4 Myths: Women and the “M word”

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Last week a college freshman came up to me after a chastity workshop to “talk.” I could tell she was nervous. She waited until the room cleared and pulled me aside to chat. She started:

“Mary, I need to talk to you about … she looked down mumbled …“you know, what you talked about in your talk.”

There was a long awkward pause as she picked at her chipped fingernail polish and said:

“The M word.”

“You mean, Masturbation?” I said gently.

Yes, that.

The M Word

Some of you may be shocked to see the word bolded in a Catholic blog. But there it is, staring at you. I want to say it clearly without reserve because it’s there, and we women need to talk about it.

Here are four myths about Masturbation you need to know:

Myth 1: It’s only a guy issue.
There are many ministries focused on pornography that are geared toward men, and they’re doing great work. Statistics show that the average male is exposed to pornography by age 10. People, however, have the misconception that pornography is only a “guy” issue, which is not.

It is also important to differentiate pornography from masturbation. Many women struggle with masturbation without being hooked on pornography.

Let’s face it, the over sexualized culture has affected us too!

Many girls are exposed to sexual images, movies, and messages at an earlier age. Scandal, 50 Shades of Gray and countless magazine articles are now encouraging women to explore their bodies.

Some girls fall into masturbation by accident through innocent self-exploration as a child. Other girls get exposed to it through sexual experiences that occur in and outside of a dating relationship.

Regardless of how it starts, it’s not only a guy issue.

Myth 2: It doesn’t hurt anyone.
A recent magazine article referred to masturbation as “self-love”— wow, so masturbation is about love? Let’s be honest. What you do alone in a dark room is not about love; It’s about pleasure, and it voids the sexual act of it’s true meaning.

I used to think the Church was prudish about sexuality and the pleasure that comes with it, but that is not true. God created the sexual act, and it is a profound gift from Him. The Church holds this act so highly in marriage because it points us to the very profound “mystery” of Christ’s spousal love for the Church (Eph 5:22-33).

One blog is not enough time to explain the mind-blowing mystery of sexuality. So, here’s a 3 minute video by Jason Evert on A Love that Lasts to get you started.

The Bottom line: Sex is made to be a total, free, faithful, and fruitful self-gift between a husband and wife to make visible the covenant vows expressed at the altar. When we invert that, and make it about ourselves, Sex becomes about lust not love. Masturbation causes us to misuse the gift, and is a sin—it empties it of its meaning.

Myth 3: It’s too shameful to talk about.
Many women feel ashamed to admit they struggle with masturbation. But here is the good news: There is no shame in Jesus Christ! (Rom. 10:11). Okay, do a celebratory dance right now. Remember, if you struggle, you are not alone.

I knew a group of teenage girls who were courageous enough to share with each other that they struggled with masturbation and formed a support group. They even had a secret nickname. It was a beautiful witness to the power of fellowship and accountability.

Myth 4: I’m powerless. It will always be a part of my life.
Sometimes we can think we are powerless to break the cycle. You fall, feel horrible, go to confession, feel better, and then it happens again.

I struggled with masturbation throughout college. I was stuck in a pattern and felt ashamed. Many of the girls I knew in college were sexually active and didn’t think it was a big deal. Enslaved in the cycle, I didn’t know there was another way.

Then I heard a female speaker who shared her addiction to pornography and masturbation and said she was free. I was shocked! I didn’t know you could be a habitual masturbator and then be free. Through prayer, fasting, accountability, and behavior changes; she was now free!

Freedom is possible… And now I too am an example of that.

The New M word.
If you are like me and have this secret “M word” in your closet, there is another M word to remember: Mercy. Christ comes and his love is stronger than death itself (Song of Songs 8:6). Do not believe the myths. Just turn to sisterhood, accountability, and grace. The freedom of Christ awaits you.

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Mary-BielskiInvolved in ministry for more than 15 years, Mary Bielski has spoken to over 100,000 teens, young adults around the nation at high school and college retreats and conferences, including Steubenville Youth Conferences, Life Teen Inspiration, LA Congress, NCCC, and parish and diocesan rallies. Using funny stories and engaging analogies, Mary draws her audience to the beauty of our Catholic faith, a deeper love for Christ, the Eucharist, and the call to holiness. For more information about Mary and her ministry go to www.marybielski.com.

28 Comments

  1. Wow! That was a good and worthy read. Nobody wants to believe we are a hypersexualized nation. Thank you for bringing it into the light, for discussion

    By Becky C | 1 year ago Reply
  2. Hi Mary,
    I am struggling with my own M word right now. It happened by accident a few months ago. I’ve managed to stop for a few weeks at a time, but always end up back where I started. So, back to confessions for the 7th time :-( I always feel ashamed and have told no one, only God. I am always sorry for hurting him as that is never my intention. I also think of my future husband…I wrote a letter to him, with tears in my eyes, telling him what I’d done and that I was sorry. I hope and pray that when we meet and he reads it, he will forgive me as God has done time and again.

