Bizarre Mormon anti-masturbation video narrated by BYU President

February 3, 2014 • 12:50 pm

We all know the Catholic strictures about masturbation, and how you can suffer eternally for unconfessed onanism. What I didn’t realize is that the Mormons also regard “self abuse,” depicted in the video below as an implied consequence of watching online pornography, as something with dire consequences.

This video, narrated by Kim B. Clark, president of Brigham Young University (the world’s most famous Mormon college), depicts a college student watching internet porn as the equivalent of a soldier wounded in battle. And those who know and ignore his “addiction” are compared to soldiers who ignore that wounded comrade. The film urges those in the know to report the onanistic miscreant to their bishop or another authority figure.

As the film ends, the self-abuser, who has clearly been subject to that intervention, is now depicted as having a healthy attitude toward the opposite sex, while the tattle-tale looks on.

It’s just like religion to take a normal sexual outlet and make people see it as the equivalent of a grievous wound. Why do Mormons care about this?

This video was apparently removed (by Mormons?) after it was publicized and ridiculed, but Dusty Smith put up a mirror video, and then made his own video mocking it (WARNING: Smith’s video uses pretty raw language, but it’s also passionate and pretty funny)

h/t: Buzzfeed, Ginger K

102 thoughts on “Bizarre Mormon anti-masturbation video narrated by BYU President

    1. Well, growing up Mormon, I’d always heard (but not necessarily from authoritative sources) that as long as there were two participants, and they were heterosexual and married, pretty much any form of sex was ok.

  1. Why do Mormons care about this?

    Getting people to do stupid things to remain part of the group is a form of costly signaling?

    Maybe it’s also a way to retain members: humans have a psychological problem giving up sunk costs. Sink enough cost into being in a religion, people will be less willing to leave it?

    Or, of course, they could just be puritanical jerks. (Or non-jerks, I guess)

  2. Why do Mormons care about this?

    Mormons are told that if they masturbate they will be less capable of loving their spouse. Bottom line. It will also lead to an insensitivity towards other people and eventually God.

    It’s all wrapped up in the idea that God gave us our sex organs for the purpose of marriage and procreation. Anything else is disobedience and going against what is naturally intended — which never works out well, like jumping off a roof and trying to fly. Using your naughty bits for your own pleasure is “self-abuse.” It will harm you spiritually (a given); it will harm you mentally (you will begin to think of the opposite sex as objects fit only for your gratification and/or unnecessary) and it will harm you physically (because it is a slippery slope from ‘lust’ to every other sin, since you no longer “respect” your body.)

    If you watch the video and think of the ‘crime’ as attempted suicide, heavy drug use, or ‘cutting,’ then it almost makes sense. Tell an adult. But without a world view which equates masturbation as being just like attempted suicide, heavy drug use, or cutting, it’s bizarre.

    And more than a little creepy.

    Of course, the meta-reason for their concern with masturbation may be the desire to control the flock. But that’s not what the Mormons tell themselves. They tell themselves they shouldn’t do it because their future wife or husband deserves to be loved as a human being and this will turn them into a sort of monster and prevent that.

    1. Of course you’re right on both counts, but it still kind of amazes me that there are so many guys (bishops or other authority figures) who are willing to confront other peoples’ children about masturbation.

      Do I want to have a long, awkward chat with your son about what he does to his own member? No, I do not, thank you very much.

      1. I grew up Mormon as well. My Dad was a ward Bishop, in fact, so I had to discuss my masturbatory preoccupations with him as a teen. I believe it’s standard practice for them to inquire during the requisite (annual, I believe) “Bishop’s interview”. Anyways, after fearing I would get a good talking to about the small amount of masturbation I was willing to admit to, he counseled me that it was a natural part of growing up to have lustful desires and the like, but that I should keep it under control for the reasons Sastra noted above. There wasn’t any attempt to instill guilt in me or threaten me with hell or anything, but he did convey that it wasn’t a good habit to get into. I assume he was following standard recommended procedures for Bishops, but I can’t be sure.

