What the Catholic Church teaches about Pornography and Masturbation

Pornography and masturbation represent the destruction of the symbolic and nuptial meaning of the human body.

Pornography presents an image focused solely on the visible and the erotic. The human person is reduced to what can be seen. Pornography excludes any sense of the invisible dimension – of the intimacy and sacredness of the human person. Notice, too, that in pornography nobody is there to give and receive. In the world of fantasy it makes, no one is really present.

Thus when a man looks repeatedly at pornography, he will find it difficult to relate to women in real life. He accustoms himself to seeing women as objects to be used. He contents himself with an erotic view of women and thus destroys the symbolic and nuptial meaning of the human body. (The same can be said of a woman who looks at pornography.) In pornography, lust replaces love, and fantasy replaces reality.

Much the same can be said of masturbation. It is an unreal world of fantasy. Notice, however, how masturbation destroys the nuptial meaning of the human body. God gives all men and women erotic energy, which we call the sex drive.

This is good, and it forms part of that attraction between men and women that forms part of the nuptial meaning of the body. Sexual energy, therefore, needs to find its outlet in love, not last.

Erotic energy is meant for another person, in love. If you are a woman, then it is meant for a man, and vice versa. Masturbation turns this erotic energy in on oneself.

A person become sexually cross-eyed. What is meant for another person, in love, has been turned to the gratification of oneself. Masturbation, therefore, is a symbol of loneliness, not love. One way to overcome it, besides controlling what you read and watch, is to begin to foster genuine friendships with others.

However, the Church, while teaching that masturbation is wrong, also recognizes that a person’s guilt for this sin may be reduced because of “immaturity,” “acquired habit,” certain “conditions of anxiety,” or other “psychological or social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2352).

These reasons, however, would not exclude the person from the effort to become pure in word and deed. A person’s struggle to attain the virtue of purity is pleasing in God’s sight, and any form of discouragement should be avoided.

 

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