DIY sex

It’s been a while since I got a “You’re going to hell and taking people with you” e-mail, so I must be overdue for something a bit controversial. Maybe more than a bit controversial. So…

~ masturbation ~

My short version is that masturbation has no place in the life of a happily married man. Unfortunately a lot of men don’t fit in that category, so…

Is masturbation sin? The Bible fails to tell us it is – and despite the cut and paste job some do with scriptures to try to make the Bible say that, it’s really not there. Given that masturbation is a nearly universal event for males, I find it very difficult to understand why God would not have told us it was wrong if, in fact, it was wrong. This seems especially true when you consider the reality that we were told less commonly preformed/desired acts like homosexuality and bestiality are clearly called wrong in the Bible.

The usual fall back for those who admit the Bible is silent about this is that a man can’t masturbate without sexual thoughts (an inaccurate statement, but that’s for another post) and thus the lust makes it wrong. Of course, this is bad reasoning – sexual thoughts about someone other than your spouse are wrong no matter if they are done while you are masturbating, walking down the road, or getting a root canal. The wrong thoughts don’t make driving or dental work sin, so they don’t make masturbation sin. If you can’t masturbate without such thoughts, then yes, that would be a good reason for not masturbating. However, since we are talking about married men here, what you think should not be a factor – think about your bride, and it’s all good.

So, if it’s not wrong, why did I start by saying it has no place in the life of a happily married man? Just because something is not wrong does not mean we should do it without thought. Because I am convinced that couples should be having a great deal of sex, I am opposed to anything that might reduce, or risk reducing, a couple’s sexual frequency. While you would think no sane guy would intentionally chose masturbation over sex with his wife, it does occur, for a number of reasons:

  • He expects her to say no, so he does not ask.
  • He is not sure if she will say yes or no, but is not feeling up to hearing no.
  • He is busy, and a quick do it yourself seems better than the time needed for sex with his bride.
  • He wants it now, and she is not available – or not willing right this second.
  • He is concerned about erection problems.
  • He is worried about climaxing too fast.
  • She has trouble reaching climax, and he’s tired of the effort, or can’t face another “failure”.
  • He wants sex because of porn use, and feels bad about using his wife for that.

Each of these is a trap, in that once a guy starts to move towards masturbation for any of these reasons, he is more and more likely to choose masturbation again for the same reason. Additionally, once he has set a precedent of there being reasons masturbation is preferred, he will find other reasons to make the same choice.

When do I think masturbation would be a good idea?

  • Separation. I would think a separation of more than a day – no one ever died from going 48 hours, and if you normally have sex daily, a bit of extra time between can be for both of you.
  • Illness. I am not talking about every minor ache and pain.
  • Real sexual refusal. What is real refusal? I’d say at the very least it would be her saying no more than half the time you ask. Note that she can’t say no if you don’t ask. Her not taking a hint is not a no, and thinking for sure she will say no is not a no.

If you do have a good reason for masturbating, I think your bride should know about it. The only exception would be if she is so convinced it’s wrong she might leave you over it. Beyond that, I think she has a right to know, as well as a responsibility to have the option to offer to do it for you or otherwise be a part of it.

The reality is secret masturbation is counter-productive. Say, for example, that you and your bride have sex once a week and you secretly masturbate twice a week. You keep telling her that once a week is not enough, but as far as she can tell that is all you get, and you are doing fine. If this goes on for years (and I’ve heard it many times) and then the guy gets fed up and demands more sex “or else”, what is she to think? In her mind, he’s been fine with once a week for years, and his sudden demanding makes no sense to her. She wonders if he is using porn, or why he is suddenly so selfish.

Okay, comment away…

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21 Comments on “DIY sex

  1. Firstly, this website/newsletter has helped to keep my marriage together over the last 5 years. Great Work.

    Secondly, Sex…? My Wife is suffering from depression and Sex is a thing of the past.(over the past 8 years the yearly average would be low single figures.) Recent discussions have discovered that my touch brings feelings of revulsion, and the marriage act is compared to rape.

