Sex & The Single Christian
The Secret Garden: Christians & Masturbation
Genesis 38:7-10: And Er, Judah's
firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD
slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's
wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan
knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when
he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the
ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the
thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him
Many churches use Genesis 38 or Leviticus 15 as the basis for their ready-made objection to the practice, missing the point that God killed Onan not because he masturbated but because he disobeyed God's specific direction to procreate. In fact, Onan was not masturbating at all, he was having sex with his lawful wife. And the Levitical admonition of chapter 15, besides being part of the law Christ fulfilled and we are, thus, no longer required to follow, was a rule that applied to both married people and single people. To make Leviticus 15 work, we also have to start shunning women during their monthly cycle and resume animal sacrifice.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
The Church's (most all Christian sects are agreed on this) position on the issue is an extrapolation of scriptural intent. It is a doctrine created to support a position, when positions should be taken on the basis of sound doctrine (Matt 15:9). The Church's basic position, therefore, seems that anything sexual is bad, and it is better to suffer or marry, and, therefore, suffer anyway— if you're only marrying because you're being driven out of your mind by The Need.
US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was fired for suggesting, in the wake of the AIDS crises, we teach America's youth about masturbation as an alternative to sex. Besides being comically hypocritical, considering then-President Clinton's own recreational intern use, Elders' firing was a horrific capitulation to the Christian right, who crusade against masturbation as if there were actually scriptural teaching about it. These people are nuts and zealots and they invent words for God, which actually is a far more grievous sin than this could possibly be [Rev. 22:18-19]. If we Christians don't know, we should say, “We don't know.” We shouldn't take a position simply because it freaks out the squares to think little Billy's upstairs getting it done. Billy is going to get it done regardless. But with a Christ-like blind eye and deaf ear turned his way, Billy will likely evolve into just another predator out stalking women as Oedipal masturbatory objects.
Since nobody talks about it, no one has prepared Little Miss for the stark reality of the typical boy's idea of sexual intimacy being a few minutes of privacy and a box of Kleenex. 310 seconds, maximum, and the next thing on his mind is, typically, what's on TV and is there anything to eat. That's what masturbation teaches young boys, that's the biggest problem with the whole enterprise: there's no giving in it, there's no sacrifice in it, and there's absolutely no consideration for anyone but him. And when this genius arrives, in all of his glory, at the dawning of a young woman's sexual awakening, he never quite wipes his feet before tracking mud all over her fantasy, leaving her, more often than not, feeling used and puzzled as to why she sacrificed her purity to this moron.
This issue strikes me as one where the church takes up a position first and finds scripture to back it up later. Which, of course, is a wholly unspiritual way to approach doctrine. Most Christian sects have gone way out of their way to invent scriptural support for their presupposition that masturbation is a sin. Whether it is a sin or not is a determination you, as an individual, must make (Phil 2:12). Most of us are far too socialized to think of it as evil and taboo to overcome or contest the Church's statutory characterization of the activity, a characterization most people could not immediately identify the origin of because there is absolutely no scriptural instruction regarding this practice.
Choosing Boo: Hearing the call of the Holy Spirit and being lured away by our loneliness.
Opinion vs. Scripture
Here's what noted Evangelist Dr. Ty Adams had to say on the
subject on MySpace:
“I have heard it said by many, especially by "Christians", that masturbation is not sex and even if you don't have a third grade education, you can clearly see that masturbation is sex. But many like to use that as an excuse to do it so that they can get a little sex without going "all the way". But whether you have sexual intercourse or sexually manipulate your own genitals to achieve an orgasm, you are having sex. The reason why you masturbate is to achieve an orgasm. And an orgasm is the culmination, the climax of any sexual act, whether it's with a partner's) or sex with yourself. And that's exactly what masturbation is, solo sex.”
This is not scriptural. This is a reasoned opinion, certainly, but there is no scriptural foundation for this. Sexual intercourse, by definition “intercourse,” involves more than one person.
