Q: My wife caught my son masturbating. She is shocked. What do I tell him? What do I tell her?
A: It’s certainly understandable that a mother would not be happily surprised to walk in on her son and catch him masturbating. Probably shock is the right word for what she would feel. However, as you would imagine, this occurrence is NOT unique, and, therefore, in the general sense not shocking at all. I think we can pretty well assume that parents have caught their children masturbating for as long as their have been parents and children.
The first time your son or daughter “played” their genitalia was at a very young age. Lots of parents have experienced a two or three year old son showing them his first erection and doing so with total innocence. He isn’t ashamed but curious and wants you to tell him what’s happening. Wise parents don’t faint, scream, or perform an exorcism when that happens. It’s just a natural part of life and the kid’s body tried out the equipment. He’ll forget it even happened — unless you traumatize him — and will discover the experience all over again when he is a teen; only this time he won’t show you or tell you about it. It’s just the way we are made.
Similarly, many parents happen upon their daughters at about the same age (2 or 3) rubbing their clitoris. The little girlds aren’t perverts; they just discovered something on their body that felt good when they rubbed it. Soon they’ll forget it’s there and will rediscover it about a decade later. Again, wise parents take it in stride, don’t make a disaster out of the situation, and help their children understand modesty and such without making them feel guilty or that they’ve done something wrong. Nothing evil is taking place. A kid is just being a kid and exploring thier body.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you should be unconcerned if your six year old orders dirty movies from the cable company, or if your seven year old daughter is masturbating and has an interest in sex far beyond what is typical for her age. When a child is a couple years old, it’s exploration. When s/he gets older, it truly is sexual and typically that doesn’t happen until about the teen years. If it happens earlier, it is definitely worth looking into with a counselor/therapist who is trained especially to work with children. Grammar school kids unusually interested in sex, or caught doing sexual things (with self or others) need to be gently and carefully examined and evaluated. There is a likelihood that someone older has been teaching the child what children shouldn’t be taught.
To answer your question, I assume that the boy caught by his Mom is a teenager and not a first grader. That changes the picture. Teens sometimes masturbate. Boy teens and girl teens. Hormones are flooding through their bodies that they don’t understand. Hair is growing where hair didn’t use to be. Voices change and bodies begin doing things they didn’t do before (such as the onset of menses). The yucky boy or girl down the street isn’t so repulsive anymore. Running from cooties evolves into running after cuties. Somewhere in this change, a boy or girl likely will discover that a certain part of their bodies swells and has interesting sensations when they think of sexual things. Most will masturbate to enjoy the sensation and to gain the tension release that comes with completion.
Does that make it right? Not necessarily, but it does make it natural.
There are some who think the story of Onan in the Old Testament (Genesis 38) is a clear example of God’s condemning masturbation. Actually, in context it is a clear example of God’s reaction to a man who was given a specific duty (impregnate his dead brother’s wife so that the deceased brother would have an heir) and then didn’t do as commanded. He turned it into an event for his own sexual gratification rather than to give his brother an heir. I don’t see any reference to masturbation there. Actually, there is no reference to masturbation anywhere in the Bible that I can find. So when you ask what God thinks about masturbation, you have to rely on Biblical principles rather than a specific Biblical statement.
We know that a married person is told not to lust after someone other than his/her spouse. Jesus called that adultery in the book of Matthew. One of my friends said he knows that masturbation is wrong because you cannot do it without lusting for someone you are not married to. I asked if it would be okay for a married man to lust after his own wife and masturbate while on a business trip. He didn’t know how to answer that question. From my viewpoint, masturbation isn’t wrong unless it is focused on a person you don’t have a right to. A married couple, for example, could masturbate together and there would be no sin.
So how does this relate to a teenage boy caught by his Mom?
In my opinion, Dad or Mom or both sit down with the boy and go over all the information about the “birds and the bees.” Talk openly with your son about sex and what it is intended to do both in terms of procreation and as an expression of love and commitment. Help him understand that if he focuses on some specific girl — either one he knows or has seen in a magazine, online, or whatever — he is lusting after someone he has not right to. IF he can masturbate and concentrate on the physical sensation rather than sex with a person he shouldn’t be having sex with, I see that as natural and not sinful. I’m not suggesting that you encourage him to masturbate. There is pretty good evidence that if a person masturbates a great deal, it will negatively affect a fulfulling sexual relationship with a spouse. If he wants to have great sex with his wife to be, whoever she may be, he should not “mess up the wiring” by excessive masturbation now or ever. Of course, then there needs to be a discussion of how NOT to shock Mom or anyone else in the future by ensuring privacy.
Finally, I would talk with him about porn and how that if he uses it, especially with masturbation, he will set himself up for expectations in marriage that no woman will ever fulfill. Not even a porn actress. Those actresses don’t crave sex every minute of every day and they are not willing to do anything anywhere. They do it on screen for a reward, usually money, and then they walk out the door being an everyday person with a real life just like the rest of us, and real life isn’t nonstop sex. If he wishes to set up expectations that will never come to be in his life, he will never be happy. Every decision and every action has both short-term and long-term consequences.
In summary: Don’t panic. Don’t make your son feel like some sort of pervert. Teach him and help him learn how to make good decisions. Whatever you do, don’t ruin his future by making normal sexual desire into something of Satan.