The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2352, defines masturbation as an offense against chastity and that it is a sin because it is seeking pleasure outside of marriage.
Sex was designed as a mutual self-giving and of human reproduction in the context of a marital union to directly mirror the Triune God. So obviously, masturbation, being a singular act seeking sexual pleasure for pleasure’s sake, is disordered.
The Catechism goes on to explain that culpability for the act of masturbation does depend on an individual’s circumstances such as force of acquired habit, anxieties, or other psychological and social factors – which was good news for me when I was younger because I was addicted to masturbation and flirted with despair over it.
Through a lot of counseling, spiritual direction, asking for forgiveness and forgiving myself, and learning to actually love myself, I was able to overcome my addiction, but like a lot of things, my addiction left some scars. Here are 4 ways masturbation really screws you up.
1. Masturbation Makes you selfish
Being a singular act focused solely on sexual satisfaction, masturbation turns a person inward, focuses a person on him or herself only. It sends the message of “I don’t need the other because I can satisfy myself.” This mode of thinking makes it very hard to open oneself up to the other – at least in the whole and total way that sex and marriage necessitates.
2. Masturbation creates unrealistic expectations of sex
Masturbation does this firstly by making sex all about the orgasm and not about a bond or procreation. Masturbation teaches that you HAVE to orgasm in order to be having “good sex” and to be sexually satisfied. In this way, it also limits sexual expression because it draws out a certain way that you can be “sexually satisfied”. That just might not happen every time in intercourse or not in the way you have trained yourself to think (you can be “sexually satisfied” without orgasm). Dawn Eden, in her book “The Thrill of the Chaste” says:
“…instead of teaching me how to enhance my physical experience of sex, masturbation actually narrowed down the means by which I could get turned on. If a woman requires lots of bells and whistles in order to get excited, if she has to have a certain fantasy in mind, if her route to sexual satisfaction is like a set of meticulous Mapquest driving directions, she’s not sexually liberated. She’s sexually imprisoned. [Author’s emphasis, not mine.] For all her supposed wildness and kinks, her ability to fully experience sexual pleasure is stymied by the emotional and physical restrictions she’s placed upon herself. Masturbation trains one to limit sexual expression, because it’s all about the orgasm.”
3. Masturbation keeps you superficial
Orgasm is only the superficial byproduct of sex, not the meat and bones (no pun intended), so by focusing solely or mostly on the orgasm, the deeper bonds, joys, and satisfaction cannot take place.
In an orgasm-centered view of sex, perpetuated by masturbation, the bodies of the partners become simply accessories to orgasm, tools used to achieve pleasure. But our bodies are physical expressions of our souls and even deeper satisfaction and pleasure – not just physical but emotional and spiritual- is gained when two totally free persons join together as one flesh focused on the eternal, rather than focused on the physical pleasure (which is a good thing, but not the best thing).
Masturbation and organism-centered sex is pretty nihilistic: it says there is nothing but the here and now, the present and the physical, so since that is all the pleasure we can derive, we’d better get as much of it as we can. But persons, relationships, God-centered sex points to the eternal, says that we are more than just our bodies, and that we were made for a grand adventure that has no end.
4. Masturbation closes you off from love
Looking first just at the physical action of masturbation, a woman who masturbates literally closes off herself from receiving anyone into herself, and a man who masturbates thrusts into nothing, cannot enter into anyone. I say this to highlight the beauty of sex: it is the closest you can be to a person, inside them, inside you.
Masturbation, emotionally, closes the person off from really loving another.
In the book “The Christian Meaning of Human Sexuality”, Fr. Paul M. Quay says that masturbation is really very tragic because the person engaging in it really desperately wants to be loved but sadly, believes he or she is not worthy or able.
From personal experience, I can say that this is exactly true. Painfully true! It wasn’t until I overcame my addiction to masturbation and started healing that I was able to actually, deeply love others; in fact, I made some of the best friendships I have, with girls and guys, since removing masturbation from my life, and was able to repair or make better a lot of the ones I’d had previously.
Here’s some further resources on masturbation:
Catholic Catechism of the Church: on the Sixth Commandment (see 2351 and on)