A few weeks ago a reader messaged me with the question, “Is masturbation wrong?”
I'm sure it took such courage for her to even type out those words because, as she mentioned, it isn't something you hear in many church circles.
This is a tough question and one that is not simply answered with a “good” or “bad”. If we turn to the world for advice we'll quickly see that it's normal and often prescribed as a the cure for a bad sex life (or a non-existent one). Google some of today's top women's magazines and you'll find no shortage of articles about masturbation and self-pleasure.
On the surface, self-pleasuring can seem like the answer to avoiding pre-martial sex or pornography. As Christians, when we evaluate the benefit of something, especially something sexual, we must not only look at the physical but the spiritual as well.
To answer the question is masturbation wrong, we must look to God's standards for biblical sexual behavior.
God's standards for biblical sexual behavior
- Does God expressly say no?
- Is it good for us (physically and/or emotionally) (a married couple) or good for me (single)?
- Is it only us?
Does God Expressly Say No?
God says “No” to several things but he does not expressly say no to masturbation.
Is It Good for Us, Is It Only Us?
Answers to these two questions have a host of answers. Let me propose two scenarios to you. I first heard of a similar analogy while leading a Passion Pursuit Bible Study. The illustration really shows how different the answers can be.
Couple Number 1: First there's the couple down the block. They seem nice and as though they have it all together but behind the front door he is on the computer every night until 2am watching porn and masturbating. They never talk or communicate, no date nights, no snuggles. They basically have a license to cohabitate and the bed they share is full or bitterness and resentment. As the song goes, “they're all alone together, in a house of their dreams“. She self-medicates with 50 Shades and whatever other mommy porn novels she can find. She's grown so accustomed to self-pleasuring that even when her husband wants sex she's in a far off fantasy land dreaming about non-existent men like Christian Grey.
Couple Number 2: The next couple knows that sexual temptation is real. They have worked through past struggles together and now he is on location for 6-months with his job. They have agreed that masturbation, with thinking only of each other, and done only if necessary, is the best thing they can do to keep from seeking outside affection while they are apart. They talk as often as they can had and have come up with code words to let each other know they were “thinking of” the other.
For the first couple, the answer to number 2 and 3 is no. When masturbation is used to escape reality and involves fantasy of someone other than your spouse, it is dangerous territory. It leads to a downward spiral where disappointments and sexual sin are likely. He will never be Christian Grey. She will never have the body or the fake sex drive of a porn star. This is dangerous, unhealthy ground.
The second couple can answer yes to both questions. However, this takes a huge amount of trust between spouses. In this case, masturbation is a temporary way to stay connected while apart. Along with trust, a couple choosing this route must have an intimate connection that extends beyond the bedroom. Intimacy and communication go hand in hand and without them, there is risk in masturbation.
The answers to the question is masturbation wrong, is not black and white. The heart of people involved is must be considered.
- What is the motivation behind your desire? Is it for spite or to escape reality?
- Is it something you and your spouse have discussed and are in agreement on?
Just a few things to consider.
But I'm Single!
The same questions apply even as a single. As you examine questions two and three be careful not to fool yourself. The danger is that you will often be a better lover to yourself than your future spouse (at least in the beginning) and this can be a hard battle to fight in the bedroom. That means, no, it isn't beneficial.
As for question three, since you have no spouse to think about…what are you thinking about? A co-worker, an imagined, fictional person you've made up? Is it really only you?
So, Is Masturbation Wrong?
As you can see, the answer is situational and requires careful consideration of the heart behind the action. Self-pleasuring for the wrong reason will net you pain in return.
What questions are you afraid to ask about biblical sexuality? Here's your chance!