Honest Talk About the Safest Sex of All June 7, 2008

Honest Talk About the Safest Sex of All

You know you’re not going to get much useful or accurate advice on sex from the Christian Right.

Even when conservative Christians say masturbation is not a sin, they add rules to when and how it must be done.

Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, offers much more realistic, honest advice about teaching your children about masturbation in the latest Humanist Network News:

In the absence of communication on the issue, children are guaranteed to feel tremendous shame and guilt when the natural developments of early adolescence lead them to self-stimulation. When your child is on the cusp of puberty, casually let him or her know:

  • What masturbation is;
  • That it’s a normal thing nearly everyone does at some point;
  • That it’s a natural indication that the body is becoming ready for sexual activity and reproduction;
  • That all of the stories about grave consequences are complete nonsense;
  • That though it is not shameful, it should be done only in private.

He adds: “… nonreligious parents, free of repressive doctrines, are in an ideal position to give their children that permission, as well as the mental, emotional, and sexual health that comes with it.”


Refreshing honesty. You don’t see that very often.

[tags]atheist, atheism, safe sex[/tags]

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  • Gotta like this rule: “to the point of becoming an uncontrollable habit. What’s uncontrollable? A general guide is several times a day every day, for months in a row. If that’s you, talk with someone”.

    Several times a day? For months on end? And I wonder why I don’t normally get sex advice from James Dobson – the guy is obviously a repressed sex addict.

  • Can that quote from McGowan be made into a billboard? Please?

  • Xeonicus

    children are guaranteed to feel tremendous shame and guilt

    I don’t know about anyone else, but when I first discovered masturbation as an adolescent, I don’t think I felt shame or guilt. In fact, I was probably thinking, “man this feels great…. is the bathroom door still locked…? good…” Nobody really talked to me about it either, I just stumbled upon it. Why is their the assumption that kids will automatically feel guilty/shameful? Hmm, maybe I would have felt that way if I’d been raised to be religious. Shame and guilt go hand and hand with that kind of upbringing.

  • Doris Tracey

    I think masturbation done to extreme is very harmful and the children should not be punished, but they should understand that those energies should be used for creative purposes and the teens should focus on higher things like seeking and finding and becoming the person they uniquely are. Too much sexual focus on themselves creates a very selfish flatliner.

  • Chas

    Each time we empty our mail bags here at Breakaway, we pull out questions just like this one

    Maybe I’m being immature, but the first line in their response made me titter.

  • Jarrod Martin

    Brian, I’m not sure I understand your point about the quote. The writer is Michael Ross, not James Dobson. And do you disagree with him that masturbation several times a day over the period of a month or two is unhealthy?

    That’s not sex-deprived; that’s crazy. That’s called addiction. Seems to me if you’re doing just about anything that much (besides breathing), you need help.

  • Becksi

    FriendlyChristian.com just recently wrote about masturbation.

  • Jimmy

    The best thing about masturbation for men:

    1. Aids in prostate health.
    2. Makes for excellent stress relief.
    3. Provides a use for old shirts/socks other than oil rags.


  • Richard Wade

    Behaviors cannot be and should not be defined as “addiction” or “problematic” by setting arbitrary limits on frequency. What makes masturbation “extreme?” More than once a year? Month? Week? Day? Hour? Even if some kind of loose consensus could be reached, there is nothing intrinsic about it for a frequency to be the criteria for calling it addictive or problematic.

    Problematic behaviors are defined as such by the effects they have on important areas of the practitioner’s life. The repetitive behavior has to clearly cause serious problems in the person’s physical health, relationships, work, or mental health. The frequency will vary widely between individuals before the behavior causes these problems. Addictive behaviors are defined as such by meeting the above criteria and the person is unable to control or stop the behavior.

  • Julie

    Yeah, but why wait until the cusp of puberty? Kids touch themselves way before that!

  • David Crespo

    The word you’re looking for is maladaptive.

  • I’m reading Dale McGowan’s book “Calling Bernadette’s Bluff” and am thoroughly enjoying it. Everybody should read it. Its a novel about an atheist professor in a small Midwest Catholic University. Nothing about masturbation though… 🙂

  • Xeonicus

    Jimmy said:
    “3. Provides a use for old shirts/socks other than oil rags.”


  • Wes

    Let me conclude with some excellent advice from Dr. Dobson (taken from his book, Preparing for Adolescence):”It is my opinion that masturbation is not much of an issues with God. It’s a normal part of adolescence, which involves no one else. It does not cause disease, it does not produce babies, and Jesus did not mention it in the Bible. I’m not telling you to masturbate, and I hope you won’t feel the need for it. The best thing I can do is suggest that you talk to God personally about this matter and decide what He wants you to do.”

    So Dobson’s advice to a troubled teen is to sit in an empty room and say, “Hey, God, is it cool if I rub one out before I say my bedtime prayers?” And you got to love that “decide what he wants you to do” part. Christians are often making these tacit admissions that, yeah, God has nothing to do with what I do—I just sit in silence, then make up my own mind about what I think God wants. Or just follow my impulses and attribute the source of those impulses to God rather than to myself. Either way, God is irrelevant.

    Of course, it’s easy to see why they have such a problem with making up their own minds, and feel they must attribute it to God:

    This whole subject would be much easier to deal with if there were a Bible verse that said, “thou shalt not,” or “verily, it is okay.” But the Bible is absolutely silent on this issue.

