No matter how many reasons that can be produced to allow or encourage masturbation, the main question that a Christian man requires before he does anything so controversial is: “What does the bible say?” Until that question is answered to his satisfaction, he cannot indulge – well, not with a clear conscience, that is. Most do it anyway, but they feel guilty about it. So the first encouragement I can give Christian men is that God does not have a problem with men masturbating.
What the bible says
There is no specific verse in the New Testament which mentions masturbation, although there are passages which speak about the lusts of the flesh, and these are discussed further down the page.
But there is a verse in the Old Testament which neither forbids nor condemns male masturbation (there is no prohibition against women masturbating). This little gem is found in the book of Leviticus: “And if a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water, and be unclean until the evening” (Lev 15:16 RSV).
Not only is masturbation not condemned here, God actually made allowance for it. There is a list of sexual sins in Leviticus chapter 18, and the same sins are enumerated in chapter 20, along with the relevant punishments, some of which required the death penalty. But notable by its absence is masturbation.
It is conceivable that this “emission of semen” refers to a wet dream, which is specifically mentioned in Deuteronomy 23:10. But it can’t be referring to an emission of semen during marital sex, as the GNB translates, because the “emission of semen” in verse 18 specifically refers to sex in marriage, whereas the “emission of semen” in verse 16 is non-specific and gives the idea of it being outside of marriage, allowing for the possibility of it occurring either in a wet dream or by masturbation. There is no other plausible alternative.
Masturbation shown not to be sinful
Significantly, following an emission of semen, the man had to immediately go through a ritual cleansing process: “he shall bathe his whole body in water, and be unclean until the evening” (Lev 15:16 RSV). And after the sex act between husband and wife and the consequent emission of semen, “both of them shall bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the evening” (verse 18 RSV).
Furthermore, bowel movements (Deut 23:9-14) and menstruation (Lev 16:19-31) also required ritual purification.
This process of ceremonial or ritual washing was required because of God’s presence among Israel. “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst” (Lev 15:31 RSV).
So we can conclude that if an emission of semen is sin, then so are sex within marriage, bowel movements (Deut 23:9-14), and menstruation (Lev 16:19-31). Clearly, then, masturbation is not a sin; sex within marriage is mandated by God (1 Cor 7:2-6); and bowel movements and menstruation are fundamental human functions over which we have no control. If they were sin they would be categorised as such in Leviticus 18 and 20 and have a severe penalty attached. So, if masturbation was not a sin in the Old Testament, how and why did it become a sin in the New Testament?
Besides which, this whole passage is Old Testament law. Christ died to fulfil the law so it is no longer binding on New Testament believers: “For Christ has brought the Law to an end, so that everyone who believes is put right with God” (Rom 10:4 GNB). Therefore, while masturbation, which was not a sin in the OT, no longer requires even the token ritual purification and can therefore be practiced without sin, without guilt, without shame, without having to plead with God for forgiveness – masturbation in the NT is not a sin. This is indeed good news for both men and women.
But what about the lusts of the flesh?
The apostle Peter warned his readers: “Do not give in to bodily passions, which are always at war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:11 GNB). At first glance, masturbation would seem to be covered in this verse. But the context of 1 Peter 2 refers to sins of the flesh which are plain for all to see – they are public sins, whereas masturbation is usually a private act and therefore done behind closed doors. Roman society was becoming increasingly decadent and degraded at this time and Peter wanted Christians to avoid such behaviour and be seen for their good works (1 Pet 2:11-17; Matt 5:16).
In contrast, Paul warned Christians: “Have nothing to do with the worthless things that belong to the darkness”, and said they should “bring them out to the light”. And he said, “It is really too shameful even to talk about the things they [Roman society] do in secret” (Eph 5:11-12 GNB). Paul was referring to both general and sexual sin in this passage, and masturbation may be something he was concerned about; it could fit there. But likewise, he may not have been. The problem is, he doesn’t specify masturbation, so we’re left to decide for ourselves. Masturbation has to be read into the passage. And it may be that he doesn’t specify masturbation because he’s giving principles rather than laws and expects each Christian to apply them to their own lives; and that, if masturbation is a problem to them, they need to refrain from it.
