Masturbation: Good or Bad?
The purpose of this page is to explain why masturbation can be detrimental to
life and to encourage people to abandon the practice. Granted, masturbation
may bring temporary pleasure, but it often comes with the long-term cost of
addiction and other sexual problems. Because many people reading this page
are not Christians, I've created a separate section for the spiritually-based points.
If you are a Christian, I encourage you to take a moment to ask God to show you
the truth concerning masturbation.
Non-spiritual points about masturbation
1. Masturbation is addictive! I encourage anyone who doubts masturbation is
addictive to see how many weeks or months they can go without masturbating.
We know now that sexual addictions are in fact self-induced drug addictions.
The chemicals our bodies release during sexual arousal create the same effect on
the brain as drugs. Repeated masturbation reinforces a brain chemistry loop of
addiction. (ref: Exposing Porn: Science, Religion, and the New Addiction, Paul Strand.
www.cbn.com, April 2004) As with drug addiction, masturbation requires an
increasing amount of stimulus to achieve consistent levels of pleasure. This can
lead to both an increased frequency of the habit and a never-ending search for
new material to enhance the experience.
2. Masturbation conditions our bodies to respond to self-stimulation, which is
self-centered. This damages our ability to relate to another person sexually. Sex
is a relational experience, where we give attention to another person's needs at
least as much as to our own. If we've been serving our own desires habitually,
we may find it difficult to give our partner the attention he or she desires.
Additionally, the hormones released in the brain during sexual arousal cause a
bonding to whatever we are looking at and/or thinking about at the time. This
can cause us to be more sexually responsive to masturbation (and its associated
fantasies) than to real sex.
3. Masturbation causes sexual imbalance: Masturbation stirs up our sexual
emotions and trains our bodies to seek sexual release more frequently than
normal. Common sense tells us that there should be a balance between sex and
the other activities in our lives. Masturbation disrupts that balance by training
our bodies and minds to expect gratification more frequently than normal. Like
a feedback loop in an amplifier, the imbalance between reality and fantasy can
likely drive a person further into the addiction.
The sexual imbalance can also affect other areas of our lives by diverting energy,
time and resources into sexual activity. For example, a man stays up late each
night to surf for porn to masturbate to. His job performance suffers because he
can't stay awake during the day, his family life sours because he's grouchy, his
wife is alienated from him by his lack of affection and interest in her, and his
debt increases because of the credit card charges from the porn sites he's visiting
to feed his habit.
The people most likely to suffer from the imbalance are people who don't have a
regular provision for sexual intimacy (e.g. teens, singles, divorced persons,
widowed persons, persons in sexually dysfunctional marriages). Ironically,
these are the same people that may be strongly tempted to indulge in porn and
masturbation. If they whet their appetite by indulging, chances are that they
could easily get hooked in the addictive cycle that the imbalance creates.
Spiritual points about masturbation
For Christians, there are some important issues we need to address concerning
masturbation. The foundational question is, “Are you committed to honoring
God with your life?" If you are, then I urge you to carefully consider the points
presented in this section.
Let’s first examine the typical sins that accompany masturbation: lust and sexual
idolatry. These may not be involved in every case, but they usually are.
Definitions from Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary:
• (n) Intense or unbridled sexual desire, lasciviousness...an intense longing:
• (v) to have an intense desire or need, crave
Obvious examples of lust during masturbation include looking at pornography
and fantasizing about sex. As we can see from the definitions, lust can simply be
an intense longing or craving. It may not even be a conscious thought, but
simply a gut feeling of the flesh.
Definition of idolatry from Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary:
• (n) Immoderate attachment or devotion to something
Definitions of idol from Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary:
• A likeness of something
• A form or appearance; visible but without substance
• An object of extreme devotion
• A representation or symbol of an object of worship
• A false conception; fallacy
When we look at porn or form sexual images by memory or imagination during
masturbation, we are basically feeding an immoderate attachment or devotion to
the idol of sex. Such attachment and devotion is greatly reinforced by the
pleasurable brain chemicals released during sexual arousal and orgasm.
Idolatry is sin (Exodus 20:3-5) and it can bring unpleasant consequences, such as
demonic oppression and generational curses. God's primary command to us is
that we love him with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:36-38). I suggest
that it is impossible to love God with all our heart, soul and mind when we are
idolizing sex images in our eyes and thoughts!
Having discussed lust and sexual idolatry, we can now explore the spiritual
impact of masturbation.
1. Masturbation causes you to be "mastered" by sin: The Bible says that there
are only two things that we can be a slave to: sin or righteousness. There are no
other masters. Paul wrote:
Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you
are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of
obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16 NKJV
Which master does masturbation bring us under? In almost every case, it is used
to complement sins of lust or sexual idolatry and will therefore enslave us to sin.
