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Neither acne, nor alopecia, nor hairy palms — the secrets that masturbation hides

“If your right hand causes you to sin, chop it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” That's what Jesus is reported to have said in The Sermon on the Mount. Of course, there is no shortage of people who have taken those words to heart. Many imagine them to be a direct condemnation of masturbation — as if you couldn't do anything worse with your hand! The position of the Roman Catholic Church is quite clear on the matter, warning us that "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."

Mild words for what had once been described as the "heinous sin of self-pollution," in a widely-read pamphlet circulating around early 18th century London. In another famous publication half a century later, Swiss physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot defined it as "the most deadly and sinister of sexual practices". A bit over the top, right? Well, pay attention, , because a certain Dr. Kellogg once said, "nothing, not war, not plague, not smallpox, not any other disease, nothing is as harmful or as disastrous to mankind as the pernicious habit of onanism,"Yes, really — the breakfast cereal guy. We don't know what awakened this negativity in people; this desire to control the sexual habits of others; this outrage at the thought of others enjoying themselves.

They attempted to scare people and they did. They shouted to anyone who would listen that masturbation caused cancer, epilepsy, hysteria, hair loss (on your head, because it sprouted majestically like weeds on your palms), anaemia, heart problems; and, of course, acne. Dr. Kellogg was a proponent of these theories. He also emphasized remedies like sewing the foreskin closed over the head of the penis, or applying acid directly to the clitoris. The world is full of whack-jobs, folks. In the end, of course, desire always finds a way. Now, who's scared? So, the empirical evidence proves that these 'masturbation side-effects' are no more than fallacies. And with regards to hell — well, we’ll have to wait and see about that one.

"Masturbation is humanity's primary sexual activity. In the 19th century it was an illness; in the 20th century — a cure," said Hungarian psychiatrist Thomas S. Szasz. Centuries of lies, of tales of ogres and of wretched souls burning eternally in the flames of the abyss led to repressed sexualities, fear, anger and guilt. This should never have happened, because masturbation is pleasure — but it is also health. A practice as desirable as it is accessible that no one should resist because of unfounded fears.

According to the statistics, 95% of men and 89% of women do it — and almost half on a daily basis. It helps us, it gives us pleasure and comfort. It activates the mind and the body, but it also relaxes us. It provides us with a safe place — and it's awfully good company. We're not so sure about hell, but you can definitely reach heaven with a hand, or with a good toy.