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Masturbation - What The Bible Says


   The Bible story often used to support the “sinfulness” of masturbation is the story of Onan, told in Genesis 38.

   The way the story is often told and the actual story in the Bible have nothing in common.  The story is about an ancient law of inheritance.  It has nothing to do with masturbation.

   According to the biblical tale, the husband of a woman named Tamar died before Tamar became pregnant.  Inheritance law required Onan, the brother of the dead man, to impregnate his dead brother's wife, Tamar.

   However, Onan withdrew early and “spilled his seed on the ground.”  Onan did this out of greed, because if Tamar bore a child, Onan would lose a portion of his inheritance.  The act was coitus interruptus, not masturbation. 

   According to the Bible, God then slew Onan for failing to impregnate his brother’s widow.  Ultimately Judah, Tamar's father-in-law, sleeps with her and Tamar has a child.  This, apparently, is in accordance with God's wishes.

   The Bible is a very frankly sexual book. It contains orgies, gang rapes and incest.  It is often translated or interpreted in a way to obscure the meaning.  Many of its stories are not retold in churches or synagogues.  

   Think, for example, of the stories about David recounted in several books of the Bible.  David is said to have led a procession of 30,000, flashing his genitals to the onlooking crowd… to have had many concubines and frequent sex with slave girls… to have led his army as murderous mercenaries in the service of an enemy.

   David's son is said to have tried to usurp his father’s throne by publicly engaging in sexual intercourse with ten of David’s concubines “in all the sight of Israel.”

   At a minimum, if someone tells you the Bible forbids masturbation to relieve sexual tension, ask them to show you exactly where it says that.  They can't, because it’s not there.

   When a boy reaches puberty, he might have many erections a day. They come to him unbidden and often at the most embarrassing times.

   Calling what is normal and natural an evil act is itself morally reprehensible.  One outcome is the letters Wayne and Tamara receive from men unable to get an erection with a woman, and letters from women who have gone a lifetime unable to accept male sexuality.


• Story of Onan, Tamar, and Judah related in Genesis 38:1-30.

• Harold Ivan Smith quote is from The Big Book of Masturbation by Martha Cornog.

© 1996-2015 Wayne & Tamara Mitchell
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   If everyone who masturbates were
    to turn purple at noon tomorrow,
     you'd swear that you were in
      a vineyard.

         --Harold Ivan Smith
          (Baptist seminary professor)

See also:

Male Masturbation, a Primer for Women

Masturbation - Questions and answers