Eboli can live in sperm months after recovery from infection, whether you believe it’s morally wrong or not. The World Health Organization issued a warning to male Ebola survivors to abstain from sex for three months after four research studies found that the virus lives on in semen even its host has been cured. To combat the spread of disease, doctors in Africa are encouraging masturbation. Just how much this plays into God’s plan for the human race is up for debate.
Doctors recommending masturbation in Africa to prevent the spread of Eboli harkens back to a time when former United States Surgeon General, Doctor Joycelyn Elders, suggested that educators teach students about masturbation as a healthy alternative to sex. For her suggestion on World Aids Day, then President Clinton, pressured by a religious conservative right wing insisted upon her resignation.
These more sexually conservative folks think masturbation is morally wrong and is a perversion of the real purpose of sex. By their reasoning, people should not masturbate because it goes against God’s plan that we use sex to procreate and keep the human race alive and well populated. The belief that masturbation goes against God’s will because it does not lead to procreation is challenged by the fact that masturbation is the most convenient, popular way to extract sperm for artificial insemination.
The moral argument against masturbation goes deeper than procreation; it has to do with lust. Many religious folks view masturbation as a convenient conduit for lustful thoughts. (e.g. thinking about cheating on ones wife while masturbating is a sin). By this reasoning, any person who has a lustful thought, even while having intercourse with their spouse, is sinning.
Studies show that lust is a natural part of the attraction and mating process designed to lead to procreation. Are we then to be expected to control our lustful thoughts beyond censoring our actions? Trying to control one’s lustful thoughts could lead to self-loathing, depression, and anxiety, which can create harm both psychologically and physically.
The fear of masturbation may have been more of a concern at a time when there were more prominent forces threatening the extinction of the human race, from starvation to plague. Religion has done much to shape medical prejudice against masturbation as well in an effort to protect the population of believers. Many of these medical myths and misconceptions – it will make you go blind, it will make you go mad – were originally fabricated to keep people from masturbating, very likely in an effort to keep the number of religious followers growing. Today, the human race is well populated, thanks in part to farming and modern medicine. Given the recent Eboli crisis and the warning of doctors, masturbation could play a hand in keeping things that way.