Daily Archives: September 17, 2012

Masturbation: Hands On or Hands Off?

Q&AWe’re getting toward the end of readers’ questions for me from my Q&A with J at HHH post. If you want to ask something I haven’t covered, click over there and leave a comment.

In the meantime, here’s today question about masturbation in a Christian marriage:

What about masturbation in a Christian marriage? Is it ok? Is it a good way for the spouse with the higher sex drive to deal with the times when their spouse isn’t in the mood and doesn’t want to be sexual? What about for husbands after their wife has a baby, is it serving her to not impose on her with his sexual needs?

I covered this topic in more detail with Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage. You can head over the following posts for more information:

Two Wives & Candid Conversation about Masturbation at HH&H

Two Wives. Talking about Masturbation. at Intimacy in Marriage

More Candid Conversation about Masturbation at HH&H

More Masturbation Talk. From a Couple of Wives. at Intimacy in Marriage

Briefly here, though, I have concluded from my study of the Bible and sexuality studies:

1. Masturbation can serve a positive purpose.

2. Masturbation is often negative because it draws energy away from the sexual relationship between the husband and wife.

From the Bible, we don’t have specific mention of masturbation. Some have presumed that masturbation is sinful based on God’s rebuke of Onan for spilling his semen on the ground. However, a study of that passage in Genesis 38:9 indicates that the sin was that Onan had sex with his widowed sister-in-law but refused to fulfill family duty of giving her offspring in his brother’s name. He wasn’t fulfilling the express command of the Law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Besides, he didn’t pleasure himself; he got pleasure through intercourse and then pulled out.

Since there is no “you may” or “thou shalt not” in the Bible regarding masturbation, we turn to its principles — which are often our guide for making daily decisions that honor the Lord. What was God’s design for sexuality? Sex was intended for a husband and wife to reproduce children (Genesis 9:7), increase relational intimacy (Genesis 2:24; Song of Songs 6:3), and experience physical pleasure (Proverbs 5:19; Song of Songs).

Then we ask whether masturbation in any particular moment fits that bill. Can pleasuring yourself ever help reproduction? It might if a couple is undergoing fertility treatments and the doctor needs a semen sample. So can a hubby take care of biz in that case? I’d say yeah. Most of the time, however, reproduction is most decidedly not the motivation for masturbation.

Can masturbation increase relational intimacy? Mutual masturbation, if agreed by both partners, could. It might be an option for couples when a woman is unable to engage, such as post-childbirth. There are also couples distanced by job or military demands who might feel closer by talking to one another provocatively and engaging in masturbation at the same time.

Can masturbation give physical pleasure? Yep. In fact, most people can achieve climax faster through masturbation because, as both the giver and recipient, one can adjust placement and pressure more quickly to bring about orgasm.

However, that last one can become a problem too. Because it’s not okay to seek your own physical pleasure and sexual release without regard to your mate. We are to act with love in marriage, which is patient, kind . . . not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Here are some concerns:

  • Many who masturbate do so to pornography or visualizing another woman or man, and this is most certainly not okay. Third parties of any kind — real or imagined — get a “thou shalt not” from God.
  • Frequent masturbation primes your brain and body to expect release in that way. In fact, men who masturbate very frequently can experience difficulty climaxing in intercourse.
  • Higher drive spouses who use masturbation as a way to fill in the gap between sexual encounters with their spouse are merely sending a signal to their bodies to desire release more frequently. Climax every day, and your body may protest when you skip a day. Our bodies are built to adapt to the habits we form.
  • Intercourse provides things that masturbation cannot.

Essentially, masturbation can be part of your repertoire as a married couple. However, I’d advise that you partake infrequently. Also, it isn’t the best way to handle a difference in sex drives. Oftentimes, the lower drive spouse can choose to engage and become aroused as foreplay begins. The higher drive spouse can also hold off a day or two and build up anticipation. I’d suggest leaning to the say-yes-far-more-than-no side because, as discussed above, God’s design for sexuality includes increasing relational intimacy, and the more frequently you touch and kiss and make love, the more connected you can feel to your spouse (especially for men).

Masturbation should not replace the more challenging, but ultimately more enjoyable, goal of finding ways to sexually arouse and satisfy one another so that you truly represent one flesh when you make love.

But it can be incorporated for positive impact in marital intimacy. For instance, a wife can self-stimulate while her husband is inside her and increase the likelihood or intensity of orgasm. A wife could masturbate and allow her husband to watch as part of foreplay that leads to the shared big event. A husband could masturbate while his wife is off limits (perhaps on her period, post-childbirth, etc.) with her kissing and touching him. A couple could simultaneously masturbate when time and distance separate them (hello, phone sex?).

So whether masturbation is okay or not, I believe, relies on whether it meets God’s plan for sexuality in marriage. If we’re honest about it, probably 95% of the time people masturbate, it doesn’t meet that plan. However, it can. Just ask yourself some questions about the purpose and goal of masturbation when you are considering it. That’s a good way to decide whether it is selfishly-motivated or marriage-focused.