embodied prayer form, masturbation, pornography, prayer, Sex

Frank Answers About Masturbation and Prayer

Question: I found your blog post about Pornography, so I’m thinking you might answer this question. I’m confused about masturbation. In high school health class we learned that masturbation is a healthy release of sexual energy. But in church  youth meetings I’m told that it is a sin and we should pray for the strength not to do it. So I ask for forgiveness for masturbating and pray for strength to resist the urge, but then I do it again.  Do you think it is a sin?

Warning: explicit images are used in this article to illustrate the topic. My purpose is not to shock or provoke but to assure boys and even some men that masturbation is not something they need to be ashamed of.  All models in the images are assumed to be 18-years old or older.

Frank answers: I deal with any questions that are of interest to me and to others and for which I feel qualified to give an answer based on my knowledge or experience. Questions sent to me via the blog platform are anonymous, so I don’t know anything about you other than what you write. From what you wrote I know that you are a high school student and I assume you are male. You go to church and you’ve tried praying. So I assume that a relationship with God is important to you. I think you ask a question every religious adolescent wants the answer to, but is usually too embarrassed to ask. You also read my Frank Answer About Pornography and Chastity. So thanks for that and for your question.

You are not alone in asking this kind of question.  Here’s a topic for discussion proposed by a 14-year old boy that I found on an internet discussion site that shows you are not alone in your concern.

I find it hard to pray after masturbation…I am not sure if you are having a similar problem….I really want to be praying to God but its hard knowing that I masturbate… It’s even harder knowing that I will do it again after praying so it does not help my spirit. I need to know how you deal with this situation and if possible to prove that masturbation is not a sin.”

So…for you and all the other guys out there who want to pray but can’t stop masturbating, I’ll try my best to answer this question—as a pastor and theologian. In doing so, I’m going to go out on a limb—not so much in answering whether masturbation is a sin (although I might be going out on a limb on that too!) as in giving you a different way to pray.

For some boys the first experience of ejaculation of semen comes as wet dreams. Others discover that rubbing the penis enlarges it (because more blood flows into it) and this may result in orgasm and ejaculation of semen (cum). Ejaculation is deeply mysterious, but very pleasureable.

boy ejaculates semen

Some boys learn about “jerking off” from their friends. An older friend might teach a younger friend about masturbating by showing him how to do it.  In some cases younger brothers learn about masturbation from an older brother, especially if they share a room. Boys might even want to touch another boy’s penis to see how it compares with touching their own. They may even want to try masturbating each other (mutual masturbation). This kind of sexual exploration does not imply that you are gay. Older boys or young men have “initiated” younger boys into sex in all societies from time immemorial.

older boy teaches younger boy

You’ve already indicated that watch pornography. So do most teenage boys, and probably a lot of teenage girls too. Porn pops up almost every time you google something. You not only open to porn sites on your computer but also on your iphone. You can see pictures of boys and men masturbating and having sex in a variety of ways. These images fill your mind with fantasies and arouse your sexual juices. Soon you are masturbating while watching whatever turns your fancy on the screen. (And I hope you’re able to deal with what you see on the screen, since pornography is really for adult fantasies).

Boy looking at porn on his laptop and stroking his penis.

Looking at porn is not an invention of the internet. Pornographic displays are carved into stone in ancient Indian Temples and etched onto ancient Greek vases. When I was a boy we had Playboy magazine and other magazines with nude women in them. Boys were aroused by the photos and masturbated while looking at them. Looking at porn is nothing to be ashamed of, although you don’t want to be caught by your parents watching porn and wanking your dick.

Boy looking at a porn magazine

I realize that women also masturbate, even while looking at porn. But I have no experience of it. So this article is written from a male perspective. However, my comments about fantasizing while masturbating and the prayer suggestion at the end of article post could apply to a girl as well as a boy.

I’m also assuming that the questioner is a youth, so I am addressing youth here, not older adults who masturbate. (Older adults who find this blog article might recommend it to youth.) I hope to address the concerns of youth who masturbate but are ashamed of it for whatever reason.

From the Philippine film, Antonio’s Secret. You can tell what Antonio is doing.

Lack of Knowledge

Let me also assure you that I had the same spiritual problem  with masturbatiuon when I was an adolescent that you state. If you learned in health class that masturbation is a healthy sexual release, that’s more and better information than I received back in the 1950s. We had no sex education class in high school. Even the medical books back then had information that has now been thoroughly discredited. They said that masturbation could produce nearsightedness, pimples, and obsessive-compulsive behavior, among other things. (I know because I looked up “masturbation” in a medical book my mother had.) There had been a war against masturbation passed off as science during the late 19th/early 20th century and not until 1972 did the American Medical Association declare that “Masturbation is a normal part of adolescent sexual development and requires no medical management.” It still took time for this pronouncement to register in our society and for people to change their attitudes. Many people still haven’t changed their attitudes toward solo sex.

The problem, therefore, is that mixed messages are still being sent, causing confusion and uncertainty. I didn’t hear anything about masturbation in my Church when I was a youth, but an encyclopedia I looked at in the public library told me that the Catholic Church considered masturbation a sin because it is “objectively disordered sex.” The Church has taught that sex is for procreation, not self-gratification or pleasure. In fact, masturbation was called “self-abuse.” I wasn’t a Catholic, but I thought this probably also applied to me. So I felt doomed in this world and the next but kept all this terror to myself. (We don’t like to discuss sex with our parents, do we? And actually, a lot of parents aren’t informed about new understandings of masturbation. )

Boy distraught over his “sin”

Like other young adolescents, maybe you made a solemn vow not to do it any more. But you do it anyway. Biology works against your resolve. Maybe you wake up with a woodie (stiff penis). The cause of nocturnal and morning erections is still being studied, but it happens to all males who don’t have erectile dysfunction and is actually healthy for the penis. (Science thinks it’s related to the last part of the sleep cycle known as Rapid Eye Movement [REM] which occurs as blood begins circulating more strongly, including into the genitals, and the brain responds by dreaming, including producing erotic dreams. This can occur during the night as well as when waking up.)


You wake up with a hard on and begin to stroke your engorged member. It feels good, so you start wanking more vigorously and soon you are shooting a geyser of the hot sticky stuff all over yourself.