    Thank you for sharing your story and answering the questions I was afraid to ask. God Bless! H xoxo

    By Harmony | 1 year ago Reply
    • There are always struggles, I struggled with my own M word for many years. It wasn’t until I came back to church I had the strength to stop. As you pray and work to avoid the temptation the time in between will be longer and longer. The thought never really goes away and the wanting to. It’s been three years for me and there are still the nights I want to and I roll over say my prayers and ignore enough to go to sleep. The Lord is powerful and merciful. Keep working at it.

      By Sarah | 1 year ago Reply
    • There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I masturbate several times a week and I am in a very healthy and loving relationship. It is a great way to relieve stress and rid frustration.

      By Joseph | 1 year ago Reply
      • Hi Joseph,

        While it isn’t something to be ashamed of, neither is it something to be embraced.

        Masturbation is not a legitimate it healthy way of relieving stress because it is founded entirely in lust. Lust is not healthy or productive in any way, it is only destructive. Lust seeks to use others, or even ourselves, as a means to an end, which is the case with masturbation.

        Like fornication (premarital sex), masturbation does not seek the good of the other, nor does it express love. Like the article says, it flips out sexuality on its head and makes it all about pleasure, and taking. It also trains us to view sexuality as something through which to take, and use, and not to give freely.

        I hope you can overcome masturbation, there’s always help out there if you ever need it.

        By Dom | 1 year ago Reply
        • Your attitude toward masturbation is absolutely ridiculous. I say this because I recently recovered from prostrate cancer and my doctor advised me to have sex or masturbate regularly to prevent carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) accumulating in the prostate gland to reduce the chance of prostate cancer recurrence. Since I have no woman available to help me with it, masturbation is my only recourse. If I had taken advice from misguided Christians like you, I’ve no doubt I will have cancer again and probably end up on my deathbed.

          If Christians wants to remain relevant then they need to change their attitude toward sexuality and reform the bible in a massive manner. Christianity is declining because people (including myself) are tired of listening to archaic nonsense from you and your ilk.

          By Jarvis | 1 year ago Reply
          • Better to die than go to hell, where the fire hurts like hell.

            By Rutt | 1 year ago
          • @Rutt

            Your ridiculous comment is precisely why I’m glad I’m an atheist. Arrogant, lousy christians like you are the reason people are leaving Christianity in droves.

            By Jarvis | 1 year ago
          • Masturbation is considered a sin, mostly because while doing it, you usually lust or fantasize about something or someone. It is said in the Bible to think lustfully is to have committed adultery with her, to wish to murder someone, is the same as doing it (as far as sin and stuff goes. not the legal system). The Bible is clear on it’s stance on sexually related things such as homosexuality, sexual immorality, etc. Its not something that Christians can just change- it was laid out by God.

            I would agree that the “better to die that go to hell…” comment was crass and uncalled for. Seeing that you have a medical reason for it, things are kind of different. I would say that is something that would have to be for you to pray about, something for you and God to decide (I am Baptist, not catholic).

            I would also suggest normal intercourse with your wife.

            By kaitlyn | 1 year ago
          • @Kaitlyn

            The Bible and the sin of lust are irrelevant to me when it comes to my health and as I’ve mentioned before, I have no woman available to help me with it meaning that I don’t have a wife. I do want to have a wife, but in the age of misandry, good old fashioned women are almost nonexistent. Many women (especially American women) these days are lousy, selfish and bitter and because of this reason, I have given up on marriage. As much as I dislike the idea of masturbating (along with porn) for the rest of my life, I really don’t have much choice and I hope you can respect my decision despite our differences.

            By Jarvis | 1 year ago
    • Dear Harmony,

      It is so nice that you wrote to your future husband and let me tell you that coming from a man, there is nothing more beautiful than a woman that cherishes her purity so much as to not let herself be carried away by sins of purity. Have pride in the battle you are facing and know that the man God has prepared for you will love you despite your past and you will love him despite his.

      Just pray, fast and change behaviors. Making small sacrifices helps a lot….and of course the motivation of your future husband also does (it is helping me 😉 )

      Prayers coming your way! God bless you and Our Mother protect you in her mantle! 😀

      By William | 1 year ago Reply
    • I ‘ll pray for your strength to win this war and whenever you fail a battle, never, NEVER fail to stand up again, because that’s what God wants from us. I am happy for your future husband!

      By Ladislav | 1 year ago Reply
    • I know that “back to confession for the 180th time” feeling. but don’t worry! saints in the making, right? Keep your future husband at the forefront of your mind. that is what I do.

