Masturbation 'at the root of culture wars'

The Atlantic's Hugo Schwyzer has a theory: that masturbation, as the most common sex act, is the heart of modernity's war between Christianity and secularism.

Many progressives were bewildered by Antonin Scalia's blistering 2003 dissent in Lawrence v Texas, in which he warned that state laws against evils such as "adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, and bestiality" might be invalidated as a result of the decision. Why, liberals wondered, was masturbation included on that list? The answer is simple: masturbation remains not only a grave sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church to which Scalia belongs, but its acceptance as benign and healthy is perhaps the foundational error of modern sexual culture.


  1. The catholic church seems to be in favor of rape, particularly of children.  So much so that its clergymen are at the forefront when it comes to raping children, and the hierarchy protects them from prosecution.

          1. This is far too confusing for me. The Aquinan objection to masturbation seems to be that is a rejection of God’s intended purpose for sex, and thus a sin against God. God did not consent.

    1. Yes, because you are both the perpetrator and the victim who did not resist.  Tsk, tsk!  

        1.  Victim blaming is not tolerated here.   It’s quite possible you took advantage of yourself in a weakened state and simply didn’t resist.

          You should always make sure you get enthusiastic vocal consent from yourself before you do it.

  2. I think this article is very seriously onto something. Could it really be so simple? 

    1. No.  Masturbation is but one of many areas where the Catholic Church and non-church members disagree.  The idea that the entirety of the problem comes down to beating meat strikes me a Freudian thinking. 

      1. I dunno. I am not even sure that this is generally attributable to the Church at this point. Priests do very little religious education (it’s mostly laity) and I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard anyone in authority say anything about masturbation at church.

        I think Scalia is living in the 1940s and the author is treating Scalia as a representative Catholic, rather than the outlier he is.

        1. I think Scalia is living in the 1940s and the author is treating Scalia as a representative Catholic, rather than the outlier he is.

          That’s a fair point considering that recent polls have shown that American Catholics are actually more likely to support same-sex marriage than their non-Catholic counterparts.

    2. It could be the disparity between “I will decide what is right for me, as an individual, to do” and “We will decide what is right for all of you to do.”

    3.  Sure. The CoR has acquired all that power – and hangs on to quite a bit of it to the present day – by turning healthy bodily functioning into “sin”, breeding neurosis on a worldwide scale.

      “Sin” equals life as a human being.

  3. “The view of masturbation as benign and beneficial is a new one. The Judeo-Christian tradition….”

    For FUCKS sake, GO DIE IN A FIRE. 

    …that is all.

      1. I know you were joking, but unfortunately all the masturbation in the world won’t cure a chronic case of ethnocentrism

    1. And secretly guilty and ashamed of themselves.  Maybe if they scream loud enough at others, no one will notice that they were just behind the bushes in the cloister stroking their own shaft.

  4. “The answer is simple: masturbation remains not only a grave sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church to which Scalia belongs, but its acceptance as benign and healthy is perhaps the foundational error of modern sexual culture.”

    Um, “foundational error of modern sexual culture”? So the author is saying that masturbation is NOT benign and healthy? Isn’t that a rather prudish value judgment? I don’t see any evidence in his piece to back that assertion up.

      1. Grammatically, no, the author is not successfully ascribing it to the Catholic Church. “…in the eyes of the Catholic church to which Scalia belongs” modifies “a grave sin,” but does not modify “its acceptance as benign and healthy is perhaps the foundational error of modern sexual culture.” Better to have written “and its acceptance as benign and healthy is seen as the foundational error of modern sexual culture.”

        1.  Oh, so your argument comes down to copy-editing. Funny how a lot of outrage turns out to be for nothing. The author used a turn of phrase you did not follow (I had no trouble understanding what he meant, but I am not seething with pseudo-rage.) and you follow up on your mis-reading by attacking him in comments. When your error is pointed out to you back-track to something much less offensive, but maintain your outrage because, heck, who needs that embarrassment. You can break this cycle.

          1. Grammar is important. It allows us to understand the what people mean.

            You may think you “had no trouble understanding what he meant”, but I disagree. I think what he actually wrote makes it quite clear what he meant.

          2. But grammatically, the sentence was fine. It was just slightly ambiguously worded, but only so much so that a pedant could pitch a fit about it. Yes, it would have been clearer if the attribution were at the beginning, but it was still plenty clear. The “not only…” implies that there is a second component to the set, which means that the part following the attribution was clearly within the set of beliefs being attributed.

          3. The sentence is structured that way because it is not merely Catholics who have accepted that it is wrong. The Catholic Church was chosen as illustrative via the power it wields through Scalia, a Supreme Court judge who claims to be strictly Originalist, but often is eisegesist when it comes to topics that Catholic dogma touch upon.

