Could it be a good idea not to masturbate?
What is masturbation, and is it OK to masturbate? These are very good questions which a lot of people think about.
Masturbation, simply explained, means that you stimulate your own genitals in order to achieve sexual enjoyment or satisfaction. Masturbation is seen as sin in many contexts, but in other contexts it is looked on as normal and quite alright, in fact even as healthy. So, what is the right, and the smart, answer, if there is any such answer?
First of all, we may need to clarify some things:
Firstly: one of the less common words for masturbation in English is the word ‘onanism’, meaning either masturbation or ‘coitus interruptus’. This word has a strange history. It comes from a story in the Bible (Genesis 38:8–10) when a man called ‘Onan’ lost his life because he committed a sin in God’s eyes. His sin was not that he stimulated his own genitals, you can read it for yourself in the Bible. Simply put, there was a law among the Jewish people at that time that if a married man died without having children, then one of his unmarried brothers had to marry his widow, to carry on the family line. Onan’s brother died, and Onan should have married his brother’s wife and had children with her on his brother’s behalf. However, he didn’t want to carry on his brother’s family, so he didn’t consummate sexual intercourse with his new wife. He had intercourse with her, but right before ejaculation he withdrew from her, so that the semen did not go into her, but fell outside her. So Onan’s sin was not primarily a ‘sexual sin’ but the sin of hating his brother. Are you following me? This is important to understand.
The story of Onan is about the nearest we come to a concrete situation in the Bible that can remind us of what we call masturbation today. However, when we realise that the story of Onan was in fact not about masturbation, we obviously need to find wisdom about this subject in other ways. There are some things in life that the Bible doesn’t mention much. So we have to search for wisdom here, although it isn’t simply or clearly stated.
Secondly: Throughout history there has been a lot of scaremongering relating to masturbation, particularly in religious circles. It has been said that masturbation can lead to serious illnesses and so on. There is no Biblical foundation for this, and of course we ought to be careful with these kind of statements that don’t have a clear basis in God’s Word.
So what should we think about masturbation? Is it alright? Is it sin? Could it be a good idea not to masturbate?
You will no doubt receive different advice, according to who you ask. It can be a good idea to ask someone you trust. Maybe someone who is a bit older than you, and who you know well, will have some good ideas for you? Almost all adults will have thought about this subject a bit.
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Do talk with several people about it, as individuals may have widely varying ideas about this. I once heard about a young man who masturbated more than twenty times a day. It’s obvious in his case that it had far too much focus in his life. A friend of mine never masturbated before he got married when he was over thirty years old. He is really glad that he hadn’t really discovered the sexual part of his life before he began to discover it together with his wife.
I would like to give you the following counsel and advice about it:
I was over thirty when I married, and had experienced sexual arousal for many years, without giving it release with anyone else. I didn’t want to have sex with anyone apart from my wife: that’s one of the things the Bible says very clearly. Remember, God doesn’t share His wisdom with us in order to destroy us, but to help us. It’s good to have some driving rules. Just imagine what the traffic would have looked like if there hadn’t been any driving rules. Or imagine what an ice hockey match would have looked like without rules and a referee. Guidelines are given to help, and not to hinder us. Human history shows that although people are more valuable than sheep, we are not always smarter than them. Listening to God, our Shepherd, makes us smarter, not more stupid. God has no doubt a lot of wisdom stored up, after all!
Anyway, when I was in my twenties a pastor said that it was fine to masturbate. Before then I hadn’t done it much at all, but when he said it was alright, then I thought it must be fine. After a very short time I realised that even though I got good feelings and satisfaction there and then, masturbation left me with more emptiness than joy. It was as if I realised that the sexual part of me was given to me to SHARE with someone, more than it just being about me.
I began to think more and more that the sexual part of me is a unique, beautiful and powerful gift that God put into me. What is special is that this gift is to be opened by my wife! I have a gift within me that is so special, and so valuable, that it is meant to be opened by my best friend!
If you imagine how the male and the female body are made, then you realise that sexuality is about RELATIONSHIP and COMPLEMENTARITY more than being about the INDIVIDUAL. The sexual part of us is meant to be a union between spirit, soul and body. When masturbation is only on your own, then it is only about the body. It may not be the greatest SIN of all, but for my part I felt that I said ‘No’ to something, and ‘Yes’ to something else. I wanted the gift within me to be protected as much as possible for my wife. I wanted us to discover this gift together! I wanted HER to be totally connected to my sexual feelings.
I see this even more clearly now that I’m married. Neither I nor my wife had much experience of masturbation before we married. We have opened up for each other totally, and we see that sexuality is not about MY SATISFACTION (which is one of the main points of masturbation), but sexuality is something we enjoy TOGETHER. It is enjoyment and satisfaction for both of us, and it happens in RELATIONSHIP.
In my experience, in a strange way masturbation reminds you more of the loneliness you feel, than bringing you deep joy. Perhaps this is because we have misunderstood the gift of God? Perhaps because the main purpose and meaning of sex is to unite with another person? Research has shown that sexual intercourse is more healthy than masturbation. Maybe loneliness is one of the reasons that many people masturbate while watching pornography? At least there’s another person there, but the problem is that this is a fake intimacy. When you turn off the screen you’re on your own again.
My advice to you is not to think of repeatedly opening the gift that lies within you. Instead, remember that you are carrying something very valuable, that the person with whom you will share your priceless years of life will open with you. Your sexuality is a treasure! It is one of the deepest parts of your life!
Let’s imagine a picture. Imagine that your life is like an island in the Pacific Ocean. It’s full of life and vibrant colours, and it abounds with wonderful things. God has buried lots of different treasure around this island, which you can spend your whole life discovering. One day you found a FANTASTIC treasure. It was totally different from all the other treasures you found. It was particularly beautiful, really wonderful. You don’t know why, but instinctively, when you saw this treasure you wanted to share it with someone else. There was just something about this treasure that made you feel this way. You think often about this wonderful treasure, and wonder what you’ll do with it. Some counsellors who wander around the island say, ‘You have to find out about the contents of the treasure chest BEFORE you meet the person you’ll share it with! It’s important! Then you will know what’s inside! Everything else is unnatural and unhealthy. It’s unnatural to keep a treasure like this buried! Uncover it! If you don’t you’ll be weird! Everyone else has opened their treasure!’
A lot of people in our society are influenced by the mindset that says we have to have everything right here and right now. Who thinks differently? Who is it that dares to think long-term? As I said before, if you say ‘No’ to something, then you are saying ‘Yes’ to something else. Perhaps you are saying ‘No’ to opening the treasure chest alone, because you want to open it with your best friend. There’s a lot of love and wisdom in that. Those who say ‘Yes’ to masturbation now, are saying ‘No’ to what my friend experienced – to discovering the world of sex TOGETHER with his wife.
Those who say ‘No’ to masturbation, say ‘Yes’ to this. So, saying ‘No’ to something isn’t about being angry and boring, and shutting out the world, it’s about saying ‘Yes’ to something you think has greater worth.
There are alternatives to the mindset that everything has to happen here and now. Think long-term! To put it like this: I’ve never heard of anyone who has regretted that they didn’t masturbate more before they got married!
You can also find different advice and tips on this subject, this is one of them.
Best wishes from a 33-year-old man.