Can We Revisit Masturbation in Marriage?

by | Dec 6, 2019 | Libido, Uncategorized | 136 comments

Masturbation in Marriage: Can It ever be okay?
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I’ve talked a lot about masturbation in marriage on this blog before.

I’ve tended to come down pretty hard on masturbation (I really hope there’s not some ugly double entendre there that I’m not seeing) in the past when it’s done for selfish reasons.

In this post, for instance, I went over two scenarios for masturbation:

  • Masturbation and porn use which steals sexual energy from your spouse
  • Turning to masturbation instead of dealing with key issues in your marriage.

I think (hope?) we’d all agree that number one is wrong. You should not be masturbating, especially not to porn, instead of having sex with your spouse, and yet I have letters everyday from women especially whose husbands choose porn and masturbation over them. Not okay.

But what about the second one? Here’s what I said in a previous post on masturbation in marriage:

God gave us our sex drives so that we would be drawn to each other. That uncomfortable feeling of not having intimacy is so bad that it forces us to work on our issues and to improve the relationship…

I have known so many couples where sex starts to become nonexistent because they prefer masturbation to intercourse. When you masturbate, it feels more intense immediately, because you give yourself feedback on what feels good. And you can bring yourself to orgasm without all that hassle of having to make someone else feel good, too! Plus, some spouses are not that skilled at making you feel good, so masturbation can seem preferable.

Even if it doesn’t start off that way, it can become that.

Second, it does change the dynamic of sex. There’s something about unfulfilled sexual desire that makes you long for each other even more. When you want someone but you can’t have them, but you can text them and tell them what you’re feeling, or you can plan out elaborately what you’re going to do to them that night–well, that can heighten passion. If you deal with all of that tension yourself, you really do miss out on something together.

And finally, self-control is not a bad thing. To have to channel sexual energy into something else for a time when you can’t get fulfillment teaches you a lot about yourself, about God, and about growing your character. Is it really so bad to have to wait?

What I also said in that post, though, is that touching yourself during sex or as part of foreplay is not masturbation. There is nothing evil, per se, about putting your hands on your genitals. And the problem with masturbation comes in two ways:

  1. When it’s done secretly and shamefully, creating distance between you, in lieu of working on an issue
  2. When it steals sexual energy from your spouse

But are there cases when masturbation in marriage could actually be a kind and helpful thing to do?

That’s the question that I was confronted with late last month when Keith and I were speaking at the FamilyLife Canada conference in Whistler, British Columbia. Here’s the scenario: A woman has tremendous pain during sex (vaginismus), which she is getting treatment for. She is discouraged and depressed and feeling like a failure. The husband feels a build-up of sexual frustration, but the last thing he wants is to burden his wife with this. He wants to love her and let her feel unconditionally cared for as she goes on her treatment. Is masturbation in this case wrong? 

He’s doing it not to steal the sexual side of their relationship, but rather to protect her and help her feel loved and accepted while she’s going through a time when she can’t have sex (and apparently the couple was connecting in other ways sexually, but this, too, was sometimes difficult for her because she still felt like a failure. So she was getting orgasms at times, but found the pressure to perform sexually to be daunting).

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I’ve had other questions from people in similar situations:

  • Couples where there is a prolonged post-partum healing time because of a difficult birth, while there is also exhaustion from the newborn days
  • Couples where there is a chronic pain condition or injury
  • Couples separated from each other for prolonged periods of time (weeks or months at a time) due to work, military deployments, or immigration problems.

Is there a role that masturbation can play in these situations?

Don’t use masturbation as a short-cut to avoid doing real work in the relationship.

​At the same time,

Anything we do in marriage should enhance intimacy, not detract from it.

The goal of marriage is oneness–“the two shall become one flesh”. That doesn’t just mean sexual oneness, but spiritual oneness–feeling as if you truly are one. If masturbation is being used to allow you to be more giving in the relationship, that’s one thing. But if, in the example of the woman with vaginismus, for instance, he’s using masturbation to relieve sexual frustration but he’s also not initiating any intimacy with her (including just being naked together and taking baths together, or touching her, or even bringing her pleasure), then that’s a problem.

Similarly, if someone has a chronic illness and just doesn’t feel sexual for a time, they still need to feel close to you. If masturbation is used as a way to relieve frustration so that you then can ignore your spouse, then that’s selfishness, not selflessness.

Be careful about justifying the use of masturbation.

Please don’t take what I’m saying to mean, “If I’m sexually frustrated, it’s a gift to my spouse for me to masturbate!” That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying “if you’re sexually frustrated because it’s impossible for you to make love for an extended period of time, it could be a gift to my spouse for me to masturbate.” 

I’m not talking about some Tuesday where she turns you down. I mean when there’s an extended period of time.

This is why I hesitate to write posts like this, and often come down really hard on practices like using some sex toys, or watching nudity on TV. If you give exceptions, it can easily open a Pandora’s box. So be honest before your spouse, before God, and before yourself. No excuses. What is really your motivation? I guess in this post I’m moderating a bit what I’ve said previously, but I really don’t want anyone to take this to mean that it’s all a-okay.

Don’t use masturbation as a short-cut to avoid doing real work in the relationship.

If your spouse is consistently rejecting sex and has a really low libido, the answer is usually not masturbation as much as it is working on the relationship, figuring out why she says no to sex, or why she doesn’t want to have sex, trying to rebuild your friendship, or even going for counseling. If you’ve been living in a sexless marriage, I feel for you, and I can see where masturbation may seem necessary. But I would say that if you’re going to do that, you should at least also be trying to get to the root of the sexless marriage, and insisting on some marriage counseling.

And I’d strongly urge you to work on your emotional connection, so that you can talk about this stuff more. I’ve got a great FREE 5-week email course you can sign up for to help you build oneness.

 

My last word: If you’re masturbating because you’re simply away from each other–let the other in on it!

What if she’s away for work for three weeks, or he’s temporarily stationed away from home?  And you’re both getting sexually frustrated? My quick answer would be to at least let each other in on it. That’s a lot more fun. I’m going to try really hard not to be too graphic here, but chances are you each have phones and can talk to one another. (Please beware of Skype/FaceTime on public wifis from hotels! Just be smart. It’s really easy to hack those signals. Get a VPN to make emails and other apps secure when you’re traveling).

Okay, now I’d love to know what you think.

I understand that many commenters will say that masturbation is wrong regardless, but can we agree that before we make pronouncements like that, we do two things:

  1. Make a strong biblical argument, don’t just say something as if it’s true without showing why it’s true
  2. Take into account the husband in the first scenario who honestly is trying to love his wife.

Thanks! Now have at it! (that’s not a bad double entendre, too, is it?)

Is Masturbation in Marriage Allowed? How to make sure it doesn't steal from your marriage.

UPDATE: My real motivation for the post was this: I’ve written before some posts that come down pretty hard on masturbation, and then I’ve heard back from people who have read it who now feel so guilty and so sinful, when their motivation does seem loving. They want to be patient and affectionate and available to their spouse, but frustration builds and they’re getting irritable. And I’m just not willing to label all of these things sinful. I don’t think that’s helpful and I think it adds a layer of shame that doesn’t need to be there. There’s just so many issues and permutations that marriages go through, and I don’t want to add to legalism. So this is my attempt to try to find some nuance!

And what I should have said more explicitly is that, if a person has a history of porn use, then masturbation is not a good idea. It’s too caught up in porn and lust, and could suck someone in to that again. 

