chapter 5


At the risk of pointing out the obvious, pornography exists primarily for the purpose of masturbation. After all, if looking at a naked woman gives a man an erection, then using that erection is inevitable because having an erection without using that erection is not satisfying. Likewise, looking at pictures of good food is not enough to make a man's stomach feel full.

Women do watch porn, and women do masturbate. I have been in ministry long enough to know that sin is not confined to any one gender. But the purpose of my writing is for men. Masturbation is more widely practiced among men. In fact, no survey seems to have discovered any culture in which more women masturbate than men. This may, in part, be explained by the more convenient and visible external nature of male genitalia.

For the purposes of this booklet, I am defining masturbation as self-pleasuring oneself to erection and/or orgasm and ejaculation. What I am not counting as masturbation is the manual stimulation between married people whereby a husband and wife enjoy pleasuring one another's genitals, as taught in the Scriptures, either orally (Song 2:3; 4:12) or with their hands (Song 2:6). I am also not classifying as masturbation self-stimulation done with the blessing and in the presence of one's spouse. What a married couple does together with a clear conscience is for their pleasure and freedom. What I am referring to by masturbation is self-pleasuring done in isolation that is usually also accompanied with unbiblical lust.

In any event, until recent years masturbation was widely regarded as a deviancy. However, times have certainly changed as it is now championed as normal and natural. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld may have summarized the modern opinion of masturbation best, saying, "We all have to do it. It's part of our lifestyle, like shaving."

The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior and Sex in America indicates that masturbation is frequent, as the following results show:

  • Single men who admit to masturbating once a week or more – 48%
  • Married men who admit to masturbating once a week or more – 44%
  • Divorced men who admit to masturbating once a week or more – 68%

Despite the widespread approval and practice of masturbation, people persist in feeling varying degrees of guilt about it. A 1994 University of Chicago survey used as the basis for the book Sex in America cites that about half of all men and women who masturbate feel at least a little guilty at least some of the time. The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior released in 1993 cited that just 13 percent of Protestants think masturbation is a natural part of adult life.

Many Christian pastors have tried in vain to find a mention of masturbation in the Scripture so they can condemn and forbid it. Unable to find any verses on the matter, some have foolishly used the story of Onan in Genesis 38:6–10 as their proof text. However, the story of Onan says nothing of masturbation. Instead, the story is about a man who died, leaving his wife a childless widow. The dead man's brother was then expected to marry his widowed sister-in-law, have normal sexual relations with her, and enable her to have children. Although Onan was happy to have sex with his sister-in-law, he would pull out of her just prior to his orgasm and ejaculate on the ground rather than obey God and become a father. To argue against masturbation with Genesis 38:6–10 is as ludicrous as arguing for masturbation like one young guy did with me by quoting Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might."

Practical and Theological Reasons to Not Masturbate

The question remains, is it permissible for God's men to masturbate?
Yes, and no.

It must be noted that the Bible does not condemn masturbation outright. Though the practice is as old as the Scriptures, the Bible's silence on the matter should cause us to avoid calling something a sin that God does not. So, we must examine the issue principally with the following questions:

  • Question #1 –
    Can you masturbate without lusting (Job 31:1)?
  • Question #2 –
    Can you masturbate in a way that builds oneness with your spouse, pulling you together more intimately through the act (Gen. 2:24)?
  • Question #3 –
    Can you masturbate without experiencing shame (Gen. 2:24)?
  • Question #4 –
    Can you masturbate with a clear conscience (Titus 1:15)?
  • Question #5 –
    Can you masturbate without capitulating to the cravings of your sinful desires and thoughts (Eph. 2:3)?

It is most certainly possible that a man could masturbate without violating these simple biblical principles, but highly unlikely. In addition, there are some additional practical reasons why it may not be wise for God's men to do so.

First, masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.

