Wanking: the last taboo

Instead of trying to stop people from mastur-bating, the church should be encouraging them to do so, says Christian minister David McKay*

In today's permissive society there are few taboos left. Teenagers are educated in areas of sex that would have shocked and embarrassed many married couples in previous centuries. But one bastion of privacy and shame remains, and that is the subject of masturbation. Paradoxically, masturbation is despised by religious prudes and liberated machos alike. Prudes see it as sinful, and machos see it as a sign of weakness. And yet both parties practice it. Here is the ultimate in sexual hypocrisy. While "self-abuse" as it used to be called, is practiced almost universally, it is also done with almost universal shame.

Masturbation is the safely valve on the sexual pressure cooker, that stops us from exploding in unacceptable or inappropriate ways. Masturbation is the universally legitimate way to satisfy your sexual appetite without indulging in something else which may not be as legitimate. If there was more masturbation, there would be a lot less incest, fewer rapes, less infidelity in marriage, etc. I spoke about this quite frankly with a fellow minister once. He eventually confided to me that in his youth ("Before I became a Christian") he had gone out on a date with a girl that he greatly respected. He did not want to scare her off by being too forward, so he stopped at a petrol station and went into the dunny to relieve himself in more ways than one. And, of course, it worked.

Yet this same minister had been teaching the boys of his congregation that they were guilty of a great sin if they indulged in masturbation. A lot more than adultery occurs when people refuse to masturbate. Paedophilia, incest, rape, homosexuality, bestiality; all of these practices seem to be tolerated more by a church which refuses to speak the liberating truth about masturbation.

The traditional reason given for condemning masturbation within the Christian church is that Jesus Christ taught that it was just as bad to "look on a woman with lust" as it was to actually commit adultery with her. In other words, the thought was as bad as the action. So a teaching developed that thinking about sex (which obviously occurs during masturbation) is evil whether you indulge in the practice that you have thought about or not.

The mistake is that people have confused "thinking about sex" with "lust". Lust is actually wanting to do something that you know is wrong. But the sin is not in desiring sex (since that is as universal a desire as the desire for food), nor is it in fantasising about sex. The sin is in wanting to actually perform an act to satisfy your sexual appetite that you believe is wrong, and then refraining from doing it only out of fear about what people would think or do if they found out.

Men do not have to engage in copulation, but most of us do have to release sperm from time to time. And here we face a theological dilemma. Was Jesus Christ fully human? If so, did he experience wet dreams? And if this happened to Christ, would he have had thoughts about sex at the moment of ejaculation? The obvious answer is Yes. For ejaculation itself is sex. And if Jesus Christ was without sin, then thoughts about sex (and ejaculations outside of marriage) must not be any more sinful than eating or going to the toilet. It is only cultural brainwashing that has taught us otherwise.

As a sexually frustrated, religiously uptight youth I used to look forward to wet dreams, because it was the one time when I was free to indulge in activities and thoughts which were forbidden to me during the daytime. And yet even these were marred by the fear that the dream might not be just a dream. How much better to consciously choose to fantasise (and masturbate) while awake. For me, this became a guilt-free option only when I discovered that there was absolutely nothing forbidding it in scripture.

One of the cleverest ways the church has ever found to control the masses has been to make masturbation a sin. The consequence has been that the most dishonest (i.e. the ones who try to give the impression that they don't masturbate) are looked on as being the most holy, while more genuine believers are made to feel guilty and in need of absolution from the hypocrites.

Anyone interested in a genuine revival of sexual morality and honest faith within Australia should consider the possibility that the first step in that direction might be to enlighten the masses on their right (and perhaps even their responsibility) to masturbate.

*David McKay is the founder and leader of a small Christian community based in Sydney, which has worked extensively in Madras, India, where they have been recognised for having covered a 150-metre stretch of exposed sewage canal. On top of the canal they have built a health clinic, hospital for AIDS patients, orphanage, library, and children's playground. You can contact David at Box A678 Sydney South NSW 2000. Ph. (02) 9476-1548.

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