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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136 Comments

  1. Abby

    I don’t have a Biblical argument per se, but I’m always going to emphasize communication in marriage. So with the husband who wants to do his wife a favor by masturbating during this time she is struggling, I would encourage him to talk to her about it and that they work through that situation together.
    I had a back injury last year where I could barely walk for over a month and traditional sex was very painful. But it gave me so much joy to be able to give my husband pleasure through a hand job or oral even when I couldn’t handle actual intercourse. I think there are lots of ways to be creative in loving each other sexually even when health gets in the way.
    And if I were the wife I would much rather know how my husband is feeling than to be kept in the dark. So yes I agree that it’s not necessarily wrong, but they should communicate about it – and if a spouse is not willing to have that conversation, their motives for masturbating may be wrong.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I would agree. The only problem is that I know quite a few women who are insisting on sexless marriages–but then would also get extremely angry if he masturbated, because that’s a sin. So in a case like that, the answer is actually less about masturbation and more about getting counseling or confronting the long-standing issues in the relationship. If you can’t talk about it, and you’re in a no-win situation, then there are deep-seated issues that need to be addressed, and I’d hate to see masturbation used as a way to avoid dealing with something that needs to be dealt with.

      Reply
      • Doug

        You see it as a way to avoid dealing with a situation that should be dealt with, but that is you looking at it from the outside.

        From the inside, I submit that it probably looks more like accepting a situation that you really have no control over.

        I mean, really by your own words, it is a no win situation and you can’t talk about it.

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, dear, that’s so rough. I’m so sorry. It does sound as if you both could really use some counseling. It’s not okay to say that sex is just a waste of time. Is he on the autism spectrum, do you know? Could same sex attraction be a part of the problem? We’ll be talking about the autism spectrum marriages on the blog tomorrow, and I wonder if that’s a part of it.

        Reply
    • ann

      Sheila, I am in a difficult place. After 43 years of marriage I learned that my faithful husband was in an emotional and physical (not to the point of intercourse gratefully) affair. We are currently separated; to my knowledge the relationship has ended, but he cannot bring himself to 1. dismiss her from our employ in a part-time job (she has a full-time job elsewhere) for fear of anyone learning of his infidelity, and 2. recuse himself as over seer of her home and job at our church – she and her husband rent from the church and also work at the church to offset expenses- for the same reasons.
      And so while we are separated, I am wondering if masturbation is a sin for me right now. My desire is for my husband, I even have sexual dreams about him. I am learning that I am not slow to orgasm, but need him to learn how I respond . While we are separated it has been 4 months) do you think masturbation is wrong in this case? I am trying to patiently wait for him to be able to deal with being “exposed”.
      He has a childhood full of shaming, and thankfully is currently in counseling for help. In the meantime I am on the sidelines, waiting for 1. him to “wake up” , and 2. for the statute of limitations to run out as to her being able to sue him for harrassment of any kind re what happened between them, which by the way was consensual, I have the emails to prove it! Regardless, I have needs that I am wondering if it is wrong for me to meet in the interim?

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Ann, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through! That’s awful. It sounds like you’re being wise with separating and waiting for him to bear fruits of repentance (which he sounds like he’s not doing right now).

        As for you, I’m just so uncomfortable pronouncing anybody’s individual acts like that sinful or not sinful, when there are such huge gray areas. I’d just say keep your relationship with God strong and listen to Him. I do think there are a lot of gray areas, and sometimes what’s okay for one isn’t for another, and I don’t think I’m the right person to ask. But it does sound like your heart is in the right place!

        Reply
  2. Laura

    What about the individuals who are dealing with a marital separation due to, for instance, abuse? Obviously porn and lust are non-negotiable “no”s.

    Personally (TMI), I have found that masturbation prior to required times of interaction with my abuser, helps me to keep a level head instead of being emotionally drawn back in by the combination of his manipulation + my sexual frustration.

    Honestly, it’s also been extremely freeing for me. ALL of my sexual experience and associations were with my abuser. He was my first (romantic, non-family-member-or-baby) kiss. Having had SOME sexual fulfillment in my life that wasn’t directly tied to my abuser has been a really healing thing. (Also: masturbation in the wake of an abusive relationship is something that I’ve never heard addressed, even by those who routinely work with women in abusive relationships.)

    I know it’s a really touchy line to walk and I appreciate you adding nuance to your position.

    Reply
  3. Mari

    I’ll admit, I’m surprised you think there may be a role for masturbation in marriage. Of course it is important to be intimate with your spouse as much as possible, even during times of physical disability (postpartum, etc.). But in nearly all of those cases, engaging in oral or manual sex TOGETHER seems like the best option– still building intimacy, oneness, and desire for each other.

    Regarding the vaginismus example you gave– this was me and my husband! We were unable to have intercourse for a full 9 months at the start of our marriage because of vaginismus, and I did struggle with feelings of hopelessness and pressure. But slowly discovering our sexualities TOGETHER was so very important for our marriage. We learned how to give each other pleasure in many creative ways. I can’t imagine that our relationship would have been strengthened in any way by my husband masturbating alone– in fact, I’m certain that would have made things worse, as it would cause him to dissociate sexual pleasure from me. We might never have learned how to give great oral sex!

    You mentioned porn and masturbation– given the enormous number of men who have a history of porn use, those two things are inextricably linked. For my husband, who struggled with porn use as a teen, solo masturbation would definitely be sinful because he so strongly associates that action with sinful fantasies/images. I would guess this is true for many (most) men.

    Also, the argument for the husband’s masturbation assumes that the husband MUST have sexual release no matter what. But is that really true? For example, if your wife is flat on her back for a month after a major surgery, would it really kill you to patiently wait for her? I’m not talking about a wife who is withdrawn and maliciously withholding sex indefinitely, but a wife who wants sex just as badly as you but is physically unable for a month.

    I think the Bible makes pretty clear that times of abstinence are totally possible, and at some times necessary. We are told that couples may abstain from sex for a short, defined time for the purpose of prayer. Couples in the Old Testament were commanded to not have sex while the woman was on her period. And obviously, single people are commanded to remain chaste until marriage, which requires years of abstinence!

    To sum up:

    1) The purpose of sex isn’t physical release, but oneness and intimacy between husband and wife that mirrors the love of Christ and his church. All sexual activity should be aimed at showing affection, desire, and sacrificial love for the spouse. Solo masturbation breaks from this purpose, as it takes sex outside the context of the relationship.

    2) In the vast majority of cases, sexual intimacy can be attained through non-intercourse approaches. From my perspective, these are all preferable to solo masturbation because they promote intimacy and mutual desire.

    3) If you truly cannot be intimate due to major illness or physical separation, I believe abstinence is preferable to masturbation. I don’t see any biblical support for masturbation (especially given the association with porn), but I see quite a lot of biblical support for patience, chastity, and self-control.

    I hope that makes sense. I thought a TON about this while we struggled with vaginismus, but after a lot of thought and prayer, we decided that it wasn’t right for us. I think “phone sex” as you described is a sort of gray area– some couples may be comfortable with it, but it should only be initiated after thoughtful discussion and prayer.

    Reply
    • Hannah

      Now THIS is what I was expecting to read when I clicked on the article. Thank you.

      Reply
      • Leanne

        Me too Mari!!! I’m actually shocked at this article. So much so that I don’t think I’ll be returning to this website.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m sorry I’m offending so many. I’m honestly just trying to find a nuanced, middle ground so that we’re not pronouncing masturbation always a sin, when that’s not the intention of the heart, and there are extenuating circumstances.

          Would you be comfortable telling someone whose spouse is deployed for a year that is a sin to masturbate during that year, if you are thinking about your spouse?

          I’m not saying anyone SHOULD masturbate, or that this is the ideal. I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t pronounce it a sin. Are you saying that it is? Or a husband whose wife is out of commission for a few months with some sort of illness, or grief, who wants to be 100% there for her with no pressure or sexual expectations? Are you really comfortable telling him that he’s sinning when that’s his intention?

          Reply
          • H.