“Okay, now that we agree that masturbation is sex, then what is wrong with it? I'm glad you asked. For those of you who don't believe in God or live for Him, then this is not for you. But for those of us who not only "believe" in Him, but have actually made Him to be Lord, the One Who governs our lives, then I think it would be only fitting that we investigate what He has to say about it. In order to do that we have to go to God's Space, especially for those of you who say that masturbation is not in the Bible.
“’Is it a good thing to have sexual relations? Certainly-but only within a certain context. It's good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder.’” —1 Corinthians 7:1-2 (The Message)
This passage in no way refers to masturbation. This is a complete distortion of scripture.
“Most people who have engaged in masturbation know that the culmination of this sexual act ends in shame.”
Mainly because of teaching like this.
“I don't have to share with you the thousands of emails of the admittance of this shame because you know all too well since you have experienced it yourself. Curled up in a fetal position, crying, because your bed is even more empty and you're lonelier than you did before you violated yourself...Because God never created sex so that you could gratify yourself. The dictionary defined masturbation as self abuse...the miss use of yourself. The mistreatment, the manipulation, the exploitation of YOU.
“…it's a never ending cycle that you habitually become dependant upon, like a drug. And like any other drug, you can never achieve the high you're looking for...Because MASTERbation will MASTER you! You enter into a contractual agreement with it and it will govern your life sexually. It will rule and control your life...it taps you on the shoulder 3 o'clock in the morning even when you don't want it. You want to stop but you can't. You cry, you repent and say you won't do it any more but you find yourself molesting yourself again...When will it ever end?”
I don’t entirely disagree with Evangelist Adams, but I do brace at the distortion of scripture that appears to comprise the foundation for her doctrinal position. Any addiction is certainly wrong, and addiction to sex or to masturbation is most definitely something we can and should be delivered from. In this she is entirely correct. And I’m more than willing to reverse my own position on the issue if she or anyone else can present some scriptural foundation we don’t need a neck brace to stretch to.
There is absolutely no teaching in the Bible governing masturbation. None. Shame and guilt are Satan’s tools to trip up God’s people and stifle our spiritual growth. In that, Evangelist Adams and I entirely agree. But even the vague suggestion God will send you to hell for touching yourself is absolute nonsense. It’s something we church folk invented for whatever reason, but there is simply no scriptural foundation for this doctrine.
I tend to agree with Dr. Elders. I think if most boys were presented with masturbation as an alternative to sex, and some discussion of what masturbation is and is not were engaged in, I think we'd raise healthier males. Men with fewer hang-ups and men who understood that sex is not masturbation. Sex involves another person and her needs should, ideally, come first since most males have that free pass, guaranteeing them a great time regardless. But there is no discussion. About sex? Sure. About masturbation? Never. Not even among the teens themselves. Now, maybe there's some American Pie-style kids out there somewhere who discuss The M Word with their buddies, but when I was growing up, it was never spoken of. Sex, yes, masturbation, never. It was demeaning to speak of it, even among friends.
I hate to imagine the Church would rather trade the health and well-being of adolescents, the nurturing of well-adjusted, sexually mature adults, for their continuing head-in-sand attitudes towards human sexuality. If I understand the argument correctly, the Church's primary bias against masturbation is the inevitable inclusion of sexual fantasy, something (a-HA!) there is scriptural teaching about (Matt 5:28; James 1:14-15). I have to imagine, therefore, that, in the eyes of the Church, the actual rubbing and tugging of the various body parts is less offensive than the possibility we might be thinking of someone while we're engaged in this activity.
I'm not convinced the line between fantasy and lust-in-heart isn't a semantic one. I've experienced varying degrees of sexual interest in women, from admiration and sincere attraction to barbecue night at Sizzler's, where the woman's health and well being is nowhere on the radar, and body parts are the overriding curiosity. One seems reasonable and healthy, the other feels more like lust and, therefore, sin.