        1. Yeah, some of the interviews I had were like that; some were a little more fire-and-brimstone. I think it basically depended on the individual giving the interview.

          I can certainly imagine having an appropriate (ie, non-shaming) discussion of this subject matter with my own children. But other peoples’ children? Too weird.

          1. And now consider this twisted weirdness: being a teenage girl and being questioned about masturbation by only the males in authority. Or even my position: the daughter of the bishop himself, who took the time to inform me that he knows girls don’t masturbate. Freaky awkwardness ensued when his successor put his hand on my thigh while discussing masturbation.

            1. That is disgusting. I’m sorry.

              Even though I’m male, I’m sure, had I been in your shoes, I would’ve felt the lines for both awkwardness and inappropriateness had been left in the dust and downright scary territory had been broached.

        2. I find this discussion fascinating. As a teen I once dated a Mormon girl and moved in her social circle for a while. Now, I was a godless heathen but the promiscuity and uninhibited social activities that I encountered among this group of Mormon teens was . . . well, not shocking, but a real eye opener! Drinking, carousing, sex and stupidly dangerous activities where the norm. Actually I enjoyed it quite a bit, but then again I was a male teenager.

          I don’t for a minute think that is representative of all, most or many groups of Mormon teenagers. But apparently it is, or was, for some. Thinking back on it now it seems as if they were desperate to have exciting and daring experiences. It seems like this attitude must say something relevant about the religious culture they were being raised in.

          1. Probably just kids being kids. Those hormones are hard to squelch.

            Perhaps teens in Mormon families might be rowdier because they’re always being told what they shouldn’t do, iow, teenage rebellion.

            But I’m not sure they are any rowdier than average. Based on my experience.

            1. In this particular group I experienced, uh uh. I was fairly “worldly” for my age by all accounts, and in retrospect I agree that I was, but this group was far rowdier and uninhibited than any group I experienced before or after that.

              But, like I said, I am not trying to claim that this group was the norm for Mormon teens.

    2. “… this will turn them into a sort of monster …”

      Yeah, I always obey people who say, “Do as I say or you will become some sort of monster”. It’s a very good litmus test for finding conscientious authorities.

  3. Every sperm is sacred folks. Remember that.

    I think there are quite a few of the scary religious videos out there.

  4. It’s control, pure and simple. Straight out of the pages of 1984, if I could be bothered to look up the quote.

    If you’re so powerful that you can control people’s sex lives, even their masturbation habits, there’s nothing you can’t make them do (or not do).

    The proper response to that sort of bullshit, of course, is the most hearty, “FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE!” you can muster.



    1. Unfortunately, kids cannot reply with any muster, not when they are brainwashed. What religions make children believe will happen to them if they masturbate is child abuse.

    2. Could not agree more. The final chorus in a certain Rage Against the Machine song comes to mind. My wife somtimes teases me that that chorus was written about me.

  5. I’m no defender of guilt or shaming, whether it be by a religion or any other group.

    Having said that, it’s clear that video is being badly misjudged. It’s not about masturbation. It is about sexual addiction, a real and damaging process addiction in the same realm as compulsive gambling, compulsive shopping, etc. There are people who for many and complex reasons, find their sex lives to be out of control.

    I think (or at least hope) we can find room to acknowledge this reality and not become derisive of attempts to discuss that problem.

    Having said all that, it’s still a bad video. The use of combat metaphors and imagery is not appropriate. It belittles both the horrors of war and the complexity of addiction.

    1. Masturbating to internet or other porn hardly constitutes “sexual addiction”. Sex is a powerful drive for somewhat obvious evolutionary reasons and the fact that we can masturbate to relieve sexual tension is a good thing – Imagine being a dog or other animal that couldn’t reach that far.

