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Solitary Vice [masturbation]

By Dirk Anderson

If you are a child, this page is NOT for you! Click here to go back

Seventh-day Adventist prophetess Ellen G. White proclaimed solitary vice [also known as "self abuse" or masturbation] caused a wide range of dangerous diseases and serious afflictions:

"Children who practice self-indulgence [masturbation] previous to puberty, or the period of merging into manhood or womanhood, must pay the penalty of nature's violated laws at that critical period. Many sink into an early grave, while others have sufficient force of constitution to pass this ordeal. If the practice is continued from the age of fifteen and upward, nature will protest against the abuse she has suffered, and continues to suffer, and will make them pay the penalty for the transgression of her laws, especially from the ages of thirty to forty-five, by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys, and cancerous humors. Some of nature's fine machinery gives way, leaving a heavier task for the remaining to perform, which disorders nature's fine arrangement, and there is often a sudden breaking down of the constitution; and death is the result."1

"Some who make a high profession do not understand the sin of self-abuse and its sure results. Long-established habit has blinded their understanding. They do not realize the exceeding sinfulness of this degrading sin, which is enervating the system and destroying their brain nerve power."2

"I saw that the family of Brother G__ need a great work done for them. H__ and I__ have gone to great lengths in this crime of self-abuse; especially is this true of H__, who has gone so far in the practice of this sin that his intellect is affected, his eye-sight is weakened, and disease is fastening itself upon him."3

"He had practiced self-abuse until he was a mere wreck of humanity. This vice was shown me as an abomination in the sight of God. ... The results of self-abuse in them is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, the head often decays inwardly. Cancerous humor, which would lay dormant in the system their life-time, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work. The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity takes place."4

According to the above quotes, the following health problems are caused by masturbation:

 1. Brain weakened

 2. Cancerous tumors


 4. Dropsy

 5. Eye-sight weakened

 6. Headache

7. Head decay

8. Insanity

9. Kidney disease

10. Liver disease

11. Lung disease

12. Memory loss

13. Nervous system damage

14. Neuralgia

15. Pains in the system

16. Premature death

17. Rheumatism

18. Spinal weakness/problems


Modern Medical Perspective on Self Abuse

Dr. Bill Lloyd explains the modern medical perspective on masturbation:

"The old myths that masturbation leads to insanity, stunts your growth, [etc...] are simply that, myths, which probably originated in the puritanical atmosphere of the Victorian age.

"Not only does masturbation have no bad effects, it is probably much healthier than trying to suppress the strong sexual impulses that many men, particularly adolescents, feel. Masturbation provides an important, safe outlet for these impulses, and may well keep men from unsafe practices, such as sex with prostitutes, adulterous affairs, or coercive sex, that is to say rape."5

"From a 20th-century medical perspective, I can assure you that this activity in no way affects mental or physical health."
--Dr. Peter Gott, nationally syndicated medical columnist, August 12, 1997
In 1966, researchers Masters & Johnson revealed the practice to be virtually universal in North America, cutting across all boundaries of sex, age, race, and social class. In 1971 Goldstein, Haeberle & McBride determined masturbation to be the most common form of sexual activity among humans. Recent studies have shown 95% of men, and 89% of women have practiced masturbation.

There is no scientific evidence masturbation causes blindness, insanity, or any of the diseases named by Ellen White. Any human being, with any common sense at all can reason that masturbation can be no more harmful than the act of sex itself! Physicians at the highly regarded Cleveland Clinic report:

"In general, the medical community considers masturbation to be a natural and harmless expression of sexuality for both men and women. It does not cause any physical injury or harm to the body, and can be performed in moderation throughout a person's lifetime as a part of normal sexual behavior."6
Even among Seventh-day Adventist physicians, with the exception of a few Ellen White devotees, there is now a near universal belief that masturbation does not cause the above illnesses.

