are considered sinful. Others say that masturbating as a whole is indeed a sin. Some people say that masturbation was never mentioned in the Bible, so it’s okay to do it. Then there are the medical professionals, saying that it’s natural and healthy to masturbate. On the other hand, some say that masturbation is a mix of both– the arguments go on and on.
Because of the unclear distinction of whether masturbation is a sin in the religious scriptures, people are confused about it. Some push themselves to not do it, and if they falter, they put up with so much shame in themselves. On the other hand, some believers secretly do it, thinking that “it’s not that bad” compared to other sins.
For this featured guide, we will take a deep dive and figure out if masturbation is a sin or not. But before your proceed on the next section, remember that “masturbation being a sin” isn’t a black and white situation. We’re not here to tell you that masturbation is good or bad. We’re here to share the insights on all sides; the religious and scientific view of self-pleasure.
Religious Views About Masturbation or Self-Pleasure
Ever wonder what different religious groups think about masturbation? Learn about their general insights to what self-pleasure is and if they see a prohibited activity or not.
In Roman Catholicism, sexual expression is designed to be enjoyed in “the total meaning of mutual self-giving” (CCC, n. 2352). Sex is perceived as an act wherein a man and woman become “one flesh” in marriage, and that orgasms actually make you feel closer to the creator when done with a life partner. That’s why followers are encouraged to never have sex before marriage, never masturbate, and only engaging in sensual intimacy with their other halves.
If you have sexual acts with yourself, then you’re seen as someone who is breaking the purpose of sex, as you’re not giving yourself to someone and selfishly enjoying it on your own terms.
Masturbation is also considered a sin against the sixth commandment of God, which is “You shall not commit adultery.” As we’ve mentioned earlier, sex is meant to be shared with your spouse in this religion. If you’re touching yourself for sexual gratification, then you’re basically performing sensual acts on someone that isn’t your other half and shall be considered as a sinner for it.
There’s also an argument wherein masturbation often leads to addiction to it. And because of the Bible’s mandate for their believers to be the master of their own behavior, indulging in activities that are uncontrollable and addicting, such as masturbation, can be considered a sin.
Is Masturbation a Sin in the Bible?
There’s no specific passage in the scripture that directly perceives masturbation as a sin. The only part of the Bible that is closely related to masturbation is the tale of Onan in Genesis 38:8-10 NIV.
In this tale, Onan was supposed to sleep with his late brother’s wife to produce offspring for this brother. However, during the deed, he decided to “spill his seed” as he did not want to produce a child that wouldn’t be his.
Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Lie with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight, so he put him to death also. – (Genesis 38:8-10, NIV)
However, believers are still debating whether Onan actually masturbated or not since he still had sex with his brother’s wife. There are also arguments saying that he was punished for not fulfilling his duty and not necessarily for ejaculating onto the ground.
Another quote that implies that masturbation is a sin in the Bible is this biblical quote from Matthew 5:27-30. In this part, Jesus was speaking against lustful intentions, stating that “If your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.”
Other Bible Passages Related to Masturbation
Aside from the two biblical quotes above, some believers are using other parts of the scripture to determine whether masturbation is a sin or not.
Below is an example of a biblical quote that is often used to argue that masturbation is a sin in the Bible. The quote isn’t necessarily about jerking off, but it implies the holiness of sex and that lack of self-control may lead Satan to tempt you.
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – (1 Corinthians 7:3-5, NIV)
Then here’s another part in the scripture related to masturbation and pornography.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who has looked at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”- (Matthew 5:28, NIV)
Overall, there’s no direct quote in the scripture that says, “Masturbation is a sin in the Bible!”
But still, most believers consider self-pleasuring a sinful act that must be eradicated immediately and that the Bible has given enough implied statements about this act.
The perception of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are pretty similar about sex and pleasure are pretty similar; they perceive sexual expression as a shared experience between a married couple. This means that premarital sex, masturbation, birth control, and homosexual relations are condemned and considered sinful. However, several publications under this religion are now more accepting of self-pleasure; they’re still in the minority, though, as most followers still believe masturbation is a sin.
For this religion, extracting semen for pleasure is seen as sinful. Even though the Hebrew Bible doesn’t have direct quotes that explain masturbation as a sin, traditional rabbinic sources strictly prohibit male masturbation, as it’s perceived as wasteful spilling of semen. So if you’re a man that follows this religion, then touching yourself is a big no.
