It has been a while since we have visited the topic of masturbation here. I’ve written and spoken about it before, but I think it is good to revisit this, even though it can be an uncomfortable topic. Many people (myself included) have experienced deep shame over the place of masturbation in their lives. I hope this article (and the follow-up article in a few weeks) will provide a helpful framework to think through the topic. I am praying against shame in my own life and for those of you who are reading this.
Let me say up front that I find masturbation to be a confusing topic. One of the questions that first comes to mind, “Is masturbation a sin?” points directly to the heart of the matter. There is much disagreement about the answer to that question. I have been hesitant to write about this topic, because there are such opposing views. Teachers and leaders who I deeply respect have come up with different answers.
My own experience with the issue has confused me even further.
There have been times when I have felt so deeply convicted because of masturbation. With this conviction came grief, remorse, and a desire to change my behavior. But there have also been seasons where masturbation seemed like the least of my problems. At times, given the plethora of sinful options available to me, I was greatly relieved that masturbation was the only behavior I had engaged in. I have been baffled by the non-issue it has been sometimes, especially during difficult times. As a married person, the way I use my sexuality affects more than just me, and I need to be considerate of my spouse.
Masturbation seems to be more popular than ever! It is the subject of many jokes in movies and sitcoms. There is an openness about the topic now, which is better than the hiding in the dark that has characterized it in the past. Unfortunately, a cavalier attitude accompanies the humorous aspects of the issue, and many never stop to question the appropriateness of the behavior. Masturbation is encouraged by many pop psychologists as a healthy and safe way to explore one’s sexuality.
I once saw an episode of Oprah where the “specialist of the day” was encouraging moms to not only teach their daughters how to masturbate, but also to buy them “toys” to enhance the experience. The reason: to help girls separate the good, intense sexual feelings from their good, intense feelings for boys. Girls don’t need men to have an orgasm, and they will make better choices for themselves if they experience sexual pleasure alone. There is a backwards sort of logic to that, I guess. This might keep girls from getting pregnant or an STD, but what else is it teaching them?
Within the church and Christianity
The traditional view within the church seems to be that masturbation is not a good behavior. Some go so far as to call it a sin, referencing Genesis 38 and the “sin of Onan.” Onan’s brother was killed before he could produce a son with his wife. According to the laws of the time, it fell to Onan to impregnate his brother’s wife so that she would not be barren and dishonored.
Vs. 9 -10 read, “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, so whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so he put him to death also.” This passage is misused when used to prove the sinful nature of masturbation. Onan’s sin was his refusal to impregnate his brother’s wife. This was not masturbation, but rather coitus interruptus. There are, in fact, no direct references to masturbation within Scripture.
There are, however, plenty of references within Scripture about sexual immorality. The one that I think best applies to the issue of masturbation is Matthew 5:28 which reads, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” This passage speaks about sexual fantasy, which is an almost inevitable aspect of masturbation. I believe the intent behind these words also includes a woman looking lustfully at a man, a man looking lustfully at another man, or a woman looking lustfully at another woman. Jesus is clear here: sexual fantasy is the heart level equivalent of adultery.
Can a person masturbate without fantasy?
This is a question I have asked myself often. I’ve even “experimented” with the concept as well, and with some success. Over the course of many years of struggle, I’ve been successful at separating sexual fantasy from masturbation about five times. To be clear, this is not a very good success rate; apparently, it is the fantasy that is more appealing than the act itself! I can’t speak for everyone, but the two really go hand in hand (did I just say that? LOL).
After much questioning, experience, and research, I have determined that masturbation is really not something that is good for me. It is too connected with fantasy and other addictive behaviors that I don’t want in my life. This does not mean that it has been eradicated from my life, but rather something that I strive to use less and less, as it proves to be more of a hindrance than a help. In my next article, I will explore my reasons for saying so further. Thank you for thinking through this issue with me!
Roger began working with WGA in October of 1996 as the Assistant office Manager. Since that time, he has worn many hats and served in several different positions, including Assistant Program Director and Operations Director. In April of 2007, Roger assumed the position of Executive Director.
Roger attended West Texas A&M University, where he studied Music Business. Much of his training has been “on the job,” where he was mentored by the ministry’s Founder, Mary Heathman, and the Program Director, Scott Kingry. He holds a BA from West Texas A&M University.
Roger, his wife Jill, and their daughter Julia and son William, attend Celebration Community Church where Jill serves as Senior Pastor.
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