Masturbation as a ‘borderline homosexual activity’?

Let’s begin with a quote:

…Masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexual activity.

Huh? The idea that privately masturbating is “borderline homosexual activity” is about as crazy as it gets. What’s even crazier is that this quote comes from one of America’s most popular and influential ministers in America, Mark Driscoll, senior pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle Washington. Driscoll is a New York Times bestselling author, and his credentials are impressive. According to the Mars Hill website, Pastor Driscoll is…

“… the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, and is one of the world’s most downloaded and quoted pastors. He and his wife, Grace, co-authored Real Marriage, which became a #1 New York Times best seller. His audience, fans and critics alike, spans the theological and cultural left and right. He was named one of the 25 most influential pastors of the past 25 years by Preaching magazine in 2010, and his audio sermon podcast is regularly #1 on iTunes’ Religion & Spirituality chart and has been among the Top 50 of all podcasts at times. His hour-long sermons received 10 million plays and downloads in 2011, with another 5 million views of his sermon clips on YouTube and other channels.”

And, if you are wondering, I pulled Driscoll’s quote from his free online book. The link is below for those who want to read more. Enjoy.

Out of curiosity I went on line to find out if there is any scientific evidence to support Driscoll’s claim. I found none. None! What I did find out is Driscoll is not alone; many churches associate sex and masturbation to “original sin” (see image below), It is, however, a well-known fact that many churches condemn same-sex intimacy (see image below), but heterosexual alone-and-in-private masturbation… as borderline homosexual activity? Really? Oh, and I should point out, Pastor Driscoll views homosexuality as sinful, not surprising.


Church sign - I kissed a girl

Here is my question: Why would religion care about masturbation? Why in the world would religion want to tie the natural feelings of sexual desire – and acting on it alone and in private – to sin? Perhaps Dr. Darrell Ray has an answer.

Dr. Ray is a contributor to my book (for more information about my book, see archives and click on “One question. One Book. Many answers”). Ray, a bestselling author, suggests that connecting sexual desire to sin has been a long practiced strategy by some religions to keep people feeling sinful, shameful, guilty, and in need of salvation. Ray is also the author of Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality(see below).


The following excerpts are from a lengthy essay Ray sent to me several months ago in response to the question, “What(if anything) should public schools teach children about religion?”

“While many would say that children should be taught a wide range of things about all religions, I would propose that a significant portion of teaching should be about religion and sex, especially to high school students. Sex is the elephant in the living room. Every major religion is concerned with your sex life and tries to force adherents into a particular religious sexuality – what you can and cannot do with your body. Teaching a course in comparative religions, without examining religious sexuality is like teaching a course in biology without studying microorganisms. Sex and sexuality are critical to most religions, yet is rarely examined critically and in detail.

[students] should be taught that sexual preference was not a concern among the religions of some of the Plains Indians, and that many religions in the past and present in Greece, Africa, Polynesia, and South America, were and are, quite tolerant of homosexuality and masturbation. High school students should be given the basic teachings of the various religions, including each religion’s teaching about sex. What is a religion’s teaching on marriage, masturbation, premarital sex? What are the differences among religions and the reasons for differences? Why are patriarchal religions so misogynistic when matriarchal religions are more sexually free? How is it that many so-called “primitive” religions survived for thousands of years without strong sexual restrictions?

Finally, high school students should be taught the basic psychology of religion. They should be taught about the guilt cycle – the psychological method by which a religion creates loyalty and commitment. This is most easily illustrated by the simple observation that a person can only receive forgiveness for religiously taught guilt from the religion that taught it to them in the first place. Muslims do not confess to Catholic priests, Baptists don’t confess to Muslims, etc. The psychology of religion helps people approach religion with open eyes and recognize that sexual guilt is a key component of many religions, especially patriarchal ones.”

In all honesty, I do not mention sex very much in my world religion class. But after reading Pastor Driscoll’s views on the matter, and after reading Ray’s views on the matter, perhaps I should. I’ll just need to get past the blushing part of having to talk about masturbation. No problem…I think. Ugh!

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