Now you think that you are guilty of two sins. You broke your vow to God to stop masturbating and you also masturbated.  If you are a Catholic youth, do you confess this sin to your priest? I wonder how the confessor handles your confession.

The Practice of Confession

We didn’t practice individual confession in my church when I was growing up as a young Lutheran, although Martin Luther had provided a form for it in his Small Catechism that we had to memorize. Later on when I was a pastor I made private confession available, especially during Holy Week and at youth retreats. I had some boys who came to confession. Some confessed that they masturbated and they were obviously troubled by it. Confession isn’t the time to get into discussions that challenge the confession, so I pronounced God’s forgiveness and told them they could come and talk with me about it. Then I gave them a hug and told them that God loves them. (Lutherans don’t have confession in a booth but in an open space near the altar.)

Is Masturbation a Sin?

If we want to determine whether something is a sin we have to look in the Bible. A lot of people assume things are in the Bible that aren’t. If you look up the word “masturbation” in a Bible concordance (that’s an index of words used in the Bible that tells you which verses use that word) you won’t find any references because the Bible never mentions it. Not even once. The Bible has a lot to say about sex, but it never mentions masturbation.

So why has it been taught that masturbation is a sin?  Because in the Bible semen was considered a life source (along with blood) and therefore one had to be careful about spilling it. Semen is called “seed.” Spilling one’s seed was considered a violation of semen’s purpose, which is making babies when joined to a woman’s egg. But the one reference to spilling one’s seed is the story of Onan in Genesis 38. He was supposed to provide children for his dead brother by inseminating his dead brother’s wife Tamar. That was the rule. It was called Levirate marriage. The purpose was to continue his dead brother’s lineage by producing blood offspring for him. But Onan spilled his seed onto the ground rather than inseminating his sister-in-law. This was probably coitus interruptus. He pulled his penis out of her vagina just before ejaculation. Perhaps he didn’t want his brother’s offspring dipping into the family inheritance. For this he was stoned to death. But this story can hardly be a blanket condemnation of masturbation. Nevertheless, religious thinkers have concluded from this story that semen should not be discharged except for purposes of procreation within marriage. Sometimes masturbation has been called “Onanism.”

The problem with this is that biology works against this view. The body produces a lot of semen and sometimes needs release. In fact, seed gets spilled in nocturnal ejaculations (the wet dreams that boys have as they attain puberty). If you don’t discharge your semen through ejaculation, it will discharge involuntarily during your sleep (usually accompanied by an erotic dream).


You may continue to have wet dreams even after you start masturbating because your hormones are kicking in during puberty and that is producing a lot of semen. As new semen fills the tank, as it were, the old, undischarged semen must either be absorbed by the body or emitted through the penis by ejaculation. You could be laying on your stomach and in your sleep your penis has one of its regular erections during sleep. As it enlarges and rubs against the mattress or blankets or your pajamas it’s getting aroused and just erupts, leaking or squirting out that cum. It could awaken you, but more likely you won’t notice it until morning. If you masturbate and ejaculate before going to sleep that will probably take care of the “problem” of a wet dream, as well as relax you for slumber.

In the Old Testament the spilling of semen, along with the hemorrhaging of blood during the menstrual cycles of girls, made one ritually impure (Leviticus 15). But this was not sin in the moral sense. In Leviticus there are moral sins and ritual sins. Sins like discharging semen or menstrual blood made one ritually unclean, and until one was cleansed one couldn’t go into the tabernacle or temple to offer the appointed sacrifices. The way to deal with this ritual impurity was to take a bath — to clean oneself up — and to clean the stained bedding, with appropriate prayers.

But the Church early on decided that the ritual law was not applicable to Christians because many of the rituals related to the sacrificial cult and the sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ’s once-for-all atoning sacrifice on the cross. While Christians believed that the moral law based on the Ten Commandments was still applicable to Christians, the ritual law was no longer applicable. That included the purity laws, like dealing with spilled menstrual blood and semen.

So for Christians masturbation is not a sin in the ritual or religious sense—although it’s still a good idea to clean yourself up after an ejaculation, isn’t it? A shower can also be spiritually refreshing. You might remember that in Baptism God claimed you as his own child.  God’s promises are reliable. You are God’s child and a brother of Christ just as you are your parents’ child, and nothing can alter that fact.

Fantasy and Lust

Is there anything that might make masturbating a sinful act in the moral sense? Well, Jesus said about the commandment forbidding adultery, “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 has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28 NRSV). Lust is not what God had in mind when he created man and woman. It demeans the person we are lusting after even if it is only in our minds. Lust comes from the heart, from our inner desires, and it can consume us if we desire to own or possess another person sexuality for the purpose of gratifying our own desires. The problem is that we often masturbate because our minds are fantasizing about sex with some girl (or some boy). Or we begin to fantasize as we masturbate. So the real sin is not the masturbating, but the lust that goes with it—the desire to use someone sexually for our own gratification.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Antonios-Secret-desire-for-uncle.jpg

Scenes from the Philippine film Antonio’s Secret. Antonio is fantasizing about his young uncle with whom he shares a bed and begins to masturbate while holding his uncle’s briefs on his face. The film ends tragically.

masturbation scene antonio's secret

But is all sexual fantasizing only lustful desire for a particular person? In my experience, I would say that it isn’t. In fact, just about everything in our minds about the past and the future is fantasy; only the present is reality. Fantasies about the past and the future, as well as the fantasies of our wild dreams and imaginations, can fuel our sexual desires.

But what if no lustful fantasies about another actual person are included in masturbation? Is the act then sinful? While masturbation without having lustful fantasies is hard to imagine, there’s nothing in Scripture by which we can say that it is sinful in and of itself. In fact, if it is done merely as a hedge against the temptation to have sex with someone you shouldn’t be having sex with, and because the body requires sexual release, it could even be considered a healthy alternative to sexual intercourse.

So when it comes to sex our bodies do not cause us much trouble. It’s our minds that get messed up, and unfortunately religion and culture have often contributed to this. Because of religious and cultural views, often passed on in families, kids grow up ashamed of their bodies and what they do with them.  For example, parents might say to their young children, “Stop playing with yourself,” without providing any sex education or making distinctions between what one does in private and what one does in public. So the child grows up thinking that fondling one’s genitals is bad behavior. Because they continue to do it, this can induce a sense of shame that can linger for a lifetime even if intellectually you come to know better.