On the other hand, female masturbation isn’t as sinful as male masturbation but still carries a stigma, as the act involves “impure thoughts” and creates evil forces (Kelipos).
If we look at the Islamic scripture, no passage specifically mentions that masturbation is a sin. However, most scholarly opinions view this practice as forbidden (Haram) and sinful.
Hinduism doesn’t condemn masturbation. It is considered a natural act as seeking kama (sexual pleasure) is one of the four permissible goals of Hindu life. Unless you’ve taken a vow of Brahmacharya, which involves practicing sexual chastity, you’re free to express your sexuality.
However, Hindu teachings emphasize the importance of moderation, especially when engaging in earthly pleasures such as masturbation. Balance is the essence of Hindu culture; anything excess is considered bad for oneself.
Scientific Views About Masturbation or Self-Pleasure
While most religions see masturbation as a sin, medical professionals view it as an activity that’s beneficial to one’s health. Some even encourage people to touch themselves and free themselves of the guilt of pleasuring their bodies.
As long as the person is doing it in moderation and not using masturbation to escape their problems and responsibilities, there’s nothing wrong with doing it. Here are some of the health benefits that one can get from masturbation:
- It can reduce stress. Orgasms from masturbation can tap the brain’s pleasure reward center, making you feel happy and satisfied.
- It improves your sleep quality. Recent studies show that orgasms can be considered a natural sleeping aid.
- It can help women tone their pelvic floor muscles, which supports the body’s pelvic organs, such as the bladder, vagina, uterus, and rectum.
- Limited studies suggest orgasm from masturbation can relieve body pain, such as headaches and menstrual cramps.
- Recent studies suggest that orgasming from any form of activity (sex or self-pleasure) provides “modest benefit” in various aspects of cognitive function in older people.
- Sexual pleasure among young adults is linked with healthy psychological and social development.
- Due to the increased blood flow from orgasm, you may get a youthful glow after masturbating.
Memetics: A Theory Explaining Why Most Religions Prohibit Masturbation
For this part, we wouldn’t discuss passages from the Bible; this is more of why masturbation is ingrained in people as something sinful, as viewed from a non-religious perspective.
One of the theories why some religions prohibit masturbation is that religion wouldn’t last long if no kids are being brought up by their believers. And if there are no new people in the religion, they wouldn’t be around very long. Because masturbation wouldn’t produce offspring, they decided to villainize the act and instead promote marriage. Having children is the most effective way to spread out religious teachings. The more kids born under that religion, the more believers in the community.
According to his theory, cultural information (also known as memes) evolves and is transmitted from person to person. Same with genes, these memes reproduce and evolve as well. The strongest memes will be forgotten, while certain memes will be forgotten.
Applying this theory to religion, it makes sense why some religious groups would promote marriage and prohibit masturbation (as well as birth control) from preserving their beliefs.
Since it’s difficult to pass beliefs on an adult person and ask them to convert in their religion, they instead procreate and influence children who will create more children with the same beliefs and create more children who will get the same teachings, etc.
Now, take note of the word “theory” here. This section is just bringing an additional perspective on why masturbation is prohibited in certain religious groups. It’s not a universal truth and can be questioned as well.
So… Is Masturbation Actually a Sin?
As we’ve mentioned earlier, there’s no black and white answer to this question. It all depends on your faith and beliefs.
If you want to control your sexual urges and not masturbate because it’s prohibited in your religion, then good for you to respect and following your beliefs.
If you see masturbation as a natural way of being in tune with your body and satisfying your sensual desires, keep on unapologetically engaging in self-pleasure.
The only proven thing right now regarding self-pleasure is that it can be beneficial to one’s health; it can reduce stress, alleviate pain, and help your skin glow. But just like every other activity, excessive masturbating can also lead to certain psychological and health issues. So it’s important to keep things in moderation and never use self-pleasure as a coping mechanism to life’s challenges.
The question “Is masturbation a sin?” will most likely be a continuous debate in the future. As more people learn about the benefits of masturbation, more people would question the “sinful” nature of the act. Religious groups may also make new points from the scripture, giving a clearer picture if masturbation is a sin in the Bible or not.
What we can suggest right now is to continue having an open mind regarding this activity and not judge people who masturbate and those who are not doing it. Let’s keep the conversation going.