Jehovah’s Witnesses, the smartly dressed people who go around knocking on doors trying to save souls from Satan and Santa, believe they are the true followers of God — or Jehovah. The group is often criticized for perceivably cult-like practices, some of which include shunning members who leave, avoiding the flag and nation’s anthem at all costs, and most recently, covering up allegations of sexual abuse.

They hate porn and masturbation, too. In a recent church talk exposed by a current member, it’s said that religious leaders describe masturbation as a “spiritually unhealthy habit” that puts a kink in people and their relationship with Jehovah. To them, watching porn and touching oneself to it is believed to alter a person’s brain, leaving permanent scars on the mind while creating a type of viral pop-up porn ad in the brain that never goes away.

Of course, Witnesses aren’t alone in crucifying sex and the porn industry. Though along with theirs and other religions' controlling practices, the narrow view of sexuality poses harm to its members.

Masturbation, it’s fine. But more than a go-to when feeling frisky and alone, it serves a lot of key purposes according to many in the medical field. Humans, like all other animals, are sexual creatures from birth. The practice often develops during infancy and is a natural childhood development throughout preschool and early elementary years. In adult relationships, it also serves as a bridge to gap a partner’s sex drive or spice up romance of the mundane.

One Witness, Lacy Graves*, who spoke with Rooster Magazine on the condition of anonymity for fear of fallout from religious leaders, was present at one such talk. She describes what most of the members hear during a typical sermon, that masturbation is sinful and leads to homosexuality. Witnesses believe same sex relationships are a sin, too, and teach the shunning of LGBTQ Witnesses if they do come out or are caught engaging in any same sex sexuality.

In this same October talk Graves let us in on, the subject of pornography possessed the podium. It was a lesson similar to what’s found on the Witnesses’ online platform, There it describes porn as an “epidemic” and that hardcore porn of yesterday is today’s normal porn habits. To them, the sickness is spreading.

“Watching porn is supporting an industry that degrades people,” says Graves. “You can’t ever un-see what you see.” She also says that in the recent talk, porn was linked to depression, suicide, and leads to sex crimes, like child molestation. “Pornography viewing and addiction hurts children and families,” she adds.

Against what the group believes, however, pornography has no proven negative effects, cognitively or otherwise, according to Psychology Today. The article points to one Dutch study in particular that shows in 96 percent of youth participants who watched porn, there were no negative social or behavioral consequences.

"People who like porn, and watch porn, tend to also be people who enjoy sex," writes Dr. David J. Ley Ph.D. "Sex is healthy and good for you, and so is masturbation. Even lots of sex and lots of masturbation. There’s no scientific evidence that porn is any different to your brain than any other form of entertainment, from television to video games."

Former Witness David Clark* (also under the guise of anonymity fearing fallout) says that he discovered porn around the age of 12, and even though he never got caught, he felt guilty after watching it. He knew the stakes were high; he could lose social standing or “privileges” such as getting to be married inside a Kingdom Hall.

He and others understand that Jehovah's Witnesses have a lot of narrow views on sexuality. Another former Witness, Rodney Jones*, recounts a story of being pulled into the back room to talk to the Elders — the Witness version of having to go to the principal’s office.

“Someone at school said they saw me kissing and holding hands with a girl from our Kingdom Hall,” he says. “The Elder’s basically asked me about the allegations. I told them they weren’t true. But, if they had been and I admitted it, they would have talked to me about consequences.”

Jones says that holding hands and kissing are strongly discouraged, unless you're engaged. And even then, kisses are to be “just a peck.” Dating couples must be chaperoned at all times as well, even out to dinner in a crowded restaurant.

And sex? It's completely off the table until the wedding night.

Butt stuff and mouth stuff is always off-limits, even if your married,” Jones adds. “They teach that it’s like the Greek word ‘pornea,’ or an unspeakable sexual act. And sex is really just supposed to be for procreating. You can enjoy it if you’re married, but the goal is just procreation.”     

Clark confirms what Jones says, too, adding he was taught by religious leaders that jerking off, anal sex, or blowjobs are wrong because they're, “wasting your seed, which is just supposed to be used to get your wife pregnant.”

Jones confirms: “They would just say how sad [sexual acts] make Jehovah, how angry, and how Jehovah was only going to save faithful witnesses,” he says.

Jerk-off and Jehovah might just let you die a horrific death in Armageddon?

Teachings aside, demanding people avoid normal behaviors — such as same-sex attraction or masturbation, or even harmless behaviors like watching porn — could very easily lead to guilt, depression and self-esteem issues. Just the opposite of what the group claims engaging in sex will lead to.

Their own narrow view on sexuality and the guilt it causes are what can actually lead to depression and suicide, or so says medical experts at least. Literal scars that will never be prayed away.

* = names changed to protect identity // originally published November 13, 2017