    So how does this fit with the blog? The recent blogs have helped me to re-evaluate the effect of masturbation in my marriage. I had considered it a coping strategy. I now think that it was taking/wasting the passion and motivation, instead of working at being a better husband.
    The upsides are
    1. more passion aimed where it should,(improving what I say,do,think, around my wife)
    2. No more guilt at thoughts about other women from using a coping strategy. The temptation to go there in my thoughts is constant, but through prayer and daily reading the Bible helps keep me focused. In fact, it’s easier now because the temptation is constant and that’s easier to defend against, compared to the fluctuating temptations caused by masturbating to get rid of the pressure.
    3. Coping Strategy’s… doesn’t that sound like a band-aid on a broken leg? Sorry if that is too strong, but some “Coping Strategy’s” are great and necessary, but there comes a time to stop “Coping” and start improving/working/fixing.
    3. The need to trust the Lord is multiplied. I can’t cope at all… unless its by leaning on him, and when I do, I’m almost invincible. Jesus is my hope, my rescuer, and my strength. When I have Jesus, what else do I need?

  2. Paul,
    Interesting post today. Having many thoughts traveling through my head not sure which direction to go first. It took me a large part of my life to finally understand that masturbation in and of it self is not wrong. The lustful thoughts that CAN be associated with it are the problem. I used to a lot in a sinful way. I do occasionally for some of the reasons you have mentioned.

    These two are the primary ones now:
    # He expects her to say no, so he does not ask.
    # He is not sure if she will say yes or no, but is not feeling up to hearing no.

    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.

  3. I appreciate the thoughtful articulation. Thanks. Especially the driving or root-canal analogy!

    Where it breaks down for me is that masturbation *is* DIY and “God helps those who help themselves” is *not* in the bible. Jesus’ example tells me that “carrying my cross” is about trusting the Father, being OK with a norm of self-denial, and decidedly not about “meeting my own needs”.

    I’m an RN and I can tell you from personal experience and from an anatomy/physiology background that (unlike food/shelter) no one ever died from their sexual “need” not being met. Yes, love and care are necessary parts of healthy human life — but if a man chooses *not* to masturbate, and leans on God to help him be weak-to-be-strong (a la Paul), then during sleep, when men attain and lose multiple erections, there will be a release of the build-up of sperm and semen. Often this is accompanied by a dream, but not always. I believe this is the better way to find the physical release.

    …and that is what it is all about, right? Just the physical release of the build-up? Because we know sex is about far more than just the physical aspect, so a guy that masturbates in an “OK way” by your definition, instead of having sex with his wife, is just getting rid of that physical tension. I say if he gets *anything* else out of it, then he is denying his bride her role in partnering with God in meeting his needs. The big lie of men who have affairs is “it was only physical”.

    I look forward to hearing you explain how a man might masturbate without lustful thoughts. To me and (I think) to many men this is (to quote Princess Bride) INCONCEIVABLE!!! =O)

    And he part about thinking about my wife, somehow making it OK and not lust? What about single guys? Either pre-marriage, post-divorce, or anywhere in between?

    Two quotes resonate here:

    “Since our slavery occurs mainly at the habit level, our freedom is discovered primarily at this level.” ~ Richard Foster


    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

    If I (through His strength, not mine) repeatedly, habitually, die to myself and live for God, then I will become more like Christ.

    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…

    Sign me “still not convinced”
    .-= Keith Seckel´s last blog ..Once Upon A Time (Again) =-.

  4. This is the most unbiased and objective commentary on the subject I have ever read – one I will let my wife read. I’m sure it will stir up some interesting discussion in a lot of relationships. Thanks for shooting straight (no pun intended).

  5. Hey!

    Maybe, with this reply, I, too, will be going to ‘hell’ and taking others with me!

    You said: “However, since we are talking about married men here, what you think should not be a factor – think about your bride, and it’s all good.”

    Yes it is! Very good! My bride and I both enjoy self-pleasuring. There, I said it! It was among the very first things we discussed shortly after we met and spoke the words, “I love you”- words of commitment, just of themselves. So, neither one of us ‘has a problem’ with it.

