QUESTION: I have a question about something that has been troubling me: I’ve been teaching my teenage son through books like Every Man’s Battle and Every Woman’s Battle that boys and men should generally avoid masturbation as it could cause impure fantasies and that it can bond their minds with a picture of a sexual act or image instead of with their wives (or future wives). I definitely believe that men need to refrain from solo masturbation and only experience sexual stimulation in the marriage bed with their spouses.
However, I am not totally sure if this caution applies to women and self-stimulation. I know that, just like men, they are not supposed to allow their minds to engage in illicit sexual fantasies. Jesus was very clear in the Scriptures that thoughts of fornication and sexual immorality are wrong for both men and women.
On the other hand, women’s sexual and emotional wiring is much different than men’s. For instance, my wife of 17 years said that she learned to be orgasmic by stimulating herself and exploring her body as a young adult woman. There are now lots of books out there teaching women and their partners how to stimulate their G spot and clitoris so that they will be more sexually responsive and will enjoy the experience more. There is no doubt about it that my wife is sexually responsive to me and she would attribute it, in part, to the self-exploration she did before we got married. She didn’t think it was wrong when she did it back then and she is 100% faithful to me now.
Given that women’s sexual wiring is more sophisticated than men and that they tend to suffer with problems of frigidity and lower sexual drive, should girls and women really be discouraged from sexually exploring their bodies?
ANSWER: The subject of masturbation causes great debate in religious circles. Some cite a reference in the Old Testament to Onan as proof that God is against the act. Unfortunately, the act Onan committed had nothing to do with masturbation, so that argument fails.
As you indicated in your question, typically the strongest argument against masturbation is that of lust. You phrased it, “generally avoid masturbation as it could cause impure fantasies.” Another, though less often heard argument is that it may lead to a fetish. I don’t know if you realized that was what you implied when you wrote, “it can bond their minds with a picture of a sexual act or image instead of with their wives.” In the world of sexology, we know that young men may become sexually “bonded” (as you call it) to things other than pictures or images of sexual acts. Because I’m likely to cause enough problems just answering this question, I’ll hold off on explaining fetishes here…
I am impressed that you did not condemn masturbation in and of itself, but rather warn your son against it because of the potential added problem of lust. Rubbing one’s genitals is not sinful. Both boys and girls begin to explore their genitals before they reach six months of age. It is not unusual for parents to see their 2 to 3 year old sons or daughters rubbing their genitals.
It feels good.
Are they lusting? Of course not.
The thing that you state that I would have to disagree with from a sexological point of view is “women’s sexual wiring is more sophisticated than men.” We have been told that for years, but it simply is not true. Men are just as complicated (or use your word “sophisticated” if you wish) sexually as are women. You mention frigidity and low sex drive in women. Frigidity in the sex world means orgasm problems, typically being anorgasmic. Men have orgasm problems as well. Too soon, too late, too painful, too much to discuss in detail here.
I receive about ten times more communication from women complaining of their husband’s low sex drive than I do from men complaining about their wives.
Therefore, I would think that the old “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” axiom applies here. The ideas about masturbation would apply to both men and women. My belief is that both males and females CAN explore their bodies, learn about physical and sexual pleasure, and do so without adding the component of lust.
The difficulty is that our culture puts so much around us to titillate us that both males and females find themselves tempted by lust. For example, about a third of pornography consumers are women. I saw a research report the other day that indicated that over 40% of single women have purposely looked at porn solo. Lust is not just a problem for males. It is for the human race.
Sex education should start when children are young, but certainly on a level that is appropriate for their age. By the time puberty sets in, most of the topics should have been covered. Lust should be explained and a child taught the downside of it and what it can and will do to harm their future sex life as adults. At the same time, and this is where I start looking for the mob streaming toward my house with torches and pitchforks, a person can be taught that exploring the physical dimensions of the body can be both educational and satisfying by itself, without the dimension of lust. Your wife learned that she could do it and you readily admit that it is to your great benefit today that she did. Do not think that men cannot do the same. It is possible.
Conclusion? We who are Christians believe the Bible teaches that lust is wrong. However, touching oneself, even coming to orgasm, is not wrong if it does not involve lusting after someone to whom you have no right. Just as your wife learned about her body and how to love making love to you without doing anything wrong, so can any man or women IF THEY HAVE THE DISCIPLINE TO FOCUS ON THE SENSATIONS AND AVOID LUSTING AFTER ANOTHER PERSON.
Let the attacks begin….
Amen!!! I agree completely. It is both possible and if taught correctly I believe self stimulation without lust might help children/ young adults avoid being trapped in a pornography/ lust addiction!
Joe, I would love to hear an indepth discussion on what lust is. Is it glancing at someone and thinking, “wow, nice body” but then within 15 seconds, your mind is already on something else.
My understanding it is to long after someone deeply with sexual desire. Unless you are preoccupied with thoughts of someone (movie star, someone in the office, image in a magazine) then can you really be longing after them if you just give them a passing thought for a few minutes?
Joe- so if I’m understanding the lust / masturbation point from a biblical view…..as long as my sexual thoughts relative to masturbation are toward my wife (maybe at times of no sexual activity, e.g. menstrual cycle, distance apart, etc), then it’s “ok”….especially if she is ok with it??
Thank you for addressing this with accuracy and truth! The topic of sex has been taboo in church for way too long.
The problem I’ve found with masturbation is that it focuses on satisfying yourself and builds a habit of self focus. Then when you get married it’s easy to miss what is happening with your wife, to find out what her sexual needs are and work toward meeting them.
I’m with Susan here… I’m also wondering if masturbation creates an unhealthy expectation for a wife. Does having an orgasm whenever it pleases you, before marriage, contribute to expectations that your wife should fulfill your every urge after marriage? Is a single man who masturbates more likely to expect/desire sexual touching from his girlfriend/fiancée?