Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ellen White and Deadly Orgasms

By Abby
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It’s no surprise to anyone that Ellen was against “self-abuse” (AKA masturbation). Most people in the 1800’s were. Of course, unlike others, she claimed divine inspiration for such gems as:
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 (Appeal to Mothers, 25, 27).
In A Solemn Appeal, she attributes even more diseases to rubbing your privates, including: “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” (63).

Such nonsense has been debunked numerous times by modern science. The research of Masters and Johnson, in particular (yep, like the TV show), demonstrated that touching yourself is normal and certainly does not cause cancer, kidney disease, or death.

The Adventist church continues to take a quiet stand against masturbation, and they’re not alone. Most Christian denominations view masturbation as a sin, if not a disease, and religion in general tends to seek control over people’s sexual expression (for a detailed look at this phenomena, try Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality by Darrel Ray).

However, Ellen White doesn’t stop at masturbation. If you were like me as an earnest young Adventist, you may have been puzzled by such passages as these:
Sexual excess will effectually destroy a love for devotional exercises, will take from the brain the substance needed to nourish the system, and will most effectively exhaust the vitality. No woman should aid her husband in this work of self-destruction” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 477).
It is not pure, holy love which leads the wife to gratify the animal propensities of her husband at the expense of health and life. If she possesses true love and wisdom, she will seek to divert his mind from the gratification of lustful passions to high and spiritual themes by dwelling upon interesting spiritual subjects. It may be necessary to humbly and affectionately urge, even at the risk of his displeasure, that she cannot debase her body by yielding to sexual excess. She should, in a tender, kind manner, remind him that God has the first and highest claim upon her entire being, and that she cannot disregard this claim, for she will be held accountable in the great day of God (The Adventist Home, 123).
Indeed, Ellen spends more time denouncing “marital excess” than mustard, yet you never hear Adventists willingly own these passages. The concept of marital excess doesn’t make sense to modern Christians.

What is Ellen talking about?

In fact, these two topics—masturbation and marital excess—are one and the same. The reason that Ellen White deplored masturbation was not that it was selfish, as so many modern Christians teach, but that orgasms “deplete the vital energies” and cause disease.

That’s right. Ellen White believed that too many orgasms would kill you.

How many was too many? She never says, but John Harvey Kellogg, an Adventist medical pioneer who lived and traveled with Ellen and James White, went on record that once a month should be the limit.

This was part of the Vital Force school of pseudo-science common in the 1800’s. It is basically the Western version of chi. Vitalism was debunked long ago. However, the concept is everywhere in early Adventist writing about health. According to Kellogg, "The reproductive act is the most exhaustive of all vital acts" (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 119).

Occasionally, I’ve encountered people who are baffled that Ellen had nothing to say about homosexuals. To her, though, attraction must have seemed entirely beside the point. Ellen White had nothing to say about gay people, because she already had her hands full telling people of all orientations to stop having orgasms.