            I appreciate what you have to say Sheila. Anytime we make something like this black and white we are leaving out someone. And I appreciate you trying to speak to those people too. The truth is a lot of people have opinions on this topic, but there isn’t an explicit Biblical lesson on this topic. I think you do an amazing job and honestly, as a woman whose husband is recovering from a pre-marriage porn addiction that has reared its ugly head a few times in our marriage, and whose husband is not interested in her physically except for MAYBE once a month…..i am well aware of the struggle. And i, like you, prefer not to leave out the outliers. People in these kinds of situations (where it is not porn-induced masturbation but more a struggle of some other issue within the marriage – whether a spouse like mine who’s never interested or someone who has a deployed or injured or ill spouse) are often hurting and confused and don’t know what to do. Legalism and judgement and black & white pat answers are not going to help people in pain.
            THANK YOU for being brave enough to broach this topic with the outliers in mind, even though you knew the naysayers would come out in full force. I appreciate you, and what you have to say, and your nuance of understanding that all relationships are different.💙

        • Karen

          Sheila is not going to give you the church lady response. She’s going to address things much more honestly and from multiple perspectives. She’s going to bring up the hard topics, the gray areas, places that have lacked compassion or sensible approaches, and she’s going to try and tackle them. That’s why I appreciate your blog Sheila. You don’t stop inside of the nice boxes we keep to at church and where very few people actually live. You try to check out what’s going on in the real life of real Christians living in different places. Thanks for taking on this topic! Honestly I feel that this area is very gray, is lacking in a strong biblical opinion and that attempts to overly police it are both legalistic and evidence of how church circles overemphasize sexuality in odd ways. Your advice about it not interfering with intimacy is a good grounding point.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thank you, Karen. I really think in most cases it’s better to go back to first principles: What does God want from marriage? What is the nature of intimacy? What here would enhance intimacy, and what would detract from it? And then let those discussions guide us.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Mari,

      Thank you for that really thoughtful comment. I pretty much agree with you on it, too. I think this is a really nuanced thing. And I would totally agree with you that when porn and masturbation has been an issue, then this shouldn’t be pursued.

      I had several posts on the blog where I took a much harder stance against masturbation in marriage (and I linked to the main one at the beginning). The problem I’ve been having is that I’ve been getting emails from people who have felt so, so guilty and as if they’ve sinned after reading that post, when their motivation was really loving. Say a situation with a spouse who is going through extended grief after the death of her mom, and is withdrawing. He wants to love her, give her space, give her affection, but he is struggling with frustration, and masturbation helps him not be irritable. (And he wasn’t talking daily; he was talking like once every few weeks). Or a situation where a wife does have vaginismus, but she’s trying, and she’s so discouraged, and they decide to take a break (I got several with that).

      My problem here is that I’m reading their stories, and these guys truly love their wives. And I just don’t want to heap shame where it doesn’t sound like the heart is bad or even the view of sex is bad. They want intimacy; they want to love; they’re just frustrated sometimes.

      On a personal level, I’d agree with you that abstinence is preferable in cases of long separations. But I’m uncomfortable saying that anything else is a sin. That’s really where I’m coming from–do we want to label people sinful and cause shame where it may not be? People have so many hang-ups with sex already. How can we talk about this in a healthy way? And what many men especially report is that while they want to love their wives, when they go a long time without sex they do get irritable, and they don’t want to. And there is a point where it is a physical issue, not just a spiritual one where they need to pray more. Again, I don’t disagree with you on the ideal. And like I said, this pretty much is the post I wrote before. It’s just that after getting so many emails from people feeling shame and guilt when they really do seem to have good motivations (and they’re not using porn; not fantasizing, etc.), then I have a difficult time labelling that a sin.

      Reply
      • Phil

        Sheila thanks for writing this. I think the key here is MO is you said. I will leave it there. Tough topic but thanks for tackling it. Balance through the eyes of God. Love it. Thanks

        Reply
        • Private

          I am thankful for this post Sheila. I’ve been molested several times at a young age and battled with masturbation afterwards. Although I always sit with guilt and shame afterwards. I am married now and sometimes tend to go to a quick solve although it can be something much more beautiful if I share that moment with my husband when I practice self-control.

          Reply
    • Anon Guy

      I’m not going to jump into this conversation much, as we each have our own opinion. However, I would respectfully caution any person who assumes they truly understand the biological inner workings of the opposite sex. We may understand our spouses to an extent, but a woman will never know what it feels like to be a man, and vice versa. When you ask if a man really needs release, or suggest that it won’t kill him to wait a month in the example stated above, I understand where you’re coming from, and of course the answer is, “no.” However, when I hear that, as a man, it feels akin to me saying to my wife, “Do you really NEED to be emotional during your cycle? Will it kill you to not be so irritable?”

      For a normal- to high-drive man (and maybe a woman as well?) not having a release for an extended amount of time can be both physically and emotionally painful. So, will it kill a man? No. Can he abstain and be patient. Yes. Will it potentially affect his thought life, mood, irritability, and overall ability to be patient, loving and kind, let alone concentrate at work and be productive during the day? Absolutely. It’s like a top being wound up over and over and over, but never being allowed to unwind. The feeling is indescribable.

      I’m not trying to weigh in on masturbation, just trying to address some assumptions that I think aren’t necessarily healthy.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I agree with you. I think it is biological. And yes men get irritable. And yes situations do arise where women can’t / won’t for various reasons that are legitimate. For longer than 4 weeks. Most docs will advise a minimum of 6 weeks postpartum if you’ve stopped bleeding which many women haven’t. And let alone the emotional side of it. And for instance I have a chronic disease that alternately causes me to be in severe pain, extreme discomfort or severely exhausted. In any of these situations it doesn’t matter how much my husband wants to be helped out or sex it’s not happening. I’m too busy praying for relief. And nor should it. And he would never demand it in that situation! This is part of our reality. We’ve been through droughts for both my health reasons and post partum emotional and physical that have lasted far longer than 4 weeks. I also think perhaps it’s different if it’s ok I’m having surgery and can’t do this for X time planned out and an unexpected and unknown time length sort of evolving as you speak. My husband is happier and more well rounded if he takes things into his own hand so to speak and fulfills the biological need.

        It’s important to add that people get married far later in life than they ever did in biblical times imo. I’m not saying it’s an excuse but there is a biological function to this.

        And long term abstinence ? Well the Catholic Church doesn’t have a great history of this being successful with its priests. 🤷‍♀️

        Reply
      • Wynd

        Just chiming in with my two cents – this is how the timeline after ejaculation proceeds for me:

        30 hours after ejaculation I am starting to get “twitchy” again and it starts feeling like actual work to keep from latching onto women in my visual field.

        3 days – I am easily angered and easily irritable – it is more work to be pleasant and stay on an even keel. Sex is a powerful amplifier of good emotions and no sex is a powerful amplifier of bad ones. I start feeling like a cigarette addict who hasn’t had a smoke in a while – I am emotionally jittery (emotions all over the place) and physically uncomfortable.

        6-7 days – Everything is starting to HURT – eye watering pain, sometimes pain so sharp I cry out. Testicles are extremely sensitive; vas defrens are extremely sensitive, and it constantly feels like I have been punched in the prostate. Any physical hit or bump to the equipment hurts much, much more than it would normally. It physically hurts to take a step or sit down. It hurts to pick up heavy loads. The intense nausea that accompanies a hit to the testicles shows up to a lesser degree with every single step, to a degree that I lose interest in food. I find myself walking bowlegged (very gingerly) so that the testicles don’t hit each other or my thighs when I walk.

        None of these later issues present otherwise, all of these go away quickly after sex or masturbating, all of these issues come back if I go too long.

        Reply
        • MidwestWife

          I genuinely appreciate this. My husband has explained to me that it is a NEED and I hear and know that but I’m an objective person so this really hit home.