Intellectually you know that orgasm is a biological way of giving your body sexual release. From a sexual health point of view, masturbation is one of the safest sexual behaviors. As an adolescent your hormones are raging, you need release, so you stroke yourself, ejaculate, and get relief.

Control of the Body

In and of itself, I don’t think masturbation is a sin, although the Catholic Church thinks otherwise (based on natural law, not on the Bible). I do think there’s something to be said for practicing self-control in all areas of life, including sex. It’s a good spiritual discipline to control one’s body through diet and exercise and sexual abstinence. You know that ejaculation results in loss of energy. You can feel your body relax after ejaculation. So wanking in the morning before you go to school—or, if you’re an athlete, before a big game—might not be the best time to do it because ejaculation relaxes the body and lowers blood pressure. You can master sexual self-control, even of masturbation.

The boy in the above image is intent on getting the energy out of his body.  After he ejaculates he will feel depleted. But instead of jacking off whenever the urge strikes, hold off until a time when you can take your time and prolong the experience. You can get naked and self-pleasure by rubbing your body all over and not just your penis. You might try getting into  other positions than just laying on the bed or sitting in a chair. You can slowly built up to a really big organism, hold back when it seems like you’re ready to cum, and then finally ejaculate in a way that causes your body to tremble all over. By self-pleasuring you are putting energy into your body rather than just depleting it. (If you were having sex with someone the two of you would be giving and receiving energy from each other.) By focusing on self-pleasure you’re also into the present rather than the past or future. In other words, fantasizing is replaced by the sensations of our present.

At the moment of organism you actually experience a mystical bliss in which you are totally present to your bodily sensation. This suggests that religion and sex, prayer and masturbation are not mutually exclusive. In prayer you are totally present to God. In orgasm you are totally present to your body.

A Different Way of Praying

You probably won’t stop masturbating and you shouldn’t put God to the test by asking for God’s help to control a natural biological urge that you will likely give in to anyway. So I suggest a different way of praying. (You brought up the subject of prayer). Instead of feeling “dirty” or sinful because you have masturbated in the sight of God, let your release be an occasion for praise, prayer, and meditation. If it’s a powerful release you may be saying “Oh, God!” anyway. Now let’s mean it.

In the process of masturbating you don’t want to only feed your lustful fantasies; you should also feed your holiness as a child of God. So in the moment of ecstasy as you achieve orgasm, praise God for the vitality of your body. As your body subsides after ejaculation, don’t feel guilty for what you have done; feel grateful for the wonderful but mysterious gift of your sexuality.

But you may also need to cleanse your mind of lustful fantasies that entered it while masturbating. I suggest a prayer that uses your body—an embodied prayer. Stand up next to your bed just as you are—naked,  just as Adam and Eve stood naked and unashamed before God before their disobedient act of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they were told not to eat. (It gave them knowledge they weren’t prepared to handle). So here’s the prayer form. It makes use of the Psalms which Christians have prayed since the time of Jesus. The psalms are wonderful because they deal with many human situations and attitudes.

An Embodied Prayer Form

Extend your arms upward with  your chest open (your heart turned to God) and offer praise to the God who knows you as you are because he has created you and redeems you through his Son Jesus Christ. Begin with Psalm 103:1, “Bless the  Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” Bless God with all the vitality of life within you.

Then, still standing  with arms extended outward, palms facing up, from Psalm 136:1 say, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.” Thank God for your life, your body, your health, your family and friends, the wonders of God’s creation.

If you had lustful fantasies while masturbating, or if your fantasies were lurid enough to be disturbing, kneel down and pray this verse from Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

naked man praying

Then, kneeling, pray for whatever is on your heart and conclude with the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father).

Let me anticipate some questions you might have about this form of prayer. “Why would I do this?” you might ask. Because you’ve used your body for your pleasure; now use it also for God’s glory. St. Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? You were bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NRSV). This verse says that how you use your body, which is a divine sanctuary, is of interest to the God who resides in it. The most holy way to use your body is in prayer and worship.

Why have such a formal prayer? Because our relationship with God is not casual; formality is required in St. Paul’s image of the slave serving the master (“you are not your own; you were bought with a price”).

But why pray naked? Because in our culture nudity has come to be associated primarily with sex. You are probably often fully or partially naked when masturbating. There is no shame in nakedness. In fact, it’s clothing that signifies shame. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves because they were ashamed. Then, after they were expelled from the paradise garden, God made clothing of animal skins for them.

Without clothes we feel vulnerable because we cannot hide from God, like Adam and Eve tried to do when they disobeyed him. Without the protection of clothing we cannot cover our doubts or our fears or our shame.  But without covering we also stand more open to God even with our doubts and fears and shame exposed. Try praying naked and let this be a positive opportunity for spiritual growth. Praying naked reminds us that no creature is hidden from God. “…all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account” (Hebrews 4:12-16; NRSV).

You may not offer this prayer every time you masturbate and ejaculate. But I think doing it at least a few times will give you a more satisfying experience of release and a less guilt-ridden relationship with the God who has created you with all your sexuality, shows his love for you in forgiving you when you have really messed up, and keeps you in his grace all the days of your life.

Pastor Frank Senn


  1. Comment by post author

    This comment came via email from a college student.

    “I’m not sure what I am writing about, but have enjoyed your posts about porn, and masturbation. It’s strange. I found myself getting hard when reading your post about masturbation as you used language such as “stroking yourself” or “clean yourself up” — hell, I’m about to go jerk off right now! I suppose one reason for writing is just clearing up what you wrote–this is what I seemed to have gotten from it: masturbation feels good and is a good release, but praying afterward brings you back to reality and out of the fantasy world. Correct? I am in a relationship (with a man) and we are happily monogamous. That being said, fantasies seem just to me, and whatever I think of that gets me to my climax seems like a fair thing. Being Catholic, and knowing the things that have happened in the Catholic church, I struggle to think that priests do not masturbate. I mean, we all wake up with a hard cock, don’t we? Anyway, that’s beyond the point. I enjoy your blog for a few reasons, but regarding masturbation enjoy your openness about the issue…

    • Frank Senn

      I wrote back:

      “Dear N., Thanks for your comments. I’m happy that you found my blog and follow it sometimes. To take your comments in reverse order: I can’t respond about Catholic priests. I wouldn’t presume to know what others do (but, yes, they probably do). About fantasizing: I read in an article in Psychology Today that sexual fantasizing is the most common human sexual experience. Certainly fantasy plays no small part in masturbation. Until recently, sexual fantasy was considered mentally unhealthy just like masturbation was considered physically unhealthy. Now it seems that fantasy is considered a normal component of a healthy sex life. By saying that it is “just” perhaps you are rejecting the idea that you should feel guilty about it.