        1. Strange that hadn’t occurred to me, since my dog does something similar – he drags his bedding out onto the lawn and has his wicked way with it there.

    2. It’s not at all clear that the video is about serious sexual addiction — though we might be assuming that it’s not because of what we know about the Mormon Church. They really do do treat masturbation on any level as wrong.

    3. I suspect what Mormons see as sexual addiction and what others see as sexual addiction differs greatly. Is there really a way to diagnose sexual addiction? I seem to recall it is controversial.

      1. My guess is that ‘sexual addiction’ would be like anything else considered an ‘addiction.’ It would have to be compulsively pursued to such a degree that it interferes with the basic needs of a normal life and causes great distress and problems to the person who has it and/or the people who interact with them. You can’t moderate or eliminate it just through “will power,” though you want to.

        But that’s not a technical definition.

        This video didn’t bother to go into any real detail of why this was a serious problem. It just was. I think Mark Perew is being very charitable by trying to interpret the film as reasonable from a non-Mormon perspective. Yeah, you can do that. Until you study what the Mormons believe and realize that they think twice a day is an extreme version of the addiction problem.

        1. Having grown up Mormon and therefore having had a few awkward chats, I can confirm that sexual/porn addiction is not really what material like this video is meant to address. We would be told that developing an addiction was a dangerous possibility, but we were to abstain from such amusements altogether. So this kind of propaganda is directed at any amount of porn consumption or self gratification.

          1. Don’t Mormon’s have an odd fear of addiction so they avoid things like caffeine & alcohol? I worked with a Mormon who would buy a bag of chips from the vending machine proceed to only eat a chip or so a day. He made those chips last a week. I think he did the same with chocolate.

            1. In all likelihood, the coffee/tea thing was about economics in the first instance — spending hard-to-get capital from a self-sufficient community for luxury goods.

              Ephedra, on the other hand, was free, easy and very much jazzing when they reached Zion. Had a chum in grad school whose dairy farmer dad in Utah had a massive ephedra intake..

            2. The prohibition against alcohol, tobacco, and coffee (or “hot drinks”) appears in the Word of Wisdom, which was a particular verse in the Doctrine and Covenants, a revelation Joseph Smith claimed to have received from God. Apparently he had prayed to God about the male church members’ tendency to chew tobacco and smoke during church meetings, and this was God’s reply. He himself had apparently chewed tobacco and was a home brewer prior to receiving this revelation. The purpose was to promote a healthy lifestyle, but I can attest to the fact that Mormons tend to eat pretty crappy food a lot of the time, just like most other Americans. They just avoid the fun bad stuff, it seems.

            3. Chips from a bag that’s been open for a week?

              No thanks.

              I’d say that must have been his own little quirk. Through its association with the Boy Scouts, the Mormon church sort-of encourages an active, healthy-ish lifestyle, but in practice there are just as many Mormon gluttons as there are in other groups.

  6. “the self-abuser… is now depicted as having a healthy attitude toward the opposite sex”

    Because nothing promotes equality of the sexes as the teachings of a man with several dozen wives.

    1. “equality of the sexes” is NOT what the Mormons consider “a healthy attitude towards the opposite sex.”
      If they didn’t invent the phrase “barefoot and nakked, chained to the kitchen sink”, then they certainly think it an aspiration.

  7. Jeez, this is stupid.
    Not only is it stupid it’s also sooo goddamn fuckin’ American: war is the only metaphor they know.

    1. “[Masturbation] therefore separates a person from God, and defeats the gospel plan.”

      Wow, I had no idea God’s plans were so easy to defeat! So everybody who masturbates is going to become an atheist?

    2. Holy shit. You’d think that these apostles speaking against it might be a little too familiar with the act. I am in absolute shock. I read some of those with my mouth hanging wide open.

  8. When I was in college we had a saying: “the latest survey shows that 90% of college students admit they masturbate. The other 10% lie”. I suppose at Mormon schools the percentage of liars is greater.