      By FULLTHROTTLE23 | 1 year ago Reply
  3. Thank you so much for being brave enough to write this.

    By Anon | 1 year ago Reply
  4. Beautiful article! so true. while I am a man dealing with temptations and sins against self-purity myself.. I can say that Mercy and talking about these issues are 2 of the biggest things you can do to help. Don’t ever give up. It takes time and it is slow progress. But always keep working on it and trying to weed it out. God Loves us and understands the challenges!

    By Kurt | 1 year ago Reply
  5. Thank you for this. I am struggling with masturbation myself and this is what I need. A true confession of a WOMAN who became free with this. Yes I am too ashamed to talk about it outside the confession room. Thank you so much Mary.

    By Diane | 1 year ago Reply
  6. Bravo! Another amazing ‘M’ word is Mary – our queen helps us with purity not in some “oh you Christians are all prudes” way but in a way that makes you realize you are an amazing gift to be saved for another, or even an amazing gift that is reserved for Christ! With the brothers it’s all about proverbs 27:17 and being our brothers keeper and giving healthy outlets to our sexual virility (gym time, hiking, combat sports like fencing are my fav!) because as men even after marriage we can’t think of our wife as some pleasure bot, but be able to have full mastery of ourselves so as to love and serve her better as Christ does His Church. The struggle is beautiful and different for you ladies, but know we are fighting for you on our side too. Pray for us as we pray for you!

    By Sir Jarred | 1 year ago Reply
    • Bravo!!

      Praying for you brother :)

      May God bless you :)

      By Matt pratt | 1 year ago Reply
  7. Nice article :) Congratulations :)

    Personally for me its a war actually….!

    What i have understood is that i am not fully giving it up. Even when i confess.
    I cannot simply say its temptation or we live in such a world. Compared to what St. Francis of Assisi did like jumping onto bush of thorns we also have lot of options to avoid temptations. As far as what i have learned. Its the best to avoid situation that will tempt you than going into that situation and then trying not to get tempted. THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS…
    1. When we do that, we cheat our own body(considering it as a biological being which is supposed to have the act with another human body of the opposite sex )
    2. Our sex organs and sexuality is a gift that God has handed to us when we were created to hand it over to that person whom God has planned for. (Imagine how awkward it would be if some one see us opening and looking into their gift). – this shows the importance of modest dressing which will cover your sacred parts and which implies that you are holy,precious and invaluable :)

    Also as the readings during marriage says : its the husband who owns the body of wife and vice versa. We cannot “use” it our own to satisfy our selfishness. Some says “what to do when i get burned of lust?” . i would say don’t even ‘heat’ it when you really know that whats going to happen!!

    3. We are not really sexually satisfied by that act, instead we are just simply mimicking the act out of curiosity and impatience.All we get is a second of bodily pleasure and hours and sometimes days of depression and guilt.

    4. The main hazard of this act is that, there seems to have a less satisfaction for those people when it comes to marital act as they have gone to the level of addiction.

    5. By this act, you cheats Christ, Mary and all the saints and angels and your own future spouse, our parents and who not….!!

    Don’t feel ashamed to CONFESS the same over and over again. WE DO’NT HAVE ANY OTHER WAY TO CLEAR THE EFFECT OF THIS ACT IN OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE BY OUR SELF THAN MAKING A CONFESSION . (Think of the joy in heaven – Luke 15:10 – ” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.”)

    Lets teach our body to be patient till we meet him/her and give the miraculous gift in fullness and in the way it is supposed to be…. Sex that arise out of true love and not of lust.

    AND YES IT WORKS WITH FASTING!!

    Try avoiding a meal a day and give that meal or the money to a poor in need and pray for all the youngsters around the globe who are going through such difficult moments.

    Mortification has got great power… :) Let that be a cup of coffee or tea or a candy or a chocolate… Avoid having it when you feel like having it and submit that at the cross at Calvary and pray for others.

    EACH TIME WHEN YOU THINK OF “M” THINK OF THIS-

    YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS

    1. To choose M and have a pleasure that last for a second and the guilt and sadness that will follow you till you make your next confession.

    2. To choose Christ, who is standing next to you and giving you His hands to hold on and murmuring in your ears “My Dear, I love you, Choose me ” and to continue in His love and warmth. And to make all those in heaven HAPPY and PROUD of you and your choice and to be in that joy that you defeated the demon. :) :) :)

    Stay blessed :)

    May Mother Mary be with you all :)

    God bless :) :) :)

    By Matt pratt | 1 year ago Reply
  8. As a woman who struggled with a sex/porn/masturbation addiction from the age of 7, I’d like to add a note of hopefulness to all you gals out there who are embarrassed and mortified over this struggle. It can be overcome!

