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A Boy’s Own Story


What follows is an exchange I had recently with a young Catholic Canadian man.

Hi Dr. Wagner

My Name is Jack, I am a catholic teenager who is wondering if the act of masturbation is still considered to be a sin. Also is it really considered to be gravely disordered and always morally wrong? I am 18 years old and I am somewhat late going through changes physically. I do believe that it is a natural way to find out about ones body and how it can be used. I have heard that it is not a sin but a natural and healthy thing to do. I have also heard that it is a sin. I have heard mixed reviews I have heard that a vast majority of both boys and girls do it. I can understand if one does it while thinking about other people then it is a sin but if one is doing it to get rid of old stuff then does it count as a sin. I have done it recently and I am going through puberty. There are no thoughts, images or fantasies involved. I do think that it is better then having a nocturnal emission and having to clean your underpants and to hide it so no one think that I wet the bed. I also believe that it is better to masturbate rather than waking up to find a sticky mess in my underpants, which has happened to me, and it was not fun. I don’t want to have to go to bed worrying about a mess in the morning. I have also heard that it can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Is it normal to feel confused about it after doing it? I am planning to talk to my parents and a priest to see what they think of it. If my parents say that it is natural and a normal thing to do does that mean it is all right to do. The only tricky thing is that I am not entirely sure how to approach the subject with them. I have mentioned it to my mother and she doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. She said that it is better to do that than to be out having intercourse with girls. I haven t done it in 3 weeks and I feel conflicted over it I see both views on the issue and I am not sure. I don’t want to feel guilty for doing something that has been labeled natural and normal. I love and believe in god and want to know what the views are on it. I do not have any addiction whatsoever I have very good control over myself nor do I need counseling or therapy. I am just a curious teenager wondering if masturbating is a sin or not.

I live in Ontario where the ministry of education has released a updated sexual education curriculum where it mentions that masturbation is natural and normal. There is a part of me that really wants to do it as I feel it takes the edge off. I have heard that some catholic organizations are backing it. This leaves me confused if it is still considered to be a sin. I also believe that it is a crucial part of understanding how ones body works and learning about oneself. I do find it a little hard to understand that we can somewhat accept the sexual orientation of people but people still consider touching ones genitals to be a sin.

Thank you
God Bless

Dear Jack,

Thanks for your question. Might I add, you are exceptionally articulate for a teenager.a boy's own story

If ya ask me, Jack, and you are actually asking me, you’ve pretty much answered all of your own questions. And that tells me you are on the right track.

You ask about Catholic sexual ethics. Before you wrote, did you know that I was a Catholic priest for 20 years? And, not to boast, I am the only Catholic priest in the world with a doctorate in human sexuality. This later part explains why I no longer practice as a public minister. It’s a real long story and I’d be happy to tell you all about it sometime, but for now know that I didn’t go quietly. I wrote my doctoral thesis, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance, back in 1981. And once word got out about this groundbreaking research, the writing was on the wall, so to speak, for my public ministry. I fought for my priesthood and ministry for 13 year, but it all pretty much came crashing in on itself in 1994. If you’ve got nothing better to do, you can read about it HERE.

Enough about me, let’s get back to you and your questions. Although, I wanted to mention that when I was in seminary, way back when god was young, in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, enlightened spiritual directors were already beginning to advise us seminarians that masturbation wasn’t sinful or disordered. Of course, even now you’ll find orthodox hard-liners who insist that self-pleasuring is a moral sin, but they think all sexual expression is sinful. Here’s a tip: you’re never gonna find consensus on any sexual matter.

Like you, I found it difficult to believe all that mortal sin stuff that the hardliners promote. I mean, if mass murder and genocide are mortal sins, how could a little wank be their equal. It just don’t make no sense, right?

However, I can’t agree with you that masturbation might be sinful if there are fantasies involved. Remember, using your mind is an essential part of learning about your sexuality. That being said, most teenage boys are randy at the drop of a hat, so maybe you don’t need to be all that specific with your sexual mental imagery.

I also caution you to be careful when tossing around words like normal and natural. What’s normal and natural to some may be abnormal and twisted to others. But you’re right; few people, professional as well as lay people, these days would consider self-loving anything but normal and natural.

