Skip to main content

Masturbation 1: What Not To Say

Jim asks whether or not masturbation is a sin.  Which is a good question, even in these days when objective right and wrong are so unpopular. Before the topic can be approached in its own right, a few misunderstandings need to be laid to rest.

First, "the sin of Onan" was not masturbation but coitus interuptus, a form of natural birth control.  His sin was not pleasuring himself, or using birth control, but failing to do right by his dead brother and continue the family line (Gen 38:8-10).  Thus we exhaust all possible references to masturbation in the Bible.

Second, the advice given to Jim by his pastor and advice I have heard given elsewhere, that as long as you masturbate "without lust," i.e. not thinking about someone, is crazy talk.  I once heard a youth pastor tell her flock that as long as you thought about something non-sexual while doing it it was OK, and so she recommended thinking of shopping trolleys!  This ignores the possibility that, "Sexual responses can become attached to formerly neutral stimuli by pairing them with masturbation."  Simply put, you run a severe risk of developing a sexual orientation towards shopping trolleys (or whatever else you might be thinking of).  This may have the consequence of inhibiting normal sexual expression at a later date and/or of making visits to the supermarket an uncomfortable experience.

Third, advice about masturbation is usually given to young men who also suffer from another issue related to their adolescant sex drive: "nocturnal emmissions," AKA wet dreams.  Accordingly I have a heard a youth pastor teach that boys should avoid masturbation, which makes them lustful, and instead enjoy their wet dreams, which, while may be every bit as lustful, they cannot be held responsible for because they are only dreaming.  However this in no way spares boys from their lustful desires but merely makes them prey to their subconscious which is likely even more depraved than their waking imaginations.

And so the question becomes, given that all the above are dead ends, how should we begin to construct a Christian ethic regarding masturbation?  What do you think?


  1. "you run a severe risk of developing a sexual orientation towards shopping trolleys"

    What a fantastic line to have be able to have written on one's blog!!!

  2. I'm so disappointed that you didn't clear this up for everyone... Of course, you could always write a book on it.
    As a former youth pastor, I can say that I always told guys that we ought not lust. I never really went beyond that. Reflecting back on it, I think I should have said more. Thanks for the guilt trip :)

  3. Chris, thank you, i aim for the skies even if sometimes i only hit the molehills!

    Justin, sorry to dissapoint, there's more to come, and if you think it is worthy of a wider audience please link to it on your blog! thanks for commenting.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Dr Charles Stanley is not a biblical preacher

Unusually for me I was watching the tele early on Sunday morning and I caught an episode of Dr Charles Stanley preaching on his television program. Now I know this guy has come under some criticism for his personal life, and that is not unimportant, but it is also not something i can comment on, not knowing the facts. His preaching is however something I can comment on, at least the one sermon I did watch.

He started off by reading 2 Timothy 1:3-7. Which is a passage from the Bible, so far so good. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so talking about his mum and what a great example of a Christian mother she was. Now nothing he said or suggested was wrong, but none of it actually came from scripture, least of all the scripture he read from at the beginning. It was a lovely talk on how Stanley's mother raised him as a Christian despite considerable difficulties and it contained many useful nuggets of advice on raising Christian kids. All very nice, it might have made a nice…

The Addictive Power of End Times Speculation

The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.

I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.

The false link between suicide and mental illness

One characteristic of human society is the tendency to keep doing something over and over again despite it not working. One example would be our approach to incarcerating criminals to punish them instead of rehabilitating them, compounding their trauma and making it harder for them to live productive law-abiding lives when they get out. But this is the "common-sense" approach, the intuitive human response to the failings of others, punish them and they wont dare do it again. It has never worked, ever, but let's keep doing it. Secular society is screwed because it cannot comprehend that its vision is blurred by sin and therefore knee-jerk, common sense solutions are usually destructive and counter-productive.

So it is with our response to suicide. To kill yourself must be the response of the weak minded and sick - so the thinking goes - so to combat rising suicide we treat individuals medically. Yet suicide is a perfectly rational response to a world as broken as ours and…