Objections to Our Position on Masturbation
We welcome readers’ comments on our site and blog articles… even if they don’t agree.
We recently received a comment on the articles about masturbation. I felt like the comment was well written and reflected a perspective that is perhaps very common among a lot of Christians. Consequently, I also thought that it deserved more exposure than just a reader comment buried in the comments on a blog article. It also deserved an honest response.
We at MCAG are not the final arbiters of truth regarding all things sexual, and certainly, we are not the measures of moral absolutes as it pertains to sexual behavior. So, I urge our readers to examine everything we say—and everything they themselves believe—in the light of God’s Word, which is the measure of moral absolutes and the final arbiter of truth.
That said, let me quote the reader’s comment in full:
Ruth’s comment on FAQ–What about Masturbation? (Part 4)
I’ve read a few of the articles and find them interesting and hopeful. I do have a different opinion on the topic of masturbation. Masturbation is the ultimate form of single sex. I think instead of searching for scripture that speaks to masturbating (of which one verse has been linked to the subject-seminal emissions which doesn’t mean masturbation has taken place) that we should ask, “What is the purpose of sex that God has designed for us?” There are well defined verses in the bible that say sex is designed for man and woman to enjoy in marriage. To become one…not to have sex as one person. I think the reason that there isn’t a verse speaking to masturbation is because sex wasn’t designed to be single sex. Masturbation doesn’t have a purpose to bring God glory. I think we are foolish to think that we can masturbate and ‘in moderation.’ Whatever moderation means regarding masturbation…that’s a tricky one to define and confusing. And maybe dangerous for those who’ve struggled with lust in the past and those who have yet to struggle with lust.
I’ve learned a lot about sex addiction because my husband has struggled with it. In my own research, I’ve read many articles which link the orgasm’s release of dopamine to creating an attachment with whatever is occurring at that moment. It’s why the addiction progressively worsens because each time one masturbates to porn, an attachment is made to something inanimate. With addiction, the porn searches become more..adventurous, dirtier and each time it takes something just a little more over the top to get that same excitement. Porn rewires your brain circuits to be stimulated to porn, women’s body parts, and eventually, your wife isn’t as attractive anymore, not as exciting as the girls in print or video. Women become objects. My point is this: if you can suggest that one can masturbate without lust, what thoughts are you letting the dopamine attach to? And, isn’t it dangerous? IMHO, it’s like telling a child to play with fire unsupervised. You can play with it, you may or may not get burned today…
Lastly, I just want to say how disappointed I am to read the suggestion above to women to masturbate so she would be “more fulfilled in her sexual union with her husband when she marries.” This statement suggests that orgasm is the ultimate goal of sex when it’s not. Intimacy is the goal. And I think, that a man and woman, in marriage, figuring out each other’s bodies, communicating them to one another, learning together in their whole lifetime, is exciting enough. In fact, to suggest that the woman should figure out her body so she can be satisfied on her honeymoon steals the gift of herself away from God and her husband.
My two cents…
First of all, Ruth, let me thank you for a respectful and well-articulated statement.
Before I respond to specific statements in your comments, let me reiterate some very important principles that I try to allow to guide my thinking on this—or any—topic.
- God’s Word is authoritative.
- By this I mean that I believe that where the Bible speaks on moral issues, it speaks the mind of God, with the totality of divine authority.
- I also mean that I am not willing to hold or promote moral standards that I cannot derive from the Scripture’s teaching. If God declined to include them, I won’t add them.
- Man-made Rules are not helpful towards true righteousness.
- Col. 2:20-23 makes it absolutely clear that any man-made religious/behavior rule will fail to accomplish the moral purity it has been established to promote—no matter how well-intentioned.
- Man-made Rules usually have the “appearance of wisdom” and boil down to “severe treatment of the body” (also Col. 2:20-23). Despite the apparent “wisdom,” the rules are still false.
- Consequently, we should never create–or bow to–Man-made Rules for righteousness.
- Rather, we should be on the alert for them and actively reject them.
I cannot emphasize these points enough. I firmly believe that such man-made rules are not only ineffective towards their intended result, but actually make our bondage greater. The reason for this is two-fold:
- First, when we expend our energy following a command that God never gave us, we are failing to apply our energy to that which really is “God’s rule.”
- Secondly, when we submit to something which is actually false (i.e. not from God), we are actually submitting to the author of falsehood… which leads inevitably to more bondage.
With regard to the current topic, when a young man believes that God forbids masturbation, he will focus much of his effort on avoiding masturbation—instead of focusing his effort on not lusting! Furthermore, he will also assume that the natural physical urges that he experiences are actually expressions of lust, leaving him deeply frustrated with his inability to overcome his “sinful desires.”
One of our most important tasks as we seek to grow in the Lord is to not only embrace truth, but to diligently and honestly examine our current beliefs to ensure that they truly align with what is true. A lie believed always supplants a truth that we need to believe.
