more thoughts…

The most asked question at the recent ‘God and the (sexual) woman’ evening was about masturbation … this post is a snapshot of what was discussed plus some additional comments as a response to how to think about it as compiled by one participant.

It could be that many of us are asking about it because a) it’s a big concern and b) our hearts have a pretty strong hunch that it’s not ok on some level with God or else we wouldn’t be asking.

The Bible is silent on the specific topic of masturbation although some might point to Genesis 38 and Onan’s ‘spilling of his seed’ and subsequent death at the hand of God has a prohibition against it, however that is not the intention of that passage. So we are left with the larger message of what scripture says about sexuality. In the absence of a specific prohibition, we can defer to Paul saying ‘all things may be lawful, but not all things are beneficial’. 1 Cor. 6:12

In masturbation, one is maintaining control of one’s pleasure and orgasm; whereas in sex with one’s spouse, one is giving up control of pleasure and seeking the pleasure of the other and giving oneself to that end.

The fantasies that often accompany masturbation are often about visualizing being with someone we are not married to.  We are the star of the show and we are sexually ‘successful’. It’s all about us and not about the other person’s experience.

Most of humanity has done it and rare masturbation is not a deal breaker with one’s soul or sexuality. But with frequent masturbation, we are training our bodies to expect more immediate and specific gratification than that of actual love making, which is sometimes clumsy and depending on any number of factors that real life contains, not like the sex on netflix or in our imagination. It is also one of the many things we do which turns the soul inward upon itself.

It might be that we have a poverty of thought when it comes to most sexual issues because it’s rarely taught in church and therefore we tend to think like the world has taught us to think. The majority of people are not going to go to Living Waters or Dan Allender Wounded Heart conference and other sources to get in-depth teaching about what it means to be a sexual being made in God’s image.


Here are a few additional readings:

Lauren Winner leads into this quote by discussing the anxiety that ‘masturbation avoidance’ can cause in Christians. “But if an overly strict avoidance of masturbation can leave us skittish about even rightly ordered sexual pleasure, frequent masturbation can also form in us strange and false understandings of sexuality– not the least the idea that sexual pleasure is an individual, individualistic, undertaking. Masturbation teaches us that immediate gratification is part of sex, and masturbation removes sex from relationship. Indeed, the whole point of masturbation is to provide release and pleasure of orgasm without the work and joy of relationship.” (p116, Real Sex)

“The immediate gratification of masturbation is simply not a characteristic of married sex, for marriage requires coordination and immersing your desires in a dynamic relationship. In masturbation, you control your sex life, marital sex requires surrender of control to another person.”(p118, Real Sex)

In a similar vein, Dan Allender remarks (paraphrase) “Men reach orgasm more quickly, women more slowly. This is how God designed men and women before the fall. So even BEFORE the fall, sex required sacrifice. Sacrifice of one’s natural and preferred experience of sexual pleasure. “

So masturbation is counter to God’s design for sexual pleasure, which is based on sacrifice, not self-gratification.

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