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Taboo


Misunderstood: Masturbation and Menstruation

Masturbation

Masturbation has historically been a taboo, but is now viewed as normal by nearly all medical authorities and social scientists. Even the majority of people in our society now understand masturbation to be a common sexual behavior that is not harmful.

A number of studies in the last several years indicate that attitudes toward masturbation have relaxed considerably compared to earlier times.

Though the Bible has no clear-cut prohibitions against this sexual activity, both traditional Judaism and Christianity generally regard masturbation as sinful. The Catholic Church in the Vatican paper "Declaration on Sexual Ethics" (December 29, 1975) noted that "masturbation is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act." Thus, masturbation has been described as "self-abuse," "defilement of the flesh," and "self-pollution."

Menstruation

Although menstruation is a normal part of the female reproductive cycle, it is the subject of considerable misunderstanding as a taboo.

Menstruation is the sloughing off of the uterine lining that builds up during the previous month. It occurs about once a month in most women between the ages of approximately 12 and 48.

In ancient times, a menstruating woman was regarded as unclean and liable to pollute foods she handled, or cause crops to wither. The primary reason for this taboo seems to be the fear of blood.

It is thought that menstrual taboos were enforced by men who connected a woman's monthly cycle with the turning of the tides, the changing of the seasons and other events that were mysterious to them.

Superstition and taboos around a woman's monthly cycle continue to persist in our contemporary society.

A common superstition in western culture is the belief that walking under a ladder will bring you bad luck. This myth supposedly evolved from earlier times when people would not walk under a bridge in case a menstruating woman was nearby because they feared her blood would fall on their head.

The belief that the normal process of menstruation is somehow dirty or evil is still evident in the slang expressions of a woman having the "curse" or being "on the rag". It is often seen by men and women as a physical or emotional handicap that makes women "inferior" to men, and many couples view intercourse during menstruation as messy and sloppy and avoid intimate activities for hygienic reasons, although this is not medically necessary.

Copyright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute


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