    You also said: “So, if it’s not wrong, why did I start by saying it has no place in the life of a happily married man? Just because something is not wrong does not mean we should do it without thought. [i]Because I am convinced that couples should be having a great deal of sex, I am opposed to anything that might reduce, or risk reducing, a couple’s sexual frequency.[/i]

    Of truth, you have my utmost respect for the wisdom you two have acquired for devoting yourselves to understanding Our sexuality from a Christian perspective and sharing that understanding with the church of Jesus Christ. Simply put, then, you know things I likely do not and so I do not discount this axiom you presented, but rather, I will offer an appendage to it.

    I have noticed that there is a huge difference in my emotional response when I climax while engaging coitus with my bride and achieving climax any other way, especially if we keep our eyes opened and locked into the others. However, I like [i]all[/i] ways of climaxing with my bride. And she is equally reciprocate and participatory. However, I have noticed that this level of expression we share is not known by every couple. I believe it an axiom, then, that every couple will develop their own distinct way of expressing their combined sexuality that, hopefully, [i] will mature with them[/i]. So, from this maturity that my bride and I enjoy, I have noticed that if I engage coitus ‘too much’ that unique emotional impact is somewhat diminished than when I engage coitus after a few times of climaxing other ways- usually with her. And I will add, that some of those ways are accompanied by a powerfully erotic, privileged feeling of witnessing beauty.

    Therefore, I suspect that it is because of that unique emotional impact that accompanies climaxing during coitus that you hold the axiom you expressed to be a truth. And I’m not saying it’s not. Rather I am appending it, from my own experience, to add that it may be possible, for some, to increase those unique feelings by engaging in other playful ways of climaxing a few times between engaging coitus.

    You said: “The reality is secret masturbation is counter-productive.”

    This is a fact and therefore a truth for exactly the reasons you stated. And it is a truth because [i]any[/i] secrets that you keep from your bride, that are not from consent, are harmful to the marriage. And that is because trust is the most important commodity in marriage- don’t let it be in short supply.

    That being said, we have grown into giving to each other the freedom to choose between self-pleasuring or waiting for the other, [i]as long as we inform the other later if we chose self-pleasuring[/i]. This, in itself, is erotic enough that it has, at times led to other engagements; for we also share our specific thoughts from that time.

    “Marriage brings honor to all (things sexual) and the bed is pure. But whoremongers and adulterers Jehovah will judge.” Heb 13:4 (my paraphrase)

    So, be good [i]with[/i] and [i]for[/i] your bride and you will feel good things,

    Just as you were created to!

  6. 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.

    ***With that said, please… whenever anyone gives someone this talk please make reference to Romans 14:23 “But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” It does not matter if the act in and of itself is not a sin if the person considering it still feels condemned from their conscious. Therefore, if you still have doubts if masturbation is not “clean” then for you it is still a sin. There are some godly christians who still can’t dance for that very reason (a result of growing up in a different culture from most of us).

    Today I don’t have a conscious issue with masturbation, but I also believe that my body is not my own (Rom. 7). Because of this I have spoken to my wife, and until she gives me permission masturbation won’t be part of my marriage (and of course assuming my conscious is still clear about it). Cheers,


  7. Reminds me of when Paul says (somewhere in Corinthians..?)that since Christ’s coming, everything is lawful… the question is: what is beneficial?

    I think you’ve done a good job of capturing the shift from a law ethic to a love ethic. Thanks!

  8. This is a great post Paul. Well thought out and well articulated.

    I wish Dental work was a sin. Really. I do. That would be easy to avoid. :)

    The line that stuck out to me most was this:

    “Note that she can’t say no if you don’t ask. Her not taking a hint is not a no, and thinking for sure she will say no is not a no.”

    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!! Thanks for the great post
    .-= stu@themarryblogger´s last blog ..How the Library Helped Me with Porn =-.

  9. I think masturbation is fine if your wife is aware that it takes place AND if it doesn’t remove any frequency of lovemaking between the two of you, AND obviously if thoughts/images of other women besides your wife are not involved. My wife and I are okay with this from time to time, especially when away from one another. Sharing the moment together long distance via phone can be a real turn-on and bring us closer. I don’t know that I’d technically call that or even doing it live in front of each other masturbation as it is then a shared act and to me, falls under the rubric of making love.

    For singles, I think it is also fine so long as you keep it within God’s realm (no lusting after married people, no porn, etc.) and are not OCD about it. Water always finds a level and all that. If you think about it, it can even prevent people from making bad decisions (for instance, to engage in one-night stands, etc.).