I emphasize this up front because it sets the stage for what I will say in response to your comments. In short, it is not that some of the things you’ve said don’t make sense, but simply that the Bible does not support the assertions or the assumptions that are behind them.
Finally, let me say clearly that I mean no disrespect by my responses here. I have some very dear friends who are strong supporters of MCAG who vehemently disagree with the things I’ve presented here on this topic. But as it turns out, my commitment to holding to the Scriptures alone forces me to take the position that I’ve articulated.
So, now allow me to quote selection from your comments and respond to them.
I’ve read a few of the articles and find them interesting and hopeful.
Thank you for these encouraging words. We believe that the “hope” that is found in truth is for everyone. We believe that real freedom from porn and sexual bondage is never going to be found in strategies that treat the human form as if it is a danger to person’s spiritual health.
Masturbation is the ultimate form of single sex.
Short Answer: No, masturbation is not sex. Orgasm is not sex. Sex is a relational act. And if it is not relational, it is not sex. Consequently, we cannot apply biblical teaching about sexual relationships to masturbation.
Long Answer: I’ve heard this statement from more than source. But the problem is that the very concept is one that cannot be defended from the Scriptures. Masturbation is not sex. This is because orgasm by itself cannot be considered “sex.” Whenever the Bible speaks of sex, it uses relational terms. As you correctly observed, God speaks of sexual union only in terms of relationship:
- “The two will become one flesh.”
- Adam “knew” his wife Eve and she conceived.
- So-and-so “lay with” his wife…
In other words, God doesn’t define sexual behavior based upon the presence of an orgasm, but in terms of the relational behavior of a man and woman by which she might conceive and bear a child. Of course, we know that orgasm has to happen for the “seed” of a man to impregnate a woman, but to God, the issue is “one flesh” rather than orgasm. In point of fact, the Bible never even alludes to—let alone regulates—the physical experience of an orgasm. To consider every occasion of orgasm to be regulated by the biblical rules of “sex” is a recipe for a man-made rule.
This sort of “man-made rule” error happens in many different contexts, but it works like this: God’s rule about 123 is XYZ. In our own wisdom, we claim that 456 is the same as 123, so therefore, we assume that XYZ applies to 456, too… yet God did not apply it that way. One biblical example is the Pharisees’ error regarding “working on the Sabbath.” God said, “Don’t work on the Sabbath.” The Pharisees said “carrying your bed mat is work;” they said “healing someone is work.” So they applied God’s “don’t work” rule to the bed mat and healing… applications that God never intended. In their efforts to follow God’s rules, they created false man-made rules… that were wrong.
If we call masturbation “sex,” then we feel justified in applying God’s laws regarding sex to masturbation… even though God never applied them that way. As soon as we reject the description of masturbation as “sex,” then all of a sudden, we have no basis in the Scriptures to regulate against it. To create such a regulation when God chose to omit it is the very definition of a “man-made rule.”
Now let me hasten to establish one more baseline for my comments here… I am not defending or promoting the use of porn, erotica, fantasizing, or the objectification of any other person in the mind as a focus and drive for the self-stimulation. This sort of masturbation is always wrong! But what makes it wrong is the mental objectification, abuse, and consumption of another person made in God’s image for the purpose of self-gratification. I think you would agree, this makes almost all masturbation sinful as it is generally practiced by people today.
…one verse has been linked to the subject-seminal emissions which doesn’t mean masturbation has taken place…
Short Answer: The passage applies to any case where there is a seminal emission… including masturbation.
Longer Answer: I am not trying to say that the verse in Lev. 15 is only about masturbation. I am saying that without any doubt, this verse applies to the specific context of masturbation. Notably missing is any reference to the agency of the emission. One way or another, an orgasm happened, else there would be no emission at all. But from the perspective of the law God gave, the means by which the orgasm occurred was not even worth mentioning. So, a man who masturbates must apply this verse to the situation just as much as the man who has an involunary nocturnal emission. I am furthermore saying that this passage—with its matter-of-fact instructions about an emission of semen—is the only passage in the entire bible that we can be sure speaks to the man who masturbates. It appears from this law that God is more concerned about the health issues—clean the linens!—than He is about the occurrence of an orgasm by a man alone in bed.
Masturbation doesn’t have a purpose to bring God glory. I think we are foolish to think that we can masturbate and ‘in moderation.’
Short Answer: We cannot establish a moral standard for behavior simply on the absence of an identifiable purpose of bringing glory to God. The fruit of the Spirit includes self-control, so there is no specific action that is impossible to control—”in moderation”—when the Spirit of God empowers a person.
And maybe dangerous for those who’ve struggled with lust in the past and those who have yet to struggle with lust.