Masturbation Myths Abound in 18717
"...a very degrading and destructive habit...There is probably no vice which is more injurious to both mind and body...it retards the growth, impairs the mental faculties and reduces the victim to a lamentable state. The person afflicted seeks solitude, and does not wish to enjoy the society of his friends; he is troubled with headache, wakefulness and restlessness at night, pain in various parts of the body, indolence, melancholy, loss of memory, weakness in the back and generative organs, variable appetite, cowardice, inability to look a person in the face, lack of confidence in his own abilities...[Eventually] there will be an irritable condition of the system; sudden flushes of heat over the face; the countenance becomes pale and clammy; the eyes have a dull, sheepish look; the hair becomes dry and split at the ends; sometimes there is pain over the region of the heart; shortness of breath; palpitation of the heart; symptoms of dyspepsia show themselves; the sleep is disturbed; there is constipation; cough; irritation of the throat; finally the whole man becomes a wreck, physically, morally and mentally."

"Some of the consequences of masturbation, are epilepsy, apoplexy, paralysis, premature old age, involuntary discharge of seminal fluid, which generally occurs during sleep, or after urinating, or when evacuating the bowels. Among females, besides these other consequences, we have hysteria, menstrual derangement, catalepsy and strange nervous symptoms."

Where Did Mrs. White Learn the Dangers of Self Abuse?

In 1864, Mrs. White published her first book on health reform, Appeal to Mothers. The entire book is devoted to warning Adventist parents of the dire consequences of self-abuse. In this book Mrs. White claimed her medical knowledge on the dangers of self-abuse came from visions she "saw":

"The state of our world was presented before me, and my attention was especially called to the youth of our time. Everywhere I looked, I saw imbecility, dwarfed forms, crippled limbs, misshapen heads, and deformity of every description. Sins and crimes, and the violation of nature's laws, were shown me as the causes of this accumulation of human woe and suffering. I saw such degradation and vile practices..."8
There can be no doubt Mrs. White claimed her knowledge came straight from heaven. Attached to the same book was an anonymous 29-page essay on "Chastity" citing medical authorities who agreed with the prophetess. Among those quoted were famous health reformers of that era, such as Sylvester Graham, L.B. Coles, James Jackson, and the phrenologist O.S. Fowler. So closely did the views of these individuals parallel those of Ellen White, the publishers felt it necessary to add a note denying prior knowledge on her part! They asserted...
"...she had read nothing from the authors here quoted, and had read no other works on this subject, previous to putting into our hands what she has written. She is not, therefore, a copyist, although she has stated important truths to which men who are entitled to our highest confidence, have borne testimony."9

Origin of Self Abuse Myths in the 1800s

Before 1700, medical references to the harmful effects of masturbation were scarce. In the eighteenth century, two works, Ononia: Or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its Frightful Consequences... (by an anonymous author) and Swiss physician Samuel Tissot's Treatise on the Diseases Produced by Onanism introduced concepts that Sylvester Graham later adopted and help popularize.

Samuel Tissot, wrote in 1758 that the ill side-effects of masturbation included everything from pimples to rheumatism, muddleheadedness and headaches and hemorrhoids.

In 1834, Sylvester Graham's Lecture to Young Men was the first of its kind and launched a whole genre of medical tracts on masturbation, known then as "self abuse" or "self pollution."

In his book Graham noted that the symptoms were easy to recognize -- victims were usually shy, suspicious, languid, unconcerned with hygiene, jaundiced. According to Graham, a masturbator grows up...

"with a body full of disease, and with a mind in ruins, the loathsome habit still tyrannizing over him, with the inexorable imperiousness of a fiend of darkness."10

The cause of acne in incriminating teens is revealed, and the result:

"...ulcerous sores, in some cases, break out upon the head, breast, back and thighs; and these sometimes enlarge into permanent fistulas, of a cancerous character, and continue, perhaps for years, to discharge great quantities of foetid, loathsome pus; and not unfrequently terminate in death."11
Health Benefits of Masturbation
1) Having at least two orgasms a week can increase your life span. Every time you reach orgasm, the hormone DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) increases in response to sexual excitement and ejaculation. DHEA can boost your immune system, repair tissue, improve cognition, keep skin healthy, and even work as an anti-depressant.12