But he does specify other sins in this passage; sins which so many Christians indulge in without a thought or a blush: “Since you are God’s people, it is not right that any matters of sexual immorality or indecency or greed should even be mentioned among you. Nor is it fitting for you to use language which is obscene, profane, or vulgar” (Eph 5:3-4 GNB). These sins are specified and we know clearly what Paul wanted from Christians. Yet so many Christians use foul language. And it’s shameful to see the gluttony practiced by some other Christians. And these must have been a problem in the churches in Paul’s time, for him to highlight them. But he didn’t specify masturbation. If gluttony and drunkenness (1 Cor 11:21) and using foul language, which too many Christians seem to think are not a problem, were specified – why wasn’t masturbation, especially since it’s the most common and notorious sexual activity on the planet?
And what about the passage in Galatians chapter 5 where Paul discusses the “desires or lusts of the flesh”? Once again, the discussion looks pretty scary and masturbation can easily be construed to fall under the condemnations Paul makes. But, as with all the above verses, masturbation has to be read into the text because it is not specified. Contrariwise, it could just as easily, and with more grounds, be disregarded as being part of what Paul was discussing. He didn’t want Christians to “go beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6), which is an appropriate warning for this discussion.
Adultery in the heart
For this subject see my related brief article, “What is it to commit adultery in the heart?” on this website. In it I show from scripture that when Jesus warned men not to lust after a woman he didn’t mean that simply looking at a woman and liking what he sees is adultery; he is warning that the intent to seduce that same woman, rather than just “appreciating” her, is adultery in the heart.
Another sin invented by the Church
Unfortunately too many Christians wrongly regard masturbation as intrinsically sinful and put a blanket prohibition on it, despite the circumstances of the individual. So what is the man whose wife has abandoned him sexually and cuts off every avenue that would lawfully release his pent up sexual desires to do? What does the widower or single man do? What is the teenager to do as he tries to come to terms with his new awareness of sex and his raging hormones? What happens when a male sees a woman who really “turns him on”? For that matter what is any male of any age to do when there is no physiological release for his aroused desires? Does God expect that males are to remain celibate until they get married?
Another complication for the male is that his reproductive system is constantly manufacturing sperm. And this sperm needs to be released frequently. The space in which sperm is stored is only so big; therefore it needs to be emptied somehow. This is part of the “sex-drive”, and the strength of it varies from person to person. This too is God’s design. Christians answer this objection by saying that when all this manufactured sperm is fully built up, it releases itself in a nocturnal emission, better known as a “wet dream”. “If a man becomes unclean because he has had a wet dream during the night, he has to go outside the camp and stay there” (Deut 23:10 GNB). But any male can testify that after a wet dream his sexual thoughts and desire throughout the day are more intense and more numerous than if he hadn’t had the wet dream, the supposed release, in the first place.
God’s faulty design?
Male characteristics such as the capacity or tendency to be sexually aroused on sight, to have thoughts of sex frequently throughout the day, being ready to engage in sexual activity at a moment’s notice or opportunity, and to have his reproductive system relentlessly, ceaselessly, manufacturing the stuff which puts pressure on him to physically express his urges, is God’s inbuilt design.
So why would God condemn him for masturbating to get relief from the ever-increasing urges that are inbuilt into the very fibre of his being, and which constitute his maleness? Couldn’t God foresee what would be the consequence of his “faulty” design? And when the Christian man finally yields and does the only thing he can do without physically committing adultery (i.e. masturbation), his conscience lashes him and he feels guilty and ashamed, and all because of a wrong understanding which has been perpetuated since the time of Augustine and Jerome, and rigidly enforced by evangelical Christians today. He prays that God would forgive him, prays for power to overcome this besetting sin, and determines to never do it again. But a few days later he has done it again; and the cycle is repeated endlessly.
But God isn’t cruel and he does know the complications which can arise from his perfect design. It is fallen human beings who think that God’s design is faulty and that men who respond to it are dirty and depraved. If God doesn’t forbid or condemn masturbation, who are Christians to do so? Surely, theirs is the greater sin?
I just like it….
Having said all this, a search online will show that both men and women masturbate, not because they’re starved of sex, but just because they like it. No matter how healthy a marriage is, and how frequently a couple have sex, one or both of them will still have solo sex. And according to psychologists, this is not unhealthy or perverted; and it is not cheating. People don’t need a reason to masturbate – they do it because they like doing it. I read of one young married woman who regularly masturbates immediately after sex with her husband after he’s fallen asleep alongside her. She does it because she likes doing it. The sex isn’t unsatisfactory but she masturbates like this and no doubt at other times, just because she really likes it. And I’m sure she’s not the only happily married woman who does this.