    Yup. Sure would be much easier if I could just be told what to do rather than think the problem through myself.

  • SwampGuitar

    Meetup groups help. Extended families are like that.

    I’m going to be in the chat room there, free, at least a couple hours dodging the sun down here.

    click Freethought Social by the sun.

    Atheists of Broward County

  • Eliza

    Doris Tracey, your comment struck me because I find I disagree with much of what you said.

    I think masturbation done to extreme is very harmful

    Anything done to “extreme” is potentially harmful. (Drinking water. Eating broccoli. Even prayer.) Is the amount which causes harm different for masturbation than for other solo activities…or do you just think that’s the case because it seems to you like that’s the way it Must Be?

    and the children…should understand that those energies should be used for creative purposes

    You might be surprised at how creative people can be when they’re masturbating… Women find new uses for ordinary household objects, vegetables, shower heads. Men, I hear, find new uses for all types of slippery substances.

    Besides, do you have any proof that “energy” is used up in masturbating & thus not available for other pursuits? Many people find that masturbating allows them to re-focus on other activities without being distracted all the time by unfulfilled sexual thoughts & desires.

    and the teens should focus on higher things like seeking and finding and becoming the person they uniquely are.

    I read here that you assume that teens who masturbate less are more likely to seek, find, and become the person they uniquely are. Any proof? I could easily argue that teens who masturbate more have more of a chance to develop a better sense of their bodies, & their sensual urges, & thus have a better sense of “who they are” in some domains which are relevant to a developing adult. (Aren’t we experiencing ourselves in our most unique and personal manner during an orgasm?)

    Too much sexual focus on themselves creates a very selfish flatliner.

    Cute line, but no substance. Show me the beef!

  • Jarrod, yes the article was written by Michael Ross, but he says he got his advice about the issue from his boss, Dr. James Dobson.

    And yes, my point was that I find it hard to imagine somebody masturbating several times a day, every day, for months on end. That’s why I called him a repressed sex-addict. The “sex-is-icky” crowd of the Religious Right always seems to privately harbour some extreme sexual behaviours.

  • I like tea

    As you probably already know, when masturbation becomes a habit, it brings with it feelings of guilt and shame.

    Haha, only if you’re a frikken Puritan. Hell, I was Christian when I started masturbating, but it wasn’t the masturbation that made me feel guilty (it was the porn).

    (Thankfully, I can now watch porn all the time without feeling guilty. Sane morals rock.)

  • Jen

    You know, they call it the safest sex of all. But there can occasionally be some dangers. Trust me on this. Trust me.

  • Like that story in the Darwin Awards about the guy who was pleasuring himself on the conveyor belt at work and got it caught.

  • Freelancer

    Chas @ 11:31,


    If you hadn’t made us aware of their point, I was going to blockquote the first line as soon as I caught my breath, from gut-laughing. I was about to call Poe’s Law on this article, then I noticed that this author’s first sentence escaped too prematurely for any reluctance, or revision, it seemed. And now, after a series of ill-advised attempts at serious advice and, optimistic guidance on a sensitive area, he has something of a mess on his hands, and the now the whole world can see it.

  • Aimee

    Care to elaborate Jen? The only “danger” that happened to me is when I was too close to my husband while he was masturbating and I got hit in the eye! Man did that burn. : )

  • Wes

    I once accidentally scratched my girlfriend’s clit with my fingernail while masturbating her. Does that count as a “danger”?

    (And, yes, she was extremely pissed, and I didn’t get any for the rest of the night. But eventually she got over it.)

  • I like tea

    I once accidentally scratched my girlfriend’s clit with my fingernail while masturbating her. Does that count as a “danger”?

    Well, that’s not masturbation, but I guess theoretically a girl could do that to herself. Like biting your tongue? I don’t know.

  • Oops

    You know, they call it the safest sex of all. But there can occasionally be some dangers. Trust me on this. Trust me.

    That is definitely true. If you do masturbate several times a day for some time, there can be… unforeseen complications. Like rubbing the penis raw, so it hurts to walk for several days, and you can’t masturbate again for at least a week.

    So don’t masturbate excessively, or at least use lube. Just trust me on this one. 😉

  • cipher

    I’m surprised to hear Dobson saying something relatively sensible about it. Years ago, on Phil Donahue, I hard Falwell say flat out that it’s a sin.

    Actually, I thought Friendly Christian’s take was more typical.

  • Brian E

    Good post – I gave it a good tug while reading. I think I see HR coming this way…

  • Hah, when I was 17 I read that quote from Dobson in his sex ed book, myself being a “recovering masturbator”, clean for 3 years, and was absolutely pissed off. How dare he suggest such casual treatment of sexuality after I had put so much effort into getting my urges under control and risked humiliation and ostracism coming clean to my spiritual peers about my sexual addictions!!

  • I would have agreed with the FriendlyChristian’s blog back then, too. Of course, I defined “lust” as “having an erection” (you can imagine what a fucked up adolescence I had), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the FC blogger does too.

  • William

    Dear Jen, can you name even one thing on this planet that does not have the potential for “occasional dangers? Trust me, there is nothing at all, anywhere, that does not include the occasional danger. Trust me.

  • Teen

    I’m so glad i’m Atheist…

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