      “You got from my article that prayer brings you back to reality from fantasizing. I didn’t think of that, but it’s a good way to look at it. The next time you masturbate, I encourage you to experiment with the embodied prayer. If you try it and care to share, I’d be happy to hear about your experience with the prayer.”

      He responded by email:

      “I’ve never been so open with someone I don’t know, particularly a 72 year old pastor! That being said, for whatever reason it’s allowing me to say things I normally wouldn’t and I’m appreciative of your interest in my ideas/problems — and also enjoy what you have to say. I mean, I never thought I’d get an email from a 72 year old man to tell me to let him know how I feel after cumming and saying a prayer 🙂

      “I have not yet had the opportunity to masturbate yet today. I know I will be doing so pretty soon this evening. I will be in touch later about how exiting the fantasy world and returning to reality via prayer works for me.”

      He wrote back:

      “I centered myself in prayer after relieving myself and feel better. It felt nice doing the body postures and prayer immediately after cumming. I think I will continue doing it!”

  2. Ken Ely

    Not many comments have been added to this forum. Perhaps it’s because it is a scary subject to talk about for some men and boys.

    What I’m adding here is not so much spiritual or emotional in perspective as it is clinical. It’s a snippet from YOU: The Owner’s Manual, by Mehmet C. Oz, MD

    “While some previous studies have made researchers believe that frequent ejaculation could increase your risk for prostate cancer, one major study of thirty thousand men who ejaculated between thirteen and twenty times a month decreased their risk of cancer by 14 percent – and men who ejaculated more than twenty-one times a month decreased it by 43 percent. In addition, many sex therapists believe that masturbation can improve your health – by relieving stress, for instance.”

    On a personal note, I am 69 years old and married. My wife and I do not have sex as often as we once did, for multiple reasons. I have found that ‘use it or lose it’ is, indeed, a fact where my sex life is concerned. If I do not masturbate for long periods, my libido decreases and my erectile capacity declines. Occasional self-pleasuring keeps me fit for the main events, just like any other form of exercise or practice.
    “Try it; you’ll like it!”

    • Comment by post author

      Thank you for this, Ken. I wrote this article in answer to a question from a young guy, and hoped other young guys would find it, read it, and perhaps send a comment. (One obviously did.) But the guilt of masturbation can also be an issue for older guys who grew up formed by the views I described from the unenlightened time of our youth. It can also be an issue for married guys who assumed that once they were married, they should give up self-pleasuring. (I think some wives might also have this assumption.) But I have to admit that at some times in my married life (like during pregnancies, illnesses) mutual masturbation was also a form of expressing sexual intimacy and love. And there’s no reason older folks couldn’t also pray like I suggested. Thanks for enlightening and encouraging us.

  3. Comment by post author

    There haven’t been a lot of page users on this topic lately, Ken. Maybe you should send a link to some guys and see what they think. Would anyone you know use the prayer form? What do you think about group or mutual masturbation?

  4. Ken Ely

    Mutual masturbation between spouses is certainly permissible and is part of godly sexual activity.
    (I believe solo masturbation is part of godly sexual activity, as well. It is a gift to be used joyfully and with gratitude. And I like the prayerful approach you have offered above.)
    Because masturbation is a sexual activity, mutual masturbation between two people not married can be argued as sexual activity outside marriage. Group masturbation can certainly be argued as sexual activity outside marriage.
    God’s plan for Man is for our sexual intercourse to be a communion between two people, a spiritual and physical communion – a becoming one flesh and one spirit. It is meant to reflect the communion that exists between the Three Persons of the Trinity. I believe that the third person in our fleshly sexual unions must be God for this reflection to be present and His intention to be fulfilled.
    It’s my opinion that sex in any manner that falls short of God’s intention for us cannot be as good, as gratifying, as fun, and as unifying as sex the way He intended it for us. Sex is a gift from God. Sexual intercourse is a gift we give to our partner, not something we take from our partner or use our partner for, for our pleasure. It is in the mutual giving that we mutually receive and in that reception we are in communion, fleshly and spiritually, with our partner and with God. Thus, I think sexual activity belongs solely to marriage and that this is God’s plan for our highest good and His greatest Glory.
    Please note that while I am offering a perspective on sexual activity and spiritual conformation here, I am not offering a definition of marriage. I have one but it is not the topic here.

  5. Ken Ely

    My use of the term ‘partner’ was to avoid any definition of marriage; I embrace both same-sex and opposite-sex partners in the ‘partner’ category.
    Let me follow up on your comment about boys masturbating with friends. And I am going to write this from a purely heterosexual male perspective about heterosexual males; females, I have no doubt, experience the same transitions and engage in the same activities at the same age but, as you say, Frank, “I have no experience of that.”
    Adolescence is a time when boys form and explore the dynamics of strong peer group relationships. It is also a time when their body chemistry, morphology, and brain developments are undergoing rapid changes. They begin at this time to explore themselves in group contexts and, individually, sexually; and part of that exploration is masturbation. It is very natural for them to carry their sexual discoveries into their peer group explorations, to talk, compare notes, to see what is accepted and what is not and this often leads to masturbating together. In my opinion, it is normal and healthy – for early adolescents. If the activity continues with any frequency beyond the middle-to-late teens, it indicates to me a ‘hitch’ in self/social/emotional development. It’s like shitting your pants: for a 2-year-old, it’s expected; for an 18-year-old it’s a solecism.
    Sadly, being a ‘poly-random’ culture, we have no religious or social context or traditions to guide our boys through this developmental period as many ‘tribal’ cultures have. And I cannot speak to individuals who are homosexual in their orientation – well, I could; but it is too wide a field to gallop over in this thread.