          Reply
        • Eglantine

          I’m wondering how Jesus dealt with this. Was the lack of ejaculation as a mature male this much of a distraction to him?

          Reply
      • Janet Roth

        I have always had a high sex drive, and I know how hard it can be to be in a marriage with a husband who didn’t have quite the same needs as I did. Thank you for this: “For a normal- to high-drive man (and maybe a woman as well?) not having a release for an extended amount of time can be both physically and emotionally painful”…I am thankful for your comment (and maybe a woman as well?} because I have always felt like I’m crazy. Yes, sometimes a release is necessary, even in the bonds of marriage. Sometimes it is a gift to one’s spouse to “release” one’s drives to take pressure off the spouse.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          I also have a high sex drive and my husband does not. I also sometimes feel like I’m crazy or weird. And I don’t want to talk to anyone about it because I feel like he would be embarrassed about it. Although, I don’t think it’s painful as a woman. Just frustrating.

          Reply
      • Maria

        Managing one’s sexual energy is up to each individual person. Will I ever know how it feels to have male anatomy while mismanaging my sexual energy? No. I can know what it’s like to be a woman who does that, though.

        Psychosomatic symptoms of harboring an unhealthy attitude about sex may vary by individual. Still, my thoughts, emotions and even physical feelings are my responsibility, no one else’s. That’s true for everyone.

        Oh, and by the way, the epididymis recycles old sperm. So no, you don’t need release.

        Reply
    • LD

      My wife is eating her way to diabetes. Guess what our golden years will be like. She chooses ice cream over me often and comments on how her exes were more attractive than me. She has an unnamed favorite who supposedly treated her so much better. It seems i can never be good enough…..

      Reply
    • Simona

      Struggling with vaginismus…been together for years ..both virgins..wasn’t a problem first few times..later..yes..for about 8 months now…in our 30 s .do you think is it absolutely needed to go doctor or can it be solved naturally…???

      Reply
  4. Becky

    My thought on your first scenario is that as long as the lines of communication stay open and no porn is involved, it would be fine in that case. For a wife dealing with vaginismus, there’s a LOT of mental pressure involved in intercourse, especially when it happens infrequently and, in my case, I’ve still never had an orgasm. Between that and our young kids, it’s been a constant struggle. Knowing that he wouldn’t have to fully depend on me for just the physical release would take some of the pressure off, I think.

    (For the record, he has regularly attempted to get me aroused, I just hit mental blocks that I haven’t figured out how to get past. And we are currently working through the 31 Days book, though very slowly, to try to improve this situation for both of us.)

    Reply
  5. Mary

    Interesting article and food for thought! I’ve wondered about this specifically because my husband is a pilot. If he gets his dream job, it will mean that he is away from home for two months at the beginning for training and then significant chunks of time until he could be based where we live. That seems like it would be very tempting for him if he wasn’t having any sexual release. (We can’t be move to where he is training for many reasons). I’d of course hope that there would be weekends home in there at some point, but that’s not guaranteed.

    At the same time, I am hesitant to think masturbation is okay. He has had a previous struggle of porn in our marriage. He has worked tireslessly to gain total freedom from it and he is so committed to purity. It feels like a slippery slope into justifying these things…. or even easier for those images to come to mind while masturbating. Like you eluded to in your article, it becomes a bit of a Pandora’s box situation.

    My other hesitation is for unmarried men and teenagers. With this same reasoning, is it okay for men who aren’t yet married to masturbate so they won’t have sexual frustration? I feel like that is not okay. There’s also that passage in the Bible indicating that it is better to be married than burn with passion. I wonder if that verse is assuming that men shouldn’t masturbate before marriage.

    I do see what you’re saying! I thought I’d would just mention these hesitations here as well.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think when a man has had a porn addiction that’s also a different thing, because you don’t want to cement that for sure. I think in this case, it really is a case-by-case thing. I’m not sure that we can make a hard-and-fast rule, and I would really hesitate to tell you what is right for your marriage.

      The teenage situation is also a tricky one, and I think I’ll have to do a series on that in the new year, because it is important!

      Reply
      • Jessica

        Appreciate this perspective. Also really appreciated Mari’s comment. Looking forward to a series on masturbation and what we teach our teen/preteen boys (and girls!!!!). This is embarrassingly lacking in the church.

        Reply
    • Anon

      My husband and I have been separated for long periods due to work (11 months once when we were early 20s). And that was before cellphones. I assume he masturbated.
      Because there was never an issue of porn for him though maybe that makes it completely different?
      In later years when he was away for work we had cell phones. That allowed for sexting with words as well as pictures. I know for some who have struggled with porn or erotica that might not be ok-the slippery slope. But for others (who have found complete freedom or who never had the issue) I think it can just be a fun add on in times of separation.
      In your case I would talk to your husband about if he thinks he can handle that without falling backwards. (You talk about vulnerable intimacy! That talk is very vulnerable for both of you!)
      And keep talking. Whether you decide to have phone sex or not. Check in on how it’s affecting him (and you!).

      Reply
      • Mike

        I am in the military and my wife has given me pictures to take with me, some in lingerie and some nude. I told her, I would rather picture her than another woman if I’m feeling the urge. There are tons of women on the ship in tight work out clothing every single day but seeing my wife does something for me that they can’t.

        Also, what is the thought on mutual maturation? Is it sinful for me to want my wife to masturbate for me such as when I’m out of town for work? She says she feels uncomfortable doing it and that has to do with her upbringing. I think its a huge turn on!

        Reply
  6. A

    I really appreciate your focus on mutuality in sex, so I was hoping this post would address more of the circumstances when *female* masturbation might be considered to help the marriage too.

    Honestly, after years and years of dealing with pain, lack of orgasms, etc, and trying to solve it in our marriage, at the end it was a women’s health doctor, a set of dilators and a vibrator, and instructions how to self-stimulate that finally made reliable orgasms for me possible. That knowledge of my own body and feeling of what orgasm is like contributed vastly to our sex life together. I couldn’t do it reliably with him until I’d learned my own body first. That may not be true for everyone but it was really true for me and I’m incredibly thankful to that doctor, after YEARS of trying to find solutions.

    And it didn’t take away from our mutual sex life at all; for one thing, he does it in a more satisfying way than any vibrator, now that we know what to do, so vibrators are never more attractive to me. Plus I found that instead of taking away my sexual appetite that the extra times increased it and made me want it more. Instead of wanting it more the longer we’re apart, I want it less (almost like I “forget” that yeah it feels good.) So the times when I was doing those exercises helped me see I really do have a sex drive. It helped me get to the baseline of expecting that sex will be pleasurable and I can orgasm most of the time if I want to. Considering how very very long we tried to overcome those problems before, I’m not actually sure I could have done it without self-stimulation. I was so very disconnected from my own body, unaware of what it looked like and what felt good. I would love to see more talk about this.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is a really good point, and I’d like to pursue this more in the new year, and in my course that I’m hoping to do soon on how to have an orgasm. I think it is important to understand how your body works.

      Reply
    • Bethany

      My experience was very similar to yours in that masterbation actually helped the journey to liking sex and the whole concept to actually start looking appealing. I had to learn to associate sexual feelings as good and not bad or evil. I just made a few rules for myself. 1. No secrets. If I’m doing it, he’s either in the room, or I asked him if it’s ok.(after not needing to for months, I actually used the partial arousal to deal with bad morning sickness. We also had sex alot in pregnancy! I was throwing up for 10 weeks) 2. If I felt guilty or dirty it didn’t happen.
      It was a part of reclaiming and training my husband and I in our intimacy.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I also have more sex in pregnancy. I think maybe partially hormonal? Tbh though I didn’t have the nausea you did. However. I agree with the guilty/ dirty comment. I can’t make myself have sex if I feel dirty or guilty for whatever reason. And for whatever reason I still have these feelings at times I think going back to how sex was talked about pre marriage in the church. Hard to turn off. Plus I was abused as a teenager. So there are times when certain acts are ok for me and times the exact same thing 100% isn’t. I can’t wxplain why.