And a married Christian friend of mine told me he sometimes goes down to the nature reserve above the sea shore to masturbate. He’s found a well-hidden place on top of a cliff edge which overlooks the ocean (he won’t tell me where it is though lol). He removes all his clothing and walks around enjoying the feeling of freedom and the breeze caressing his private parts while masturbating; and/or sits on a log and does it. He doesn’t want to tell his wife because it is a special place and special activity he reserves for himself. He said he’s not against having sex with his wife outdoors but this particular place is his own space.
Stress relief and other reasons given by psychologists
Psychologists assure us that masturbation is a healthy activity for both body and mind. And it is a great reliever of stress. For example, in a book written by a woman who is now a Christian, she tells how she was raised in an abusive cult and found that masturbation, which she did frequently at the time, was a great help to coping with her situation.
Masturbation is also a much healthier option than anti-depressant medications, and gives a wonderful sense of well-being.
Use it or lose it
In an Australian science show (called Catalyst) a few years ago, the presenter was discussing male erections. She said that it is important for men to have erections because it protects against scarring in the blood vessels, which then prevents or hinders the ability to have erections. “Men need to have erections so they can have erections”.
During the years 1986-2000 Harvard Medical School conducted research on a group of nearly 30,000 men, all health care professionals from various disciplines, which found that the optimal number of ejaculations to reduce the risk of prostate cancer is 21 or more per month. The risk of prostate cancer was reduced by about 31% or 32% in the group of men who had 21+ ejaculations per month. Those with a lower rate had a greater risk.
So…if the bible doesn’t forbid or condemn masturbation, and if psychologists assure us that it is not only allowable but a good activity for mental health, and doctors and medical testing shows the importance of it for physical health and well-being, and if there are reasons why men should and must masturbate if they have no other means of ejaculating, why not indulge? Why suppress an act which has so many benefits as well as being so pleasurable when there is no legitimate reason not to? Why refrain from such an important and beneficial activity? Why feel guilty?
I’m well aware that this article will provoke a negative reaction from some Christians. I can’t help that and I don’t intend it. I’ve presented my case using scripture rightly (or at least logically) applied. I’ve tried to be realistic. And I’ve shown that there are reasons why men can and should masturbate. Even if masturbation were wrong, it isn’t a hanging offence. God understands and is gracious. He knows the power of the urges he designed and built into men…and women.
Helpful related websites
A Christian website devoted to wholesome sex within marriage is The Marriage Bed. There is even a special category for masturbation for both men and women. There is also a forum where you can discuss sexual issues with other Christians. https://themarriagebed.com/
A secular website for men devoted exclusively to masturbation. It is a fun site and informative, which discusses techniques, Q & A, health and other fun facts (e.g. average length of penis), testimonies (some of which are from Christian men), a forum, and an extensive index to everything on the site about masturbation. http://www.jackinworld.com/
For Christian women I recommend a site called Christian Nymphos https://christiannymphos.org/ It is dedicated to the enjoyment of hot and wholesome sex within Christian marriage and discusses all aspects of sex. The site is written by 3 or 4 evangelical Christian married women who encourage women to enjoy a healthy, guilt free, and sexy sex life with their husbands, and they use their own experiences and practices as illustrations. The authors like to receive questions and feedback from their women readers and no subject is taboo; but they do not answer questions from men.
For an example of masturbation on their website:
“If you and your husband do not participate in masturbation, then this article may not be for you. I’m writing this for those of you out there who do engage in masturbation in your marriage.
I’ve been pretty busy lately and I’ve noticed something. I’ve been doing lots of little quickies with myself. In my marriage, we engage in mutual masturbation, and my husband also knows that I help myself sometimes, especially when my drive is in overload and his isn’t. When I masturbate it doesn’t take anything away from him. Most of the time it just gets me keyed up for later (with him) so it’s all good.
I used to spend more time at it though. I’d shower or take a bath and lie down on my bed and think about fantasies involving my husband and slowly work myself into it. I can’t remember the last time I did that though! Recently it’s been more like 30 seconds of rubbing, BAM, and then I’m finished and ready to go do something else.
I think I’m in that lucky percentage of women who can orgasm easily, and maybe that’s why I tend to have “drive-by” sessions anymore. I just do it to take the edge off for that particular moment, so that I can go on about my day and get my ‘to do’ list done. Some days I don’t do it at all while other days it happens multiple times.
So… I’m wondering how many of you can relate to this? I’m interested in knowing whether you ladies tend to spend more time at this, or do you have quickies like me? Leave any responses in the comment box below!” https://christiannymphos.org/category/masturbation/
From one of the moderators of Christian Nymphos is this article on masturbation. Scroll past the first article on the page to see the next two items which give a range of techniques for women to use when masturbating.