For you edification I suggest you use the search function or CATEGORY pull-down menu in the sidebar of my site and search for pertinent topics, like masturbation, wet dreams, sexual response cycle, etc. You’ll find a wealth of information about all these topics in both written and podcast form.

the shadowI too reported, back in 2011, on the startling new data that came out of Australia about masturbation. Australian researchers questioned over 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer and 1,250 men who had not, about their sexual habits. They found those who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to develop prostate cancer. The protective effect of poppin’ one’s nut was greatest while the men were in their 20s. And get this; men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.

I also contend that masturbation is the most basic building block to all of our sexual expression. When you know how your body works; when you are familiar with your sexual response cycle and are confident about talking to others about it; you’ll be better situated to be a good sexual partner to another.

In the end, I encourage you to continue to think for yourself when it comes to things sexual. I can see that you are already doing that, so keep it up. Continue to ask questions and consider the input you get from others, myself included; but then make up your own mind. When you own your sexuality and your sexual response, you’ll be a grown-up. Notice I didn’t say you’d be an adult. That’s because there are lots of adults out there who don’t own their sexuality and sexual response and despite being grown up, they’re not grownups.

Good luck, pup

Hi Richard,
Thank you for responding. You have cleared come of the confusion. I guess I got confused because when I would masturbate I would feel like I let my self down.
Thank you again
God Bless

One thing you should know is there is generally a sort of “let down” phase after orgasm. (See information about the refractory phase of the sexual response cycle HERE.) Your body can’t stay in that heightened state of arousal so there’s often a “deflated” feeling.

There’s even a name for if. It’s called post-coital tristesse. And you should know that it’s a physiological phenomenon rather than an emotional one.

Feelings of elation and wellbeing that accompany arousal and orgasm can sometimes morph into a sense of shame during this “deflated” phase. People with lot of scruples about sex are particularly vulnerable to this.

Thank you for clearing that up and for the reassurance that it is natural and normal and not considered to be a sin.
— Jack

One Of The Willie Worrisome

Name: lup92
Gender: Male
Age: 15
Location: England
I’m 15 and masturbate often but have had no form of sex although my girlfriend wants to start. However my penis and scrotum have extremely small lumps all over. I also have a purple red large lump on the rim of my bellend. What do I do? Should I start? Or do I risk giving something to my girlfriend?

A quick note before we begin. I’m a Ph.D. kind of doctor. not MD type of doctor. You know that, right? While I know my way around the human body, I never offer medical advice of any sort. And, just so you know, no self-respecting physician, MD kind of doctor, is gonna offer you medical advice online either without seeing you in person first. Which, if you ask me, is a real good thing.

teen intimacy

Here’s the thing about lumps and bumps and discolorations of the skin anywhere on your body, especially on your precious willie, pup. They are signs that all is not well. Do us all a big favor and have your johnson looked at by a physician. Your health is nothing to fool around with. Everything you describe could be completely harmless, but you don’t want to take the chance that it isn’t, right? And here’s a tip: don’t do it for your girlfriend. DO IT FOR YOU! It’s your dick, you gotta lean how to take care of it. And there’s no time like the present to start properly lookin’ after it.

willy_worryJust so you know, I’m not suggesting that your have a STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). I mean, how could you? You’ve only been wanking, right? Still, if you’re concerned enough to write to me about it, you should take yourself in for a look-see. Since you are underage, you’ll probably need one of your parents to arrange the appointment. But if you are typical teenager, you’ll probably be embarrassed to discuss this with your parents. Still, there’s no getting around this. I think your parents will be proud of you for being proactive about your health and wellbeing. Besides, there’s nothing to be ashamed about.

Another option is to contact a sex-positive resource near you. Check out the folks at FPA. Surely they’ll have a resource for you.

Please take care of this ASAP.

There is one more thing. And I’m gonna be as blunt as I know how. If you think you’re old enough to fuck, you’re old enough to know all about condoms and how to use them. If ya don’t, you’re just a dumb kid who may function like a grown-up, but doesn’t know how to behave like one. And I don’t want to believe that about you.

What it is with young people (old people too) who are still fuckin’ clueless about unprotected sex in this day and age? I have nothing against younger people being sexual. That pretty much is to be expected. But I am totally opposed to kids having kids! Like I said, if you’re old enough to swing it around, you’re old enough to know how to swing it responsibly.

Good luck

He Can’t Cum!

