Religious views on masturbation

Among the world's religions, views on masturbation vary widely. Some religions view it as a spiritually detrimental practice, while others either do not or 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 or sexual therapy, but disallow it if it is done with wrong motives or as an addiction.


Asian socities 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".. However, the "sexual misconduct" is such a broad term, and is subjected 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. Masturbation can be a distraction or means of avoidance of spiritual practice or development. To provide a complete focus onto 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, to be an attachment, and not following the middle path.



Protestantism has no uniform position on the issue of masturbation. Theologians toward the middle of the 20th century began revising previous teachings, and some today even take pro-masturbation viewpoints. By conservative denominations, it is often viewed as an act of self-indulgence and a sin of the flesh. Protestants however often view it as within the range of normal sexual behavior. Some who encourage the practice do so as a guard against adultery, pre-marital sex, or other forms of non-allowable sexual behavior.

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 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 know. Miles suggests single males pray before masturbating, thanking God for the gift of their sexuality and keeping Him in mind while achieving self-release.

Evangelical based therapeutic approaches to masturbation addiction suggest counselors place counselees on a schedule, e.g., they may masturbate 3 times per week at set times in private but not to go beyond that. Over and above a prohibitionist position, this is viewed as part of a Biblical, realistic, and effective approach to facilitating counselees to overcome a masturbatory addiction.

In general, most evangelicals assert that the Bible could have but did not specifically condemn that act, and so make it a Romans 14 issue, i.e., a matter of conscience for individual believers: that the believer should not violate his or her conscience, but also realizing the conscience is fallible and may be either rightly or wrongly trained. All condemn the act if done in lust, to pornography, or if it becomes an addiction or an escape from intimacy.Masturbation Most view it as at least having the potential to be a tool of sexual self-control, not only for singles but married persons when they may be separated from their spouse. The Marriage Bed concludes "that a loving God designed masturbation as a 'stop gap' measure for those who do not have a spouse".Masturbation Q and A

Roman Catholicism

The Church's teaching on the matter of masturbation is a consequence of its overall understanding of 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, homosexual acts, acts of sodomy and sex outside of marriage 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. 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.

This traditional Catholic doctrine that masturbation constitutes a grave moral disorder is often called into doubt or expressly denied today. It is said that psychology and sociology show that it is a normal phenomenon of sexual development, especially among the young. It is stated that there is real and serious fault only in the measure that the subject deliberately indulges in solitary pleasure closed in on self, because in this case the act would indeed be radically opposed to the loving communion between persons of different sex which some hold is what is principally sought in the use of the sexual faculty.

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 system of Hindu Philosophy, maintenance of Brahmachariya is the most essential pre-requsite and forms the basis of Yoga--Yama. (Patanjali Yoga Sutra-def: of Yama.Indian subcontinent.


Istimna is the Arabic term for masturbation. In general, masturbation may only be done in fear of committing adultery, nor is it 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"

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. 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. 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.

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". However, Beis Shmuel expounds that this is not literal, but rather serves to frighten man into avoiding the sin.

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.

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

Mutual masturbation

Some authorities discern 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"

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." 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". 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."


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 so, the woman would lose part of her life force, and this could bring illness and shortened life.


Wicca, like other religious philosophies has a spectrum of adherents including those with conservative views to liberal views. However nothing in Wiccan philosophy prohibits masturbation. On the contrary, the Wiccan Rede "An it harm none, do as thou wilt" is interpreted by many to allow and endorse responsible sexual relationships of all varieties. On the other hand, many wiccans would claim commonality with other religions in this phrase, as the Wiccan equivalent of the Golden Rule. Since other religions have a similar rule, and yet often do speak out against masturbation to various degrees, the argument, while not invalidated, certainly becomes more questionable. The Charge of the Goddess, a key piece of Wiccan literature, says in the words of the Goddess, "all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals".


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.


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