Anti “M” Links
There are any numbers of reasons why some Christians, especially teachers and other leaders, take a stance against solo sexual pleasures. As we look at some of the Anti-Masturbation sites those reasons will become clear.
To be sure some are merely parroting the thoughts of others and reinforcing beliefs long held in Christian culture. Others, however, are more reflective and have come to their conclusions after careful study and contemplation of the matter. Even though I am in the “Pro” camp, I don’t believe anyone presents an anti-masturbation argument solely for the purpose of being killjoys and making men (and women) miserable.
Sadly though, the end result of some such teaching is unintended misery. I have even known young men who stopped walking with Christ at least partly because they felt they had to chose between solitary sexual gratification, and serving God. And for some of those who continue on to serve the Lord, their confidence and sense of spiritual well being is often undermined by the idea that they are not “walking in victory” because they still enjoy the occasional wank.
Mind you, not all persons who believe they need to be masturbation free are miserable failures. Some manage to abstain completely, no matter how often they get hard, or how hard the struggle to do so. Others occasionally “slip,” but they then “repent” and do not make any more of it than they should and thus do not live in continual condemnation. Some anti-masturbation teachers who reinforce this compassionate and gentle approach and, while I may disagree with some of their beliefs, I commend them for their moderation.
I found Josh Harris’ writings on his own site, and several others including this one. The Rev. Harris mentions a number of good things about sex in marriage, including Biblical support for oral and manual stimulation in marriage, but when it comes to solo sex, I believe he is way off the mark. Not only does he describe a polarized view that married sex is good and pure, and solo sex is totally bad, selfish, and lazy, but he makes some harsh statements about those who masturbate. Furthermore, he gives four reasons why solo sex is wrong, one of which I find alarming.
According to Mr. Harris masturbation is wrong because it screws you up biologically, it creates lazy men, it is a form of monosexuality, and finally it is a form of homosexuality. First, masturbation does not mess you up biologically; in fact it does just the opposite. Second, just because a person pleasures himself sexually does not mean he is lazy, or unwilling to court a wife. Third, there is nothing wrong with “monosexuality.” And finally folks, to state that jerking off is a form of homosexuality sounds nuts to me, and dangerous.
Just imagine, a young man wakes up in the morning with a hard-on. Does the fact that he is sexually aroused and alone mean that he is experiencing a homosexual inclination? He reaches down and in a few moments pleasures himself to orgasm. According to the Rev. Harris he has just committed an act of homosexual sex. And each and every time he masturbates he is engaging in homosexuality. Well then, since in all likelihood the wanking won’t stop, that means this young man is gay? And what if the young man curious, or struggling with his “sexual identity.” If he is already engaging in solitary “homosexual sex,” why not experiment with it in reality? No, friends, this masturbation equals homosexuality is a fatally flawed assertion.
One thing Josh Harris, and other anti-solo sex advocates fail to do is to make a clear, direct Biblical argument. And they cannot, because such an argument does not exist.
Since this is a blog site, some of the readers comments are quite interesting, especially this one, “If you are wrong, you are heaping a burden on men who don't need any more burdens than they already carry. Acts 15 has a lot to say about putting burdens on others.”
In my humble opinion, while Mr. Harris is sincere in his intent, this is nothing but unwise comments masquerading as radical Christianity. And it is very easy to talk tough about solo sex when you have a pretty and frequently available wife and are, as he clearly states, very “happy” in the bedroom. Not all of us are so blessed.
Iconfess that I am a fan of John Piper. Some of his devotional writings are quite profound, and he has not been afraid to take a stand for moral purity. But in this article, and on this issue, I think he has sorely missed the mark.
Early on he says, “One of the major forces preventing young people from obeying the call of God into vocational Christian service is defeat in the area of lust. A teenager hears a challenging call to throw himself into the cause of world evangelization. He feels the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He tastes the thrill of following the King of kings into battle. But he does not obey because he is masturbating regularly. He feels guilty.” And concludes the thought by saying, “Masturbation becomes the enemy of missions.”