    I do recognize there are those who have unhappy marriages and my heart goes out to those who find the need to masturbate as a means of release. I’m not going to condemn them for doing so, just pray for them that they are able to join their spouse in lovemaking communion with God.

    Not to get off topic, and maybe I’m in the minority here but I’d sure hope not. The part about bringing “homosexuality is a sin” into this was completely uncalled for and is terribly outdated along the lines of let’s stone women who other men lust after. Because that will solve the problem, right? Nope, it sure won’t. The reasoning is always given, “Because it’s in the Bible!” Well, the Bible also forbids us from eating shellfish in the same book (Leviticus) as the homosexual stuff but you never hear much about that one, do you? The Bible was not written by God, it was written by men. And we as men are certainly not known for getting everything right all the time!

    I’m not endorsing homosexuality but consenting adults who aren’t hurting anyone by being together is their own business and certainly no one else’s. These are our brothers and sisters and in some cases, even moms and dads who must wrestle with the fact that they are different from the mainstream. In your heart of hearts, do you REALLY think God cares what sexual orientation someone is as long as how they act on it creates no harm for anyone? Really? Really?? If you think God cares about this and you spend your time condemning good people (or let’s sugarcoat the damnation — “love the sinner, hate the sin”) who do no harm to others but are simply being themselves — the imperfect beings we all are — you have my prayers. And I mean that sincerely, not aggressively.

    We all have much to contribute to the mosaic of God’s love and peace here on Earth.

    • Homosexuality is also forbidden frequently in the New Testament. Romans 1 being perhaps the most obvious example, but also in several other places.

      Marriage between a man and a woman is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church. Each is different, and each has a diferent role to play in the relationship. Similarly, Men and Women have different roles.

      I suspect that you’ll consiter me also to me draconian and old fashioned, but I’ll continue anyway.

      A Man is clearly responsible for the leadership of the marriage/family. That was instituted in Genesis 1-3, and follows through the entire bible.

      Adam was told – by God -not to eat the fruit. Eve was not. Yet Adam did tell his wife not to eat of it. Yet when his wife disobeyed, and then puled Adam into it, it was Adam who was held most clearly responsible for the disobedience, not Eve.

      This is why Romans says “in Adam, all sined”. This is why Christ can be born of Mary, and not have original sin. Men carry that sinfullness, women do not. Except where the Holy Spirit conceives the child, there is no way to have a child born without that sin nature. This is part of what made Christ special. And it clearly shows a difference between Men and Women.

      I’ll make one note, because some people are tempted to read into this. This does NOT mean men and women are not equal. It means that their roles are different.

      In a homosexual relationship, one of the two roles is missing, and therefore, the relationship cannot be complete. There is either no helper, or there is no leader.

      Perhaps more importantly, is that on a spiritual level, which is marriage’s area of focus (again, see Romans, among others), a homosexual relationship makes either Jesus or the Church to be irrelevent. Clearly, this is wrong, biblically.

      Marriage is about submitting our desires to the desires of others. Husband submitting to wife, and vice versa. Both submitting to God. Homosexual relationships are not interested in submitting to this type of authority. Which is why it really cannot be a marriage. From the outset, it’s a rebellion against the clear instruction in God’s word.

      Not sure there’s a way that any of that can be reconciled. Particularly in light of God’s “the same today, tomorrow and always”, statements.

  10. Great post Paul!

    I appreciated the allowance for true sexual refusal. “…her saying no more than half the time.”

    I guess my only possible disagreement would be that after you’ve lived with 80-95% NOs for enough years, you DO stop asking.

  11. @ landschooner – I understand that there comes a point when asking is pointless and painful. But I also know guys who have stopped asking without such an overwhelming and clear rejection.

  12. Great article! I am a psychotherapist / counselor and professor and agree with you 100%. I share the same thing with my patients and students.

    LM (alias)

  13. [@ landschooner – I understand that there comes a point when asking is pointless and painful. But I also know guys who have stopped asking without such an overwhelming and clear rejection.

    Comment by The Generous Husband — April 22, 2010 @ 6:35 pm ]

    I hear you : )

  14. Good clear cogent explantion. Right now my wife has cancer and is in a good deal of pain and near constant nausea, which makes things interesting. She will manually satisfy me at times as she feels bad she cannot do more, but at times the desire to be inside her and share more intimacy is really there.