  6. Anonymous

    Dear Frank

    The subject of youth masturbation is a challenging one but also a very important one. I enjoyed reading this and I agree with your views. If I may I’d like to add my perspective and please forgive me if I’m a bit long winded.

    When I was 13 my friend, who was also 13, showed me how to masturbate. It was a revelation. I couldn’t believe that my dick was just there waiting to give me pleasure any time I liked. “Nat” and I would “jack off” together. It was more fun with a friend. We’d explore our bodies and take turns jacking each other off. We were both straight with rough and tumble boyish interests: sports, camping, fishing, biking, building model planes. There was nothing sissified or girlish about us. So it might come as a surprise to you that before long Nat and I became intimate. At 13 neither one of us was quite ready for a serious girlfriend and all that entailed. We were Catholic boys so we knew the Church didn’t approve of such relationships, but we also knew that it did us no harm, or so we believed. It didn’t seem like a perversion or in any way nasty or disgusting. We were best friends and so it only seemed natural that we’d couple our bodies into one. The pieces all fit together like it was meant to be. As boys we both knew how to make the other feel good. Girls were a mystery.

    But we were just kids and there were so many things we didn’t understand. One evening when Nat was at my house for a sleep over we stayed up late and watched a TV show called “Love American Style.” I think the episode that night was called “Love and The End of The Line.” It was a comedy about a good looking liberal young man who was so concerned about overpopulation that he decided to have something called a vasectomy. This was confusing. Nat and I had never heard that word before but from the story we surmised it was some sort of surgery. A woman friend said to the young man, “I hear you’re not going to be a man much longer.” In our childish naivety we concluded that the young man was going to have his stuff cut off just like the eunuchs in China’s Forbidden City! Nat and I were horrified, enthralled and extremely turned on. We squirmed around in discomfort as we both had painfully hard erections. After the show ended we immediately pulled off our pajamas and came together grateful that we didn’t have vasectomies.

    However a few weeks later Nat’s mom found out about us in the worst possible way. We were careless and she happened to walk in on us. You can imagine what that was like! She immediately took us to an emergency meeting with our priest, Father Armstrong. Nat’s mom wasn’t in the room for the talk. It was just us three guys. Father Armstrong listened patiently as Nat and I poured out our hearts. At times he’d interrupt to ask for greater detail but, by and large, he was silent and so unruffled, so unperturbed that I was hopeful he’d let us off with a reprimand. He seemed to be very understanding like he’d heard it all before from other boys. Maybe he’d take our side and tell our moms to forget it ever happened. We were just being kids and messing around so it wasn’t anything to blow a gasket over.

    Boy was I ever wrong! Once Father Armstrong had all the facts he came down on us hard. I don’t want to go into detail but I remember the words “sick little faggots.” Nat and I covered our faces in shame and started sobbing. Father took pity and softened his tone a bit. He explained that at age 13 we were simply confused. But he added that if this behavior continued past age 14 professional treatment would be required. He was referring to counseling but Nat and I didn’t know that. We remembered what we’d seen on TV and we remembered Jesus’ words from Matthew 19:12.

    “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

    We thought we were at risk of having our stuff cut off and so we cried even harder. At this point Father took our confessions. He said since we were truly remorseful no act of Act of Contrition was required. We were forgiven and the matter resolved. Father said that if either one of us continued to struggle with unnatural urges we could come talk with him in private at anytime, but other than that he would never speak of this matter again. He hugged us and told us he loved us. We hugged him back and told him we loved him too.

    I hoped that would be the end of it but it wasn’t. Before bedtime my dad pulled my pants down all the way to my ankles and gave me a spanking. It was the first bare bottom spanking I’d received since I was about eight and it really hurt. But the psychological impact was the worst part. Six weeks earlier I’d never have believed it in a million years if someone had told me that one day I’d be spanked for having gay sex. I’m not proud of any of this but in a strange sort of way I have no regrets. Having sinned I have a greater appreciation for the Sacrament of Confession and the absolution of sins granted to the penitent. I can’t express my gratitude enough for the inward grace that is the reconciliation to God. As painful as this was it has made me a more understanding and forgiving person. It’s deepened my faith and has enhanced my love for the Church. Thank you for reading.

  7. Jeff

    Concerning mutual masturbation, it’s best when the two boys are as close in age and development as possible. However, from personal experience, it’s often an older boy instructing his younger less experienced friend. I’ve been both; the younger boy in need of guidance and, a year or so later, I was the older more knowledgeable boy.

    A few days after turning 13 I was playing in a railroad switching yard (boys did that back then) with my friend Robbie. Robbie was 14 and he mentioned off hand that he’d noticed I’d started growing pubic hair just a few weeks earlier. I wasn’t surprised that he knew. People had seen me at the pool so it wasn’t like puberty was a secret for any of us swimmers. The man who ran the corner hardware probably knew.

    It was then that Robbie told me about jacking off and how good it felt. Up to that point I had only the vaguest ideas about this activity having heard some of the older boys snickering about it in the locker room. This was the first time anyone ever told me what it was and how it was done. I was dumbfound.

    “You’d be able to do it if you wanted,” Robbie said with a wicked grin.

    “I think I’m still too young,” I replied intrigued but skeptical. Making stuff come out of your dick by rubbing it like Aladdin’s lamp sounded so outlandish.

    “You have hair,” Robbie reasoned, “Ken has no hair at all. He’s like a little kid and he can do it so why not you?”

    “Ken told you this?” I asked in amazement wondering how wide spread jacking off was.

    “He didn’t have to tell me Jeff. I saw it for myself,” Robbie said that sort of thing happens everyday.

    “You and Ken did it together? In front of each other?” I asked. This was too much.

    “Sure we did. Lot’s of boys are doing it like that. Almost everyone.” Robbie replied and added, “Jeff my folks are out. What do you think? We could go to my place and I’ll show you how. We’ve seen each other naked at the pool all the time so what’s the big deal?”