        Reply
  7. Anonymous this time

    Sheila-I think you nailed it in your reply to a comment. This is a gray area. I don’t see in the Bible anywhere that says “thou shalt not masturbate”.
    I think it falls under “everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial”.
    (Same as having an occasional drink or buying a lottery ticket I think.)
    Questions I would say are important to ask yourself/your spouse when one of these situations arise:
    ~what is/will be in your mind during masturbation?? (Anything but the spouse? STOP!)
    ~does this add to or take away from my desire for my spouse? (Take away from? STOP!)

    There are some people that can not handle this (just like some people cannot handle a drink with dinner and others can). In our marriage there have been long times of separation and I tend to shut down completely and pull away from my husband. It’s like it’s the only way I can survive it. He is the opposite. I will just go into full on mom mode and not even want to talk to him (because it makes me miss him more).
    During our last separation, however, we had some GREAT fun. I had to put a pass code on my phone kind of fun.
    (Disclaimer: no history of porn or sex addiction)

    Reply
    • ATT

      I should have added that we had an agreement that when it was close to time to reunite physically, the sexting continued but there was a no touch policy!

      Also, if I were ill or injured and couldn’t have sex I would be perfectly fine with my husband taking care of business himself for that time. If I’m sick or hurt, I don’t expect him to sit with me the whole time (I’d go out of my mind!) and I don’t want to feel bad about his sexual frustration!
      Again, disclaimer: no history on his part of any problems!!! I understand that can be different in different marriages.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        This is me too. No history on hubby side of any problems in this area. And am perfectly fine with taking care of things himself when I’m sick or exhausted or post partum. In fact I believe I told him to once.

        Reply
  8. Jessica

    Let’s not forget the higher drive wives out there. Not all men can be persuaded to have sex with their wives. My husband is one who is content with going an indefinite period of time without sex and if he’s not in the mood there is nothing I can do to change that. I’m only looking for 1-2 times a week. He can go weeks or months and never even think about sex and not even realize it’s been so long. I do believe this is a case where the wife is justified in taking care of her needs on her own.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I can certainly understand that, Jessica, but I’d actually say that that’s a case where marriage counseling or something else should really occur. Someone going months without sex and without thinking about what their spouse wants/needs is not healthy, and should be dealt with. As I said in the initial post, I just don’t think this is a healthy situation, and sometimes masturbation can allow us to live with unhealthy situations rather than deal with them. Getting to root of his lack of libido; having him confront the fact that foregoing sex for months at a time is selfish within marriage (unless there’s something major going on); learning how to communicate about it–that’s really important.

      I’m sorry that you’re in this situation. I really am. And I can see why masturbation can be easier/justified. I can. I would just hope that the root of the problem can be dealt with, too, because that really isn’t okay. I am really sorry.

      Reply
      • Active Mom

        I understand Jessica’s point. Sheila I also understand your belief about counseling. However, sometimes a spouse won’t go. It can be male or female but if the LD spouse doesn’t see a problem and has no desire to change it what then? They have no desire to get to the root because they don’t think there is a problem. Yes, one spouse can go but at the end of the day the options are divorce or find a way to deal with it, For those who don’t like masturbation would you prefer divorce? I guess I wonder what the solution is for the higher drive (especially when they have a reasonable drive) spouse.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I don’t know. I really don’t. No, I definitely wouldn’t prefer divorce! But I just can’t believe that God wants us stuck. I have to believe that there is something that we can do. (I think sometimes we can be stuck for a season, but I don’t think we’re meant to be stuck indefinitely, especially with a situation that’s unhealthy). I wish I had a good answer; I do. Because I do think that God wants us walking towards wholeness and doing what we can to get there, and I think putting up with something that is hurting the other person (and living a life where you’re running away from intimacy isn’t healthy) isn’t ideal, either.

          But we can talk about this with so many marriage issues: what if a spouse chronically overeats and is very obese? What if they overspend and just won’t stick to a budget? It’s not always about sex. And in those areas, I think learning to set boundaries early in the marriage so that there’s a precedent for how you handle what is unacceptable behaviour is good, and then keep looking at how to encourage healthy behaviour.

          But no, I don’t have an easy answer. I’m just uncomfortable saying that we should let the status quo be the status quo?

          (I’m rambling. I’m sick. I have a fever. I’m sorry. I should likely stop typing!)

          Reply
      • Rich

        I would ask a question, but I notice you only answer the women.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          You can go ahead and ask. I don’t think that’s true–I tend to answer Nathan and Phil. I’m not answering as many as usual on this post because I’m actually quite sick, so I haven’t been engaging in the comments as regularly today and yesterday.

          Reply
          • Rich

            Ok, then what advice would you have for a sexless marriage why I have tried time and again to get my wife to talk to me about why she withholds sex, but insists that there’s nothing wrong. We have sex maybe once a month.

            Thanks

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I would frame it as, “I’m afraid we’re missing out on a vital area of marriage, and I want to feel close to you, and I want you to feel close to me, and I want to feel passion, because that’s what God designed us for. We really need to talk about this. I know it’s difficult, but sometimes you have to do the difficult things.” And then, have her read either this post on why your husband wants you to read this marriage blog or this one on 10 reasons she may say no to sex and see if those resonate with her and you can start a conversation. She may not want to have it, but you can be firm and keep coming back to it and let her know, “this is important. I want to talk about this.”

  9. Nathan

    > > Also, the argument for the husband’s masturbation
    > > assumes that the husband MUST have sexual release
    > > no matter what. But is that really true?

    In the long run, I believe that it is. Many of us can probably go a week or two with no physical release at all, but your example of a month of complete abstinence is virtually impossible for nearly all men.

    Reply
    • Tiger Girl

      I’m just going to say. As a higher drive spouse I have gotten mad at my husband when he has put off sex so long that he has a nocturnal emission. Just saying. (And yes, nineteen years into our marriage this no longer happens and he honors me and loves me in part by being physically intimate with me that it has been YEARS since this happened. ) All that to say, there is a safety release valve built in.

      Reply
      • AspenP

        I have been upset with my husband before too for this—especially if I have been asking for it and keep getting turned down.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s an awful situation. I’m sorry.

          Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      I gotta call you out on “virtually impossible for nearly all men.” My husband could go without for a month standing on his head. Easy. No porn, no masturbation, no affairs. Just lives for his work. I’m sure there are other high-drive wives who can testify to this as well!

      Me, on the other hand? Lack of frequent sexual release will literally drive me crazy. Unable to concentrate on important tasks, unable to sleep, orgasm while driving triggered by a right turn crazy.

      My first choice is always unequivocally him. But he isn’t always available, and that’s not going to change, so I do what I have to to keep sane.

      I hope I’m not being snappish. I just need to clarify that this isn’t a men vs. women thing. This is a drive discrepancy thing.

      Also, low-drive spouses (especially those with demanding jobs) sometimes attack any attempt by the high drive spouse to talk about the issue as “selfish”. So with no Biblical prohibition, and a thorough understanding of what deprivation can do, I can’t fault anyone for doing what they must to stay healthy and faithful.

