When I was seven or eight years old, one of the more popular songs on the radio was Chuck Berry’s “My Dingaling.”
Chuck claims (tongue in cheek, I think) that the song is a completely innocent song about a child’s toy.
The chorus is something like, “I love to play with my dingaling…”
Despite Chuck’s assertion that this song was NOT about masturbation, many adults felt certain that it WAS about masturbation…including my Father.
So, when he heard me happily singing (very loudly), “My dingaling…my dingaling…I’m going to play with my dingaling,” he was none too pleased and (if I recall correctly) slapped me silly.
Why, you might ask, would I share that story with you?
Because, in the past week or so, I have received a flood of emails asking about masturbation relative to Scripture and Christian marriage…and this post is about masturbation…and…the thought of my Father chasing me around, trying to slap me, for singing that song amuses me…and its my blog…so, you too will now have to live the rest of your life with that image floating around in your head.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way…
What is the deal with masturbation for Christians (in and out of marriage)?
Let’s start with Scripture.
There are a total of ZERO references to masturbation in Scripture.
Many people believe (or incorrectly preach) that the story of Onan (in Genesis 38:9) is a story about masturbation. It is not.
The sin of Onan in this story was not fulfilling his obligation to impregnate the widow of his brother…not masturbation.
So, the first MAJOR clue about the fact that Scripture (God) don’t feel that masturbation is inherently wrong is that it doesn’t specifically mention this act…let alone prohibit it.
One of the oldest (and best) sites that deals with Christianity and sex is www.themarriagebed.com. This site has an entire section devoted to masturbation.
It does address this silence in Scripture regarding masturbation and (in my opinion) does a great job summing up how I feel about this silence.
I can only come up with three reasons why “thou shalt not masturbate” is not found in the Bible:
1. It’s an oversight.
2. One must have special knowledge or be spiritual to know this truth.
3. Masturbation is not an inherently sinful act.
What have other prominent Christians said about masturbation?
Dr. James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family,” teaches that parents should NOT hassle their children regarding masturbation.
His reasoning (as a Doctor and Pastor) is the following:
1) There is no scientific evidence that masturbation is harmful to the body or mind.
2) There is scientific evidence that masturbation can be a healthy release for natural sexual urges that have no other outlet.
3) There is an unnatural and unnecessary danger of creating negative, confusing and guilt-ridden feelings about their bodies and sexuality.
You can find his entire article regarding this topic here.
Judith K. Balswick and Jack O. Balswick write in their book Authentic Human Sexuality: An Integrated Christian Approach:
Masturbation can be a healthy, enjoyable way for a person without a sexual partner to experience sexual gratification. Since God has created humans as sexual beings, masturbation provides a way for individuals to experience their sexuality and meet their sexual needs. (p. 246)
Jesus warns that lust leads to adultery, and adultery is sin. However, lusting is not the same as fantasizing ….
Fantasies about future possibilities are usually benign…. Desiring a specific person, and directing on ways to fulfill the desire, is a form of lust.
Fantasy, on the other hand, is more general and does not include attempts at achieving that exact fantasy. (p. 247)
I find the above quote particularly interesting because it dares to approach the subject of “lust versus fantasy.” I have seldom seen Christians that are willing to EVEN broach that topic (I will…below).
In Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology (Fortress, 1990, ISBN 0-8066-1701-2), James B. Nelson, writes:
In the midst of dualistic alienation, we seek unification, or more accurately, communion. Orgasm is a gift of God’s grace toward this end. (p. 172)
Among life’s unifying experiences, Gordon contends, orgasm is particularly powerful … The physiological intensity typical in masturbatory orgasm frequently surpasses that of intercourse, and relational fantasies usually accompany the act in compensation for the absence of the partner. (p. 171)
Archibald Hart, a psychologist-theologian at Fuller Theological Seminary observed,
I do not believe that masturbation itself is morally wrong, or … sinful.
If we assume (we do) that the act of masturbation is NOT inherently wrong for Christians, then there are three remaining issues to be addressed:
1) Can masturbation be done without “crossing the line” into “lustful” thoughts that ARE truly wrong?
2) When do “fantasies” cross the line into “lustful” thoughts?
3) What effect is masturbation having on you and your marriage?
Can masturbation be done without “lustful” thoughts?
We believe it can.
We believe this based upon our personal experience and the experience of hundreds of couples we have coached.
Does it take a bit of mental “discipline?” Yes. But, this does not mean it is not possible.
And, it is important to address the fact that masturbation does NOT necessarily assume that you are going to be alone when masturbating!
For Christian couples, masturbation (and mutual masturbation) can be a very exciting and fun activity within the marriage bed.
Many (many, many) husbands and wives find it sensual and a real “turn on” to watch their spouse masturbate.
So, for most of us, the majority of our “masturbation” will most likely take place WITH our spouse…completely avoiding the need for any fantasies or lustful thoughts.
When do “fantasies” cross the line into “lustful” thoughts?
This is, honestly, NOT a question I have spent much time pondering (like some of the egghead theologians above).
I have always “assumed” that any thoughts or fantasies that did not include our spouse (only), were probably “crossing the line.”
This is the “test” that we apply and recommend to couples.
I am open to the discussion that fantasies are really not lustful thoughts…but it seems like such an arcane discussion that I really don’t have much energy for it.
What effect is masturbation having on your marriage?
In my opinion, this is “where the rubber meets the road” (no pun intended).
In many ways, to masturbate or not is a personal decision that has EVERYTHING to do with your particular situation.
Do you masturbate because you have a much higher sex drive than your spouse…and you are utilizing masturbation as a “favor” to your spouse…you are tempering your needs against theirs?
Or, are you masturbating to the point that you are “defrauding” your spouse by stealing away sexual energy that they need and desire?
Are you in the majority in that masturbation, without lustful thoughts, is almost impossible?
Or, are you in the minority, and can masturbate without such thoughts?
If your spouse knew that you were masturbating, would they be shocked, hurt and angered?
Or, is your spouse fine with you “taking care of business” when the need arises?
Since we do not feel that masturbation is INHERENTLY wrong, then we must approach the act similarly to how we would approach almost any act relative to our marriage.
Is playing chess inherently wrong? No.
But, if you are spending twelve hours per day…and investing ALL of your energies on it…stealing away time and focus from your spouse…than it can be wrong.
Ultimately, it is a matter for you and your spouse to work out…
Not me or James Dobson or Chuck Berry…