Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Question: Is it a sin to masturbate?

AnswerThe short answer is "yes". Here's the long answer!

There's a pretty simple way to figure out if a sexual thing is regarded as sinful or not in the Catholic Church.

Sex is supposed to be open to life (make babies) and be a sign of love. By Love here we mean committed, lifelong love- not just some potentially fleeting emotion. So in other words, married love. the pleasure is a bonus- it's good, and within moral sex trying to maximize pleasure is good, but you can't have it without the other 2 things!

If either of those elements are missing, then the sex is considered immoral. So for example, premarital sex is immoral because it lacks the sacramental commitment. Birth control is immoral because it closes the sexual act from the possibility of making life. Masturbation is immoral because it is neither loving nor is it open to life.

Typically when someone masturbates, they are imagining a woman, or looking at porn, or something like that. What happens is that something that is supposed to make you more loving to the opposite sex makes you more selfish instead. Studies show that guys who look at porn treat women worse than guys who don't. When you masturbate, you are hard wiring your brain to use women for your pleasure- and this hard wiring can take years to undo, even after you are married and trying to be pure! That's cause your brain teaches itself how to get pleasure, and literally lays down the paths, and creates habits. So there are married men who can't have pure sex with their wives, but need to look at porn to get turned on first!

The rush of pleasure you feel when checking out a woman is a hormone called Epinephrine. Epinephrine is good, because after the rush there is stress relief, and because again it hard wires your brain to think that whatever you are looking at is the most beautiful. So in married life you would find your wife more and more attractive! but if you look at porn, you will compare your wife more and more with porn stars, and thus find her less and less attractive.

But like other drugs, Epinephrine is subject to the 'law of diminishing effects'- in other words, you need bigger and bigger doses to have the same outcome! So a guy looks at soft porn- say "Maxim magazine"- and gets a small high. Eventually Maxim is not good enough, he needs playboy or some Internet video or something. And he gets addicted, because he gets this rush and stress relief, and learns to cope through self indulgence!

Moral of the story? Just like you should not do any drugs, because they draw you in deeper and you may eventually get addicted, so you shouldn't masturbate or look at any porn because it draws you in. Porn addictions are one of the number one causes of divorce!

Something I should add to this- put homosexuality into the equation of moral sex. Even if it is a sign of committed love (it cannot be part of sacramental marriage, but let's assume for a minute...) Homosexual sex is by it's nature not open to life. Therefore it is intrinsically (by it's nature) sinful. This is why homosexual marriage is impossible for Catholics. Marriage is a sacrament, and sex is a sacramental- it is part of the sacrament. If Catholics allowed for homosexual marriage they would be taking something that is intrinsically sinful and calling it 'holy'. That would be sacrilege! It would be like saying that looking at pornography was part of the sacrament! And the Church cannot change her teaching on homosexuality, any more than it can change it's teaching on any other matter of faith and morals. After all, if it could, what authority would it have? When everyone else changes their mind, the Church remains consistent.

However, some people take this as a sign of hatred from Catholics to Gays. This is not the case- Catholics must fight genuine homophobia. (Although labelling every viewpoint contrary to that of the homosexual community homophobia is, I would say, homophobophobia...) Catholics do not 'hate' gays any more than they 'hate' heterosexual unmarried people, or married people using contraceptives, and Catholics who are divorced but not annulled.

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