      Reply
  10. Tory

    I have a feeling I am going to be in the minority on this one but here goes anyway: I hesitate to call something a sin if the Bible doesn’t call it a sin. I don’t think it’s an oversight on the Bible’s part. It speaks to great lengths about sexuality, it tells us having sex with animals is a sin, having sex with relatives is a sin, etc and the fact that it never calls masturbation a sin should mean something to us. Masturbation is something most boys and many girls self-discover as children and pre-teens before they even know what sex is. It’s a nearly universal human behavior and I don’t see it as sinful. Obviously lust is wrong, and porn is wrong. Obviously if you have a willing spouse and are choosing to masturbate rather than pursuing intimacy with them, that’s a bad plan. The goal of sex in marriage is to bring intimacy between a husband and wife, I 100% agree. That’s God’s plan. However, the reality is that in most marriages, one spouse has a higher drive and the other has a lower drive. What are the odds that two people have the exact same drive? So someone will probably be higher. And if they have to “take the edge off” once in a while, even as they still pursue godly marital intimacy with their spouse, I don’t see how that’s a sin. That’s nothing to feel guilty about. To me it falls into the same category as junk food. You shouldn’t make junk food the mainstay of your diet. But the occasional handful of chips will not derail an otherwise healthy lifestyle. If you feel masturbation is sinful because of a personal conviction, that’s fine, then don’t do it. But calling it a sin when the Bible doesn’t is legalism and doesn’t actually make anyone more Godly.

    Reply
    • Active Mom

      I agree with Tori. I know this is a really hot topic for a lot of people. I understand when porn and masturbation are linked why it can be harmful, I also understand if you are depriving your spouse. But masturbation isn’t labeled a sin in the Bible. When I hear a story about how a high drive spouse is at the end of their rope because the low drive spouse only is interested in sex every three weeks so they masturbate my first thought is that low drive spouse is not holding up their end of the marriage contract. Yet often comments will focus and shame the masturbating spouse. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. The Bible calls out depriving a spouse so we go light on that but is silent on masturbation and that is what people get upset about.

      Reply
    • Ashley

      This is where I stand on this too. And for what it’s worth, my ex is a sex addict, so lots of masturbation there. I think it’s one of those things that can be extremely harmful if used in the wrong way, but fine under certain circumstances. I agree that it’s no accident that as embarrassing explicit as the Bible gets in talking about various sexual sins, masturbation is never mentioned.

      Reply
  11. Ina

    I think that periods of abstinence can be good for a healthy marriage. I’m not talking about withholding sex or anything! I’m I’m my third postpartum right now (4 weeks) and honestly these times have been so beneficial. My husband takes his frustration and turns into affection and intimacy. It builds desire for eachother and gives us that spark that we had when we were engaged. Frustration is hard, but when you communicate with your spouse you can turn it into something beautiful and build intimacy in a very different way. Of course, I’m speaking from my experience and understand every marriage is different with different challenges. All I know is that the decision to cuddle etc… instead of masturbate in this season has enriched our marriage. Also, a few weeks of arousal with no release makes my husband more empathetic to my inability to orgasm at all so far.

    Reply
    • Kim

      “My husband takes his frustration and turns into affection and intimacy. It builds desire for eachother and gives us that spark that we had when we were engaged. “

      That’s a really beautiful picture of sacrificial love. And I like the part about igniting the spark you had when you were engaged, a different perspective on this topic! I’m not saying this applies to all of the unique situations out there, but I appreciate you sharing this, Ina.

      Reply
  12. Nathan

    If your husband can go for a month or more with no physical release at all, then he has more self control than most.

    Other note: Some call this is a sin because they view it as lusting after yourself, but that’s not what it is.

    Reply
    • Ina

      He is lower drive than the average man. The point isn’t so much the length of time as the fact that choosing for a time can itself build intimacy. I’ve seen it time and again in our marriage whether a short week while I’m on period or a longer season, he turns it around and pours into me and my love language in a way that he just doesn’t think to when his needs are regularly being met.

      And to clarify, this is his choice. He knows he has my blessing to care for himself (as long as he can do so without violating his thought life) and he knows that if the stars align so all kids nap at once I’m happy to help out.

      Reply
  13. bunkababy

    I read all the “rules” around this. I get an overwhelming sense of legalism and shame.

    It made me think at the time scripture was written and to whom it was written.
    There is scripture about rape, prostitution, adultery, sex with relatives ,homosexuality etc.

    NOTHING on masturbation. Nothing.

    If Jesus was fully man he experienced boners at puberty, young adulthood, morning boners etc. Yet he did not sin. Is it possible to masturbate without sinning?

    If you commit adultery by lustful thoughts, it’s all in the mind not the act.

    Reply
  14. Renee

    In my case, my husband thankfully wants sex, but it’s the exact same routine every time. It always ends with him finishing and I never do. I’ve found positions that work better for me and I’ll be so close, then he finishes and it’s all over. He apologizes and acts sad but it’s the same thing a week later, for months on end. So I finish myself up, or I would never climax. It’s embarrassing that I have to use a vibrator, I feel guilty on top of the frustration I already feel, I’ve talked to him about it literally hundreds of times (we’ve been married almost 10 years), tried different approaches, he doesn’t want to work on anything because he says it makes sex feel like work. I’ve convinced him to buy books (fun ones, like ones that show different positions, and the more serious ones, I asked him to pick them out himself) and he comes up with excuses as to why he has no time to read them.
    There’s a bit of foreplay, I enjoy that, but he has rules, like he only prefers being touched in one spot. In the first weeks of our sex life it was already rough, I needed surgery to be able to do the deed, but when I finally could he would stop everything in the middle of doing it to tell me I was doing something wrong. What stinks is that he’s a great guy in every way, amazing father, employee, etc., but not interested in sex or being a normal couple. We have four kids and he doesn’t think spending quality time together is important either. I’m trying to be a good wife but I’m at my wits end. 🙁

    Reply
    • Renee

      *sorry, left a word out, I meant not interested in ‘having better’ sex or being a normal couple.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Renee, that’s awful! He’s depriving you. He really is. I’d encourage you to read godly sex is mutual sex and ‘can the do not deprive verses apply to women, too’? Just because you’re having penis-in-vagina-intercourse does not mean you’re having sex. He’s depriving you of orgasm. I have some examples in those posts of things that I’d recommend saying to him, and you can read them there, but it’s okay to say, “I am more than willing to make love to you. I want to make love to you! But I will no longer be treated as an afterthought. God made sex to be about both of us, but in our marriage it’s only about one of us, and that’s not right, and I’m unwilling to continue that. I’d like to work towards a mutual sexual relationship, where both of us get fulfillment, but I am no longer willing to just be used.” But you can read more in those posts about it. I’m so sorry.

      Reply
      • Renee

        Thank you! Your posts help me so much, the commenters do as well, makes me feel so much less alone in this.

        Reply
        • Kim

          Renee! I can so relate! The routine ugh! Left hanging ughhh! Shelia, I’m so glad you reacted that this is awful. And responded with your wise words that I’ve read and reread many times. (I haven’t had the courage to say these things in this way in your posts to my husband yet, but I need to.)

          “He apologizes and acts sad but it’s the same thing a week later, for months on end.”

          Renee, my husband is a good guy like yours in so many outwardly public ways. But I’ve come to realize that if a man can’t or refuses to put his wife first (under God), after she’s explicitly told him how he can make their relationship better, then something is terribly wrong.

          Apologizing and acting sad and then never changing is manipulative behavior. I would encourage you to read Brad Hambrick’s series on self-centered spouses, that Sheila has highlighted in some of her posts.

          Your husband is not sad that he is not fulfilling your God-given sexual desires. Just let that sink in for a minute. He won’t read the books, makes excuses, talking ab it makes sex feel like “work”, and on top of that he has “rules” and has stopped sex to tell you you’re doing it wrong. (That last one!? I’m so sorry.) If he was sad he would be trying to fix it! My husband has never told me I’m doing it wrong….or had rules… but he has taken a few vulnerable conversations ab how I need release for my sanity, well-being and our closeness – to engage in a fun playful encounter to leave me hanging YET AGAIN.

