The topic of masturbation comes up a lot, especially with young teens and adults. The question is: is masturbation a sin? I am less concerned with the conclusion is it a sin or not and more concerned with the journey. I think the answer is less important and it’s more important to show how you come to your conclusion.
Is masturbation a sin? The answer to “is masturbation a sin?”, is not black and white. Many Christians believe masturbation isn’t a sin but would be against masturbation for both genders, especially for men. Since Christians believe lust is a sin, many believe masturbation is a sin because you are usually lusting when you masturbate.
- Reasons Why People Believe Masturbation is a Sin
- Biblical Viewpoints on Masturbation
- Three Objections to Masturbation Being a Sin
The number one reason why people believe masturbation is a sin is lust. It is harmful to your soul and to your physical health. Lust is clearly called out as sin in scripture. Let’s talk more about lust and other reasons why people believe masturbation is a sin.
Please note because the topic of this blog is masturbation, this post contains adult content.
Reasons Why People Believe Masturbation is a Sin
I don’t know anyone who can masturbation without it being lustful. While some people may say, “I can, it’s me.” Maybe that’s the case, but I haven’t found that to be true. I don’t believe it and I apologize if that sounds condescending, but for the vast majority of people, it’s not true. There may be someone out there, I just think it is highly unlikely. In my opinion, you’d have to be a superhero to pull off masturbating and it not be a sin.
The crazy part about lust is we assume it’s just when we start to have certain thoughts about the opposite gender, but from a Biblical perspective, lust starts when you want something you can’t have. Then you start thinking about it more and more because you can’t have it. When you think about it, and masturbation specifically, we start to think about the pleasure we want with that person and we start thinking about it over and over again. That is why masturbation is a sin.
Many times, specifically when I am talking to men, about masturbation I will ask them to walk through there lust life. What are you actually thinking about? Often times, they have deep lustful times. This usually comes from them watching porn.
Porn is a big thing for men and women now. Maybe thirty years ago, it was mostly a male-dominated industry, but today it is almost fifty-fifty. Men and women both watch porn now. This raises the question, how does watching porn affect people when it comes to masturbation?
How Porn Affects the Brain
To start, there is a philosopher and psychologist from Standford University named Philip Zimbardo. He has a Ted Talk and a book called, “The Demise of Guys.” He has studied how what he calls “sexual screen time” literally re-wires the human brain, particularly for men. He says it is less impactful for women, but that shouldn’t give women a pass to view porn. It still impacts women, it’s just more impactful for men.
When you are looking at porn, the image that you are seeing on your screen sends signals to your brain and re-wries it. Watching porn does not only impact your sexuality, but it also inhibits other areas including; your ability to take proper risks, your ability to taste certain foods, and your ability to read social cues and sarcasm.
Zimbardo believes people are even misdiagnosed with autism or Asperger’s. Instead, he believes, they have been impacted by too much screen time, specifically sexual screen time.
Zimbardo is not a Christian. He does not believe the Bible is authoritative. He is liberal socially and politically. He has no incentive to say this, other than to show what his research reveals. If you masturbate a lot, are viewing porn a lot, are looking at images a lot, are playing violent video games a lot, it re-wires the brain and causes dysfunction in multiple areas of your life. Why would you want that?
He also talks about how this affects men’s and women’s relationships. He says women also need to be alarmed because they are watching the man in their life be incapable of being intimate. This is a major problem in our society.
The Affect Porn Has on Your Future Relationships
There are two ways masturbating will affect your future relationship. First, if you are a man and are masturbating and wondering is this right? When you do enter a relationship, you are more likely to struggle with pre-ejaculation. The next reason is you find you cannot have sex for a prolonged time, it has to be very quick because you have trained your body to get pleasure as quickly as possible.
When you do masturbate and ejaculate, there are certain types of chemicals released. Your brain remembers the image you watched. Your brain cannot remember if those images are real or fake. Your brain just remembers that those images gave me certain chemicals and a reaction so I want more of it.
