Our biggest sale! 50% off your PLUS subscription. Use code SUMMER

4 Myths and Mindsets about Masturbation

The question of whether masturbation is a sin often stirs deep-seated beliefs, wild opinions, and theological conclusions.

Speaker/Coach/Podcast Host
Updated Apr 16, 2024
4 Myths and Mindsets about Masturbation

“Can you recommend some romance novels I can read? It gets really lonely at night,” she said. 

My eyes grew wide as my smile faded. I scanned the corners of my bedroom, searching for an answer to give this vulnerable young woman who was spilling her guts to me on the other side of the phone line. She had good intentions. She wanted to honor God by not having sex outside of marriage while simultaneously remedying her sexual desires on her own. 

“Well, I don’t really recommend romance novels,” I finally stammered. I was new in ministry and had never been asked a question like this. She didn’t tell me what she was planning on doing after (or while) reading those romance novels, but she didn’t have to. I was born at night, but not last night. “I don’t think masturbation is honoring to God,” I muttered. There. I said it. Masturbation was a sin . . . right? I wasn’t so sure.

Masturbation, the act of self-stimulation for sexual pleasure, has long been a topic of debate within the Church. The question of whether masturbation is a sin often stirs deep-seated beliefs, wild opinions, and theological conclusions. While some Christian denominations categorize it as outright sinful behavior, others take a more nuanced approach. Factors like the individual’s motive, context, and spiritual maturity all play a part. Let’s explore another perspective regarding masturbation and attempt to approach this controversial conversation with grace and truth.

Unselfish Pleasure & Masturbation in Marriage

But what about masturbation within marriage? To understand a godly stance on masturbation, it's wise to examine some biblical references commonly cited in discussions about sexual ethics. While the Bible does not explicitly mention masturbation, certain passages are often referenced when it comes to sexual behavior and self-control. I am going to address two lesser-known Scriptures concerning this topic. In the book of Genesis, one of Judah’s sons, Onan, is mentioned. Onan was forced to marry Tamar, his dead brother’s widow, to produce an heir in his brother’s stead. But the Bible says that whenever Onan would have sex with Tamar,  he would "spill his seed on the ground" (Genesis 38:9). God considered this to be a wicked and selfish act, so He killed him (Genesis 38:10). Is spilling semen on the ground a sin? No. However, the intent behind pleasuring himself to the exclusion of his spouse was. When one masturbates to pleasure himself or herself with little to no thought about his/her spouse’s sexual or emotional needs, this is wrong.

Additionally, the apostle Paul discusses “being of one heart and mind” and unselfishly “looking out for the other’s interests not just your own” in his letter to the Philippian church (Philippians 2:2-4). Sex in marriage is not a one-way street. Both spouses should give and receive pleasure.

Here is where I believe a couple must be led by the Spirit and unified in their understanding. I believe the following safeguards concerning sexual activity in marriage will be helpful to consider. Does the sexual behavior:

  • defile the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4
  • dishonor either spouse (I Peter 3:7) 
  • distract from the purpose of sexual intimacy (Proverbs 5:18-19)?

The way you answer those questions will likely determine your stance on masturbation. In light of this, there are some Christians who argue that masturbation, when practiced responsibly and with the mutual consent of both spouses, can be a normal and healthy aspect of sexuality within marriage. 

Masturbation as a Single Christian

I have much compassion for single Christians, like my friend, who want to live godly sexual lifestyles but are struggling to manage their sexual desires. If you’ve ever read through the book of Song of Solomon, you know it’s quite spicy. The book follows the sexually charged energy between a young Shulamite woman and her lover. An important verse to notice is “Do not arouse or awaken love until the time is right” (Song of Solomon 8:4, emphasis mine). This Scripture is referencing sexual love. There is a time when sexual love should be awakened, and that is in the safety and security of the marriage bed, where both spouses are giving and receiving love. Anything else stems from lust and falls short of the glory of God’s intended design for sex. 

Single Christians who opt to masturbate instead of having sex with someone else are toeing a thin line. They are still “arousing” themselves, and we all know what happens when our desires are constantly aroused. We will seek to remedy the desire for good. It’s like scratching that mosquito bite and hoping it will stop itching. But it never does. 

Masturbation and Pornography

It is important to stress that using visual aids like pornography is not God-honoring and should have no place in the life of a Christian, married or not. Pornography steals. It defiles, dishonors, and distracts. If you are struggling to overcome a pornography addiction, please seek help. There are a myriad of Christian ministries and resources like Covenant Eyes that can help with this. 

It's also essential to consider the psychological and physiological aspects of masturbation when evaluating its moral implications. From a secular, psychological perspective, masturbation is often regarded as a normal and healthy aspect of human sexuality, providing a means of self-exploration, stress relief, and sexual fulfillment for individuals of all ages. Physiologically, masturbation can be a response to sexual arousal, and many people use it as a means of releasing sexual tension and achieving pleasure and/or relaxation. 

However, when it comes to masturbation and pornography, research from several organizations, including the National Institute for Health, shows a link to increased instances of erectile dysfunction in males who consistently use pornography. Interestingly, this data did not find the frequency of masturbation to be a significant factor when assessing ED. Read that again. This does not mean that masturbation does not lead to erectile dysfunction (ED). Still, its frequency (how often one masturbates) did not seem significant to the researchers who were studying the link between ED and pornography. Interesting. 

We Need Self-Control Now More Than Ever

God has given us the remedy to our cravings: self-control. The ability to say no to our fleshly desires is the mark of a sanctified, mature Believer. You do not have to give in to everything your body craves, whether it’s that third cookie, the third glass of wine, or any other desire. The truth is excessive or compulsive masturbation will most likely become problematic. If nothing else, it will cripple you from learning how to discipline your desires. Contrary to what the culture teaches, you cannot always have what you want when you want it. Sometimes you have to wait. 

In conclusion, each individual must prayerfully discern their convictions in light of what God has revealed about himself and his creation from scripture. The question of whether masturbation is a sin for Christians encompasses theological, ethical, psychological, and physiological considerations. The answer is not so cut and dry. Through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit, allow the Lord to lead you on whether or not masturbation is sinful. May you live a life worthy of your calling as a Believer and pursue a sexually whole lifestyle that honors and glorifies God, reflecting His design for mutually pleasurable, honoring sexual behavior.

Photo Credit: © Pexels/Rafael Barros

Dana Che Williams BoDana Che Williams is a speaker, marriage/relationship coach, and the host of the Rebuilding US podcast, where she helps people uncomplicate relationships and build deeper connections. She is also a devoted daughter and friend of God and serves as a Teaching Pastor at a multi-site, multi-ethnic church in Virginia Beach, VA. In groups, large or small, Dana's mission is singular: to help lead people into more fruitful and connected relationships with the Lord and each other. On the podcast, she is known for her graceful candor, humor, and encouraging yet challenging advice. Dana holds a B.A. in communication from Regent University. She has a fierce passion for fashion and a fiercer passion for truth. She shares her life with Shaun, her childhood sweetheart and husband of twenty-four years, their four amazing children, and their “multi-cultural” dog in beautiful Virginia Beach, VA. Connect with her on social media @mrsdanache and find helpful relationship resources on her website at https://danache.com.


Christianity / Life / Christian Life / 4 Myths and Mindsets about Masturbation