    How could I argue with such impeccable logic. We went to his house and Robbie wasted no time getting naked. I was flabbergasted. I’d seen him naked many times but I’d never seen him erect. Robbie was about 5 foot 4 with a slender boy’s body and a little boy’s face that was so sweet and innocent he could’ve advertised peanut butter. In stark contrast to his pure and harmless appearance was his erection. It was huge! The flared out head of his circumcised penis was red and swollen and extended about half an inch beyond his bellybutton. That’s right, it reached all the way to his bellybutton and it twitched about with each heartbeat.

    I pried my eyes away from it just long enough to glance around Robbie’s bedroom. It was a young boy’s room and reflected a young boy’s interests. Movie monster posters, Donald Duck comic books, a toy chest that was decorated to resemble a pirate treasure chest. How could the little kid to lived here have such impressive balls and a six inch dick? This was how Lois Lane would feel if she discovered that milquetoast Clark Kent was actually mighty Superman.

    Getting naked I felt like I was engaged in some sort illicit activity and I was. This is a very difficult point to explain to anyone who’s never participated in naked athletics. If you weren’t there you just don’t get it, but there are different types of nudity. Context is everything.

    Nakedness at the swimming pool was sanctioned by the YMCA and conducted under strict adult supervision. It was nudity for the sake of good health, sportsmanship and self-confidence. Parents, grandparents and religious leaders were present and approving. All this made athletic nudity acceptable and even desirable. Even if girls were present, it wasn’t considered indecent. But getting naked at a friend’s house, without parents around, intending to jack off was so very wrong. It was wrong but I went ahead and did it anyway.

    I felt sort of apologetic as I lowered my pants. Hair or no hair how could my little thing possibly compete with that monster Robbie was packing. It was like putting a kitten besides as lion. We laid down on the bed side by side and Robbie showed me how to rub it. I imitated his actions as best I could but I stopped after 10 or 15 seconds. It didn’t seem to be working. Somehow it just didn’t feel quite right. Although I was technically a teenager I was still a young boy and I wasn’t ready for any of this.

    Seeing that I had been unsuccessful Robbie took up the task and went about jacking me off. I liked the feel of Robbie’s hand on my penis but it was no good. Aside from my doctor no one had ever touched me there before and I was embarrassed by having another boy handle me. Robbie picked up on my inhibition and, gentleman that he was, he withdrew his hand and turned his attention to his own penis. I watched Robbie pleasure himself. captivated by the way his big balls bounced up and down with each stroke of his hand. As I watched I had the desire to cradle those balls in my hand and touch his penis. I wondered if that would make him happy.

    Seeing him shoot was amazing. It was like watching Old Faithful erupt. But it wasn’t just his penis, it was everything. Robbie’s whole body reacted. A tremor that seemed to begin in his dick ran through him. His tummy arched up, his mouth came open like a fish out of water, his eyes lost focus and the expression on his face was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. You’d have thought he was possessed by a demon. It was clear that something really profound had happened to him. It took him 30 seconds or so to come back to his senses and when he did come back he was out of breath and panting.

    I don’t mind saying it scared me. I didn’t want to go through whatever it was that had just happened to my friend.

    The next day I found a sex education book in the school library. This was 1953 and the section on “Self Abuse” really put the fear of God in me. I thought I was going to go blind, or insane, or both and I was just as terrified for Robbie as I was for myself. I was afraid that people were looking at me funny like they somehow knew what I had done. I was afraid they knew I was a dirty boy.

    I was too frightened to go to my mom and dad. I thought that if they knew they’d stop loving me. How could they love me after the things that I’d done? So I did what any good Catholic boy would do. I went to confession. Father Johnson couldn’t have been nicer or more understanding. He was fantastic, just amazing. After confession he sat with me and we talked some more. I told him all about it, Robbie and me. I told him everything, even the part about how I wanted to
    touch Robbie’s dick. Father Johnson was able to answer my questions in a way that I could understand and put my mind at ease.

    It was funny really, I was all of 13 and Father must have been around 65 or 70 and yet I felt there was nothing I couldn’t tell him. He explained that sometimes boys my age found themselves in situations that they were not quite ready for and that’s what happened to me. It was nothing to worry myself over. I wasn’t going to go blind or crazy. No one would be able to tell that I’d been with another boy just by looking at me.

    And do you know what, I loved Father Johnson. I really did. He was the best. My life went back to normal. I didn’t think much about it so I guess I wasn’t traumatized for life. Robbie and I were still friends but he didn’t bring it up again and neither did I. It was just one of those things.

    Fast forward one year. As was my custom after returning from a swim meet I was in my room naked and carefully examining my erection. I was pleased to see it had grown considerably over the last twelve months. It wasn’t yet man sized but it was well on its way. I felt that it suited me. Not too small and yet not too big, it was a good fit for my body. We made a great team.

    Without even thinking about what I was doing I began to stroke it just as Robbie had shown me. It felt good. More than good, it felt exquisite and so I kept it up, no pun intended. I kept rubbing. I hadn’t intended to jack off but soon there was a silent explosion inside me and I felt better than I’d ever felt before. I felt transformed. I opened my eyes to see the white stuff bursting forth from my penis and I knew I wasn’t a little boy any longer.

  8. Jeff


    Thank you for providing this forum. There’s more I’d like to say on the subject of masturbation and faith. I’d like to write about something that happened when I was 14. Although Craig was a year and a half younger and we attended different school we shared a passion for photography and were very close friends. His parents were well to do and from time to time they enjoyed going on weekend getaways sans children. At such times the kids were farmed out to neighbors and Craig would stay at my house. It was on one such occasion that the following adventure took place.

    It was Saturday night and being an extremely modest boy Craig hid behind my bed to change into his pajamas. When he emerged he glanced at my swim trophies and asked for what must have been the tenth time, “Jeff, you weren’t really naked when you won those, were you?”

    “Sure I was,” I replied. “Boys swim naked at the Y.”

    This was something that Craig couldn’t wrap his mind around. Naked swimming may have been common in the early 1950’s but it wasn’t universal. Not every boy did it and the very idea scandalized Craig. The way he reacted you’d have thought swimming naked was on par with public fornication and worshiping pagan gods. Craig was funny that way, but he got even funnier if that was possible.

    “You’re not circumcised, are you Jeff?” Craig said pensively as he sat on my bed.