          That was when I sat up and started paying attention. I realized this is a power and control thing and he really only cares ab his own release. Period. Forget the show to the outside world ab what a great guy. This isn’t a marriage problem…. it’s his issue. But counseling could definitely help if the conversations are going nowhere. I would recommend “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” by Leslie Vernick and “Is It Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage” by Natalie Hoffman for your own peace of mind. They help you either way – you realize ok, we have issues that counseling can fix or wow this all goes deeper (and they give you real guidance ab what to do next). Thank you for sharing…. it helps to not feel alone!

          Reply
          • Renee

            Thank you. Yeah I’ve only had two ‘happy endings’ with him in ten years of marriage (that should make a lot of people reading this feel a bit luckier in their own situation). I appreciate your suggestions, I’ve read so many books and articles, but I’m continuing to try, hopefully something eventually helps. Last night we had a good time but it ended with him contentedly snoring and me crying alone on the bathroom floor, vibrator in hand. It’s so hard being left hanging every single time. Women need that release too!! I’d be so happy with just once a month.. year.. anything at this point.
            I’m very thankful for Sheila and this blog.

    • Lea

      That sounds terrible, Renee! I’m so sorry.

      It seems like the problems in people’s sex life is generally either mechanics or selfishness and one can be fixed more readily than the other….

      Reply
      • Renee

        Thank you. And yes I think you’re right.

        Reply
  15. Nathan

    Response to above…

    Jesus likely had no sex drive of any kind, being a man, but also a divine being.

    Some also think that God put a “block” on Paul, so that he never thought about this either, since he had a very special and unique mission to fulfill.

    Reply
    • Sarah O

      I would also caution against the idea that Jesus had no sex drive. Why would he not? Is it easier to believe that God made himself flesh and walked among us than it is to believe that a man with a sex drive could control it without sinning?

      One of my big concerns (especially for my sons) is how we really do make men powerless against sexual temptation. We basically equate sexuality and manhood, provide this message that it’s overwhelming and all men do it, and then provide no strategies or training on how to actually manage it appropriately. Bonus round – let’s provide provocative sexual temptation and imagery 24 hours a day.

      Saying that Jesus has no sex drive (and I would second that this is an extra biblical idea) basically reinforces that even God himself couldn’t be expected to resist sexual temptation. That’s hopeless.

      I think Jesus had a completely normal sex drive, I think he was able to control it because he had perfect love for others. He was passionate about his mission, he understood the heart, health and social consequences that the women around Him faced with regard to sexuality, and he cared more about others than himself. He was more concerned with how sex would affect a partner than what he could get out of sex.

      Reply
      • Budgie

        I absolutely agree with you. Saying Jesus could not have a sex drive basically implies that God Himself could not control what He created (ie. male sexuality). That is a very troubling idea.

        Besides Paul, there were many other Bible characters who were or appear to be single or were single for long periods of time. Jeremiah was commanded to never marry. It seems pretty obvious both Elijah and John the Baptist never married. Anna was a widow serving God for many years. Joseph was single for many years (13 years, I believe) and resisted Potipher’s wife during that time. Did God shut the sexuality of all these people off? Or perhaps their deep relationships with God allowed them to sacrifice a part of their sexuality for the glory of God, which is not so different from what Jesus did on Earth. I think that is true for each one of us. It’s not easy to live without sex and I say this as a 40 year old never married women, but if it was impossible, God would have set things up so everyone automatically get married. Since He didn’t, I have to believe His grace is sufficient, even in this area.

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          I am a high drive wife and this last summer we were struggling with intimacy/frequency. I was in so much emotional pain and feeling physically rejected that I was struggling with the temptation to masturbate. I decided that rather than be tempted I was going to shut down my sex drive and walk away from it. I would never again think about my own independent desire for sex. Now, months later, we have worked through some of those issues and his drive has returned. But I cannot get over that mental block. I wish with all my heart I would have focused on masturbating to the sweet memories and experiences I had with my husband while we worked through a few issues rather than shutting sex down altogether to avoid temptation. In the end, it would have enhanced our overall intimacy and we would have been back to frequent sex rather than me struggling to engage and desire sex now.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I understand. A lot of men report something similar as well. You bring up a really interesting point, and I will think on that.

    • Jess

      Nathan, I usually appreciate your comments as you seem to be supportive of the women here, but while a couple people have called you out on this, I’m surprised no one has come down harder on you for this comment.

      Where in the world does this idea that Jesus had no sex drive come from??? When I see this comment this is what I hear…

      “There is NO WAY that Jesus had a sex drive because if he did, he could not have remained unmarried (or remained sinless, or remained a virgin, or not lusted, or not masturbated every 48 hours and probably lusting while doing it, etc.). Men’s big bad sex drives are just too powerful and overwhelming for a woman to ever understand and if Jesus would have had a ‘normal’ male sex drive, he couldn’t have controlled it.”

      I’m sorry, but I’m calling baloney on that theology. The Bible says nothing about Jesus’ sex drive. Nothing. It does say he was tempted in every way that is common to man. What temptation is more common to man than sexual temptation?

      Do you know why Jesus never sinned sexually? It was not because he didn’t didn’t have a sex drive or because he had “at best, a low sex drive,” it was because he saw women as people. He knew their hearts, he experienced their hurt and brokenness. He wasn’t worried about any of his own needs being met. He was concerned with meeting the deepest needs in others.

      This idea that a man’s sex drive is too powerful to be controlled (and therefore Jesus must not have had a sex drive) is so so damaging to a woman’s outlook on sex, on mutuality in sex, on a woman’s libido.

      I can pretty much guarantee this theology was created by men who wanted an excuse for why they continually struggle with lust, porn addiction, etc., and Jesus didn’t. Oh, well Jesus must not have had a sex drive.

      God created sex. God created men. And women. God created boundaries to help us experience His gift in the most rewarding and fulfilling way possible. And God does not make mistakes. He did not accidentally create men with a sex drive so strong that it could not be reigned in and exercised within the boundaries that He set. He knew what he was doing and as Sheila has talked about before, he created men and women differently on purpose so that sex (when exercised within his boundaries and in His perfect plan for us) would bring both spouses to a place of deepest knowing and intimacy which mirrors his love and knowing of us.

      Please, please, do not perpetuate teaching that is not in the Bible which would give (some) men an excuse for their terrible sexual behaviors and lack of self-control.

      Reply
      • bunkababy

        Jess this is so well articulated. I was trying to say this myself and just didn’t do it any sort of justice. Well done. I fully agree.

        Reply
      • Kim

        Sarah O, Budgie and Jess,

        YES!! I really don’t have anything to add bc you all articulated it so beautifully well! I will echo one thought: Jesus saw women as people.

        Unheard of in His day, and STILL controversial in our modern times!? The woman at the well is one of my favorite stories…

        Reply
  16. Nathan

    > > Just because you’re having penis-in-vagina-intercourse does not mean you’re having sex

    Sheila has mentioned this many times before. The physical act is just one part of genuine lovemaking or “deep knowing”, as we like to say here. The physical aspect is an important part, of course, and should not be downplayed, but it’s only one part of the overall experience. And I agree that by demanding only the physical aspect that he is in fact the one denying the experience to you.

    > > he doesn’t want to work on anything because he says it makes sex feel like work

    It may be, at first, but I’m convinced (as a fellow man) that if he “works” at it, eventually, it will no longer be work and make sex much better for both of you.

    Reply
  17. Nathan

    > > Your posts help me so much, the commenters do as well,

    I believe this, too. I came here to help a friend, but I’ve found a lot of good advice as well, and it really helps me see things from my wife’s perspective.

    Reply
  18. Nathan

    > > Is it possible to masturbate without sinning?

    I believe that it is, as long as you don’t use up your energy and deprive your spouse.

    Reply
  19. bunkababy

    People are overthinking this.

