How many Christian teens have suffocated under the weight of false guilt and condemnation for engaging in something that has never been explicitly condemned in the Bible?
Yes, its time to talk about masturbation.
Teen Mania tells interns that masturbation is a sinful act that should always be confessed and renounced. Interns are told that masturbation is not something that can be done in moderation, but that it is a sinful, lustful act that must be stamped out in order to have true purity. One male alumnus told me that Heath Stoner, Current Director of the Honor Academy, even claims that he has never personally masturbated. (riiiiiggghhht….)
Here are the slides from Ron’s powerpoint presentation on the subject:
First off, it is important to note that the Bible is completely silent on the topic of masturbation. If it was so important to God that single people do not engage in masturbation, don’t you think he would have mentioned it? Especially since there are so many rules pertaining to sex, especially in the Old Testament.
And yet, nothing.
(Hint: The story of Onan “spilling his seed on the ground” is not about masturbation. It’s about greed and disobedience because he didn’t want to give his brother’s widow an heir. Saying that “spilling his seed on the ground” is a prohibition against masturbation is like saying the story of the Fall is a prohibition against eating fruit.)
Without hearing the audio of the message, I’m not sure if Ron was arguing from the story of Onan or not…but he does preach that masturbation is a sin because it is equal to lust and a lack of self-control. So, let’s examine that claim.
There is no question that masturbation is often combined with lust and a lack of self-control. I do think that Scripture is clear that we should not entertain sexual thoughts about someone who is not our spouse. Unfortunately, lust is a very real problem for a lot of us and it does need to be dealt with.
However, I do not think that masturbation = lust. And here’s why…
God created us with an innate sexual drive. Our desire for sex and our biological need for sexual release is NOT evil or sinful. It is only when we attempt to fulfill those desires and needs in ways that are unhealthy and wrong that we run into problems.
For example, God created us with an innate hunger for food. There is nothing wrong with that. However, we all know that there are various ways to abuse this God-given desire – bulimia, anorexia, addiction, gluttony, obesity, etc. If you eat without self-control, you could be a glutton or an addict. Does that mean that in order to overcome your food issues you should quit eating entirely? No, that would be silly. You have to learn to understand where your food issues are coming from and how to interact with it in a healthy way. The same could be said for your sex drive. (Ironically, there are plenty of verses about gluttony in the Bible but none about masturbation.)
God gave you a sex drive. It is good. It is from Him. And guess what? He is not going to take it away from you while you are single. You have to learn how to interact with it in a healthy way – not in a lustful, addictive way. This may look different for different people, just like our eating habits do. Different people are triggered by different things. I have a friend that is a food addict and she cannot have even one taste of chocolate cake, or she will lose total control. Other people do not have to restrict their diet to that degree, but they do have to interact with food in a way that is healthy for them.
Now, I can hear the arguments coming already. We need food to survive, but we don’t need sex. While we may not need sex three times a day and we may not die from sexual starvation, it is still a biological need. In fact, there are many physiological benefits to masturbation. Teen Mania’s favorite news source, Fox News, lists these:
Health Benefits for Men:
— Improving his immune system’s functioning.
— Building his resistance to prostate gland infection.
— Making for a healthier prostate.
Australian researchers have reported that frequent masturbation may lower a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. A survey of men found the more frequently a man masturbates between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to get prostate cancer. In fact, those who masturbated more than five times a week were one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Health Benefits for Females:
— Building her resistance to yeast infections.
— Combating pre-menstrual tension and other physical conditions associated with their menstrual cycles, like cramps.
— Relieving painful menstruation by increasing blood flow to the pelvic region. This will also reduce pelvic cramping and related backaches.
— Relieving chronic back pain and increasing her threshold for pain.
Health Benefits for Both Sexes:
Masturbation rewards both men and women because it’s:
— The safest kind of sex, keeping you free of sexually transmitted infections.
— A great form of stress relief.
— A mood booster in releasing endorphins.
— A natural sleep sedative.
— A mechanism for building stronger pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to better sex.
— A natural energetic pick-me-up.
It is my opinion (and the opinion of many psychologists) that masturbation, when used in a healthy, non-addictive way, can be God’s gift to the single person, a way to obtain the sexual release that is needed by their body without endangering themselves with short term sexual relationships. It is a way to learn what their body likes and to appreciate that sexuality is a part of them – but it is not all of them.
If, like me, you spent many years under intense guilt over this topic, I hope that you can understand that God is not condemning you for fulfilling a need that He gave you. He wrote an entire book and never once said that He cared that you are touching yourself. He does care about your heart, how you view others, and how you view yourself.
Live in freedom, not addiction. Live in love, not lust. Live in joy, not guilt.