Second, masturbation is a form of monosexuality because it is sex that does not include another person. Since sex is given for such purposes as oneness (Gen. 2:24), intimate knowledge (Gen. 4:1), and comfort (2 Sam. 12:24), having sex with oneself seems to miss some of the significant biblical reasons for sexual intimacy.

Third, masturbation is often done in haste because of the mortifying embarrassment of possibly getting caught in the act. Subsequently, masturbation encourages a man to become a notorious minute-man who will not be well skilled in the self-control necessary to satisfy a wife.

Fourth, masturbation can establish a pattern of laziness. If a single man wants to have an orgasm, he needs to first become a man and undergo the hard work of courting and marrying a woman. If a married man wants to have an orgasm, he needs to first undergo the hard work of loving, leading, and romancing his wife. But, lazy men are prone to rub one out in the shower each morning rather than undergo the labors usually associated with responsible masculine married life.

Fifth, though masturbation is biblically permissible, the question remains whether or not it is beneficial for you (1 Cor. 10:23). God's men are quite divided on this matter, as many find it to be very beneficial to them before they are married, during seasons of their marriage when they are away from their wife, etc. Conversely, other men claim that masturbating is not beneficial for them because they become mastered by it and unable to keep it under control (1 Cor. 6:12). This is biologically caused by the fact that masturbating does temporarily relieve sexual urges and frustrations, but also causes greater and more frequent biological urges for additional ejaculations. Practically, as the body emits semen it then quickly produces more so that supply can keep up with demand. So, a man who masturbates to ejaculation will find himself masturbating with increasing frequency as his body continues to demand more frequent relief, thus negating his original goal of masturbating to relieve sexual frustration.

Practical and Theological Reasons to Masturbate

Scripture does not forbid masturbation outright because there are some occasions in which it may be done in an acceptable and sinless way. To help you think through these possibilities I will share with you some questions that I have personally received in my pastoral counseling and the answers I have given. Some of the questions may seem too frank for many readers, but I am honored that the people in our church feel free to bring any personal question to their pastors because we would not want them to go anywhere else for answers.

Question: Sometimes when I go out of town on business, my wife slips nude photos of herself into my briefcase so that while I'm on the road I can call her to have phone sex while looking at her photos as we mutually masturbate. This really helps reduce my temptations on the road and is the best thing we can think of doing when we cannot be together. Is this okay? Or, could we privately iChat online and see one another and mutually masturbate that way when we are separated?

Answer: Nude images of your wife are redeemed images and providing she is agreeable to this arrangement I would encourage you to thank God for the freedom your wife enjoys with you. Practically, I would urge you to not allow any other people to see your wife to ensure a protection of her. Also, since you are considering using technology you need to be wise so that you do not end up as an oddity on the worldwide web. Since the purpose of sexual activity is oneness, your option is both creative and permissible because you are being as intimate as you can be when distance separates you.

Question: I am a single man who has a very strong sexual desire and do masturbate upon occasion to prevent a lack of self-control that would lead to lustful and sinful actions. When I masturbate I am not lusting, so is this okay?

Answer: First, I would encourage you to be working toward marriage since you are obviously not built by God to endure a life of singleness. Second, I would be very cautious in evaluating your heart since only you truly know if you are lusting when you masturbate. Third, it seems possible but unlikely to be sexually aroused without sexual thoughts; I guess you could think of tractors or something to divert yourself, which seems peculiar but not evil. Fourth, I would be careful to ensure that your masturbation does not lead you into pornography and other sins if/when it becomes unsatisfying.

Question: Can my wife masturbate me?

Answer: Yes. During a menstrual cycle, following a pregnancy, when there is not sufficient time for lovemaking, etc., this can be a helpful option if the two of you are willing. Some married men also prefer to have a quick helping hand from their wife so they can settle into a long session of foreplay in which they concentrate on arousing their wife, which then climaxes with intercourse and the husband's second ejaculation.

Question: My wife and I are new Christians and we want to have sex according to the Bible but we're not sure what things we're allowed to do?

