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What Do World Religions Say about Masturbation?

Revathi V Gopal  |  Apr 26

What Do World Religions Say about Masturbation?

Masturbation, akin to other essential needs of our human body, is a natural act. However, there are several perspectives on the topic in different religions. Most world religions stand against masturbation and proclaim it as a sin.

There are a few circumstances under which religions permit masturbation. For instance, it is permissible to masturbate if it is an act of sexual self-control or part of self-exploration. World religions stand against masturbation if a person performs it with wrong intentions.

Here, we will discuss what world religions like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism say about masturbation.

What does Christianity say about masturbation?

The Bible mentions nothing related to masturbation as a sinful act. However, there is a reference to the Story of Onan in the Old Testament. Many believers view this story as a depiction of masturbation as a shameful act. But it focuses on the pull-out method during a sexual act. 

When we look at the broad picture, various churches of Christianity have different perspectives on masturbation. For instance, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches view masturbation as a sin. However, some Protestant churches consider masturbation to be natural.

As per Catechism of the Catholic Church, a work that is part of Roman Catholicism presents masturbation as a "disordered act." Christianity is also against sex outside of marriage. It is because the religion views it as an act that diverges from the natural order. 

Augustine of Hippo, another religious figure of Christianity, also presents masturbation as a sinful act. Even though it is physically and psychologically beneficial, most belief systems are against it.

Though a few Protestant churches believe in the significance of masturbation, others stand against it. For instance, Martin Luther, a poignant figure of Protestantism, views masturbation as immoral. 

In the past few decades, there have been slight changes in these views and opinions. It is changing in some Christian schools of thought and churches. Presbyterian Church of the USA, in 1991, presented masturbation as a positive affirmation of human sexuality. There are some Christian scholars and thinkers too who support the need for masturbation.

What does Islam say about masturbation?

Akin to Christianity, Islam is also against masturbation to a great extent. The Holy Quran (23: 5-7) views seeking sexual pleasure apart from one's partner as transgression. Islam forbids masturbation, and a few sets view it as an alternative to adultery.

However, masturbation is permissible under certain circumstances in Islam. It is acceptable for an unmarried person to engage in masturbation in some Islamic groups. Whereas on the other hand, there are a few others who present masturbation as a punishable offense. However, if someone masturbates, the person has to purify their body by taking a bath. It is also essential to take a shower after sexual intercourse in Islam.

During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Sheikh Hamed Al-Ali, an Islamic scholar, stands against the practice of masturbation. He states that masturbation during the days of Ramadan can violate the sanctity of the Holy Month.

In general, Islam opposes masturbation as a sinful act akin to other religious beliefs across the world.

What does Hinduism say about masturbation?

Hinduism considers sex or Kama as an essential part of the human life cycle. As per Hinduism, there are four principal stages of life. After a person completes his or her educational and spiritual phase of Brahmacharya, one enters Grihastya Jeevan.

Grihastya Jeevan or Household stage is when the Kama meets with Artha. It is the time of marital relationship. However, Hinduism does not explicitly mention masturbation. The Kama Sutra, a popular text of Hinduism, does not condemn masturbation. Instead, we can find explanations of how one should indulge in masturbation in the Kama Sutra.

However, there are certain teachings in Hinduism that state that one has to abstain from unchastity. It is essential to stay away from it in our thoughts, actions, and speech.

What does Buddhism say about masturbation?

Based on the Buddhist school, the perspective of masturbation shifts. Commonly, Buddhism is against masturbation. However, it is acceptable under certain circumstances. 

Buddhism has five precepts, and the third one states one has "to refrain from sexual misconduct." As per the Buddhist belief system, masturbation or other sexual acts hinder our ability to attain liberation from Samsara. Samsara is a concept that believes in the cycle of birth and death.

Though there are many views on masturbation in different religions, it is essential to consider masturbation as natural. Within a few years, the perceptions of masturbation would change positively. Hopefully, world religions might gradually accept masturbation as a safe and healthy process.

Cover photo by Unsplash


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