Name: Alice
Gender: Female
Age: 19
Location: Minnesota
My new boyfriend is really frustrated and doesn’t want to have sex anymore because he can’t come. He says he’s had this problem for a while and hasn’t come with any girl for over a year. I see how upset he is and I know he still wants to sleep with me, but says it hurts when he gets excited and nothing happens. Is there something I can do? I tell him to see a doctor but I don’t think he will. Thanks a lot!

Wow, that’s a bummer Alice. Unfortunately, you don’t supply me with enough information for me to make an educated guess about what might be up with him. Does he have erections? Does he masturbate? Is he on any medications? These are the first questions I’d ask him. Since he isn’t here and neither are you, I’m gonna make a stab in the dark.cover up

If I had to guess, I’d say your man is suffering from a real bad case of performance anxiety. He doesn’t need a medical doctor; he needs to learn to relax and be in the moment. If this is an arousal phase issue then that should help. If it’s and orgasmic phase issue, relaxing and enjoying the pleasure will also help.

Here’s how performance anxiety works. Say a fella has a less than satisfying sexual experience for one reason or another. Before he know it, he replaying the incident over and over in his head, till that’s all he can think about. The proverbial molehill becomes a mountain. He brings his anxiety to his next sexual encounter. His hyper-consciousness primes him for more disappointment. And he’s ready to interpret all disappointment as a failure. And this can interrupt either the arousal phase or orgasmic phase of our sexual response cycle.

Well, you can see where I’m going with this, huh? His fears become self-fulfilling. Before he knows it, he begins to avoid sex. His relationships suffer. He develops a full-blown sexual dysfunction. And his self-esteem takes a nosedive. His preoccupation with his problem makes it less likely that he’ll be fully present during sex with his partner, which pretty much fucks up his sexual responsiveness and any hope for spontaneity.

It sounds to me like performance anxiety is putting a damper on his sexual arousal and thus short-circuiting the rest of his sexual response cycle, including orgasm.

This is nothing to fool around with, especially for someone at his tender age. When I see this sort of thing in my private practice, I always begin the therapeutic intervention by calling a moratorium on fucking of any kind. This immediately takes a great deal of the pressure off the couple. From there we begin to rebuild the partnered psycho-sexual response one step at a time. We begin with sensate focus training, stress reduction, and relaxation exercises. I have the greatest confidence in this method. It succeeds over 90% of the time.

Good luck

What a pain in the ass!

Name: Garth
Gender: Male
Age: 44
Location: South Africa
Hi, I fissured my butt sometime ago and I think it has healed. I have undergone a Lateral Sphincterotomy twice – inner and outer. Unfortunately the area is now VERY sensitive and when I defecate the area ‘screams’ in pain. The softer my stool the worse the pain. When my stool is firm, the pain is less. Will this go away? Is there any medication that I can use?

Everyone in my audience please listen up! I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on the internet. The Dr Dick moniker I use refers to my Ph.D. I am a clinical sexologist or a sex therapist if you prefer, not a physician. Get it? Got it? Good!

That being said, anal fissures are a common proctological problem, especially for the heavy ass play crowd. An anal fissure is a tear at the anal tissue. The most common complaint is pain in the anal region during and after taking a dump, itching and possibly some bleeding. Pain and irritation result in spasm of the internal anal sphincter muscle, which then fails to relax during defecation further aggravating the condition.ass-pain

The lateral sphincterotomy you mention is a surgical procedure that removes the fissure. This operation remains the primary form of treatment for chronic anal fissure.

From all that I could learn from my medical consultants, if your surgeries healed properly you shouldn’t be experiencing pain, let alone “screaming pain” when you shit. We all understand that the area will continue to be sensitive, but the pain you describe is not a good sign. You may very well have an infection. You need to have that looked at ASAP. This is nothing to roll around with.

Here’s a tip for all everyone in my audience: pain, of any sort, is one way our body talks to us. Its message is: things are not as they should be; get it fixed NOW. Sometimes the pain will subside when we stop doing something…like holding our hand too close to a flame, or being flogged senseless by Christian Grey. Some pain will only subside when a condition is fixed…like getting a cavity in one’s tooth filled. Other pain, like the emotional pain that come with depression is harder to soothe, but it is important to try. Finally, pain like Garth is experiencing means something is very wrong. And if not attended to immediately, things will only get worse.