Oh, bother! While he correctly says that feeling guilty keeps many people from fulfilling their potential in the Kingdom of God, he takes a wrong turn when he takes a stand against Solo Sex, rather than the false guilt many feel because of it. He even makes the point that God provides the “innocent and helpful” nocturnal emissions that combine sexual energy with sexual images to produce an orgasm, but fails to see that if God provides it naturally, it just may be natural and ok for us to use the same to receive the benefit of the same results.
John Piper writes against masturbation elsewhere as well, (Sex and the Single Person) pointing out that it falls short of God’s ultimate intention for sex, and even giving the standard number of ways to avoid self stimulation. He is right when he speaks against those forms of sexual union that are forbidden by God. In these admonitions he gives chapter and verse. When speaking against masturbation he gives none, because there are none.
In my humble opinion, it would be much more realistic to simply say, “Too many young people are held back from fulfilling their potential in God because they are spiritually crippled by needless guilt concerning masturbation.”
Grantley Morris’ extensive website has a four page article on Masturbation, as well as several other auxiliary pages on the subject. Mr. Morris is an admitted former masturbator who no longer indulges in the practice of private pleasure, and believes that others should not as well.
He has subtitled his observations on masturbation, “Towards a Christian View of Sexual Self-Stimulation,” and Mr. Morris says a whole lot about many aspects of solo sex. He examines some of the common condemnations of solo sex, and wisely dismisses them one by one. However, he goes on to say that not having a clear scriptural command forbidding masturbation does not make it ok. Instead, he believes it can mess you up sexually, and bonds you emotionally with illegitimate fantasies and practices. While I am sure this may be true in some cases, I do not believe it is the general rule.
“Emotionally, solitary sex will end in a haunting emptiness that will hound its victim like a nagging fear. Nevertheless, sex with oneself is likely to produce raw sexual feelings more intense than sex with anyone else. Moreover, masturbation and mental or visual adultery feed off each other, such that combining masturbation with either fantasy or pornography multiplies the pleasure many times over. Adding to this is the fact that reality rarely matches fantasy, nor equals the never-aging, airbrushed fakes of flesh magazines or computer images. In terms of sheer animal pleasure, the mix of masturbation with unreality therefore intensifies the likelihood of producing a greater sexual high than intimacy with a real person, no matter how skilled and attractive that person is. This could foul one’s marriage (or future marriage if one is single) so deeply that it could prove even more disastrous than the damage caused by physical adultery. I wonder how many marriages are haunted by the ghost of solo-sex.”
“When allowed to become a habit, masturbation conditions our sexual response and modifies our sexual expectations; consciously or unconsciously affecting marital relations for years afterwards.”
He makes the argument that there is no way a marriage partner can compete with the extreme pleasure that can be experienced alone. While this may be true in rare cases, it is certainly not the rule. In solo sex we have to be content with our own touch, or the use of sexual toys. No matter how pleasurable that may be, I assure you it can never match the joy of intimate touch from someone you love. There is a great difference between looking at a picture of a breast and actually touching, kissing, fondling, and rolling your tongue around a nipple on the bosom of your beloved. And nothing can compare to the giving and receiving of erotic pleasure with your God given spouse, as your hands gently explore and excite each other’s bodies. In the act of ultimate intimacy to have your penis enveloped by your wife’s warm, moist vagina is an experience far beyond anything that can be experienced alone. So, Mr. Morris, I am sure your intent is sincere, but as a person who has known the joy and pleasures of married love, and you have not, and I can assure you that solo sex pales pathetically in comparison with spousal sex.
While I disagree with his final conclusions, Lambert Dolphin opens his article with a good general overview of how many Christians feel about masturbation, and the effect it can have on their lives. And although he condemns the use of all fantasy in relation to solo sex, he does say, “In those cases where masturbating is used occasionally to relieve what seem to be unbearable sexual pressures, then eliminating fantasies is certainly one step in the right direction.” However, he goes on to say that masturbation is not good because it is usually narcissistic, sexual pleasure is not to be enjoyed alone, only in the context of marriage, and since sexual activity like masturbation results in pleasure it can become a conditioned response reinforced with repetition.