          4.  I’m not really seeing any signs of outrage there plus given the grammatical error in the original the misunderstanding is completely reasonable.

            I think you can read other commenters more charitably.  Come on.  You can break this cycle.

          5. You know what would have avoided this entire misunderstanding? Actually clicking the link and reading the article!

    1. So, in a narrative account, if you came across the following construction:

      “Masturbation remains not only a grave sin,” said the church representative, “but its acceptance as benign and healthy is perhaps the foundational error of modern sexual culture.”Would you flip out and become hopeless confused as to who said the second part of the sentence? Just because the attribution was in the middle doesn’t make the sentence unparsable. It’s only slightly more ambiguous than if the attribution were at the beginning of the sentence, but the “Not only…” makes it clear that both parts of the sentence belong to the same list/set of beliefs being articulated, which are being attributed to the Church.

  5. What about the resulting loss of our precious fluids? Gen. Ripper was right! The commies will win, and we will beat the path to victory for them.

  6. Hey, does anyone else remember that time Hugo Schwyzer confessed to attempting to murder his girlfriend, sleeping with his students, and so on? And then when it blew up online, he said his lawyer advised him to not discuss it anymore? And now, despite talking about how wounded and persecuted he was by being so terribly misunderstood by a bunch of hostile rape and violence survivors, he still gets gigs writing about sexuality (and feminism!) at places like The Atlantic? 

    And does anyone else remember how I get to live in a world where men who abuse women suffer no loss of success, where trying to gas your girlfriend to death and then score brownie points by writing about it is considered totally cool for a male “feminist” to do, where people in general forgive and forget the perpetrator but blame and abandon the victim?Ha, ha, ha. Good times. Really brings me back, and reminds me of why I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate being a survivor.

    1. Thanks for the reminder.

      I’ve run into him online in the past. He’s continuously dishonest and manipulative, and I’ve come to believe he’s a sociopath.

    2. I went to PCC, where he’s currently teaching.  Women I know who have taken his classes pretty much unanimously agree that he’s severely creepy.

  7. I recently came across a discussion of Leviticus 18:21 which often appears interpreted as “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek”. However the the theme of Leviticua 18 is about sexual purity and it seems strange to sandwich a rule about child sacrifice between ones prohibiting sex with your neighbor’s wife and men.
    The Hebrew text, וּמִֽזַּרְעֲךָ֥ לֹא־ תִתֵּ֖ן לְהַעֲבִ֣יר לַמֹּ֑לֶךְ , actually says don’t offer your semen to Molek (or just the King)”, and in the context of sexual purity rules it seems more likely that this is just an injunction against masturbation – maybe men on the verge or orgasm rather than calling out “Oh God” (because that was forbidden) would call out “Oh Molok” while offering their semen.

    The bible writers had problems with sexual prudery which often makes it hard to figure out what they are talking about which also causes problems with modern religious policy discussion.

    1. “don’t offer your semen to Molek”

      Shit. Hold on while I take down that craigslist listing.

    2.  Leviticus 15:32 ‘This [is] the law for one who has a discharge, and [for him] who emits semen and is unclean thereby…
      Technically it wasn’t a sin just uncleanliness meaning you can’t go to temple till you are ritually cleansed. It is connected and confused with the sin of Onan which was not listening to God, not masturbation. The Catholic Church made everything a sin so it could collect indulgences and penances to make the hierarchy rich. It was a scam. Now it just deals in guilt and shame.

      1. “The Catholic Church made everything a sin so it could collect indulgences and penances to make the hierarchy rich. It was a scam. Now it just deals in guilt and shame.”
        So, very much like the RIAA?

  8. Officially, masturbation is “an intrinsically and gravely disordered action”, whereas rape is “always an intrinsically evil act”. 

    It’s important to note what a ‘grave sin’ means in this context- it’s usually understood to mean that the unforgiven sinner is condemned to hell. So do remember to tell your priest every time you knock one out.

    1. I’ve been making a list with date/time and duration.  Now I just have to find a priest, right?

    2.  Yes children, take a very descriptive list of your masturbation history to your next confession…

  9. More meat-beating => less intercourse => smaller catholic population => lower potential revenues => less influence => less power

    I’ve been a fervent admirer of this sequence in my long-term battle with the catholic church.

    This is the front-line, people.

  10. I would be working on my second PHD while running my hedgefund if it wasn’t for the meatbeating. 

  11. It’s probably always been tough to be a Catholic, but dicier still in the Information Age.  They have to cherry-pick their way through the belief system to decide what they can adhere to and what they can’t, and still call themselves Catholic. 

