The abominable sin of onanism II

Forgive me as I continue on this unpleasant but necessary topic.  See part I here.

The only redeeming aspect of masturbation is that there’s so little pride mixed up in it.  Fornicators and adulterers may boast about their “conquests”, but I doubt there’s a guy on Earth who brags about how often he spanks his monkey.  I suspect that even those who indulge in this vice regularly wish that they didn’t do it at all.  It is a sin of weakness, rather than pride or malice.  A person finds himself in a situation where he expects to be deprived of a legitimate sexual outlet for a long time.  Perhaps he is unmarried, or he must live apart from his wife for months or years.  The prospect of extended celibacy rolls out before his mind.  The first week or two isn’t so bad.  Then the cravings get more intense.  He keeps catching himself staring at girls on the bus to work.  Sexual fantasies keep coming to mind during boring conferences.  He starts waking up in the middle of the night with powerful yearnings for sexual release.  He thinks to himself, “This is just going to keep getting worse and worse as time goes on.  I won’t be able to endure it for long.”

The story, I suspect, is very similar for contracepting couples.  (Indeed, the Church regards contraception and masturbation as two forms of the same sin, and the word “onanism” can refer to either.)  Some medical or financial circumstance makes pregnancy unwise.  They must either live celibately or give in to sin.  Here there is an element of pride involved, in that the husband may well come to feel emasculated at being unable to exercise his marital right.

To many, complete celibacy seems unendurable, but complete abandonment to vice seems degrading.  The idea presents itself of just engaging in nonprocreative sex acts occasionally, say once a week.  This temptation must be resisted.  If one is going to do it once a week, there’s no principled reason not to do it every day.  An arbitrary rule like this will never stand up against the body’s desires, which grow more imperious the more they are appeased.  I suspect that men who give in to onanism before marriage will find it difficult to give it up after marriage.  This vice is, after all, so much more convenient than a real woman.  It’s available any time with no potentially awkward propositioning, no emotional expenditure, no messing around with foreplay.  A man may turn to masturbation as a substitute for real sex, only to find that he has marred his soul so that real sex becomes only a poor substitute for masturbation.

What would I say to those people facing long spells of celibacy?  I know what you’re going through.  My wife and I had to go through it too, when medical considerations once forced us to delay childbearing for years.  When I say that celibacy can be endured for months or years, I know what I’m talking about.  Yes, the cravings get worse for the first few “dry” weeks, but then they level off and even decrease a little.  Your body stops throwing tantrums so much once it finds it’s not going to get its way.  This is the first key to getting through these times:  knowing it can be done and that it won’t overwhelm you.  A second piece of advice:  avoid impure thoughts as much as you can.  I wish I had followed this advice myself, because ogling girls just made things worse for me.

The most important piece of advice:  find religion.  As I say in my defense of religion

The intuition that all sin offends God also gives believers a stronger motive to avoid “victimless” crimes like non-malicious lies, use of pornography, masturbation, or disrespect toward the dead.  An atheist may realize the immorality of these things, but he would not have the same incentive to avoid them, because, after all, he wouldn’t see how they harm anyone.  The believer’s love for God gives urgency to all aspects of morality.

The best way to defeat lust, I am convinced, is to become a Catholic.  The Protestant may find motivation in his wholely spiritual relationship with Jesus, but for most people–and certainly for a statue-worshipping papist like myself–this needs to take some concrete form to seem real.  I doubt I would have endured without the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.  For the Catholic, communion with God isn’t just a state of mind–given to all the vagueries of subjectivity and the possibilities of self-deception–it is something concrete, a thing that can be tasted.  If you transgress once in mortal sin (such as contraception or onanism), you break communion with God, and you don’t just know this; you experience it the next Sunday.  While you’re sitting in your pew watching everyone else move through the communion line, you are struck by the fact that you have made yourself a rebel against God and a stranger in His house, someone unwelcome at His table.  From the few times I’ve been in mortal sin in my life, I can tell you that this is a terrible feeling.  It inspires a powerful longing to be like those blessed souls you’re watching in line to receive the Lord’s body.  And so merciful is the Lord that He provides in His church a way back.  It’s not pleasant, in that it involves telling a celibate man, presumed to be holy, exactly what you did.  But the public nature of Confession, the fact that it involves another person (and through him, the whole church) makes the reconciliation seem more objective and more real.  Your absolution happens at a particular instant–it is an objective, public fact–and your restoration to communion is assured.  Once restored, you will be strongly motivated to avoid breaking communion again.  I suspect that this is the reason that the Catholic Church has remained true to traditional Christian morality while the other churches are surrendering to modernity.  It’s not that Catholics have better arguments.  It’s that no other church has the same resources to help believers endure.

11 Responses

  1. Bonald:

    Wow… you almost just converted this Episcopalian with this post alone. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks. Please also see my comment on the partner post about onanism.

  2. I masturbate, and I know it’s a sin…….But I have Jesus in my heart so the Lord will forgive me and save me from eternal damnation! HALLELUJAH!!!!!!

  3. Dear Konrad,

    I assume you mean to poke fun at the Protestant doctrine of “salvation by faith alone”. In fairness, I feel compelled to point out that few Protestants would regard an unrepentant and complacent sinner as having a true, living faith. Good works would not be a cause of grace, but it would ordinarily be an effect. By all means, let us scrutinize the Protestant’s theology, but let us be fair and critique what he actually believes.

  4. […] 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 it.  […]

  5. […] 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 head […]

  6. What is the difference between using one’s brain (orgasming-ejaculating just by thinking), hand, sock, piece of raw liver, “rubber pussy,” inflatable doll, or a woman’s vagina, anus, mouth, slot (between her breasts), whatever, for mere sensual pleasure?
    All I can discern is that by not using the woman, the devil gets only you. You are not dragging another person toward hell.
    Goes the same for women, who don’t even have the dubious excuse of distended seminal vesicles.

  7. Just skimmed Jan. 17. Yes, once you pull your finger out of the hole in the dike, it washes away rapidly.
    The Catholic Church, in a “fallible” concession, allowed sexual intercourse in a manner calculated to avoid procreation. That this was to be mentioned only to inveterate Onanists as a “less immoral” alternative has been conveniently forgotten, the (“rhythm” “NFP”) method condemned for a millennium as “Manichean” perversion. From that the Church, in another “fallible” concession to the perverse, allowed, at first, then endorsed and recommended “foreplay” other than kissing, and fondling the wife’s breasts, as per Solomon’s Song, to various degeneracies called until recently “the abominable and detestable crime against nature, which should not be mentioned among Christians.”
    All to discourage the licentious from leaving the Church. Scripture commands the church to consign such, when they adamantly refuse to repent, to the devil, not to compromise with evil.
    Where will it end?

  8. Dec. 16: Paul apostle wrote that human conscience is not reliable. At best, it must be correctly informed. He gave the example of himself persecuting the church, believing that he was faithfully serving God. He assures us that his conscience didn’t bother him in the slightest; in fact it commended him for his (supposed by his conscience) righteousness.

  9. What on Earth are you talking about?

  10. “Spanks his monkey” = “beats his meat” = “whacks his wood” = “yanks his ying-yang” = “abuses himself” and other idiomatic ways of saying, “masturbates.”

  11. I got that your incoherent rant was attempting to say something about that. What I meant was, what are you trying to say about it?

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