Friday, March 4, 2016

SEX FOR CATHOLICS - MASTURBATION

This is a recent post from  Catholic Answers Forum user who has been struggling with the issue for two years:

I've encountered this same question again: Can you contribute something that hasn't already been said?
I think I have a sex addiction and I don't know how to deal with my sex drive. I'm trying to live chastely in accord with the Church's teaching for 9 months, and it seems I might not be able to last two weeks. Do you have any advice? Asking this question, I am reminded of St. Paul saying it's 'better to marry than to burn with temptation': Am I to understand that there may be nothing I can do except try to marry to satisfy this desire? Why would God be so cruel as to give us such a strong desire with no means of satisfying it? 

I decided it's time to start writing about sex. I'm moved to do so out of sympathy and compassion for so many people who suffer as this poster does, more from lack of objective information than anything.  Here is someone who sounds like he has a perfectly normal, healthy sex drive who believes he is "addicted" because some pronouncements about masturbation have made him feel badly about simply being a human being.

I'm going to put most of this in Tabs at the top or maybe in a new blog. It's impossible to discuss human sexuality without using words that some people are conditioned to find offensive.  But the parts of your reproductive anatomy and how they function don't have moral implications.  They are simply how God made you. They work and function in certain ways just like eyes or a pancreas. Still, I want to give people the option of not choosing to view the material which will include illustrations.

In answer to this poster:


Physical life on earth has two basic functions: production and reproduction.  "Production" in this case means acquiring space to live (a den, a fertile plain to roam, a section of reef) and food to eat.  Humans in many climates also need clothes, but the essentials of life are included in Production.

Then, there's Reproduction. At the most basic levels, this just means having sex. The drive for the individual is to have the most offspring who grow up to have the most offspring. This isn't a religious idea or a moral imperative.  This is how all life works.  After food and shelter, sex is the strongest drive we have. And achieving that goal - most offspring - produces "reproductive strategies" that are different for females and males.

The woman looks for an Alpha male, a male of high status, who can provide steady food and shelter and protect her and her offspring.  A male, conversely, looks for as many sex partners as he can possibly find to make as many babies as he can. This leads to a social structure where - if there are adequate resources (food, shelter) -  a high-ranking male has more than one wife.  And this is the tradition in our own Judeo-Christian background. Commonly seen in the Old Testament. 

Not being only biological creatures, but beings of spirit, we have imposed some controls on this behavior.  Which doesn't stop many men from acting out on these impulses. But it does bring us to the truth of your now years-long battle with your libido:

You were made that way on purpose. 

Everything about your reproductive system is designed to "addict" you to sex.  It's normal. 


Normal. There's nothing wrong with you, from what's in your thread. You just have a strong, healthy sex drive. Biologically, you are supposed to be able to make many babies with a variety of women. You are designed physically to make that a priority. So, here's what's happening:

Sexual arousal accompanies the release of certain hormones in your body.  Hormones that make you feel really good. Some of these, like dopamine, are also associated with addictions.  Does that mean you are an addict?  NO - it means we all are - sort of. Men and women have the same hormones, the same "addicting" chemicals that come from sexual arousal.

These are good things.  The regular release of these hormones is associated with heart and brain health, mental and emotional stability, lower incidence of neurological and circulatory disease. Arousal and orgasm are good things for your body and mind. It keeps your reproductive system in tip-top shape. In fact, certain of these chemicals trigger things in a woman's body making it easier for her to transmit sperm through the cervix and move an ovum down a fallopian tube.

We are supposed to be like this.

About porn and fantasy.  Studies show our bodies and brains cannot tell the difference between a sexual encounter we imagine and a real one. All the positive things that come from having sex, also come from masturbation for either sex.  It's also possible to become quite enamored of a celebrity or porn star one fantasizes about or watches. So, limiting porn and at least varying fantasy regularly are probably good ideas.

But what about morality?  Let's look at the CCC:

2352 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."138 "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."139

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 lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. 

Look at the bolded section. No matter what a lot of people on CAF tell you, without the Church now repudiating a lot of old, repressed judgements - She has sought to ameliorate this to  "yeah, try to keep it under control, but seriously, not that big a deal."

Look at your levels of anxiety and self-loathing over this very natural and healthy thing. Look at your social factors, delayed marriage.

Here's a fact: 50% of all priests do not live within their vows of chastity. That is, they have sex. Mostly with women.  And most of them masturbate from time to time.

But lets say you have firmly decided you want to give this up. Going "cold turkey" off masturbation means you have shut down a source of healthy chemicals your body depends on to maintain health. Unless you are having regular, involuntary nocturnal emissions, you are not maintaining reproductive health.

So let's try a few things.  First - is there anything that's objectively abnormal about your sexual fantasies?  Are you only stimulated by children or animals or some fetishistic objects?   Are you feeding sadistic fantasies?  If not, then stop beating yourself up for being a normal man responding to a very essential drive.

So what to do?

First:  Start by replacing the hormones. At least some of them. The exercise people recommend is good because it also causes dopamine and other hormones to be released. Know what else does that?  Contemplative prayer. That's a demanding discipline, but once you achieve it, you will find your sex drive naturally repressed instead of by force of will.

Of course, chocolate, cigarettes and heroine also cause some of these hormones to be released, but lets avoid too much of one and all of the others.

Second: Don't go "cold turkey."  What happens is, we end up in an extreme rubber-banding situation.  Sooner or later, you give in and then hate yourself and then give up "being good" and descend into a morass of sexual guilt and over-indulgance.

Just give up porn.  Most of the porn industry is still controlled by organized crime and you just don't want to be supporting the kinds of terrible sin that entails.

Don't give up fantasy and masturbation entirely. Not at this time of life.  That's taking into account the social factors. But do take control of it. Do you shower daily?  That can be your time. A brief bit of fantasy and an orgasm will be enough to maintain your health.

Add to your routine the exercise and prayer.  Do not continually confess masturbation. It's venial.  DO discipline yourself during the day to stop fantasizing when you find yourself doing that. One way to help yourself, is to decide you'll go ahead and have that fantasy the next time you shower.  Save it for later, in other words.

Just do this for a while.  When you have a habit formed, if you want, you can slow down to every other day.  But give it a few months.

You know, people who habitually lie and want to stop that, they don't just up and never lie again. People get angry and are rude, they do all kinds of imperfect things they have a difficult time changing and none of those things are one of the two biological imperatives of all life on earth.

Just start to take some control. Stop castigating yourself.  Realize the difficulty is not a character flaw of yours but a biological imperative. Let chastity be a goal you pursue rather than an all-or-nothing, angst-producing fight for your soul.

Research foods and activities that produce endorphins.  Possibly you'll end up in a year or so only masturbating once a week or so.


Jesus told you to love. To treat people well. Do that. Turn your focus outward to the one next to you that needs help or kindness. Find a reasonable way to deal with your sexuality and practice compassion whenever possible. I think the devil's getting more mileage out of keeping you focused on not masturbating. Let it go, try for a reasonable level of sexual expression. 

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