    “Why do you ask that?” I wanted to know.

    “We learned it in school. My Bar Mitzvah is just six months away and then I’ll be a man. As a man there’re certain things I’ll need to know. One of those things is that Jewish boys are circumcised and Catholic boys aren’t. You’re a Catholic boy so it follows that you’re not circumcised.”

    “Steven’s three year old brother Nicky is Catholic and we saw him playing naked in his kiddie pool just this afternoon. Was he circumcised or wasn’t he?” The question was rhetorical. Nicky was circumcised.

    “I don’t know,” Craig said.

    “You don’t know?” I said. “Don’t you even know what an uncircumcised dick looks like?” I asked in exasperation. I guess that was a bit unkind.

    “How could I?” Craig said. “It’s not like they showed us pictures.”

    “You don’t have to look at pictures,” I said.

    “This may come as a surprise to you, Jeff, but at my school we keep our clothes on. We don’t go running around naked with our privates flapping all over the place like godless communists. Even wild Indians have the good sense to wear loincloths.”

    “Okay, you asked for it,” I said as I removed my pants and lifted up my penis to give my younger friend a good look. Pointing to the head I said, “This part is called the head and it’s uncovered because I’m circumcised. If it was uncircumcised it’d be covered up with a tube-like nozzle of lose skin. Circumcision is when they cut off that skin to expose the head. You were circumcised for religious reasons. I was circumcised to make it easier to keep clean.” It was sort of in-your-face, but I had just turned 14 and I wanted to show off how big my dick had grown over the last year.

    Craig studied me with great interest. “Now I understand,” he said at last. “You’re very brave to show me.”

    “If I can’t trust you who can I trust?” I asked.

    “I should trust you too,” Craig said, and with that he screwed up his courage and took off his pajamas. The two of us sat on my bed completely naked, cross legged and facing each other. Soon we were both erect. Craig was as amazed as I had been a year earlier when I had seen how enormous Robbie’s erection was. “Do you ever get hard at school?” he asked. “How do you hide it?”

    “I hold a book in front to cover the bulge when I need to,” I said. “Your thing isn’t any bigger than Nicky’s and he’s a baby.” I wasn’t trying to be mean, it was only an observation.

    Craig didn’t take offense. “What do you expect? A boy’s thing is baby-sized until he becomes a teenager. Then it grows fast.”

    Slowly I reached out to touch Craig’s erection. Craig instinctively pulled back and covered himself with one hand. But then he reconsidered. He took his hand away, spread his knees even wider and pushed his hips forward inviting me to touch it. I lightly ran my fingertips over his small hard shaft and he did the same to me.

    Straight boys don’t kiss. Instead they show their respect and affection by touching penises, just as Craig and I had done. It’s a way of acknowledging the other’s masculinity.

    “I have I secret I want to tell you,” I said.

    “I have a secret for you too,” Craig replied.

    “My secret is sexy,” I said.

    “So in mine,” Craig said. What could Craig know about sex? Maybe he did Jack LaLanne naked in front of the TV and considered that to be erotic.

    After a bit more talk and dancing around I decided to spill the beans and just say it. “For the past few weeks I’ve been rubbing my penis. When I do it long enough it feels great,” I said.

    “That was my secret to you,” Craig replied with a shy grin. You could’ve knocked me out with a feather. How could an innocent little kid such as Craig know about anything so perverse as jacking off, let alone do it? Who taught him?

    “When was the last time you did it?” I asked.

    “This morning,” Craig answered sheepishly. “What about you?”

    “This morning,” I said, and I realized we might have been doing it at the exact same time. As the conversation continued I was amazed to discover that although I’d been jacking for weeks Craig had been doing it for years.

    As if that wasn’t enough, Craig had more sophisticated techniques than I did. I’d simply start to jack off and keep going until I climaxed. Craig, on the other hand, would prolong the experience by using stop-and-go. He’d stop just before reaching the peak, come down a bit and then start up again. It was like he was playing cat and mouse with his penis. He’d also put shampoo on his dick to make it more fun. Craig said he’d do it while in the bathtub and when he’d get close he’d roll over. If his dick touched the side or bottom of the tub he’d climax. If not he’d start over again until he did.

    But in other ways Craig was completely in the dark, this in spite of the fact that his dad was a doctor.

    The older boys refer to it as ‘jacking it off,’” I explained.

    “Jacking it off?” Craig repeated the words slowly and carefully. “I didn’t know there was a name for it. Other kids do it too you say?”

    “Yeah,” I answered. “Lots of them, but you’re probably the youngest. Does anything come out when you do it?”

    “What do you mean?” Craig asked. “What would come out and from where?”

    “When I do it white stuff shoots out of my dick,” I said. “I have to be ready for it because it’s sticky and if I’m not careful it makes a real mess. I wouldn’t want my mom to find the evidence.”

    “If you don’t want to make a mess why don’t you just hold it in?” he asked.

    “You can’t just hold it in,” I explained. “It’s called semen. It’s the stuff
    a guy puts in a girl when he wants to make a baby.”

    It was like a light bulb went off over Craig’s head just like in the cartoons. For the first time he realized that there was a connection between jacking off and making babies. The good feeling that came with it was to encourage mating. But he was scared as well.

    “You don’t think it’s bad for us, do you?” he asked really concerned.

    “Father Johnson say he’s never known anyone who went blind or crazy from it. If you don’t do it more than once a week you’ll be fine.”

    “You’ve talked with your priest about it?” Craig was flabbergasted.

    “It’s called confession,” I said. “Craig, I learned how to do it from a boy named Robbie. Robbie was a bit older. Who taught you?”

    Craig got really uncomfortable when I asked him that. He said, “When I was around seven or eight my mom went to visit one of her friends and she took me along. The friend had a son who was in high school at the time. He took me into his room and did it to me. It felt good, but the first time he did it it left the skin on my penis red and irritated and so it hurt for the next few days. After that I didn’t think about it for a few years but when I was ten I remembered and I started doing it to myself. I guess the high school boy must’ve been doing research for a school science project.”

    “He did it more than once?” I asked. But I had gone too far. Craig was ashamed of himself because he had enjoyed being jacked off by the older boy. He never spoke of it again.