Good luck

The Dark Side of Love

Just in time for Valentines Day, I feature an exchange I had with an earnest and, I might add, very nervous young man about a prevalent STI. Our friend is freaking out about genital warts.  I know, I’m such a buzz-kill.


Name: Ryan
Gender: Male
Age: 20 something
Location: Lowell MA
A few years back, a friend confided that he contracted genital warts from his ex-girl friend. He had the genital warts on his genitals, anus, hands, feet and in his mouth. His ex-girl friend had it on her hands, in her vagina, mouth, anus and cervix. I can understand having it on the genitals and hands and in the anus, mouth and cervix. I didn’t ask how he got it on his feet.
He went to work in another state, but came back here two years later. He told me he liked a girl he met and would like to bring the relationship into a more intimate level. I asked him about his genital warts. He said he was cured of it. I read that genital warts cannot be cured. That it can be treated, but will remain incurable and contagious although dormant for a while.
Will the girl get it after they had sex? My friend comes to my house very often, drinks beer with my girl friend and me. He uses the bathroom and the hand towel. Even after scrubbing the bathroom and washing the hand towel, can my girl friend and I get the genital warts? As for my friend, was he condemned not to have sex for life? Or, is it safe to have sex if there was no outbreak or external signs?

I’ve seen several bad cases of genital warts, but never a case that included hands feet and mouth. I know that’s possible, of course, but I’ve never seen it. And without a doctor’s diagnosis, a particular outbreak could be something else. That’s why, something like this, needs to be diagnosed and treated properly.

the dark side of love

You are right; technically genital warts remain incurable, though non-contagious, and dormant if treated correctly. And proper treatment is the key. For more information you might consult WebMD.

Casual contact, the kind you describe below — bathroom, towels, etc. — cannot pass on the virus. Transmission is dependent on intimate genital contact. Does your friend (or his GF) have an outbreak going on now? Can you see something on his (her) hands and face?

     I know my friend is a responsible person and he will not knowingly infect me with his genital warts. But, how can he be sure that the wart is dormant and non-contagious? I am now wary because he told me his genital warts were cured. This makes me wonder whether he was given the wrong medical advice or he was just trying to put my mind at ease. Aside from using the bathroom and towels, he also eats dinner at my home and could infect my dishes, utensils, cloth napkins, etc. and pass the virus to me and my girl friend.
This matter has the potential of becoming a dilemma for me and my friendship with him. I don’t want to ask him details such as who is his doctor, what kind of treatment he is getting (it seems the infected person must be tested periodically and the treatment ongoing) and how is he going to determine when he is not contagious. He is a sensitive person and I know that he will get angry if I asked him these questions. I can make excuses not to see him at my house (this only goes so far). If I ask or make excuses, I’d lose his friendship. I don’t want to lose him as a friend. But, I don’t want him to infect me and my girl friend with the virus either, knowingly or unknowingly.
I don’t see any warts on his hands and on his feet (he wears sandals sometimes). I don’t know if he plans to tell the girl he plans to get intimate with.
My girl friend doesn’t know about this. She will freak out if I tell her and that will cause more problems. Help!!!???!!!

If I were you I would ask him about the treatment he received for his warts. That would put your mind at ease. Besides, your friendship sounds like it’s on the brink anyway. And here’s a tip: you probably have lots of casual contact with many other people with genital warts without even knowing it — it’s a very common malady.

     Thank you very much. I think he should also tell the girl about his genital warts before having sex with her. She must be given the option to reject or accept it. I also read that the virus can be passed just with skin-to-skin contact when there is a flare up. Is this true?
I feel bad about this. Although my friend is a responsible person, there is still a chance he could get carried away in the heat of passion and throw precaution and caution to the wind.
I imagine it is difficult to enjoy sex when you have to do and think of many things that could go wrong.      Giving him my sympathy will not help. He alone has the burden of doing what has to be done before having sex to prevent contaminating his girl friend or spreading he genital warts around.
I will appreciate any additional information/clarification/advice you can give me about this.
Thank you again for your help.

Again, genital warts, like herpes, are contagious only when there’s a flair-up. Skin to skin contact can pass the virus at that point. Also, like herpes, if the genital wart virus has been treated, the likelihood of passing on the virus is negligible.

I am of the mind that we all ought to be responsible and up-front with our sex partners about any health related issues that may impact on the health of our partners.

Good luck

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