By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. “Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action.”
Not everyone is as clear on the theological rules of the bedroom as the university spokesperson. After the policy was enacted in 2002, student Kevin Joyce wrote a satirical letter to the student newspaper, the Tower, suggesting that Catholic also outlaw masturbation with sex in order to fully comply with the Catechism.
“Recently, our university has implemented a new ‘No Sex Policy,’ but they have forgotten to include one necessary appendage— a ‘No Masturbation Clause.’ After all, isn’t sex with oneself still sex?” he wrote. “Students who are caught masturbating or suspected of masturbating would then receive a penalty, and depending upon the severity, could also face expulsion or suspension. In this way we can completely rid our campus of any sexual deviance whatsoever.”
Hey, jackoff—the anti-masturbation rule is already on the books.
While the sexual misconduct policy hasn’t done much to deter on-campus self-pleasure, it has helped keep masturbators anonymous. One 2007 alum, who wished to remain anonymous, denied that the sex policy discouraged any Catholic University students from genitally expressing themselves, solo or otherwise. “No. Not at all,” he says. “Not even a little bit.”
“Are you serious?” one 2003 alum, also anonymous, responded when asked if students denied themselves self-pleasure. “No. No. I don’t see how that would ever be enforced.”
“No,” one current student says. “Absolutely not.” He wouldn’t give his name, either.
“Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil.
Though the Catholic University of America shuns traditional forms of contraception, it does offer one morally consistent birth control option. One alumnus, who arrived on campus in 1999, remembers the option vividly. “It was my freshman year. I had just gotten to campus a couple weeks before. And the only thing my RA begged everyone to attend was this talk on Natural Family Planning,” she says.
“This husband-and-wife team came to my dorm lobby and told us all how to avoid pregnancy naturally—by going in and measuring your mucus levels.” The vaginal observation, of course, was to be strictly within the context of marriage. According to the couple, man and wife could have sex for pleasure as long as they scheduled carnal sessions outside of a woman’s fertile period. “They told us that we didn’t always have to have sex—sometimes you could just watch a movie,” she says. The alum, who identifies as “Catholic but not religious,” says she was “shocked” by CUA’s Catholic character when she first arrived. “They never advertised it that way to me,” she says. “I mean, I had never even heard of Natural Family Planning before I got on campus. I was like, what the fuck is that?”
Though Natural Family Planning continues to receive on-campus lip service (Chastity Outreach includes the option in its spiel), the ban on other forms of contraception is less exhaustively discussed. “They never explicitly told us about that,” Peter says of Catholic’s on-campus condom ban. “That’s something that you’d figure out after the first couple months, when you realize that the student convenience store doesn’t sell them.”
It doesn’t take long for students to zero in on the closest condoms to Catholic University: They’re stacked discreetly behind the counter of the 7-Eleven on Hawaii Avenue NE. The convenience store offers trios of either Trojan-ENZ lubricated condoms or Trojan Magnums for $3.99 a pack. Students who wish to secure even more convenient rubbers just need to know the right people.
Each semester, 500 Trojan condoms arrive on Catholic’s campus in a nondescript package. The contraband comes courtesy of the Great American Condom Campaign, which distributes 1 million condoms each year to more than 1,500 activist distributors across the country.
When Stephen Sobhani started the campaign out of his apartment in 2005, the Catholic University of America was one of the first campuses to come on board. The first distributor, a male junior at the university, “signed up right off the bat,” says Sobhani. Sobhani provided him with 100 prophylactics printed with the campaign’s logo, “a kind of flag penis that we lovingly called ‘the Fenis,’” Sobhani explains. “The school, obviously, hadn’t authorized that.”
The Great American Condom Campaign specifically targets schools with on-campus bans or limited accessibility to condoms, boasting that some of its distributors are “even risking suspension or expulsion” by participating. Even among college campuses with complete condom bans, Catholic University’s policy is particularly difficult to navigate. Georgetown University contraception providers are allowed to distribute condoms within the confines of the campus’ “Red Square,” a designated free-speech zone. At Chicago’s DePaul University, where condom distribution was banned in 2005, students pass out prophylactics on a public street just off campus, at a table monitored by a university security guard.
Catholic University distributors are forced to invent less public approaches—usually, spreading the word through networks of friends. “They were very clever in handing out their condoms. They had their own little system of doing it,” says Sobhani of the students he worked with at Catholic. “They were so secretive—but ‘secretive’ makes it sound like they were doing something wrong. They were just very discreet.”
Distributors, of course, take care to steer clear of the God squad. “One thing our Catholic distributor told us was that he was less concerned about being busted by administrators and more concerned about being busted by his peers—by some of the more pious students,” says Sobhani. “Before Catholic, we had never heard that. The fear was always that an administrator would bust you.”
The original distributor has since graduated, but the Great American Condom
Campaign, now administered through Advocates for Youth, currently reports SafeSites at six D.C. campuses, including Catholic University. Though it’s clear that 500 condoms a semester are arriving at one Catholic University student’s door, current distributors behave like good Catholics in one way: They aren’t talking publicly.
Condoms are exchanged a bit more openly at off-campus functions. At one such party, organizers offered a booze-and-birth-control deal for $2: “We sold two shots—one for yourself, and one for someone else—plus a free condom,” says one alum. The condoms came courtesy of a crafty underground distributor. “A friend of mine went down to Planned Parenthood, saying she was from GW,” she says. “She was even afraid to tell Planned Parenthood where she was from.” A Planned Parenthood rep assures Catholic students they needn’t obscure their campus origins to secure condoms. “Our policy is that people should have access to education and to condoms, to prevent sexually transmitted diseases,” says Tim Wahlers, the vice president for development for Planned
Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington. “We do not follow the policies of Catholic University. We follow the policies of Planned Parenthood, which are based in science.”
Speaking of science, a 2001 survey conducted by Catholics for Choice revealed that the university’s medical center does offer contraception to student patients—though only “for medical purposes.” A call to the center last week confirmed the option is still available.
Though not covered by the Catechism, this is very much within the cultural milieu, according to the CUA administration.