2) Orgasms boost infection-fighting cells up by 20% according to gynecologist Dr. Dudley Chapman. Orgasm boosts levels of T3 and T4 lymphocyte cells - a type of white blood cell which produces antibodies. Psychologists at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that students who had regular sexual activity had a third higher levels of IgA (immunoglobulin A - an antibody which boosts the immune system and keeps you healthy).13

3) The hormone oxytocin secretes within your body whenever you engage in sexual activity. Because of this secretion, endorphins (hormone-like chemicals that bear a close functional resemblance to morphine) are released. Studies have shown that a rise in oxytocin levels can relieve pain; everything from headaches, cramps and overall body aches.12

4) Both testosterone and estrogen levels experience a boost through regular sexual activity. Testosterone does more than just boost your sex drive, it can help fortify bones and muscles, and keep your heart in good working condition as well. In women, sexual activity increases estrogen levels, which protects them against heart disease.12

5) For men, masturbation or regular sex is good for the prostate and can prevent painful prostate blockage. Storing seminal fluids for long periods can also cause prostate congestion, which in turn can lead to urinary and ejaculatory pain. Regular ejaculations can help ward off this condition, also called nonspecific prostatitis A study by Dr. Michael Leitzmann (from the National Cancer Institute) of 29,000 men found "higher elevations of ejaculation appear to protect men from developing prostate cancer." The study suggested that frequent ejaculations may decrease the concentration of "chemical carcinogens which readily accumulate in prostatic fluid."14,15

It is very likely that Mrs. White was familiar with Graham's teachings. In fact, many of Mrs. White's "inspired" health reform teachings appear to mirror Graham's reforms.

For a good while (1700-1900), Western medical wisdom viewed masturbation as draining vital energies and somehow related to mental illness. The tide started to turn in 1898, when Dr. Hoisholt and Dr. J.W. Robertson dismissed “masturbational insanity” as a “popular superstition” at a meeting of the medical society of California.16 During the 20th century medical and scientific research proved the concerns over masturbation to be unfounded. Despite numerous research studies, no link has ever been found between masturbation and the diseases cited by Ellen White, Graham, and others.

Is masturbation an "Abomination?"

Mrs. White calls self-abuse an "abomination" and warns of its "exceeding sinfulness." While the Bible warns against impure thoughts and sexual immorality in general, it is silent on masturbation. In the list of sexual abominations found in Leviticus 18, adultery, homosexuality, incest, and bestiality are condemned, but there is no mention of masturbation. If masturbation were indeed "an abomination," then one would expect the Bible to list it along with the other sexual abominations!


1. Mrs. White claimed self-abuse causes a wide spectrum of deadly health problems, including blindness, insanity, and even death.

2. Mrs. White claimed she "saw" the dangers of self-abuse in vision from God.

3. Her sentiments on self-abuse appear astonishingly similar to those of other health reformers she admired. So similar, in fact, that the editors of her book felt compelled to put out a statement saying she was not a "copyist".

4. Although writing often on self-abuse during her early ministry, she is strangely silent on the subject during the last 40 years of her life.

5. Long ago the SDA Church stopped publishing Appeal to Mothers, Ellen White's first book on health reform. One would think a prophet's first writings on her health reform visions would be treasured by her followers! Imagine all the disease and suffering this book could save the world from! Shouldn't it be required reading for all newly converted Seventh-day Adventists?

Your Questions: What about the Loss of Zinc?

Some SDAs have conjectured that masturbation leads to the loss of zinc in men, and that a deficiency of zinc can lead to the various health problems mentioned by Ellen White. Is this an accurate representation? What are the facts?

Researcher James Heffley, Ph.D., has determined through scientific studies that a man loses only about half a milligram (mg) of zinc in an ejaculation. This represents only about 4% of our average daily zinc intake. At this rate of loss, only extremely high frequencies of masturbation would deplete the body of zinc.

This research is proven by the fact that masturbation is nearly a universal practice among men (95%), and yet zinc deficiency is described by doctors as being "extremely rare" in occurrence in the western world. Zinc deficiency does occur in the developing world, but the reason for its existence is a poor, under-nourished diet, not masturbation. Of course, vegan SDAs are more at risk of developing a zinc deficiency, since zinc is found abundantly in the foods they do not eat: meat, milk, cheese, and eggs. However, it is found in peanuts, peanut butter, and legumes.