    I was raised Methodist; my husband was raised Catholic.  He said this is a church that has a lot to say about guilt and self-loathing, but very little about love.

      1. Seriously. However, while I was raised in a really positive, thought-provoking parish that emphasized things like love and ethics, and had a really kind, intelligent team of priests, (female) lay-minister, and nuns, my experience visiting churches since moving away from my childhood home has more and more led me to suspect that most priests simply aren’t very good, and, possibly, most Catholic upbringings are consequently kind of poor.

    1. Catholics, in the US at least, seem to mostly have the philosophy that everybody sins all the time, so don’t worry about it so much. My friend’s 80 year-old mother said a couple of novenas for me to get a boyfriend back in the 1980s. Despite the Church’s homophobic fulminations, I find it easier to be gay around Catholics than protestants.

        1. Nope.  But I didn’t particularly want a boyfriend, either.  You know how the married tend to view being single as an illness to be cured.

          1. Funny!  Wait… are you looking at *me*?!   Nonononono, I love you just the way you are.

          2. Back when The Gay was still a novelty, friends would try to fix me up with the most inappropriate men imaginable. “You’re gay. He’s gay. It’s perfect.”

  12. Seeing as ‘God’ is just some video game dev team from the 22nd century running a simulation of us, I’m pretty sure masturbation would be a feature, not a bug.

    1. Something something New meaning to “Bullet Time” something something “Dodge This” something something rule 34 something.

  13. Annie Hall: Oh, well, now we’re finally getting to a subject you know something about. 
    Alvy Singer: Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love. 

  14. “I want you to be nice to one another, and for fucks sake stop touching yourself!”-God

      1. Seriously.  That would require me to be a top half the time.  That is so not going to happen.

  15.  If you needed any more proof that organized religion is really about control, here it is. The church (and for church, substitute whatever other religious entity you wish) claims the authority to control not only your public actions and your interactions with others but even an act that involves no one but you, and which is performed in private. The fact that ‘authority’ for their position comes not from the core of the religion – which in the case of Christianity, should surely be the teachings of Jesus, who is notably silent on the subject of self-abuse – but from minor or outmoded passages or even ‘tradition’ confirms that this is to do with authoritarianism rather than spirituality.

  16. After reading the comments I think you may be missing the point.

    It’s not just male masturbation. It’s female masturbation that’s at issue. It’s part of the larger scheme against female sexual pleasure you see in other religions, like Islam. Once females gain the “right” of sexual pleasure, it leads to other forms of liberation, and it’s this dis-union between male dominance and female submission that is at the heart of a lot of conservative theology — in all male-dominated religions. 

    1. While I would agree that historically religious sexual mores (and religious culture, and culture in general) has contributed to the domination of women, I think this particular edict targets women not primarily by focusing on female masturbation (which seems like a too-specific read of the situation – especially when so much of the language regarding the issue uses the phallocentric condemnation against “spilling one’s seed,” which seems to target men if anyone), but rather by dismissing masturbation (from either gender) in favor of the only sanctioned Catholic sexual practice, which is heterosexual, procreative sex, which has the obvious outcome of controlling the shapes of women’s lives and futures by ensuring that they are pregnant as much as possible.

  17. Do not waver in your quest to purity!!!
    The Mormons have a “handy” guide to resist the temptations of self-pollution.  (an oldie, but a goodie)
    Mormon Masturbation Prevention

    If you successfully implement the procedures, then feel free to give yourself a hand.

    1. 7. [snip] Never read about your problem.

      So, stop reading that document?

      9. Pray. But when you pray, don’t pray about this problem, for that will tend to keep [it] in your mind more than ever. Pray for faith, pray for understanding of the Scriptures, pray for the Missionaries, the General Authorities, your friends, your families, BUT KEEP THE PROBLEM OUT OF YOUR MIND BY NOT MENTIONING IT EVER — NOT IN CONVERSATION WITH OTHERS, NOT IN YOUR PRAYERS. KEEP IT _OUT_ of your mind!


      As one meets with his Priesthood Leader, a program for overcoming masturbation can be implemented using some of these suggestions. Remember it is essential that a regular report program be agreed on, so progress can be recognized and failures understood and eliminated.

      How does one regularly report without, um, mentioning it?

  18. …state laws against evils such as “adult incest, prostitution, masturbation…

    Which states have laws against the latter? I ask for purely academic reasons. For a friend.

  19. Then maybe you should Read The Fucking Article.

    And then contact the actual author of the article, rather than complaining about it here.

  20. The idea of stale spunk that’s been sitting in there, subjected to mutagens like radiation, is pretty nasty.

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