    So Jackson, on an aside. When God says …”those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Do you think it loving to condone the practice of homosexuality and help them “feel comfortable” here, but condemn them to separation from the Lord for all eternity. He says he cares. I would love to be “tolerant”, but tolerating people into hell is not good.
    And before you think I’m one who condemns, I’m not. I had a co-worker say to me as we went to lunch one day, (we’d been working together a week or two and were in a multi day training class). He asked me where I had done my counseling internship and I told him __________ church. He looked surprised and said “you’re a Christian?” and when I told him “yes” he said “You’re supposed to hate me.” (He was by his own words “flaming queer”. I told him I did not, but that I did not agree with homosexuality.(don’t remember exactly what I said on that point, but something. We worked together well in the psychiatric ER on many a long night and had many talks, him knowing I disagreed and sharing what I could.

  15. “My short version is that masturbation has no place in the life of a happily married man.” Well said. Yet the last time I summoned the suicidal energy to try to talk to my wife about our sexual relationship her declaration was, essentially: we have sex as often as we do, that’s not going to change, you should just get happy with it, and if you want sex more often than that then masturbate more. To this day she cannot understand 1) how humiliating it was to be told that, and 2) why masturbation is neither emotionally nor physically satisfying. It makes me so angry I hardly know what to do. I’ve often thought that if I ever committed adultery (I haven’t, and am not close to doing so) I would need to ask forgiveness from God, my sons, my Christian community, the woman I’d had sex with and the people in her life it hurt . . . but not my wife. After all, adultery would only mean I farmed out a job she hates and I would no more apologize to her than I would if I’d found someone else to do the vacuuming and dusting. (Bad analogy – I do both of those jobs myself.)

  16. Jackson justified the practice of homosexuality as “no one else’s business” and “do you REALLy think God cares about …”. He went on to say that God also forbids eating shellfish, etc.

    So let’s address this. Old Testament laws that were not reaffirmed in the New Testament are no longer valid for Christians. This is why I can eat shellfish, not put tassels on my garments and yet still know that God says, “do not practice homosexuality.” Because shellfish and Tassels are not re-affirmed in the New Testament, but the ban on homosexuality is.
    Jackson, how can you look at Romans, which says “those who do these things are worthy of death” and then say “Do you really think God cares about …”?
    I do not see how you can read Romans 1:18-32 and ask “Do you think God really cares…” I’m curious bro.

  17. Jerome, I heard the same thing from my wife years ago, married nearly 25 years. She said she only desired sex 2 or 3 times a month, if I wanted more to take care of it myself, she didn’t care. So, for a long time I did, I didn’t let her know how much I was doing it though ( 2 – 4 times a week for 15 years). A few years ago, I decided to stop doing this and talked to her about it. I told her I either wanted sex from her or her permission and/or knowledge that I was going to masturbate.

    She actually started having more sex with me, at least once a week, which is great. It has greatly improved our relationship, I mean a lot. I still masturbate sometimes, but only if she knows it, I want her to have the opportunity to have sex if she wants it. Do I feel cheated? Actually yes, I would rather have a better relationship with her and have sex maybe twice a week. I have told her I would entirely stop masturbating if she would have sex twice a week, so far she said she is not promising anything!

  18. Real sexual refusal.

    I think you addressed this by saying that refusal is when the answer is NO 50% of the time. But just to comment:

    You DO eventually just stop asking. A marriage can be in a “state of refusal.”
    I got to the point where I didn’t “think” she would say no, I KNEW, with a 95% certainty, that she would say NO. The 5% chance of a YES, was not good enough for me to feel the full weight of rejection yet again. On the other hand, when I stopped MB, I did press the issue with her much more insistently and things improved somewhat after a long year of arguments. Its not great even now, but things are better than they were.

  19. mastubation should have no place in a healthy marriage. sex is an obligation, 1cor7. i wonder if you remove sex from marriage any one would want to get into it naturally. i will advice each partner in a union to go back to God if they married in the lord before problem set in. our marriage outkook is a reflection how we are relating with God who made marriage.

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