    Lots of great advice out there… And different things will work depending on each person. First and foremost, TRUST in God’s mercy and grace through the sacraments. Find a good confessor. Stick to that confessor. If you can find other gals to fellowship , talk and pray with in regards to this… Even better. Something I’ve observed as a female…Is the need to hide and isolate yourself, which is exactly what will lead you into the sin of masturbation, then promiscuity… If you hide for too long. For women, masturbation comes from both the same and different motivations… Exercise, yes… Fast, yes… (Especially from red meat during ovulation time). But don’t fast from relationships, it’ll make you vulnerable. :) Isolation can be an occasion of sin for gals. (And guys, too for that matter). Romance novels… Can put false exptations in your head and make you vulnerable, too.

    Tons more to say,…. But be encouraged! 😉 be gentle AND firm with yourself. Run to the sacraments. Run to adoration and be FILLED with God’s love for you… No matter what! Good luck and lots of prayers :)

    By Monique Valadez | 1 year ago Reply
  9. Quick note to add for context: i am currently happily married and have healed deeply from the past addiction. Whenever I encounter girls who are running into this, I really understand how much harder it is nowadays.

    Something people may not understand … Is that when a female orgasms, oxytocin is released. For those not familiar, oxytocin is considered the “bonding hormone”… Meaning whoever the woman is with sexually, they bond with. When you masturbate, you create a hyper-chemical bond… With yourself. When you have sex with someone else, it’s with them. It’s why we get so attached to sexual partners and masturbation… More than men. It’s a scientific thing. It’s why women have intense, emotional reactions to a breakup with someone they’ve been sexually involved with. It’s why we “go crazy”.

    When it happens once, it’s enough to create an “addiction” of sorts… So don’t be dismayed by having to go to confession often in the beginning. Give God and yourself time to heal. P.s sex is not a dirty thing… It’s gorgeous and better when sharing with a lifetime love. Shame… Don’t feel ashamed… Feel a desire to really love yourself as God desires, so you can prepare to love another! God Bless!!!

    By Monique Valadez | 1 year ago Reply
  10. Thank you for writing this article! Bravo! Masturbation CAN and WILL harm your marriage. Unless you are humble and courageous enough to acknowledge that you have a problem, because of it’s addictive nature, it will not go away. Masturbation conditions your mind to rely on oneself for gratification, not your spouse. And you want to be able to fully give yourself to your spouse:) The sacraments, prayer and petitions (especially in times of temptation)to our Mother Mary are always fantastic weapons. Fasting, can be in the form of simply going against your urge to masturbate, I cannot imagine that God would not be proud of you for being able to say no to such a powerful vice. God bless you for writing this article! Such courage!

    By Joan | 1 year ago Reply
  11. Great post. I too struggle with the M word.

    By Janique | 1 year ago Reply
  12. I like Matt Pratt’s idea when faced w/ the M temptation. Turn to Jesus and Mary. They want us to succeed in giving up this addiction or habit. They are praying for us & cheering us on to holiness. My ‘occasion of sin’ is staying in bed too long after I wake up and/or when insomnia strikes :(.

    Thank you for this article. It was very helpful knowing I’m not alone in this struggle. God bless, everyone. Stay close to Jesus. Stay close to Mary, our Mother. She loves us w/ such gentleness! :)

    By Renee | 1 year ago Reply
    • You mean Matt Fradd.

      By Rutt | 1 year ago Reply
  13. I’ve been struggling to overcome my urges. I came upon this site because I wanted to know if masturbating is a sin. I just had my confession the other day and now I’m having the urges again. I haven’t masturbated for a week and a half now and that’s the farthest I’ve ever been. I am a Catholic and still 15 years old. I’m so embarrased to tell this, but since I have read some people’s stories, I’ve gained courage. I so wanted to change and end my addiction. Please pray for me.

    By KJ | 1 year ago Reply
  14. My question is…. does the lust stop? If one masturbates as a single person (which as a female I struggle with), will the lust stop when one is married? I have reason to believe… no. There will be a temptation to flirt with a coworker etc.

    By ML | 1 year ago Reply
  15. I struggled with this for a really long time as well. It started when I was younger, and then jut cst always kept creeping back no matter how many times I tried to turn away. I would go to confession, but I would always be too ashamed to confess it or would beat around the bush when trying to confess it. It always weighed down on me and really kept me from growing in my faith. I finally decided that this was something I was sick of carrying around with me. Today God gave me a confidence in His mercy and grace, and I finally fully confessed it. I feel so free now – like a new person. God made us for so much more than this. I’m ready to start saying yes to Him instead of to my temptations.

    By Aimee | 1 year ago Reply

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