I was debating with a friend recently on the subject of sex education in schools. I believe that educating kids about sex thoroughly and early enough (i.e. before they start getting knocked up) is very important. My friend believes in abstinence-only education and does not believe in sex before marriage. As you can imagine, this can make for some very interesting and sometimes heated debates, but my friend is a very eloquent speaker and presented an opposing argument very well. To my friend’s surprise, I conceded — sort of.
I agreed with my friend that abstinence-only education programs could work, but only if students are educated about masturbation. My friend acted more appalled at the idea of masturbation than at the idea of premarital sex. I was not surprised. Despite the fact that we live in a highly sexual nation, where sex ideas and images are bombarding us on TV and other forms of media all the time, we still have very strange ideas about sex. The fact that we should be ashamed of our own bodies is presented to us in many different forms, and I find this idea preposterous.
I saw an episode of “Top Gear” on BBC that had Patrick Stewart as the guest, and he told a charming story about his first time in a Jaguar that involved a very lucky lady and some “heavy petting.” This is a term that is familiar to people my parents’ age, but is not really used anymore.
For those of you who don’t know, heavy petting is basically mutual masturbation. It involves everything except the actual act of intercourse. This seems to have fallen out of style in recent years. We seem to have the idea that intercourse is the only real option we have. Again, I think this is preposterous. Whether you’re doing it with a partner or solo, masturbation should always be an option and is arguably the best option to satisfy one’s natural urges.
Looking at it from strictly a scientific point of view, masturbation should be practiced by everyone because of the health benefits it provides. A Dec. 29, 2011, Men’s Health News article cites numerous studies conducted by doctors showing that masturbation helps prevent prostate cancer, regulate hormone levels, reduce stress and even strengthen the immune system.
Women benefit from masturbation, too. According to WebMD, it helps regulate hormone levels and improves mood, just like it does for men. It also helps manage pain, which is beneficial for women who experience cramping during PMS or suffer from chronic migraines.
For those of you who have been told that masturbation ruins your sex life, this is completely untrue. For men, regular masturbation can prevent and alleviate erectile dysfunction and can help them last longer during sex. For women, it can help them understand their bodies and what feels good to them, which may help them enjoy themselves more when they are with a partner.
What are the negative effects of masturbation on your health? There are none. From a scientific point of view, you’d be crazy not to masturbate.
Now that we have the scientific aspect out of the way, let’s talk about the moral implications of masturbation. My friend argued that masturbation is wrong because the Bible says so. Does it say that? For answers, I turned to another friend of mine, Pastor Jonathan Haney of Manhattan Reformed Presbyterian Fellowship.
Haney said there are no passages in the Bible that specifically say that masturbation is bad or sinful. There are, however, passages that put masturbation into that gray area where it could potentially be immoral, specifically Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
This confused me a little, because by definition “adultery” is where one or both of the parties involved is married. If someone is unmarried and the source of his or her sexual fantasy is unmarried, this is technically not “adultery.” Haney agreed that this is technically correct, but added, “Jesus says the lustful thought still breaks the commandment — we are not proved innocent of sin based upon loopholes.”
Haney also pointed out that the health benefits of masturbation can also be achieved through a healthy marriage and referred me to I Corinthians 7:9, which states, “If they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Those of you who argue for abstinence-only education are likely doing so because of your religious beliefs. While the Bible does argue that adultery and lust are bad things, it does not specifically say that touching yourself is bad: the intentions behind the act are what matter.
I would argue that masturbation is still the best option for those who wish to save themselves for marriage and promote abstinence-only education in schools. As someone who unashamedly practices masturbation, I would also point out that sex — whether it’s by yourself or with a partner — is all in the mind. You don’t necessarily have to fantasize about anything or anybody in particular to achieve orgasm. The Bible has absolutely nothing to say about that.
I still believe educating kids about sex thoroughly and at a young age is of the utmost importance, but there are other options and it is important that whatever your stance is on the subject, you keep an open mind to all options available. Frankly, whether or not a school chooses to promote safer sex or promote abstinence, I believe masturbation should be a subject on which everyone should be educated. Your body is nothing to be ashamed of.
Karen Ingram is a senior in English. Please send comments to [email protected]