Theology of Guilt: Being driven insane by The Need--the church distorting scripture to make an enemy of your own body, as if it somehow pleases God to see His people suffer. This is a stupid as making it a sin to blow your nose: the church applying a moral standard to a simple bodily function. All other bodily functions are just fine, but anything even remotely in the sexual realm is considered sinful unless you are married (and masturbation is frowned upon even for married people). This is the doctrine of boneheads, a religion of assumption: Stuff We Done Heard Someplace From Mama 'Nem. There is no biblical teaching on blowing your nose. There is no biblical teaching on masturbation.
Fasting Advice From A Fry Cook
I'll not attempt to debate the Church's teaching on
masturbation. I'm much more interested in simply pointing out
how utterly stupid it is for millions of people to suffer from
tremendous guilt for what is, essentially, a bodily function.
It's as if God set us up: giving us these raging, powerful
demands for injunctive relief, and then making us feel guilty
about relieving them. Which implies caprice and contrariety in a
God who is capable of neither.
If I have any common ground with the Christian right on this subject, this is it: Masturbation is a shortcut. It isolates and it creates an unrealistic view of sexuality where the primary concern is the gratification of self. Masturbation does not involve sharing, trust, patience, or love. And, since we never talk about it, especially with the kids, they have no way of knowing this. Boys have no way of knowing women are actually people. And a great many boys allow their masturbatory experiences to form their adult opinions of women and relationships. The real danger in the Church's idiotic and, yes, sinful invention of scripture in their crusade against The M Word is it keeps our society stuck here in this morass where we're ashamed of touching our own bodies. Where women are raised to believe they need a man to achieve sexual release, and where men are raised to believe women are objects. Pictures in a magazine. soulless creatures on rap videos, meant only to be used to gratify their needs.
Young girls, especially, need to be allowed a healthy and reasonable fantasy life. Not taught to masturbate, not instructional booklets and such; this should be about her own self-discovery, not de-humanizing mechanics. The dialogue should be about what masturbation is, what it is not, how the Church and God feel about it, how the girl herself feels about it. Most of all, young girls should be taught to not be ashamed of their own bodies, and certainly to not depend on boys, of all people, to fulfill a simple biological function any number of ripe fruit could accomplish for her. She needs to be independent, fulfilled, balanced, creative, happy, free to fantasize about what her life could be.
For most single folks, sex advice from married people is of not much use. It's like getting fasting advice from a fry cook at a buffet joint. People practicing abstinence would much rather be counseled by people who are practicing abstinence, people who are in the struggle with them. It's easy to tell someone, “God will keep you pure,” and “Just take a cold shower,” when you've got a hot meal (or even a cold sandwich) waiting for you at home. Or, if there's no meal for you, married folks can always go into the kitchen and whip up something. Placing these folks in charge of your singles or youth sex ed ministry can be a bit misguided. Sure, they can plan picnics and group outings and so forth, but in terms of ministry, real ministry, singles need someone who shares their struggle.
John 1-:10: The thief commeth not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Mom: she won't go blind. Her hair won't fall out. She won't become promiscuous. If anything, masturbation greatly reduces the opportunistic impulsive choices that lead many teens to unplanned pregnancies and disastrous emotional consequences. If she's not being driven insane by her own hormonal process, she's better able to wait for the fantasy she's developed in her own mind to come true: she sets the bar higher because she is no longer the half-mad desert traveler crawling towards the oasis.
Elders' firing saddened me immensely. I admire her courage for voicing a psychologically sound theory, and for having her hands smashed by a hammer because of it. I remain saddened that we continue to abandon our daughters to years of agony, and we continue to allow our sons to grow up thinking of women as their personal blow-up dolls, all because the Church, as I understand it, is afraid they might fantasize while they pinch and tug. I'm trying to figure out what the greater risk is, that the thin line between fantasy and adultery-in-your-heart actually does not exist, or that it does. And, that the Church would rather define a pure society by some unsustainable standard of chastity than by standards of maturity, spirituality and balance. The Church would rather perpetuate the archaic sexual logic that creates and encourages sexual immorality than to simply get out of the way of what young boys and girls do in the privacy of their own lives, building healthier attitudes towards sex and sexuality, which, in turn, can only reduce the kinds of sin God actually did write something about.