He concludes his study of solo sex by saying, “Masturbation is usually not the crucial issue of anyone's Christian walk, though self-consciousness probably makes it seem so to some. God's loyal-love (hesed) is patiently committed to seeing to it that we become whole and fulfilled no matter how much extra grace we may think we need. Assuming that masturbation is indeed a sin for Christians, one would expect to find consequences, for "whatever a man sows that he shall also reap" (Galatians 6:7). Some suggested consequences include (a) increased self-consciousness, (b) lowered self-esteem, (c) depression, (d) reduced psychological and creative energy, (e) lessened interest in interpersonal relationships, and of course (f) guilt, shame, with fear of being found out. Preoccupation with sexual fantasies tends to substituted imagined relationships with real-life experiences with real persons. The progressively addictive power of pornography is well known.”
Obviously, I disagree with the assumption because that is what any condemnation of masturbation is, an assumption with no clear biblical basis.
Thankfully, although Mr. Lambert comes down on the negative side of the masturbation issue, he does so with little or no stridency. For that he is to be commended.
Following the main article there is a series of 21 footnotes, well worth the read for anyone interesting in more research.
In this article in New Man Magazine Jack Hayford, the famous founding pastor of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, joins the chorus of those who declare, “you will not find in the Bible the words, "Thou shalt not masturbate," and then goes on to explain why he believes it to be wrong anyway. In all he gives four reasons; masturbation violates an internal witness, it panders to the spirit of lust, it involves fantasy, which opens the way for moral corruption, and finally, he says masturbation is rejection, not release. The only argument I think has any merit at all is that masturbation violates “an internal witness.” I say it might have merit because I think that, for a select few who are called to an absolute and total celibacy that excludes solo sex, it does violate their internal witness. But for the rest of us, it might violate the voice of religion within us, but it does not violate scripture, or do violence to the Holy Spirit.
I commend Wayne Jackson for his courage in tackling this often avoided subject. On the other had I totally disagree with his reasoning and his conclusions.
He is right; the Word of God says nothing against masturbation. He then says the Word does not speak against cloning or other modern sins, but from the application of Biblical principles we know them to be wrong. However, solo sex is not a modern “problem.” It has been part of human lives since Adam and was probably his original sexual practice before God created Eve. If it was wrong the Word, which talks so graphically and clearly about all other sexual practices, would have said so. The Bible was written over 4000 years; God had plenty of time to address the issue, and chose not to do so.
His saddest argument is that “Self-stimulation is enslaving.” Young people especially want to stop, cannot, and so live in guilt. This is so unnecessary. Rather than see the strong desire to self stimulate as “enslaving”, how much more redemptive it would be to see that strong desire and impulse as God’s gift for frequent pleasure. This is what it is actually all about, not slavery. How unworthy a thought, that God would give a young man such potential for physical joy, not clearly condemn the exercise of that potential, not give him “grace” to refrain, and then condemn him when he simply lay on his bed at night, fondled his penis, stroked his erection, and brought himself great pleasure, delight, and physical release. No, my friends, this is not the God of the Bible, or the God we serve. Instead of his sexual desires being a source of continual struggle, condemnation, guilt and rigorous self-discipline, how much better for them to be seen as a repeated source of joy.
This site makes a common point when it says, “Scripture alone is the one infallible standard to determine what is right.” Then it says “The Bible does not actually address masturbation specifically.” Believing that the Bible does not address solo sex, the article should have said, “Since the Word is silent, I will be silent as well.”
It then equates fantasy with lust; a common mistake. And next it says, “Sexual fantasies tend to become more depraved over time as the initial sexual response decreases and ever more exciting fantasies are sought.” This is, for most of us, simply untrue. My search has been for more beauty, not more depravity! Beauty is erotic; depravity is not stimulating at all.
The point is made that “Masturbation is an act that is highly addictive.” In other words, if you masturbate you will want to masturbate more, as if that is a bad thing. It would be just as easy to say, “Married sex is an act that is highly addictive,” because once you do it, you will want to do it more. By that reasoning, since spousal sex is more pleasurable than solo sex, married sex would be even more “addictive.”
The site is rather well presented; the thinking and theology is flawed.