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I’ve also begun to feel passionate about the lack of teaching on the subject. Teaching about masturbation seems so much to be about why lust is wrong, and why Christians need to fight against it & be accountable for it. But to me, that misses the point.
Anyways, that brings me to a letter I wrote to a close Christian friend, seeking his feedback, and I’m hoping also that other here on this site, whose input I have so much valued in the past, can offer their thoughts. Pro, Con, something I’ve left out or messed up, I’ll take it all on board, thx!
Here’s the letter:
So… this is bound to be a long one. Apologies for that, but I don’t quite know how to shorten it without kind of saying things the wrong way.
First up, please think it through for yourself. I don’t want to be a stumbling block to you if you see things differently. I’d also value your correction if you think I’m off the planet & definitely I value our friendship hugely… which is a big part of why I feel safe to bounce this off of you.
From my understanding, and experience, I’ve only heard negative views on masturbation… starting when I was converted & I asked a minister point blank if it was “OK” & his reply was “no.” My birds-eye thinking now is that in a context where masturbation is “not OK,” the result at least for an average male, is to focus so much on the act, that they don’t realize what’s happening internally in their thought life… Or at least, don’t have any way to deal with it (in my experience, exercise & hard work hardly helps to dampen desire). Aaaaand, then, whether it’s a thought, an imagination with a girl they know, or through porn, they end up wrapped up in the lustful moment & end up masturbating anyway… Except now, because of the way their thoughts developed, it’s definitely “sinful”… With the result that it only strengthens the view that mastubation=lust=porn use/impure thoughts=sin.
So… my thinking has shifted. I think it is not only possible to masturbate without lust, and without images, and without sinful imaginations, but that failing to teach young people that it’s possible (and even advisable while single), leads them into an unhealthy cycle of impure “stumbling,” which, statistic-wise, I believe is in the high 90% of Christian guy singles.
In terms of Scriptures, there’s not much that deals directly with the subject in the Bible. There’s Onan spilling his seed on the ground… In context his core problem was wanting to prevent giving an heir to his dead brother (through “levirate” marriage). And then there’s the verse in Leviticus 15:16… Which to me came as a bit of a shock when I realized I had read my guilt backwards into the verse to conclude it was against masturbation (being “unclean” & such)… To be honest, without reading it in a guilty context, I think it is hugely pro-masturbation… at least in the sense that it categorizes it with natural “discharges” (mensturation, married sex etc), but fails to give it a morally bad character. “unclean until the evening” is the same that girls on their period got in that chapter. Maybe the verse that speaks loudest is 1 Cor. 7, “it is better to marry than to burn with lust,” i.e. marriage is the genuine solution… but again, I don’t think masturbation takes away from that. A guy who deals with lust that way is still going to be directed by that scripture to marry (if possible), as well as to desire marriage. Masturbation will never be a replacement, even if it is a help to stay pure… And (if I’m not losing you), if you throw Jesus’ declaration into it that there are various categories of eunuchs, one of which make themselves eunuchs “for the sake of the kingdom of God,” that lends another interesting context. i.e. they’re not eunuchs by nature, but by choice. So they still have a nature that experiences “burning” but they choose not to use *that* solution “for the sake of the kingdom.” And lastly, the verse that comes to mind most often is 1 Thess 4:4 “that every one of you know how to possess his vessel (body) in sanctification and honor.” If masturbation is an option to do this, it gives a much broader and more powerful meaning to the verse–that the struggle is not just about not touching yourself. It’s about regulating, controlling and disciplining your thought life… which, when you think about it, is the same focus married couples have, and it makes sense that singles would need to learn similar lessons that would help them in married life, rather than ones that won’t exist when married, or ones where they regularly fail anyway, or ones that in my experience, put the focus outside of their heart (on their physical actions) instead of paying attention to where they are at personally lust-wise & how to regulate their internal desire.