  9. Ken Ely

    Anonymous and Jeff,
    I’m glad you fellows shared these experiences. I think they are common to most boys and, from what I have found in my readings, they are experiences that span time and cross cultural boundaries.
    It’s too bad that your sexual explorations were seen in any negative light, by others and by yourselves. They were normal; they should have been entirely joyful.

  10. Ron K


    I see that this thread has been around for a while, but I hope I can add some of my thoughts. I stumbled on your blog just recently as I was browsing on the subject of masturbation. I have to tell you that it is with a lot of emotion that I read your comments on masturbation in a man’s life and how to deal with it in an emotional and spiritual way.

    I know your discussion was aimed at boys who were trying to deal with all the feelings and hormones racing through their bodies when they were young. I am a 60 year old man, and I have been struggling with my feelings about masturbation all my life. I remember like it was yesterday how I felt when I discovered how good it felt to explore my body, the confusion and guilt about whether is was right or not. Like the young man above, I made so many promises to God that I would stop. I would pray in church every Sunday for the strength to resist all the desires I had.

    I am the oldest son I my family. My father had the usual father-son talk with me when I was 13 or so. He brought up the subject of masturbation very briefly saying that it would probably happen, that all boys did it and that possibly some of my friends would ask me to do it with them. He said I should not join them because “good boys” didn’t do that. At the time I was embarrassed about the conversation, but the words stayed with me to the point that it became almost an obsession.

    Shortly after that I had a wet dream and started to explore masturbation alone in my bed at night. I was always so careful not to make a mess because I didn’t want my parents to know I was doing it. I high school, I heard other boys talking about “jacking off”. I grew up in a rural area, so some of the boys would go in the woods behind the school to do it at lunch break. I was asked one day to join them by one of my class mates that I was friendly with. I so longed to go, but I was to uptight and afraid.

    The desire to masturbate grew as I got older. I always did it alone and discretely. Even when sharing an apartment with room mates at university I continued to masturbate. I realized also that I was not that interested in girls sexually, so i was able to keep my sexual urges under control through masturbation. In the back of my mind though, I continued to carry the burden that what I was doing was not right and somehow dirty.

    With age, I came to accept that it was a fact of my life, and have grown more serene, so it came as such a surprise when I read your comments above about masturbation being a sign of the vitality of the body God created for us and that masturbation would be seen as celebration of that. To pray to give thanks to God after is so right and fitting. I also like very much what you say about focusing on our bodies rather than on lustful images. I wish so much that I could have read this when I was a teenager. It would have removed so much of the torture I felt growing up.

    To masturbate respectfully and to honor our bodies is so liberating.

  11. I find this subject VERY interesting! I am totally non religious, I gave up Catholicism at around 15 when I decided it would be hypocritical of me to go into the confessional, admit to my priest that I had been having ‘evil’ thoughts and even masturbating. I couldn’t square the fact I would do that, be ‘fined’ and punished by having to recite 10 Hail Mary’s etc, knowing that I had no intention of stopping! I enjoyed masturbating too much and, at 75, I still do!

    Of course, if I’d had the mindset then that I have now, I’m sure i would have enjoyed relating my tales of being taught to masturbate at age 12 by an older boy, on a Boy’s Brigade camp in Norfolk, UK.

    It would have been a pleasure to think that the priest was on the other side of the curtain, penis in hand, happily masturbating away as he ‘fines’ me for doing exactly that!

    Father McDowd was one that I knew quite well, but he also used to visit my mother from time to time…..

    It may be 63 years later but there’s no doubt that the BB experience, me being totally naked, being masturbated by a 14 year old and being watched by 6 other boys by torchlight has some bearing on what I am today…..

    Still happily masturbating as I write this! 😉

  12. John

    What an excellent and open discusion. I wish I could have had this information when I was younger. I committed myself to the Lord in my last year of high school and was convinced that masturbation was wrong, but was not capable of stopping. I suffered terribly from guilt for years, mastubating daily, and sometimes more, then beating myself up, berating what a bad Christian I am. Marriage helped, but still I would masturbate often and feel like I was betraying my wife. Now we are old and a few years ago my wife’s medical condition made her incapable of having sex. We had a frank discussion and she gave me permission to masturbate freely. Here I discovered a new freedom. The Bible says that my body is hers, so if she has given me permission I am free. It was only later that I discovered that the Bible never condemns masturbation. I couldn’t believe that I had spent all those years suffering. I was so grateful to God for this freedom and this incredible pleasure. I would masturbate as often as I could. I explored using Viagra and Cialis, I explored massaging my prostate until I would come and feel weak for hours. I tried vibrators and a homemade flesh light. I was so happy. At one point, I was in the shower and I felt God was urging me to thank him for the pleasure and to thank him specifically and in detail for how I was made. It took some time and effort, after a lifetime of feeling like my genitals were my enemy to thank God for my penis, for how it was shaped, for how it got large in an erection, for its size, and for my testes, my prostate, and soon I was going on to my whole body, my arms and legs, my chest, my head my brain and all my organs. I felt God close to me, smiling and approving. Then I started stroking myself, getting larger and feeling the pleasure. I thanked him over and over and began to sing praise songs as I got closer. My focus and concentration was on enjoying the presence and approval of God, the extreme pleasure coming from my penis was secondary. Finally I climaxed gently with the sperm flowing freely and openly from me. The sense of acceptance was profound. I did not feel I was masturbating with God or to him, but before him, that he was present, seeing me as he has always seen me. We are told to do everything to the glory of God, is this included? For many years I masturbated ignorantly thinking I was being disobedient to him. Now it seems that not only is it not disobedience, or that he simply allows it, but that he approves of it. One of the nice things about this session is that I had no sexual fantasy, I didn’t think of women or even sex at all. I was lost in worship.

    I believe that many would see this as disgusting or even pagan, but I can’t see it that way. What do you think?

    • Comment by post author

      John, I think what you wrote is amazing. We should thank and praise God for the gift of our sexuality. You might be interested in an answer I gave to a man who also received permission from his wife to masturbate, even with a buddy. That’s pushing the envelop a bit. But he had a hard time overcoming his guilt about masturbating when married, and then more so doing it with a buddy. See Frank Answers Briefly More About Male Body Issues.

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