Short Answer: The simple act of masturbation is not the same thing as sinful “lust.” Creating a man-made “rule for righteousness” which God did not give will not promote true righteousness or restrain sensual indulgence… this is clearly declared in Col. 2:20-23. For the man who struggles with a lust stronghold in his life, we need to provide biblically sound answers… answers that God articulates in His Word, for no other answer will truly help.
I’ve read many articles which link the orgasm’s release of dopamine to creating an attachment with whatever is occurring at that moment.
I’m going to let that one phrase stand in for your entire paragraph so I don’t have to re-quote the whole thing here…
I too have learned a lot about pornography addiction… because I experienced it. I too have read about the “attachment” that some claim occurs during the dopamine release… but I’ve come to believe that that explanation is incomplete. I don’t believe that the “attachment” comes simply from the experience of an orgasm—as “feel good” and dopamine-rich as it may be—but rather that experience combined with an adrenaline rush. Here’s what I mean and why I say that…
Long before God delivered me from my struggle with porn, I pondered my own experience with it and noticed that the adrenaline high I experienced from planning and sneaking a time of indulgence was MUCH more powerful than the sexual excitement and/or release I experienced when the time arrived. Quite frankly, after all the adrenaline-laced anticipation, the actual viewing of the porn and the release was almost a let-down by comparison. Yes, I remember some “attachment” moments, but they were always laced with adrenaline… making them exponentially more potent as an experience than orgasm alone.
Contrast that to the sexual relationship I have with my wife. I have never been dissatisfied with her sexually, and I delight in our sex life. But honestly, I truly wish I was more “addicted” to it and had the physical ability to engage in it more often! We love our times of intimacy, but there is relatively little adrenaline associated with it, since there’s nothing that compels the “fight or flight” reflex that pours adrenaline into our system. We aren’t stealing affections that are forbidden. We aren’t planning ways to sneak away for an illicit encounter. We are simply enjoying our time together, and allowing our love to overflow into physical union. Plenty of dopamine with the experience to be sure, but little adrenaline. Consequently, no “addiction” response. And my relational attachment is not created by the orgasm, the physical union is literally an expression of the attachment that already exists.
So… does masturbational orgasm include adrenaline and “attachment” to anything? Well, it depends… on whether the event is “forbidden” or not. If we forbid any and all masturbation, then we actually create the context where anytime a guy (or girl) masturbates, they are engaging in a forbidden act… which invariably triggers the adrenaline component. But if a young man simply finds release in the shower as an inconsequential and matter-of-fact part of his day—without engaging his mind in lustful thoughts—then it will not trigger the adrenaline, nor will the experience be memorable or induce any sort of “attachment.”
I know this is my opinion, but frankly, I believe it fits the data better, and I know that it fits my own experience better. My point is that the position you’ve presented and the research you’ve alluded to is not as concrete as you might think, or as incontrovertible as it has been declared.
Lastly, I just want to say how disappointed I am to read the suggestion above to women to masturbate so she would be “more fulfilled in her sexual union with her husband when she marries.”
Well, I admit that my statement on this point was very much of the IMHO sort… and it still is. For what it’s worth, however, after I received your response, I asked my own wife what she thought about my statements. From her experience and perspective, she agreed. She and I entered into our marriage as virgins… although neither of us were strangers to masturbation. Yet, I can assure you, there was no lack of joy in the discovery and learning about each other’s bodies. And I would suggest that our first experience together was more “successful” and joyful for both of us because of our knowledge of how our own bodies work. We experienced no disappointment that first night, nor ever since. But I do hear stories about women—who go into marriage after a lifetime of considering any and every sexual sensation to be sin—finding it very difficult to just “turn on” the sensuality and fully accept those feelings as godly and right just because they now have a ring on their finger.
I hope you see that I’m not trying to denigrate women by stating this position, but rather release from rules that God didn’t give them, and free them to learn and know their own bodies better so that their experience in marriage is not laden with guilt and uncertainty, but wondrous anticipation and fulfillment.
And one more thing I’ll say on that topic… I know there might be some who extol the joys of “solo-sex” (a misnomer to start with), but there is simply no comparison between masturbating alone and sexual union with one that you are loving for a lifetime.
My Final Comments:
Masturbation is not sex. Orgasm is not sex. Sex is relational. God never regulated orgasm, he regulated sexual relationships. God could have regulated masturbation… but He did not. And neither should we.
God did forbid lust, and so should we. God did call us to love, and objectifying and consuming another person for self-indulgence is contrary to love. We can and should stand against the objectification of women and men. We must stand against pornography. But we never accomplish those things by adding to God’s Word a rule for righteousness that God chose not to include in the inspired text.
All the scientific reasoning and all the religious fervor that we can generate do not justify adding to God’s Word. This is why I stand where I stand… I refuse to add something to God’s Word which careful evaluation reveals is not found in its pages.
— Pastor David Martin