Masturbation by definition is the manual stimulation of your genital organs (or those of someone else), usually to orgasm and devoid of sexual intercourse.
I’ve been avoiding this subject for a long time. Mostly out of fear of judgment or repercussions. I’ve prayed about this and talked to many, many people about it. Yes, it’s kind of an awkward discussion with some people. I’ve read hundreds of pages on the topic. I’ve prayed some more. This is not an easy discussion to have which is probably why most believers aren’t having it, and I’m not taking this topic lightly. As I grow in my understanding of sexuality and purity, my opinion on this matter has changed. A few of my friends have been discussing this topic and they asked me what I thought. It took me all of ten seconds to know what to say to them. It’s taken me almost three months to write this post.
My desire is to present MY OPINION on the matter and encourage you to seek answers through reading more and ultimately through prayer since God is the only one with all of the answers. But please remember, even after prayer two friends can come to different conclusions and still be within God’s will. Each one needs to be convinced in his/her own mind and live by those convictions and refrain from passing judgment on others who live with different convictions. There may be those who read this that are not followers of Christ and will think this whole discussion and post ridiculous. I’ve already had a few conversations like that. But even if you take God completely out of the equation, this is still a strong topic with both positives and negatives. I’m speaking as a believer who is humbled by this subject.
Scripture has plenty to say about sexuality, but as far as I can tell, it is silent on the subject of masturbation. There are verses that have been quoted to show that it is sinful, but at closer look, they are all about LUST or shameful motives (i.e. the overly quoted example of Onan in the Old Testament.) A common belief among believers is that you cannot masturbate without lust. Are lust and masturbation the same thing? I don’t think so, but they are difficult to separate. I’ve known people who maintain that it is possible for them. I think it is nearly impossible for most of us to use this practice without lusting. We’ll get back to that later.
As far as I can recall, I was never taught anything about masturbation. It’s not something my mom and I discussed, and it certainly wasn’t talked about at church. It was a word on my long list of things no one ever talks about so teens have to fend for themselves and learn from magazines and friends. It’s been interesting to hear some of my friends talk about this topic being in the realm of absolute truth and it always being a sin. Is it ever O.K.? My opinion is a hesitant yes. Without giving you a strict guideline to adhere to, (and really, who am I that I have the authority to do that?), here are a few situations I think it might be o.k.
a) As a physical release for a person who is sexually frustrated and/or celibate. For example, singles who want to control their sexual impulses and remain virgins until they’re married. Those who remain single all of their lives. Spouses who have a higher libido than their mates. Women who find penetration during intercourse extremely painful. Spouses who have an invalid mate such as a quadriplegic or some other physical restraint.
b) Between a husband and wife as a form of foreplay or mutual gratification and pleasure.
c) As a means of bringing pleasure to your spouse.
d) For spouses who travel on business and are away from each other for extended periods of time.
This is by no means a complete list, and I am not advocating that these situations call for self-stimulation. We could play the “What if” game all day. I think if it is possible for you to masturbate without lusting then you are ahead of the majority who find that impossible. I believe it is LUST that is wrong, not the act of manually stimulating yourself. To tell people “It’s wrong, don’t do it” without finding out the reasons behind the act, is irresponsible and unhelpful.
The cautions/drawbacks regarding masturbation are many. While I don’t think it harms the body physically (in most cases), it can desensitize it and your body can begin to need more to reach the same level of satisfaction. There is the risk of getting used to self-pleasure and no one else being able to please you. It can become a substitute for what God had planned for man and woman in marriage, and it can keep the individual focused on SELF instead of their mate. And while I’m using the word “self”, let me remind you that self-control is a fruit of the spirit. Being out of control is a slippery slope into the pit of compulsion. It can also harm the mind, especially if an ungodly stimulus is used as an aid. I think it is up to each person to examine their motives and be honest with themselves. I had a friend point out to me that masturbation is relational whether it is done in private or with someone else. If you’re using fantasy as a stimulant, you are violating the person you’re fantasizing about if you don’t have their permission. If you’re not married to that person, that’s an even bigger issue. Porn is a no-brainer in light of what scripture says about looking at a woman lustfully. Masturbation shouldn’t be a substitute for relationships with real people.
The other side of this story is that I know of several cases where masturbation actually helped strengthen a marriage. It is possible. That may be a futures discussion for this blog.
Our instinct when we feel strongly about something and want to convince others that we’re right is to point to literature that backs up our stance on the issue. I don’t want to convince you that I’m right, but I do want to provide you with some resources to get you on the path of discovery for yourself. If you Google “Christians and Masturbation”, you’re going to find opinions stated as fact from every possible view point. Opinions vary from “It’s always wrong and sinful” to “Anything goes.” You’ll probably find articles to back up whatever you already believe about this subject. My hope is that you’ll read with an open mind and then ask God to give you clarification.
Dr. Douglas Rosenau, a licensed Psychologist, Christian sex therapist and author of A Celebration of Sex, says self-pleasuring is permissible but any sexual behavior that becomes a habit can be detrimental to and narrow your sex life. You must guard your thought life and not have your partnership adulterated by fantasizing about other people. I agree with that. I’ve not read that book yet, but it’s on my list to check out.
XXXChurch.com takes the stance that masturbation is wrong. I highly respect what they do and who they minister to and in their line of work, I agree. It is wrong. They are ministering to people struggling with sexual addictions- especially pornography. I think the exceptions above do not apply to those who struggle with sexual brokenness. For those stuck in sexual sin, lust and masturbation are impossible to separate. Lust takes over the mind and body, and masturbation or acting out some other way sexually is the physical release. In these situations masturbation is a result of lust and always accompanies porn. But switching that sentence around doesn’t work. I don’t believe masturbation ALWAYS involves lust and/or porn. And there is good news. There is recovery from that place and a healthy sex life is possible. The road is long and the work is hard, but it is so worth it. Sexual brokenness can be dealt with and healed.
I want to say again, don’t kid yourself. If you think something is wrong, then don’t do it. If you have a clear conscience and God has given you peace about it, then practice it and don’t flaunt it, especially to those who would “stumble” themselves or judge you for it.
I found a few good articles I’ll pass along to you. There are thousands more on the web, just be careful where you look.
This is open for discussion…what do you think?