Answer: The Bible is, quite frankly, more liberated on the matter of sex than most Bible teachers. In the Song of Songs alone, we see the condoning of marital kissing (Song 1:2), a sexually aggressive wife (throughout the Song of Songs), a wife who likes to perform oral sex/fellatio (Song 2:3), masturbation performed on one spouse by another (Song 2:6, 5:4–6), massage and petting (Song 4:5), a wife who enjoys her husband performing oral sex/cunnilingus (Song 4:12–5:1), a wife who performs a striptease (Song 6:13b–7:9), a husband who enjoys his wife's breasts (Song 7:7–8), erotic conversation (throughout the book), and ongoing variety and creativity that includes new places and new positions such as lovemaking outdoors during a warm spring day (Song 7:11–13). The bottom line is don't sin, but have fun. Douglas Rosenau has also written A Celebration of Sex that would be a helpful read for you and your wife.

Question: Is it okay for a spouse to masturbate during the act of lovemaking?

Answer: Yes. The combination may heighten the degree of pleasure. For example, many wives cannot climax from normal intercourse but can climax from stimulation of their clitoris, which is not a point of contact during normal sexual intercourse. So, some wives enjoy also stimulating their clitoris while making love to their husbands to heighten their pleasure and many husbands report being very turned on by the freedom and enjoyment of their wife.

Question: Is it okay for my wife and I to masturbate ourselves if we are together and both turned on by it?

Answer: Yes. Providing this act does not replace normal intercourse and does not decrease your oneness, then it may be permissible. In particular, some couples have cited a number of reasons why this may be helpful. One husband and his wife do not have intercourse during her menstrual cycle and so she cares for him during that time with masturbation. But, upon occasion she cannot bring him to climax and so he will do so while fondling her breasts so that the two of them are still participating. Some people report that their spouse simply has no idea how to stimulate their genitals and so they stimulate their own genitals in front of their spouse to teach them what they enjoy so that their spouse could then satisfy them. Some spouses also report that during heavy petting and/or deep massage they prefer to stimulate their own genitals while their spouse stimulates other erotic zones and enjoy watching their spouse simultaneously enjoy sexual stimuli from many places on their body.

Question: I am much hornier than my wife and need sex far more often than she does. She has gotten tired of me keeping her up at night to have sex when she is tired and so we have porno that I can look at and masturbate to when she's not in the mood. She's okay with this and we're wondering if it's a sin?

Answer: Yes, it is a sin. You should stop this practice immediately and throw out all of your pornography. You are lusting after women and committing adultery in your mind and your wife is depriving you, which is a sin (1 Cor. 7:3–5). Lastly, your wife's lack of interest is likely indicative of your failings as her husband to love and initiate with her outside of the bedroom. The key to your sex life is to address underlying problems you may be having. You need to work on your marriage.

Question: My wife wants sex more than I do, what should I do?

Answer: Don't tell your buddies or they will mock you incessantly for the rest of your life after staring at you blankly without blinking for about an hour in total silence. Do have sex with your wife as often as she likes and thank God.

Question: My wife and I watched pornography together a lot before we became Christians and imitated what we saw people doing on the television. We both really enjoy watching pornography and wonder if it is okay to continue watching pornography if we do it together and only have sex with each other?

Answer: No, you should not watch pornography because it is a sin of lust. Also, you do not want your lovely wife to think of herself as a whore. Since it is your job to wash her with the Word of God, cleansing her and making her holy, you should put down your dirty, defiling porn and pick up your Bible as the beginning point for your marital intimacy.

Question: My wife likes to masturbate me and wants to know how to get better at it, what should she do?

Answer: Lou Pagett (a non-Christian) has written a book called How To Be A Great Lover for women that includes a chapter with many alternatives for a helping hand that she may want to try. In addition, tell her what you do and do not like while she is experimenting so that she can learn through experience with you.