This is a follow up on last Saturday’s post about masturbation in marriage. If you’ve not read that post, this won’t make much sense. What follows is primarily a response to questions and points brought up in the comments – and thanks for all the comments! Because we are talking about marriage here, I will limit myself to married guys in my replies. (My favourite reply was an e-mail telling me I am going to heaven, and taking people with me! :mrgreen: )
First, let me give y’all an idea of how I come at this.
- When I was young, my father, who I felt was trying to live a godly life, told me that masturbation was an acceptable way to deal with my sexuality as a single.
- When I became a young adult, I got in with a group of like age folks who had far more zeal than biblical understanding. They were rather Gnostic in their treatment of the body (it’s evil, and you have to beat it into submission – apparently they never read as far as Colossians 2:20-23). Of course, these folks found masturbation to be about the worst sin one could commit. I was never completely sold on that, but in the spirit of Romans 14:23b (for whatsoever is not from faith is sin) I decided I needed to stop doing it. And I did – cold turkey stopped, and did not do it the rest of my single life (a year or so). I can’t say it was easy, and it made the lust problem I was getting a handle on go wild, but that’s another post.
- I didn’t really think much about it for several years, until my step-daughter was reaching the age at which her mother was going to have to discuss these issues with her. At that point, Lori and I both did some study and praying, and try as we may, we could not find any scriptural support for the claim that masturbation was sin.
On to the questions and comments. A few of these are from e-mail, are reworded, or are compilations of more than one person’s comments.
Comment: If you pray, God will give you the ability to not masturbate – even if your wife won’t have sex with you.
My Reply: In 1 Cor 7, Paul says some of us don’t have the self-control needed to stay single and not sin. Those folks are supposed to get married so they have a God ordained and approved way of dealing with the oh-so powerful sex drive that He gave them. However, what if you are married and your spouse is not willing? You may not have the self-control to be totally sexless, and since Paul did not suggest that God would take care of it for the unmarried with no way of release, I don’t think there is a biblical foot to stand on here. Beyond this, a lack of sexual release makes men far more sexually aware, and that means he is more tempted to lust, to view porn, or to cheat. I’m not suggesting this makes those things less wrong to do, but the increased temptation is not a good plan, in my mind.
Comment: The Bible tells us to practice self-control, and that doing so makes us better.
‘Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations– “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using–according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.’ [Col 2:20-23 NKJV]
I think this scripture applies in this situation. Self-control seems to have value, but Paul says they are of no use against indulgence of the flesh. I actually read an article recently, which said that we have a limited supply of self-control, and expending it in one area lead to a lack of self-control in another area. (reference)
Comment: That’s why God gave us wet dreams.
My Reply: When a young man has no other source of release, wet dreams occur about every three weeks (on average). As guys age, wet dreams become less common and less frequent. Many men won’t have a wet dream at all after thirty or so, even if they never climax while awake. Other men have them later in to life. Regardless, the frequency is hardly enough to deal with most men’s need. There is also the problem of having no control over the thoughts (dreams) that accompany nocturnal emissions. Awake a man can choose to focus his thoughts on his wife, asleep it may be someone else, and he has to deal with the memories of those dreams.
Comment: “If I repeatedly, habitually DIY by masturbating (especially over years and years as a single guy), then I will become a husband who is really good at staying solo in parts of my heart, thinking I have no *need* of that other in my life God has given me…”
My Reply: If this were true, I’d be a huge mess! I masturbated a lot when I was single, but I had no problem connecting to my bride. Staying solo in any part of my heart is not even an option for me with her. I also never had a desire to masturbate once married – even when I understood it was not sin, and when she was mostly unavailable due to working through her past. Once I had real sex, with the woman I loved, solo sex lost all appeal to me. I also know a guy who never masturbated until he was married, and then got totally hooked on it when they had sexual problems. I suspect not being able to open up to one’s bride, sexually or otherwise, is more of a personality and past injury issue than anything else.
Comment: But masturbation is good too, in a different way, and I feel a need/desire for it sometimes.