Even in the extremely unlikely event a man developed a zinc deficiency from excessive masturbation, does it cause the health problems mentioned by Ellen White? Unless the man was eating a diet devoid of zinc, it would be unlikely he would develop anything other than a mild zinc deficiency. It was once thought to be a factor in Attention-Deficit-Disorder, but recent research has shown that to be unlikely. We have no solid research that shows a mild zinc deficiency negatively impacts the brain. We certainly know that a normal case of zinc deficiency does not cause the problems mentioned by Mrs. White. Here are the typical symptoms associated with zinc deficiency:

  • slow growth
  • poor appetite
  • decrease in wound healing
  • loss of hair
  • taste - impaired
  • smell - impaired
  • hypogonadism in males
  • more frequent infections
  • inability or difficulty in adapting vision to the dark17
Now compare this list with the Ellen White's list of 18 ailments identified at the top of this page. There is not a single one that matches, unless you are generous enough to equate "eye-sight weakened" with "difficulty in adapting vision to the dark"!

In addition to all of this, Mrs. White indicates that the health problems caused by self-abuse are equally, if not more severe in females:

"Females possess less vital force than the other sex, and are deprived very much of the bracing, invigorating air, by their in-doors life. The results of self-abuse in them is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, the head often decays inwardly. Cancerous humor, which would lay dormant in the system their life-time, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work. The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity takes place."18
That quote would seem to put the final nail in the coffin of the zinc deficiency nonsense. If these health problems were indeed caused by zinc deficiency, then why does Mrs. White say women suffer from the same problems, and to an even greater degree?

SDAs have been looking in vain for 100+ years to find some scientific validation for her statements but science continues to find new evidence proving her statements wrong. For example, Mrs. White said masturbation causes cancer, and yet researchers have found that masturbation actually reduces the risk of prostate cancer:

"It will make you go blind. It will make your palms grow hairy. Such myths about masturbation are largely a thing of the past. But the latest research has even better news for young men: frequent self-pleasuring could protect against the most common kind of cancer.

"A team in Australia led by Graham Giles of The Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne asked 1079 men with prostate cancer to fill in a questionnaire detailing their sexual habits, and compared their responses with those of 1259 healthy men of the same age. The team concludes that the more men ejaculate between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to develop prostate cancer.

"The protective effect is greatest while men are in their twenties: those who had ejaculated more than five times per week in their twenties, for instance, were one-third less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer later in life (BJU International, vol 92, p 211)."19

For further study:


1. Ellen White, Solemn Appeal, 1870, p. 63.

2. Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 347.

3. Ibid., p. 404.

4. Ellen White, Appeal to Mothers, 1864, p. 25, 27.

5. Bill Lloyd, M.D., © Copyright 1999, Oxygen Media all rights reserved.

6. © Copyright 2001, The Cleveland Clinic.

7. Our Family Physician: A Manual for Home Usage; Allopathic, Hydropathic, Eclectic, & Herbal, pp. 288-89.

8. Ellen White, Appeal to Mothers, p. 17.

9. Appeal to Mothers, p. 34.

10. Sylvester Graham, Lecture to Young Men, on Chastity, pp. 83, 144-148 (1834).

11. Ibid.

12. "The Health Benefits of Sex (Part 2) by Al Link and Pala Copeland, Urban Male Magazine, Summer 2000.

13. U.S. News & World Report, Oct 17, 1994 v117 n15 p74(7), "Sex in America".

14. "Masturbation For Good Health" by Robert Pollack, Ph.D., Highlights From Men's Health

15. "Frequent Ejaculations May Counter Prostate Cancer", Apr. 6, 2005, Reuters, By Michael Conlon.

16. J.W. Robertson, M.D., Excerpts from The Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of California, (1898), "Relation Existing Between the Sexual Organs and Insanity, with Especial Reference to Masturbation."

17. Copyright © 2002 adam.com, All rights reserved.

18. An Appeal to Mothers, p. 27.

19. Douglas Fox, "Masturbating may protect against prostate cancer", New Scientist, July 16, 2003.

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