*** warning: graphic language ahead ***
In this post I talk about the view of Jehovah’s Witnesses when it comes to masturbation. According to those who publish their literature, masturbation makes you so selfish that it actually ruins marriages, and keeps a person from developing any type of natural sexual relationship with another person. It also makes you gay. (No, really.)
As if those statements weren’t confounding enough, Jehovah’s Witnesses also made the following statement about the practice, from the September 15, 1973, Watchtower:
If one understands the cause, it is easier to implement the prevention and cure of a bad habit. Did you know, for example, that mothers and fathers who stroke the genitals of their fretful babies to keep them quiet are unwittingly encouraging them to become masturbators later on?
When I first came across that quote, I remember quite clearly thinking, What the fuck did I just read?
I am in my mid-40s and I have never, ever, ever heard of a parent stroking the genitals of their babies to keep them quiet. Ever. As a matter of fact, I don’t know one parent that ever touches their baby’s genitals for anything other than hygiene and the application of diaper cream. A parent might rub a baby’s tummy or their back when they’re fussy, or even pat their bottoms when they’re holding the baby, but this is when they have a diaper the size of a mattress between them and that bottom.
How Common Is This
This statement is a bizarre, head-scratching bit of advice on its own, but consider what it takes for any statement to make it to the pages of the Watchtower. These magazines are composed by a writing committee; Jehovah’s Witnesses are very secretive as to who is on their committees and how they operate, but the point is, it’s not (or not supposed to be) just some random person rambling away. One person might compose certain articles, but a committee meets and determines if this article will be included in the magazine, and if it needs adjustments of any sort.
This means that, even if just one strange old man (and it’s only men on these committees) was familiar with this habit or had heard of this practice, he would need to present this to the committee. They would all need to agree that this is such a common problem that it should be included in the Watchtower. Was this something that had come to their attention from local congregations? Was this a practice in some local areas? Or was this something they just assumed parents were doing and, if so, why and how would you ever get this thought in your head?
Downplaying the Criminality
The oddness of this supposed practice is one thing, but the Watchtower never mentioned that this practice, if it actually exists, is a crime. A parent masturbating their child is sexual abuse. It is not up to a parent to give their child sexual pleasure, whether they’re 6 months or 16 years.
It’s also incredibly disturbing that they talk about fathers who do this. A mother stroking the genitals of her child is disgusting enough, and I’m sorry to be sexist but there is something especially creepy about a father rubbing his baby daughter’s genitals. How far would this stroking go; would he penetrate his daughter’s vagina with his fingers if she’s especially fretful? That’s called rape.
Really, either parent touching their child’s genitals for the sole purpose of giving them physical pleasure, whether it’s to calm them or under any other circumstance, is rape. Yet, the Watchtower didn’t mention that; their only purpose in bringing up this bizarre habit is their warning about masturbation later on. Apparently the idea of a person masturbating later in life is more frightful and of more concern to Jehovah’s Witnesses than the idea of a parent actually raping their own child.
I am very curious as to the source of this information and what caused the writers of the Watchtower to include this advice in the magazine. How common do they think this practice is, and why would they not talk about it in the context of child abuse, if they felt it needed addressing? Why would the writers be more concerned with the subject of sexual desire and expression when it comes to masturbation, than they are with protecting children from harmful sex abuse?
If you knew of parents who were masturbating their children for any reason, wouldn’t your first concern be to sound the alarm and chastise them for this abuse, and do everything you could to get the baby out of harm’s way?
I might also ask, at what age are they no longer considered a baby? Would parents continue to do this with a toddler? When the child is three or four? I’m sure we’ve all heard of mothers who continue to breastfeed until the child is that old; are the writers of the Watchtower imagining these same mothers stroking their child’s genitals during this time? If so, the only thing that concerns them is whether or not the child grows up to masturbate?
And most importantly, What the fuck did I just read?