Is Masturbation Okay?
This article is in response to a question by a reader (Shirley Anne). She asked about what the Bible says about masturbation. The answer to this question might be disappointing to some folks but the Bible does not speak about masturbation explicitly. What the Bible does speak on is sexuality and what God intended sex to be. We are first going to dive into what God’s purpose’s were for creating sex. Then we will contrast that to masturbation.
God’s Purpose for Sex
Sex is God-given and all of us can thank him for that. Let’s briefly talk about sex from God’s perspective.
1)Procreation is the first command God gives to humanity. Genesis 1:27-28 says:
God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!” –NET
2)Pleasure is also an essential aspect of sex. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says this:
A husband should give to his wife her sexual rights, and likewise a wife to her husband. It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then resume your relationship, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. -NET
One thing that cannot be overlooked here is that this is not self-gratification it is selfless-gratification. Remember this when we contrast masturbation to Biblical sex.
3) Intimacy is another of God’s purposes for sex. Genesis 2:24,25 says:
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family. The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed. -NET
This may not seem like a significant passage but it speaks volumes in the area of intimacy. God clearly gives us an example of what a man and a woman do. They leave their homes to create a new one. They unite with each other. This unity is connected with being “naked”. What is important is the phrase “they were not ashamed”. If I walked out of my bedroom naked and saw someone I barely knew I would be utterly ashamed. They would probably be distraught but that is beside the point. Being naked gives the implication of sex and them being unashamed shows the intimacy involved in that action.
Those are some of God’s purposes for creating sex. Let’s now contrast Biblical sex to the act of masturbation.
Biblical Sex Compared to Masturbation
Merriam-Webster defines masturbation as:
erotic stimulation especially of one’s own genital organs commonly resulting in orgasm and achieved by manual or other bodily contact exclusive of sexual intercourse, by instrumental manipulation, occasionally by sexual fantasies, or by various combinations of these agencies
With masturbation defined we can move on to comparing it to Biblical sex. I will be leaving out the discussion of Biblical procreation because that is not the aim of masturbation. What I want to invest time in is looking at pleasure and intimacy. I will be drawing from an article titled “Does the Bible Say that Masturbation is a Sin?“. The article points out many effects of masturbation but I will be focusing on two of them: psychic effects and emotional deprivation. We will begin with the psychic effects of masturbation. The article says:
1. Psychic effects. Masturbation has a tendency to isolate its captives psychologically and socially. In masturbation, the person is focused on self-alone even though he or she usually is fantasizing about someone else at the same time.
This points out two troubling things about masturbation: #1 It is only self-gratifying. #2 It usually involves fantasizing about someone else.
Self-gratification was never God’s intension with sex or sexuality. Sex is meant to be selfless. This was the point that I made when we discussed 1 Cor. 7:3-5. Verses 3-5 say:
A husband should give to his wife her sexual rights, and likewise a wife to her husband. It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife.
Masturbation is not only inconsistent with selfless-gratification; it undermines God’s purposes in sex. Being focused on self takes away from one’s ability to give themselves to another. It stifles selflessness in sex and creates selfishness instead. Along with masturbation being selfish it also leads to sin through the common fantasizing associated with it.
Jesus said these words in Matthew 5:27-28:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” -NET
When masturbation involves fantasizing or pornography it blatantly violates Jesus’ command against adultery. One could argue that people can masturbate without fantasizing but I have never met a person who said, “I masturbate but I do not fantasize about anyone else,” and I went to a Bible college where things like this were regular topics of discussion among the guys. Masturbation and fantasizing may not be intrinsically united but they are definitely connected to each other. Masturbation undermines selfless-gratification but it also hinders intimacy. As I mentioned earlier, intimacy is another of God’s purposes in creating sex. “Does the Bible Say that Masturbation is a Sin” says this:
2. Emotional deprivation. It is impossible for the one who is practicing this habit to experience the full extent of sex emotions. Therefore, in short-circuiting the emotions one can easily be removed from the world of reality.
“Emotional deprivation” can cause major problems, especially within relationships. Any loving relationship involves intimacy. Marital sex is essential to creating intimacy. God wants us to be intimate with our wife or husband but masturbation limits that.
I think most of us understand that intimacy is connected to emotion. Of course, I do not think intimacy is purely emotional but without emotion how could anyone have an intimate relationship? I would argue they can’t. If that is the case then we see how masturbation can deprive us from intimacy.
When we engage in this act of masturbation, we are chasing sexual gratification without being emotionally involved. When we continue in that we eventually teach ourselves that sexual gratification can be totally separated from emotion and intimacy. That ruins marriages/relationships and destroys the person engaged in masturbation because it makes them “less than human”. Having emotions is definitional to being human. If we become emotionless then we essentially take our humanity away from ourselves. Sex was created to promote intimacy but masturbation destroys intimacy.
So, to answer the question, “Is masturbation okay?” I would have to answer no.
If you are caught up in masturbation, which the stats would suggest you probably are, I would encourage you to talk to a pastor and get a group that will keep you accountable. Those steps will enable you to have a healthy view of sexuality and a more vibrant relationship with your spouse.
Thanks for Reading,
Posted on January 13, 2012, in Christianity, Culture, Life, Theology and tagged Bible, Christianity, Culture, Faith, God, Jesus, life, Masturbation, Pornography, reformed theology, Sexuality, spiritual, theology. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.