    1. Yes, how often when staying, in your formative years, in a friend’s house did you chance on their secret, but not so well hidden stash of porn?

  9. In all three of the Abrahamic religions, one of their methods of controlling the people is through controlling their sexuality, infusing it with deep guilt trips. Since the Mormons consider themselves to be true Christians, they have simply adopted that method of control along with the others.

  10. One of the problems with atheists criticizing religion is that too many of them (such as Dusty Smith) use too much coarse language. Do they think that will win over people? Wrong tactics. Their argument may be valid but they undercut it by giving a spurious reason to reject it.

    1. The problem with this particular criticism is that the religious are not a monolithic block. You can’t be sure what will work. Certainly, some religious people tun out anything with coarse language. Others though might find it refreshing, funny, daring, or honest.

      There are all sorts of videos from all sorts of atheists using all sorts of tactics. Never say never. I’ve heard “de-conversion” stories which were prompted by the most … unexpected sources.

  11. According to Boyd K. Packer (A Mormon “Apostle”), masturbation leads to homosexuality. It’s in a pamphlet called “For Young Men Only” that was distributed by the church back when I was still a member (1980s or so).

    (OF course, cursory thought would reveal that if masturbation had any effect in leading men to homosexuality there’d be a lot more than 2% -7% of us in the population.)

    1. There you go, bringing reality into this supernatural issue.

      Reminds me of an argument I had with a coworker in a bar a couple years ago. We were arguing about gay marriage. He was catholic. After shooting down several of his arguments he came out with, “It’s unnatural! If nothing were done about it humans would go extinct!!!”

      Damn! There was enough wrong in that couple of sentences to fill an entire paper.

    2. I on a number of different occasions according to a number of different sources have read that it is 10% to 15%, and that the numbers have remained constant throughout humanity’s existence.

  12. Minor nit to pick – Onan’s evil was that he withdrew during sex because he did not want to father a child. “Spilled his seed on the ground” as it were, and some argue that this is not relevant to masturbation and thus the buybull is silent on the matter. But of course, who really cares? 🙂

    1. More specifically, Onan’s “sin” was that he wouldn’t fulfill his familial obligation to provide his dead brother’s widow with a child.

      Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother.

      Onan’s sin was not about sex, but about family duty.

      1. Precisely – I decided to skip the specifics, and am glad to see your addition. Also – it seems that you have been MIA for some time – is that correct?? If so, welcome back, and we have a Purple Heart around here somewhere for you.

        1. Thanks Douglas — I’ve been in lurker mode for a while as work has kept me busy, but it’s sweet of you to mention it.

  13. At least males can claim that *not* masturbating (or equivalent) is abusing your body.

    As far as I know the fatty-ish ejaculate removes more lipophile waste (e.g. insecticide breakdown products et cetera) than sweat does (at least per volume).

    IIRC there was a wave of (very popular) recommendations to make it a frequent routine some way back. (At least here in Sweden.)

    Religion – it makes people poison *everything*, including their bodies.

    1. I guess the recommendation tag line would have been:

      “masturbate – enjoy a healthy life style”. =D

  14. This video […] depicts a college student watching internet porn as the equivalent of a soldier wounded in battle

    Hey, apparently I qualify for a Purple Heart!

  15. And, of course, it’s worse for men to masturbate than women. Guess they don’t think women do it too?

    1. Wait…women masturbate? But, why? They can’t actually enjoy sex, right?

      (Well, at least the ones who aren’t jezebels don’t enjoy it…)

      1. Well, looking at photos of Brigham Young, I sure have a difficult time imagining that any of his wives enjoyed it.

  16. Ooops, I thought they were talking about bashing the bishop but they want you to rat to the bishop. Could have been an embarrassing mistake.

  17. There’s a joke in the title of the video alone…”Christian Anti-Masturbation Video Encourages You To LEND A HAND”? Perhaps they should have thought that through a bit more before posting it with that title. Ridiculous.

