The Abominable Sin of Onanism I

I’m afraid I’m going to have to break the rule I just made, the one about how one shouldn’t talk about, you know, certain things.  Unfortunately, it is necessary.  A prominent politician, a Miss Christine O’Donnell, is being widely and viciously attacked for having once stated that masturbation is immoral.  Journalists are openly calling such a belief “odd” or even “insane”.  How did we get to the point that acceptance of the solitary vice has become a prerequisite for public acceptability?  When did the imperious “we” of public concensus decide that onanism may not be criticized?  It was when journalist and Hollywood degenerates started pushing for this, and nobody pushed back.  Chaste people don’t like to talk about such things, but a gauntlet has been thrown.  A challenge must be answered.

Until quite recently, the consensus of the Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist worlds was that the carnal pleasures of sex should never be separated from the donation of self and openness to new life implied by this act.  Modern people, indoctrinated in utilitarianism from birth, may find this prohibition mysterious.  Why not?  Who does it hurt?  Wouldn’t unrestricted, consequence-free orgasms for everyone increase the world’s happiness?  To people of saner times, however, satisfying peoples’ carnal desires was not the primary consideration.  The main consideration was to make sure that sacred things don’t lose their meaning.

Let’s consider an example from another part of life.  In common speech, when a man says, “I want to feel that I’m taking good care of my children”, he means the same thing as if he’d said, “I want take good care of my children”.  A philosopher might point out that the two are technically different, that the first is a selfish desire for a certain feeling, while the second is an other-directed desire for a certain objective state of affairs.  This philosopher would be entirely misunderstanding what the man is saying.  If he’s a normal person, the feeling of satisfaction in knowing that his children are well cared-for is inseparable in his mind from the fact of them being well cared-for.  An example a bit closer to the case at hand would be that, for a normal person, to say “I want to feel loved” means the same thing as “I want to be loved”.

Now suppose someone invents a drug that, when ingested, gives a man the feeling of satisfaction that he would get from being a good father to his chidren, even if objectively-speaking, he is completely neglecting them.  Suppose another drug gives a woman the feeling of being loved, even though objectively no one in the world gives her any concern at all.  Should one take such a pill?  The very idea is repulsive.  Even if everyone was made happier by such pills, even if men continued to care for their children out of duty and with no connection to the natural joys of fatherhood, we would still find such a thing repellant.  Why is that?

We feel that for a man to take pills to feel accomplished or to feel loved would be degrading.  It separates things that should not be separated:  an objective good (healthy children, being loved) from the accompanying subjective pleasure.  The pleasure is dignified by its inseparability from an objective good:  no one would call a man who pursues the satisfaction of a job well done a hedonist, because he never pursues the pleasure alone, but rather the good and the pleasure considered as a single thing.  To pursue the pleasure alone would be degrading.  If a person would be content with feelings and impressions of objective goods (being loved, being useful, etc), he would be choosing to live in an illusion, and that is contemptible. 

Now for our specific case:  the pleasure of sex and the good of conjugal union.  God says to Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband,”  and this is as it should be.  If Eve becomes sexually aroused, her understanding of it should be “I want Adam.”  The object of the desire is thought to be a particular person.  In this way, her sexual cravings are experienced as the bodily part of an integrated drive towards communion with her husband.  Bodily union, spiritual love, and the happiness of common life are seen as three aspects of one good, and the desire for any one is seen as organically connected to desire for the other two.

If Eve falls into impurity, she may separate the distinct pleasures and lose sight of their single object.  When she becomes aroused, she may think, “I desire sex”.  Now Adam is reduced to a means; he is one instantiation of a class of beings who can give her the satisfaction she desires.  She may degrade herself yet further.  She may interpret her cravings as follows: “I desire the pleasure that comes when my genitals are stimulated through certain pressures.”  Now it is not even a person she wants, but rather one of his organs, or anything else that serves the same function.

Splitting the pleasure of sex from its interpersonal meaning, as onanism does, corrupts an entire sphere of existence.  You can no longer say to your spouse “I want you” as you once could.  Before, this communion with “you” was a unitary object, including sex, company, affection, and children all together.  Now, this unity is lost.  These are seen as separate objects.  Once a man has given himself to impurity, he must ask himself which of these multiple objects he’s seeking through intercourse with his wife.   Is it a pleasure and release qualitatively no different from that he could just as well have provided for himself?  Is he seeking a more spiritual union?  Sex no longer has anything to do with that in his mind.  He has mentally split that atom.  Even if he desires both bodily and spiritual union, the two are now independent in his mind, neither having anything to do with the other, and both poorer for their isolation.

6 Responses

  1. […] The abominable sin of onanism II By bonald Forgive me as I continue on this unpleasant but necessary topic.  See part I here. […]

  2. Bonald:

    Believe it or not, I have never once had the sinful nature of onanism explained like this to me. All I knew was “God says it’s a sin to separate procreation from ejaculation, to spill wasted seed like Onan.” Separating sexual pleasure from the unitary experience of love of one’s wife is inherently degrading… of course. It’s so simple, but then, I suppose we live in twisted times.

    Thanks for this article.

  3. Daniel,

    I’m so happy to hear from you again! Thank you for your appreciation. This is an issue where the good guys are more inhibited than the bad guys, so usually only one side of the argument gets heard. I certainly hope this will change. Most guys struggle with lust, and a lot of them fall into these sins that will warp their souls in ways that take a very long time to heal.

  4. Now suppose someone invents a drug that, when ingested, gives a man the feeling of satisfaction that he would get from being a good father to his chidren, even if objectively-speaking, he is completely neglecting them. Suppose another drug gives a woman the feeling of being loved, even though objectively no one in the world gives her any concern at all. Should one take such a pill? The very idea is repulsive. Even if everyone was made happier by such pills, even if men continued to care for their children out of duty and with no connection to the natural joys of fatherhood, we would still find such a thing repellant. Why is that?

    We feel that for a man to take pills to feel accomplished or to feel loved would be degrading. It separates things that should not be separated: an objective good (healthy children, being loved) from the accompanying subjective pleasure.

    Usually I hate analogies… but this is a very good one.

  5. […] male sexual sins, biblical exegesis aside, the reasons for the grave wickedness of onanism are not hard to grasp.  I would ask readers to read those two posts before saying that there is no case against […]

  6. […] example of a teenage boy indulging in the solitary vice.  My readers will know that I take a hard line on this sin; it is mortal, and if a piano were to fall out of the sky onto the boy’s […]

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