By Carl Thomas
If you’ve been following XXXchurch for the past couple of months you know that a key aspect to our mission is pushing for more open conversations about difficult subjects in culture and in the church.
Subjects like porn, lust, and masturbation.
Because we believe that the only way these things will greatly improve is when we engage in meaningful conversations meant to encourage, inspire and challenge each other. So much can happen when we pursue healthy dialogue… when nothing is off limits and all conversations are welcome.
Because it is through those conversations that we have the opportunity to process and reflect on the areas of life we find most challenging and confusing.
So the other day I came across an article written clearly from a faith-based background dealing with the question of whether or not masturbation is wrong.
Realize that when it comes to masturbation, I have seen so many opinions and teaching on this subject. And to be frank… so much of it is complete crap. Very little of what I have read actually encourages healthy conversation and engagement because it either falls on the side of affirmation or shameful rhetoric and only focuses on the actual behavior and generally ignores the context for the behavior.
Consequently, my curiosity got the better of me, so I had to click and read it.
I’m always ready for a fresh take on a touchy subject (no pun intended) so I dove in but it took only a few minutes before I regretted that decision.
Here are just a few quotes from that article:
“The ultimate answer to [the question is masturbation wrong] is it’s wrong because our Rabbi and King has said as much.”
“One of the fundamental issues with masturbation is that our only role in the sex act is that of porn director.”
“During masturbation we’re taking people who haven’t given themselves to us and we’re compelling them to pleasure us according to our demands. If this happened outside of our minds it would be called rape. Of course, this is only happening in our minds. But why should that rinse off the filth from the action?”
“The gospel gives us a choice of being porn directors and abusers, or of being “a chosen people.”
“Let’s put away our harem and put on hope. Let’s cease to be predator’s so that we can become priests.”
If I was going to summarize the above quotes it would look something like this…
Masturbation is wrong because God says so (which btw, there is no direct verse that speaks to the specific sin of masturbation) and if that’s not good enough, it’s also wrong because you are acting like a predatorial porn director and mental rapist.
Why do I find this type of teaching so problematic?
First, the shame is thick.
If you are someone struggling with masturbation or have real questions about it, how likely are you to approach someone about the topic when you are being painted as a porn directing rapist?
Most people (especially Christians) carry around so much shame to begin with. We don’t need to add to that burden with labels and terms that are extremely charged and condemning.
Second, it doesn’t invite healthy discussion.
Whether you think masturbation is completely fine or completely disgusting, when you lead with “because God says so” you automatically limit your argument to a specific demographic of people. Those who are outside the faith or maybe have real struggles with faith are going to hear that opening line and check out immediately.
Additionally, when you are throwing around terms like rape, predator, and porn director it’s pretty clear that you’re not going to be open to any alternative opinions.
Beyond that, the clear assumption of this article is that masturbation is always being done in the context of porn and sexual fantasy. But…
- What if it’s for the purposes of donating sperm?
- What if it’s because your urologist needs a sample?
- What if it’s with your wife or husband?
- If I’m married does that change things?
Admittedly, there are many layers to all these objections (some legitimate and some not) but when we talk about a topic from one narrow perspective and condemn it accordingly we miss out on the opportunity to invite conversations around the larger issue.
Masturbation is a difficult conversation for sure. But we need to approach these things with a less condemning iron fisted approach while still pointing out the real problems.
At the end of the day, the primary issues with masturbation is that it is often being done in the context of objectifying someone. In other words, it takes a complete human being (mind, body, and soul) and reduces them down to a physical object for the purposes of sexual gratification.
And when we see that as the core issue, we have a place to start our dialogue that anyone can appreciate.
Realize that my disappointment with that article is not the fundamental underpinnings that leads to their conclusions. It is the fact that they chose a path of communication that increases shame and discourages healthy dialogue.
Because at the end of the day, if we want to invite people to a better way of living…
- One that doesn’t involve medicating your issues with porn and sex.
- One that doesn’t objectify and exploit others.
- One that invites accountability and champions transparency.
We need to make sure people feel invited in the first place.