From a pragmatic standpoint, you are re-wiring your brain to take fantasy and believe it is real. This is messing up your brain. You are messing with your brain in a way that will make it harder to have a quality sex life with the women you marry. Keep in mind, this also affects women.
This absolutely will affect your sex life once you are married and will be detrimental to your marriage. Sex is a big part of marriage. Lack of a quality sex life will inevitably tear down the foundation of your marriage. The thirty seconds or few minutes you get of pleasure right now adds up to significant detriment down the road. It is unwise and foolish. It feels unloving and unkind to your future spouse.
We talk about is masturbation a sin or not, is it unwise or not, what does Scripture say about this? Let’s look at some solutions God has given us in the Bible.
Biblical Viewpoints on Masturbation
Throughout Scripture, there is not a place where solo masturbation is mentioned. There are two passages where masturbation alludes too. First, the Song of Solomon talks about a mutual form of masturbation, but that is not what we are talking about.
A man and his wife in sexual contact with one another, using their hands to pleasure one another is not masturbation. That is a form of intercourse and is a separate topic from masturbation. It is appropriate within the bounds of marriage, so long as both partners are okay with it.
1 Corinthians 7
When we talk about masturbation, we are talking about an individual person and pleasing him or herself outside of marriage. There is not a clear passage of Scripture that speaks about this directly. The apostle Paul does give some advice on this topic in 1 Corinthians 7.
I had a conversation with a friend, I won’t say the name, but they are a well-known author. This person was telling me they had a conversation with a previously married woman. Her husband had been unfaithful and she ended up being a single woman on the mission field in Africa. This woman was asking, my author friend, what she is supposed to do now. She lives out in the bush of Africa and said she is horny, aroused, and wants to have sex. She didn’t know what to do.
My author friend gives this woman advice, she says to just masturbate. She told her to not do it lustfully, don’t think of a man while you do it or of any image. It’s just a biological, physical thing, just touch yourself until you have an orgasm and then you’ll be over it. Then you can do ministry and move on. She also told her that the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians it’s better to be single because you can do more ministry. So, stay single.
My heart was broken when my author friend was re-telling this conversation to me. I was both saddened and angry. I said you quoted from 1 Corinthians 7, but you didn’t give her the same advice apostle Paul would give her.
The Apostle Paul’s Advice
When Paul says, “I will you would all be single,” he’s simply stating his opinion; he is not speaking on behalf of God. He is saying that when you are single, you have fewer responsibilities—you don’t have a wife or a husband at home or children to take care of. Therefore, you can do more ministry and do more for the kingdom. You are undistracted.
He goes on to say that he knows most of us can’t do that. You get excited, you are aroused, and you want to have sex. He says because you are burning in lust, go get married. You want to have sex? Go and get married so you can have sex and solve this lust problem.
Even though Paul wants you to be single, he would rather you be married than burn in your lust. That is what Paul’s advice is. My author friend’s advice was to stay single, do ministry, and masturbate. That may not be the opposite of what Paul says, but it’s clearly not congruent with what he says.
In this case, Paul could have said, “stay single and masturbate.” Instead, he says, I would rather you be single, but you can’t handle it so, go get married so you can have a healthy sex life. I don’t see masturbation being mentioned anywhere in this passage of Scripture.
Paul keeps in mind the proper design that God has created. It’s not like he pulled something out of thin air, he’s like there is a very practical thing you can do: go get married.
Sometimes the solution may not be there for you, though. Like going and getting married. Some people may be saying, “I don’t have a spouse” or “I don’t have anyone on the radar now to be a potential spouse.” Then the question becomes, “So what do I do now?”
Three Objections to Masturbation Being a Sin
An objection people have is claiming they aren’t lusting when they masturbate. Again, I would say you are probably fooling yourself if you don’t think there isn’t any lust involved. Even if you are the one person in a million that can pull it off, I would still say you are potentially not following Paul’s advice.
