By Samantha Sumampong, 17, Bishop Alemany HS
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Illustration by Cecilia Cho, 14, Burbank HS

During my U.S. history class junior year, my teacher randomly started talking about sex education. With a disgusted expression on his face, he said that a European country wanted to teach children as young as preschool age about masturbation. His voice got louder as he asked, “Do you want your children to be taught about masturbation during preschool?” The class sat in silence until one student raised her hand and quietly said, “Not really.” Like the rest of the class, I was uncomfortable because masturbation is rarely talked about.

I learned what masturbation was in sixth grade, but it was freshman year when I became more aware of it. I heard boys at school crack masturbation jokes. Eww, I thought, why are they saying that at school? Through my Catholic upbringing, I felt that the church indirectly associated masturbation with guilt because it emphasized that sexual acts outside of marriage are forbidden. But I was also getting other messages telling me it was normal.

In ninth grade I was waiting in a beauty parlor and reading a teen magazine. A reader asked the health columnist if it was bad that she masturbated three to four times a day. The expert’s response was that it was normal and healthy if it didn’t get in the way of other commitments. I was disgusted. I didn’t think people wanted sex that much.

I looked at Web sites such as, and, which had straight facts about sex. My parents never gave me the “sex talk,” but I believed it was good to inform myself about an issue that is important to my health. They had information on STD’s, contraception, masturbation and other topics. I read news articles that said masturbation may even lower the chances of prostate cancer in men. Was masturbation as negative as my faith implied, or was it healthy?

There were other things that showed that masturbation was accepted for girls, too.

Some people were saying it was normal

The show True Spin on VH1 played the video for “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper and said she was singing about female masturbation. I also read Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues. In one monologue, a lady goes to a vagina workshop where she learns how to explore herself and realizes how much fun she is having.

I was really shocked. I felt that there was an unspoken code that girls are not supposed to masturbate; they are supposed to have self-control. Most teens would consider them perverted and desperate for a guy.

My sophomore year, I spoke to a friend who I’d known since junior high and our conversation slipped into talking about sex. She told me she masturbated because she believed that it was good to explore her sexuality. Later that year I instant messaged a friend about why she masturbated and she said she saw nothing wrong with it. I sensed empowerment and confidence because they did not care what others thought of them.

I wanted to write this story because I wondered why masturbation was a taboo topic, but people were open to talk about sex. I wondered what others thought and whether it is wrong or right. I was so embarrassed to tell my editor what I wanted to write about, that instead of telling her aloud, I wrote it on a piece of paper.

One guy friend thought it was cool that I was writing this article. He said jokingly, “I do it so much that I have hairy palms.”

I called another guy friend because I knew he had conservative views about sex and wanted to hear his response. He said “Oh my God” when I said I wanted to ask him a question for my article. I asked him why he thought it was such a taboo topic. He got defensive and said “I don’t do that.” Then he asked the question back at me to make the point that it’s an embarrassing topic. I quietly said “no.” 

As a practicing Catholic, the information I learned from the Internet and my friends contradicted what my religion taught. 

The Catholic Church says it’s a sin

To understand the Catholic faith’s view on masturbation, I interviewed the health teacher at my school, Mr. Neumann. I was nervous during the interview. I’d say, “This is a really uncomfortable question,” and giggle. But he was calm. I’m glad I talked to him because it cleared up questions I had about why the church considers it a sin.

Mr. Neumann explained that according to church doctrine, the sexual part of humans is reserved for the intimacy of marriage. He also said that masturbation is only a temporary way of satisfying sexual tensions and that it does not ultimately satisfy the natural sexual need within all people. He compared it to a drug addiction in that doing drugs only temporarily releases a person from reality, when eventually the person will have to face reality again.

He also explained that sexual thoughts are not the sin, but the action of masturbation is because, although it is natural for human beings to think about sex, they should have enough self-control to protect the emotional and spiritual aspects of who they are.

I liked the message that you should respect yourself when it comes to any form of sex, including masturbation. Mr. Neumann told me that every person has a spiritual responsibility when it comes to his or her sexuality. Sex is more than a physical action—it’s a gift given by a higher being for humans to express love. I was intrigued that Mr. Neumann made a connection between masturbation and spirituality because I rarely hear that. I liked what he said because it concentrated on the spiritual side of sex.

I realized that despite the differences between the church’s view and the medical view, the goal is the same: expressing sexuality in a healthy way. For the church, being healthy means having self-control and waiting until marriage to have sex. The medical side says it’s OK to masturbate.

Masturbation is something I’ve chosen not to do. However, I believe it’s a choice for people to make and I would respect their choice.

That’s why I think masturbation should be taught in sex ed. Health class teaches teens how to protect themselves, but masturbation should also be discussed so teens know there are other options to expressing their sexuality without losing their virginity. With sex you can become pregnant and there are emotional consequences. If a teen chooses to be sexually active, I think they should consider masturbation as another option.

Questions about masturbation

Is masturbation unhealthy?
According to health experts, masturbation is healthy because it releases anxiety, acts as a natural painkiller because it is able to relieve menstrual cramps, and may prevent endometriosis, a disease of the uterine lining.

Does it mean you’re desperate for sex?
Health experts say people who are sexually active masturbate more than those who aren’t because they learn more about what sexually pleases them and their partner.

Is it bad to masturbate every day?
No. It is one of the few forms of expressing sexuality without the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Do both girls and boys masturbate?
Yes. According to a national study on, 95 percent of males and 89 percent of females said they had masturbated. The Web site said that masturbation is the first sexual act that most males and females experience.

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