My Reply: As you can see from my reply above, I don’t feel this way. Frankly, I can’t even pretend to “get it”. I am tempted to say a guy who would rather masturbate has not had sex the way God intended it to be.
Comment: I make sure my solo sex does not interfere with out sex life together.
My Reply: Unless you are regularly apart from your bride for more than a day, I don’t see how that works. Just because you can do it twice a day, does not mean it’s the same. You feel and act differently when you are “less hungry”. Seems to me you are cheating her out of who you really are sexually if she’s getting seconds. I also think that you greatly reduce your seeking of sex, both directly and indirectly and that has to translate into less sex with your bride.
Comment: “I had a 10 year battle with lust/porn/masturbation. For me these were always connected. There were several points in my life where people would say that masturbation wasn’t a sin (even for singles). They actually encourage masturbation as a release.”
My Reply: I accept and honour this; I know other men who have found the same. However, this is only one possible situation. When I got out of porn (at 15, after years of daily use), I was able to completely stop using porn, and never go back, while continuing to masturbate. I think it would have been far more difficult, for me, to stop both of them. As I said in the first post, “If you can’t masturbate without such thoughts, then yes, that would be a good reason for not masturbating.” Same thing if masturbation increases the temptation to use porn.
Comment: My wife doesn’t want sex very much, so my masturbating is really a loving thing to do for her.
My Reply: I don’t see it that way. I think the Bible is clear that God made us strongly sexual, and intended us to have sex often in marriage. I also see clear evidence that God expected women to enjoy and benefit from sex. If sex is infrequent, and/or the wife is not enjoying it, something is wrong! In this case, masturbation is just covering up the problem, rather than dealing with the problem. If the problem is being dealt with, then a bit of masturbation as that is done might be reasonable, but as a way of not dealing with the issue, I think it’s a bad plan.
Comment: “I may have a very warped mind but for me being told no is absolutely crushing. In my mind a NO from my wife means several things:
# If she enjoyed sex than she would want to have it. Since she says no she must not enjoy sex and therefore I must honor that.
# If she does not want to have sex with me, I must not be providing her with the enjoyment she needs to enjoy sex, therefore I must not be a very good lover.
# When you realize that you are not a very good lover, that is a real blow to your self-confidence in this area and you tend to avoid it.
So, instead of being reminded how poor a lover you are when you are rejected, there is less pain in not asking.“
- No from a wife can mean a lot of things, and many of those are all about her fears and/or insecurities.
- Some women do enjoy sex, but still never want it.
- Being a good lover requires good feedback and plenty of practice. Any guy who wants to pleasure his wife can learn to do so IF she is willing to let it happen.
- I certainly understand how DIY and not opening yourself up to rejection is easier; at some point, it may even be sane to stop asking. Nevertheless, I think it is incumbent on us to do all we can to lovingly press the issue. Not just for our self, but for our bride and to move towards what God intended.
Comment: You’re just trying to justify your sin.
My Reply: Okay, none of you said that, but I’ve heard it a number of times, so odds are someone thought it. There is no “current sin” to justify, as I have neither the desire nor the need. As to any past sins, I am quick to admit those, and whenever possible allow others to learn from my errors. (For example, pre-marital sex, been there, done that, and my bride and I suffered a lot for that choice we made).
Comment: “Taking it into my own hands is not an option if I haven’t done the due diligence in actually taking the step of talking/initiating with my wife…not just hinting or assuming she is going to read my mind!!”
My Reply: Thanks Stu, well said.
Bottom line: This is a very touchy subject (sorry!) and one that well studied and mature Christians differ on. I have friends and colleagues I greatly admire and usually agree with who disagree with me on this. Because of this, I try to tread lightly on this issue. I have no problem with anyone who says it’s wrong for them to do it – but I have a problem with someone teaching a personal conviction as biblical truth, and I have a problem with someone teaching what I see as an extra-biblical theology as if it is biblical. That said, masturbation can interfere with a couple’s sex life, prevent a couple from getting help, or lead to very hurt feelings. Be wise!