Paul says if you want some go and get some. I know that sounds crass. Sex is not the only reason to get married, but if you can’t hold off, then you need to go get married. You need to go download the Bumble app, or E-harmony, or whatever. You need to start swiping right. Go to your pastor and tell them you are looking for someone to marry.
I think one problem with our society is that we do get married later. I think it’s unwise. As someone who is 37 and unmarried. If I could look back on 20-year-old Kenny, I would tell him don’t wait this long to get married.
Another objection people have is, specifically men, is that they have swollen gonads. They have pressure there so they have to masturbate. This is true and it does happen. Maybe women don’t know this but a man’s testicles will produce too much semen, which causes pressure. It can be very painful for most men.
Your body actually has a way of taking care of this. Your brain will figure out after a few weeks that you’re not masturbating and then will force ejaculation while you are sleeping. The street lingo for this is a “wet dream.”
This is a normal thing, but if you are having an organism on a regular basis, your brain doesn’t feel the need to force the pressure out by having a wet dream. If you force yourself to not masturbate, for a few weeks, your body will max wait two to three months until you have a wet dream. Then, it will happen every few weeks.
I don’t mean to sound crass, but as a man, in my thirties, this happens to me on a regular basis. By God’s grace, He has saved me from sexual addictions and pornography. As I have gotten older, it happens less.
The less your body orgasms, the less your body produces semen, so then there is less of a need for it. To be frank, I personally haven’t dealt with that pain for seven years now. Your body has a way of taking care of it.
Thank God He designed us in this way. Sometimes people will try to justify having to masturbate because of the pressure, but the Lord knows our system. He knows how He created us and it is important.
The Story of Onan From Genesis
We have said masturbation is not black and white, but some people take it to the extreme and say you can never masturbate, its abomination from the Lord. The context they use is in Genesis 38 where Onan pulls out and ejaculates on the ground and then God brought judgement on him.
If you’re not familiar with Onan, his sister in law is married to his brother. His brother dies and the culturally and legal expectation was that Onan would have sex with his sister in law to get her pregnant. Then, legally, the son would be the son of the brother in law who was dead. Even though biologically it would have been Onan’s child.
The cultural expectation was we want an heir to carry on the family name, inherit the material blessings, and to have the legacy. Now, it’s his job as the younger brother to do a duty for your older brother and give him a son. Onan was supposed to go and have sex with his sister in law and ejaculate so she could become pregnant.
Right before he is going to ejaculate he removes himself, or “pulls out” as we would say in common terminology. He then ejaculates on the ground. God is angry at him because he had a responsibility. Onan was willing to take pleasure, but not responsibility.
If anything, this is a passage against pre-marital sex. That is what people do when they have sex before they are married. They are willing to dabble and take pleasure for me, but they don’t want to on responsibility. As the saying goes, “I want the milk, but don’t want to take on the cow.”
God is angry at Onan because he acted without taking responsibility. He had a responsibility to fulfill and he didn’t do it. So since he can’t take responsibility, then he has no business in having the pleasure of sex. That is what God is angry about at that moment. This passage doesn’t necessarily apply to masturbation—I don’t think that is how we apply that passage.
Again, it’s fascinating to think about God’s design. If we go back to 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says the solution is to get married. When you start to pursue marriage, especially at a young age, it causes you to step up. You realize that if you are going to get sex, you have to learn responsibility before you get married. For men, you learn what it looks like to be a man of God. It’s a ripple effect.
The Scriptures are somewhat silent on if masturbation is a sin or not. It doesn’t clearly say, “masturbation is or isn’t a sin.” We gave a bunch of principles for you to process and think about. Sometimes we want to deceive ourselves and say, “No, I’m not really lusting.” At the end of the day, we have to ask, “Lord, is this something I need to overcome?”
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We have to be mindful our proclivities are to sin. Without the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can’t get out of this.
I know for some of you, you wish the answer was clear black and white. The Scriptures don’t always say clearly, so that’s why we covered the Biblical principles in this blog post.