God does not want us to be mastered by sin. For example, he told Cain, "If you
do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.
And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (Genesis 4:7 NKJV). Cain
failed and sin ruled him for the rest of his life. After killing his brother, he lost
his job, his peace, his home, and his blessing and spent the rest of his days as a
"restless wanderer" (Genesis 4:12).
Likewise, we have the same opportunity to choose our master. If we choose sin
as our master, our life will bear the fruit that sin brings - i.e. destruction, sorrow,
dissatisfaction, death, etc.. If we choose righteousness as our master, we will
reap life! Paul wrote:
20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed
of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin
and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the
result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal
life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:20-23 NIV
2. Masturbation uses your body as an instrument for sin: Your body is to be
presented and used as an instrument for righteousness, not sin. Paul wrote:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its
lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to
sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your
members as instruments of righteousness to God Romans 6:12-13 NKJV
God can best use us when we keep our "vessels" (body, soul & spirit) free of sin.
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood
and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses
himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy,
useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of
youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call
on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:20-22 NIV
It is our responsibility to cleanse ourselves from sinful motives and purposes
with the help of the Holy Spirit. Practicing masturbation is the exact opposite of
fleeing evil desires because it involves setting our minds on the evil desires and
using our bodies to act them out. In so doing, we are hindering the usefulness of
our vessels for God.
3. Masturbation defiles God's temple and grieves the Holy Spirit: As believers
in Jesus Christ, our bodies are literally temples for God's Holy Spirit, who lives in
us. Sexual sin is unique in that it damages this special union we have with God.
Paul alluded to this when he wrote that sexual sin is sinning against our own
bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18). He even compared it to trying to unite Jesus with a
prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:15-16). Since masturbation rehearses sexual sins (e.g. lust
or sexual idolatry), it will likewise damage our relationship with God and defile
his temple (our bodies).
God commands us to "honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20 NIV). This is
a form of spiritual worship that we do physically:
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as
living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what
God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2 NIV
4. Masturbation reinforces "carnal-mindedness": Masturbation sets our minds
on gratifying our sinful desires and in so doing we become "carnally
minded." Paul wrote:
Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the
sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary
to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do
what you want Galatians 5:16-17 NIV
Carnal-mindedness destroys our life and peace and keeps us from pleasing God.
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of
God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God
Romans 8:5-8 NKJV
5. Masturbation brings you into deception and corruption: Masturbation opens
the door to the deceiving influences of lust. Paul wrote about this deceit in
Ephesians 4:22-24 NKJV:
Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt
according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and
that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true
righteousness and holiness.
Embracing lust or sexual idolatry through masturbation will therefore hinder
any progress we want to make in becoming the "new man" God created us to be
(2 Corinthians 5:17). Our repeated practice of lust through masturbation will also
bring about a "hardening" of our spiritual heart toward God (Hebrews 3:13). This
could ultimately cause us to turn away from God completely.
6. Masturbation molds your mind into the world’s pattern of thinking: The
world’s pattern is largely based on lust (1 John 2:15-17). Masturbation rehearses
lust in our thoughts and reinforces it with physical pleasure. Using pornography
or recalling sex memories while masturbating further ingrains the world’s
pattern in our thoughts.
The consequence of embracing the world's pattern (i.e. the pleasures of sin), is
that we will block God’s love from operating in and through us:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the
love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. 1
John 2:15-17 NKJV
God wants us to no longer conform to the world’s pattern of thinking, but be
transformed in our thinking:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what
God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV
One of the questions that we frequently hear is, "Is masturbation without lust or
sexual idolatry wrong?" I'm skeptical that this is even possible, yet for the sake
of discussion let's say that it is. Masturbation clearly sows to the flesh and its
desires (see point #4 above). God commands his followers to sow to the Spirit's
desires and not the flesh's desires (Galatians 6:8). While it may be permissible for a
Christian to practice masturbation, how could it be beneficial since it sets the
mind on the flesh's desires (1 Corinthians 6:12)?
Overall, masturbation can rob you of many of the blessings God has planned for
your life. If you are a Christian, you have an obligation, not to live focused on
fulfilling your fleshly lusts, but rather, to live focused on fulfilling the Holy
Spirit's desires (Romans 8:12-13). Masturbation poses the threat of lifelong bondage
and a handicapped spiritual walk. Jesus was resurrected so that you also could
live in a new life, free from the slavery of sin.
Visit porn-free.org to learn more truth about porn and sex addiction.