Masturbation in Judaism: Top 5 Things to Know from a Jewish Perspective

Masturbation in Judaism

From the beginning, the Jewish teachings have been very clear about their view on various sorts of sexual activities. Especially masturbation

But, over the years there has been some conflict in these views. 

Often Rabbis prefer not to speak up about this topic. It is mainly because, as per Judaism’s teachings, these are matters of modesty and prudence.

But, this practice creates the problem of a lack of information and even misinformation, Which can be harmful, especially to the younger generation.

Read along to find out what is Judaism’s final take on masturbation and pornography.

What Does Judaism Say About Masturbation and Porn?

Over the years it has been made quite clear that male masturbation is unequivocally prohibited.

This is under Jewish Law.

This prohibition often creates serious conflict and guilt in the religious and private lives of young Orthodox men, with serious long-term consequences. 

In the scriptures of Judaism, masturbation is called “איסור הוצאת זרע לבטלה” (Zera Levatala).

Which translates to “the prohibition of ejaculating in vain”.

Excerpts from Jewish scriptures that speak about masturbation

Here are a few of the main quotes, that the Rabbis often use to make a point about masturbation. 

Bereishit 38:8-10

And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and conceive her, and raise up seed unto thy brother.

Onan knew that he would not have the seed and that if he came to his brother’s wife and corrupted the land, he would not give his brother any seed.

And it shall come to pass in the sight of the LORD, that he hath done this, and he also shall die.

Masechet Nida 13a

Dr Yochanan Anyone who expels a layer of semen to nullify must die as it is said (Genesis 10: 10) and be evil in the sight of the Lord (you) who did and will also die the same Rabbi Yitzchak and Rabbi Ami Imri as if shedding blood said (Isaiah 7: 5) comforting the gods under all Fresh Tree Slaughters.

The children in the streams under the rock sections do not incur slaughter but an extortionist Rabbi Asi said as if star work works spelling the beat under every fresh tree and the innocent spelling (Deuteronomy 12: 2) on the high mountains and under every fresh tree.

Rambam Hilchot Isurei Biah 21:18

It is forbidden to take a layer of semen to void, therefore there will be no man flapping on the inside and sowing on the outside and not carrying a small one that is not worthy of the child but those who napin by hand and take out a layer of semen are not enough

Judaism is strictly against male masturbation. The language of these texts makes that clear. Jews historically shared the abhorrence of male masturbation that characterized other societies.

Jewish sources on ejaculation in the specific context of masturbation, however, do not base the prohibition primarily on medical considerations, at least not in that language.

They focus rather on concerns about self‑pollution, the murder of unborn generations, and the creation of demons. The concerns here are:

Ritual Impurity:

The first of these concerns accounts for the most common line of reasoning. Exposed semen, in the view of those who take this approach, somehow contaminates the environment and taints its holiness.

The sources do not go into great detail as to how or why this happens, but that is because they rely on earlier sources regarding purity.

One common scholarly theory is that impurity marks the loss of life energy. If that is correct, the medieval concern with masturbation as polluting the man who masturbates (and possibly anyone else who comes into contact with the semen) is simply a ritual expression of the same medical theories expressed in Maimonides’ medical language.

That is, masturbation is objectionable because it saps the sexual energy of a man and thereby threatens his health and well‑being. That is why the exposed semen and the man himself become impure.


While this is the primary concern about masturbation expressed in the sources, the mystical tradition in Judaism gave particular emphasis to another objection. In the Bible, Onan is killed by God for “wasting the seed.”

The act to which this phrase refers is interrupted coitus, but the Jewish mystical tra­dition applied it to masturbation as well.

This is in reference to the excerpts mentioned above.

In modern times, many Orthodox Jews retain these beliefs and prohibitions, but Conservative, Reform, and unaffiliated Jews largely do not.

The grounds for this change are largely medical: neither physicians nor laypeople believe that masturbation has the medical consequences described by Maimonides.

Moreover, few believe the mystical tradition’s depiction of the dire results of masturbation. 

Can Jewish Woman Masturbate?

The strong views that Judaism holds towards masturbation, do not hold true for the female population. There are no restrictions on female masturbation mentioned in the scriptures. This goes to prove that masturbation is permissible for females.

The main reason for this is female masturbation normally does not involve the emission of fluids. 

However, there is a prohibition on women from engaging in lustful/sensual behaviors (for instance, the role in the porn as it is often depicted is strictly prohibited). This is due to “Das Yehudis” (Jewish Practice), as explained in Ketubot 72a. These are murky waters that are yet to be explored and explained by scholars.

What Does Judaism Say About Pornography?

The Jewish principle is that approached in the right way, sex can be the most enriching expression of human love and the most creative act open to humankind. Sex outside marriage is wrong, in Judaism.

Sex within marriage expresses loyalty, trust, and understanding, and fulfills one as a person.

“The act of sexual union is holy and pure,” says Nachmanides. “When a man is in union with his wife in a spirit of holiness and purity, the Divine presence is with them.”

In order to promote “a spirit of holiness and purity,” the codes of Jewish law provide detailed guidance on married life.

Because it is an intimate, private expression of love, intercourse is not permitted in any public place.

This prohibition applies to real or simulated intercourse on stage or screen.

Despite the story of Adam and Eve, one should not publicly expose one’s body.

The use of aids for the establishment of a satisfactory sex relationship is not banned. The Bible refers to mandrakes as love potions, and the Talmud says that certain foods if eaten on the eve of Shabbat, help to arouse desire.

Judaism does not refuse to countenance works of literary art simply because they deal with sex. But only with modesty and dignity.

It says to the purveyors of pornographic material, What are your motives? Are you promoting a responsible, mature attempt at working with a serious art form?

Are you among those who find sadistic pleasure in seeking to destroy our society? Or are your motives not simply those of cynical, commercial gimmickry?

Judaism permits eroticism but in a modest and pure way. This is why Rabbis today are outright against the vile hardcore porn industry.

The kind of pornographic content made today is completely against the laws of Judaism. 

Addicted To PMO?

With the rise of pornography, porn addiction is also increasing all over the world. There is a porn pandemic that is spreading globally.

If you’d like to learn more about porn addiction, here is the perfect article for you. You can also take this porn addiction quiz. A simple solution to all the questions.

If you have any more questions regarding this topic, drop them in the comments section below!

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Bhanu Shree

Bhanu Shree is a seasoned psychologist with over five years of specialized experience in child and adolescent psychology, particularly in addressing learning difficulties and ADHD. A respected mentor in mental health, she offers transformative guidance to adolescents facing various psychological challenges. Beyond her clinical expertise, Shree is an acclaimed author, contributing insightful perspectives on addiction and youth mental health issues. Her work is widely recognized for treatment in the mental health field.

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BlockerX is an adult content-blocking app for Android, iOS, desktop & chrome. In addition to blocking adult content, BlockerX also has a strong community of 100,000 members and courses that help you work on your porn problems, one step at a time.