Speaking about masturbation as a legitimate way to stay pure I think needs a little explanation. I remember seeing on the Covenant Eyes website the summary that there are generally three “types of men in the world,” Type A: those who have never masturbated, Type B: those who don’t fantasize during masturbation and Type C: those who masturbate to a mental or actual image (most fall into Type C). For a “Type C,” breaking the cycle and even thinking about the possibility of masturbation seems a quick way to impure thoughts (because of their mental habits)… Until they master their thought life. But in my thinking, that’s where the struggle needs to be… And the sooner a guy learns that purity begins with the heart, and the mental discipline (staying completely separate from porn or impure imaginations), the sooner, he can begin a pure approach to masturbation. I think some guys have trained themselves with porn, and it takes time to unlearn & fight the mental appetite, and that is going to take time, whether they are single, or married.
That all said, my own thinking is that there’s a hugely neglected way in which guys should be focusing their struggles with lust… Not by focusing so much on the outward act (trying to avoid masturbation while single) but by kicking all the bad things that have gotten associated with masturbation, out of it, so that it can find a place as a pure, healthy expression–one in which fellowship with the Savior is unbroken, and you can feel sincere gratitude to God in the act for the sensations you can have, that He has built into your body, and the relief you can get… because in doing that, the battle (the internal battle) really finds its proper focus, and gets some good traction. Mentally impure tendencies can be broken. Thought patterns can be broken. Guys can get a safe distance from the heat of their lust, and they can develop a sensitivity and awareness to the level of their tendency to “want” release/expression/sexual activity, and can learn to recognize and deal with it, before it can mutate into impure thoughts, desires and intentions with themselves or others… I guess I have been viewing masturbation as a subject where, finally, there can be a biblical focus where it needs to be–on a guys “heart.” And where the training, the mental training is the same kind that will help him in marriage. I mean, if you can grant it, a pure approach to masturbation is on the one hand, going to be a huge help and enjoyable in its own right, but on the other hand, it will never have the same satisfaction as married sex. It won’t have the emotional connection and intimate, unnerving, open, direct relationship to another person and their enjoyments with you. To me, this seems good, I mean, the biblical struggle to discipline your mind and look forward to marriage will still very much be there. It’s just that the focus will be in the right place (on a heart struggle with purity), and the goal of internal purity I think will actually be attainable, instead of sitting at the astronomical failure rate most Christian single guys have with purity…
Haha, as you can tell, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I’m happy with the ideas I expressed. I’ve analyzed them very much from so many different sides and feel they are pure, but to be honest, I’m a little fearful just because I recognize the Christian context I’ve grown up in, where I have never heard a Christian talk positively about masturbation, or offered it as a way my Heavenly Father intends that I do battle with internal impurity.
So… it’s probably a lot to take in. Once you’ve had time to go through it & such, I’d love to hear your thoughts… but totally understand if you take a few days/weeks/months to process all that 🙂
I think that's fine. We're married and I'm supposed to desire her.
While this method of taking care of my urges works temporarily, it leaves a bit of a hollow void inside of me. In other words, it can only tide me over until the next time we can have sex. It's not a permanent solution.
Now, let me think back to when I was single. I remember reading that Covenant Eyes article before I was married. I had convinced myself that I was one of those men who could masturbate without having any impure thoughts. While this was true, if I masturbated enough times with no impure thoughts, it left enough of a hollow desire within myself for something more. "Pure" masturbation led a desire for pornography.
Finally, I had to quit altogether. I don't see masturbation as a form of release for single men. I think it's a snare.
Song of Solomon 8:4 urges us not to awaken love before the time is right. Unfortunately, we live in a world where almost every young man has already seen images which has awakened his sex drive. However, it is possible to cause those urges to go back to sleep. That won't happen while a man is masturbating, though. When it was single, I had to be very very careful with what I saw for three months before I was finally free from those desires.
This is largely based on my own experience and someone else might have different experiences. Being a single guy isn't easy. It's really really hard. But sometimes, the right thing to do is difficult.
If a man had a wife or wife had a husband and for whatever reason, they have no partner anymore, I see nothing bad about it. We are sexual creatures and I would hate for someone to rush into a new relationship in order to marry and then have sex.
Also looking at a mans habits of looking at women in public...any woman who has even the most remote good looks, looking even a little can prompt sexual desire and masturbation will be the desire without a spouse, so I say its not right but not wrong either. The relief can clear one's mind and you can focus again on life stuff.