How Natural Is Masturbation? Ctd

A reader writes:

Based on your post about masturbation, I think your beliefs about masturbation are largely at odds with traditional Christian teaching. I'm surprised someone as smart as you are would not think more critically about this issue, especially since you are a self-described Christian.

Your argument that masturbation is without consequences and simply natural is wrong on a couple accounts. I think we can agree that erotic impulses and sexual appetites are indeed natural. These drives and appetites are not in themselves sinful, but an orthodox understanding is that they can be "passions" (that is, an earthly desire that pulls one away from Christ). These drives are only expressed in their fullness by procreation and in marriage. Masturbation, then is merely a capitulation to these appetites and this capitulation is sinful.

The main sin is that masturbation (with minuscule exception) involves fantasy which is a distortion or absence of reality. In other words, it is a lie.

I expect that you know your fair share of the Bible, so it is a no-brainer about what Christianity from the beginning says about lies. They are unbecoming for the Christian because the Lord himself faced the truth of the ugliness and brokenness of life on this earth by hanging on the cross and we are called to be the same. Delusional actions and thinking (like the kind masturbation offers) is the sin. Also, since when is it permissible for a Christian to indulge in something just because everyone does it? Christians are called to be perfect in this world and that is the worthiest of pursuits. How do you reconcile these orthodox Christian teachings, especially after your post stating your admiration of John Paul's "mortification of the flesh"? Would you say that abstaining from masturbation is helpful?

I think your unflinching belief that Catholics and Christians simply "don't get it" and their argument holds no water is shrill and devoid of your usual critical thinking. Based on your many posts regarding Catholicism, I genuinely think that you are incapable of offering an ounce of validity to their argument. It is one thing to disagree and understand where the other side is coming from. It is another to claim that the other side is devoid of any sensible thought (or their arguments are "hilarious claptrap"). Come on, Andrew - that's Malkinism right there.

Lastly, from a non-religious perspective, I think a conservative would hold that satisfying yourself whenever an appetite presents itself is no way for a society to behave. I think this endless pursuit of these drives (sexual, nutrition, fame, money, power) without restraint is a detriment to the society. You rail about Cheney's desire for brutality, Republican's lust for control, a nation unhealthy from gorging themselves and demanding pampered expensive treatment, the rise of STDs, etc, yet you find nothing wrong with men exhibiting no restrain in one aspect of their lives that they actually can control?  That is a bit much. I know you will disagree with this, but hopefully you can see that there is at least some connection.

My reader misses the focus of my posts, which was on the arguments of the new natural law. This does not take its cue from Augustinian or Pauline revulsion at the flesh and its ability to withdraw one from focusing on God, but posits, after Aquinas and Aristotle, that nature, as observed by reason alone, tells us something about the purpose of human behavior and life.

When something is as ubiquitous as masturbation, when we now understand that massive over-production of sperm is in fact an evolutionary strategy to maximize chances of reproduction, and when we also notice that even in a marital, procreative relationship, a wife's nine months of pregnancy renders all that spousal sperm incapable of producing children ... then one wonders why rubbing one out from time to time is so unnatural. In fact, one wonders why it's such a big deal at all. I'm not endorsing masturbation as a life-style. I am endorsing it as a natural human function, as acceptable as brushing one's teeth or taking a shit.

As for the distinction between fantasy and reality, the church allows for nocturnal emissions, which are, of course, fueled by exactly the fantasies that my reader thinks are illicit. In fact the natural fantasies of our dreams are often more divorced from reality than much of our pornography. And they are so natural they are involuntary.