  18. As my brothers and I approached puberty, my Catholic grandma took it upon herself to give us a book entitled “Let’s Take the Hard Road” (lol) all about the evils of “the solitary sin” (the word “masturbation” was never used). In it, self-abusers were depicted as sad, weakly geldings harnessed to plows and non-self-abusers as uberr-viral stallions, rearing up on their musculey hind legs — manes flowing gloriously in the wind.

    As I recall, it also had some pics of body builders which no doubt probably led to some unintended consequences.

    Mom: Timmy, what are you doing in there?!?

    Timmy: Just reading “Let’s Take the Hard Road” Mom.

    Mom: (Beaming) Ah OK then. (That boy really, REALLY likes that book.)

  19. I had a Boy Scout Handbook published in the 1960s. It had a section on changes your body will go through as you mature, and it mentioned “nocturnal emissions.” While it said that these were natural, it then added a warning: something like “Some boys, not content to let nature take its course, will make emissions themselves.” It said that this practice MAY be harmless, but should be avoided. I assume (I hope!)that the Handbook no longer includes this warning, but I wonder when they dropped it?

  20. I wonder, if lifelong Mormons DO follow the ‘no masturbation’ tenets, what the prostate cancer rates of their elderly might be. I don’t care how much they work toward loving their mates, for many couples the frequency of intimate relations decreases as the relationship ages and if there is no regular release of fluids there can tend to be physical problems.

    1. It is my understanding that men experience regular nocturnal emissions their whole lives through, even past the age of 100. Perhaps it is those in whom these emissions cease at a relatively young age who develop prostrate cancer, although many men who developed prostrate cancer had had regular and frequent sex with their wives or partners, or multiple partners.

  21. Less time spent wanking and, consequently, wasting sperm, is more time spent putting that sperm to good use in producing as many offspring as is possible from a battalion of wives.

  22. Well, I’m buggered then. Oops, technically not buggered, fu- errm, nope. Stuffed? Oh dear, why do all these colloquialisms give the wrong impression. How about ‘doomed’? Yep, that’ll do.

    My grandfather had some book on sex education from some Protestant bunch (possibly the ‘Plain Truth’ mob), I looked at it once. Fortunately nobody tried to inflict it on me. I distinctly remember it went into great detail about all the nerve endings in the business end and how a good parent should thoroughly wash their kids’ dangly bits daily to desensitise them so they weren’t prey to lustful thoughts. I am not kidding. The mind boggles.

  23. Hang on, I just watched it, this is a whole four minutes about the perils of [something-or-other] and a lot about the Great War but they never mentioned the magic words ONCE. Isn’t that classic? It could just have easily been addiction to X-men comics or UFO theories. Myself, I think it was Harry Potter novels, we all know the Devil hides in them.

  24. I grew up Mormon and was often asked about drinking and masturbation during these interviews. I never experienced fire and brimstone either. The various bishops were fairly cool people. I quit being a member due to my atheism and support for gay marriage. However, I still enjoy having Mormon friends. My orthodox Mormon grand parents took about 3 seconds to accept that I was an atheist and never treated me any less for it. By and large almost all the Mormons I’ve know were solid and fair people.

  25. This is so wrong. I am a Mormon and was there to watch the actual video. We believe that participating in anything “sexual” before marriage is wrong because our Heavenly Father gave us the power of procreation. This video was an example of how we can help each other through difficult times when we feel the temptation to participate in this activity. President Clark would never put out an anti-masturbation video. It is not about was president Clark wants for our school. It is about what we believe and know that our Father in Heaven wants our school to become.

    1. Oh. Admittedly the video never explicitly mentions just what horror it is about – but if it ain’t masturbation, what *is* it about? Rock music?

  26. By the way, CC, thanks for the Cult of Dusty link. I think. I’ve spent way too much time watching Dusty’s entertaining rants.

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