    1 Cor 7:10
    But IF THEY CAN”T CONTROL THEMSELVES …..
    Mtt 5:28 anyone who looks at a woman TO LUST…….
    Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

    Sexual sin is in the MIND and HEART . It is something you can choose to control. Just like you choose not to steal, murder etc.

    I really think people use the hormonal aspect of our bodies as an excuse to say they have to have a release. God provided for that by nocturnal emissions. The rest is self control, or acting in a way not to sin while relieving yourself.

    Pornography is a sin of the heart and mind. You watch, you get aroused you masturbate. You teach yourself to image things to masturbate. If young boys and girls can masturbate not even knowing of sex, the problem getting older is associating LUST of the heart to masturbate. You learned this behaviour and believe that masturbation is only associated with lust.

    Lustful masturbation is the problem. Not masturbation.

    But there is an aspect of sin people forget. And the scripture is speaking to Christians in this. That God GIVES THEM OVER to a depraved mind or sin.

    Romans 1:24. Romans 1:28, Romans 1:26 Psalm 81:12

    1Thess 4:4 each of you must know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,

    Reply
    • Lea

      I agree bunkababy. I dont think this is a big deal unless it’s actually impacting someone’s relationship, but that seems somewhat less about the act itself in many cases than the way it’s carried out? (And obviously not an issue for single people, teenagers, etc. )

      Reply
  20. Nathan

    > > Just like you choose not to steal, murder etc.
    > > I really think people use the hormonal aspect of
    > > our bodies as an excuse to say they have to have a release.

    I’m not sure these are the same thing. You can choose not to murder, etc. but sexual desire slowly builds and builds until you MUST do something to release it.

    The standard advice to just turn that part of yourself off or learn to control it or just stop wanting it may work for those with a lower sex drive, but I remain convinced that it cannot fully work for everybody.

    Reply
    • bunkababy

      Nathan

      With all due respect a fully charged sex drive is not an exception to sin. And you think Jesus did not have sexual drive? It says he experienced temptation that was common to all man. That included sexual temptation.

      If you are building up in sexual desire, is it from hormones or your thought life? People like to link the two. I really don’t think men in particular choose to see the difference. Personally I think it is an excuse. It is instantly associated to a body function. The mind and body is connected fiercely. But the Bible indicates and says we can learn to control it.

      I have asked my husband how many times sex crosses his mind in a day…he says all-the-time. I asked him how many minutes. He said about every 5 minutes. (when we were young)

      He didn’t say he gets and erection every 5 minutes. Yes there are times when erections spontaneously happen at peak times of hormonal rises. But your testosterone does not rise 42 times in a 12 hour period.

      Your mind is thinking , thinking , thinking until your body cannot stand it and needs a release.

      Reply
  21. Mary

    Any tips on how to tactfully bring up this subject with husband?

    Reply
  22. Nathan

    > > With all due respect a fully charged sex drive is not an exception to sin.

    True enough, although I don’t believe that masturbating is sinful, unless you do it to the extent that you’re depriving your spouse.

    > > And you think Jesus did not have sexual drive?

    While Jesus experience temptation, it’s very likely that he did not have a sex drive at all, or at best a very low one.

    Reply
    • Lindsey

      I’m not sure where is extra-biblical idea comes from, but the Bible doesn’t say this. It does say He was tempted in all points as we are. I fee like in asserting this you are adding to what the Bible says. I would presume to know your motivation in believing this, but I will tell you that in this context it comes across as an excuse for why men HAVE to relieve themselves (For the record, I’m not someone who believes in masturbation being a sin all the time). I think bunkababy isn’t right. The mind is the primary issue. That and a sedentary lifestyle. In Christ times people were extremely physically active – they had to be to survive. Plus, they were bombarded by sexual advertisements and sexual shows relentlessly. I think those things together likely contributed to an easier time keeping sex in its proper context, but that doesn’t mean that someone has no/low sex drive.

      Reply
      • Lindsey

        *Would not presume*

        Reply
  23. Nathan

    > > Any tips on how to tactfully bring up this subject with husband?

    Hmmm, this is a tough one. I guess I would ask my spouse if they were being satisified enough, and if not, is there anything else you can do to “fill in the gap”?. Not much advice, but I’m not sure about this one.

    Reply
  24. Kay

    Thank you for revisiting this.

    I have also revisited masturbation in marriage recently as I’ve been diving into the next level of healing from sexual trauma and extreme purity culture. The thing is, I finally admitted to myself recently that I still have not learned how to have mutual sex. Even though I initiate it, it has always been motivated by fear, obligation, and putting his pleasure over my pain. Doing this for 13 years has not only slowly ruined sex for me, it has made sex quite traumatic. This is NOT my husband’s fault but the result of my past and upbringing. I had been trying thus far to move toward mutuality, but I finally realized that in order to undo this faulty programming, I actually need to practice “selfish sex” for a while in order to try to set myself free from being so worried about his needs and pleasure that I short-circuit my own and even further traumatize myself.

    So for me, this has primarily meant that I need permission to say “stop” any time that sex is not bringing me pleasure. No more pushing through it because “he *needs* it.” My pleasure needs to matter more than his right now if I am going to reverse this faulty programming. But one of the reasons I never felt free to stop is because I still felt obligated to finish him no matter what. Even the comments above are saying “just finish him in other ways then,” but this too was causing additional damage, because I didn’t enjoy that either, and it eventually got to the point where I was avoiding sex altogether because no matter what it felt like a lose-lose situation for me. Yet I also felt too guilty to say stop in the middle of sex and then just leave him hanging like that, and so that is when I decided to renegotiate my stance on masturbation. We set some ground rules about it, but ultimately I wanted the freedom to say stop any time I was no longer experiencing pleasure yet also not feel guilty about putting my needs over his.

    Here is the fruit so far. First, my husband was surprised to find this process super arousing, that I would be 100% in control and even “selfish” about my pleasure. Apparently that’s hot? Ha. Second, knowing that I might stop sex at any time has added some excitement and variety because he never knows what to expect. And here is the most surprising part for me; knowing that I have a guilt-free way to say stop and he won’t be left hanging has actually made sex sooo much more enjoyable for me that I haven’t actually had to say stop yet! (We’ve only agreed to this a few weeks ago.) But I know I will need to say stop at some point, and I need to know that he won’t be hurt, disappointed, or sexually frustrated, or else I will feel obligated to keep going even though I want to stop, and so telling him to go ahead and finish himself feels like a win/win for the time being.

    Again, the long term goal is mutual satisfaction and enjoyment. We aren’t using masturbation to avoid issues but to actually to address them. We will renegotiate as our needs change. But for now, having this option gives me a way to learn by experience that what feels like “selfish sex” to me can lead to far more mutually enjoyable sex than ever before and hopefully tip the scales toward health and healing.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Kay, this is amazing! I love this so much, mostly because I think a whole generation of women need to figure out how to deprogram from that idea that we need to “finish him off” absolutely all the time regardless of what we’re feeling. As soon as sex is an obligation or coerced (and spiritual guilt can be a coercion), it’s not truly mutual. We need to learn to see sex as something which is sharing of ourselves but also him sharing with us, and what we need is actually this freedom you’re talking about.

      And I’m actually not surprised you haven’t had to stop yet. Just knowing you have that freedom changes the dynamic so much!

      Reply
    • bunkababy

      Kay

      I really get what you are saying. REALLY get it because I too have sexual trauma. The key here is that you have the power.

      Sexual abuse is about your abuser having the power over you. You just took back the power or have power for the first time. It’s a huge deal. I’m proud of you for coming up to this conclusion. It’s awesome.

      Reply
  25. Dean

    Sexual guilt is a terrible thing. It makes it very hard to open your heart and truly enjoy intimacy. Some people who have it end up suppressing their sexuality. Others misdirect it, towards porn and masturbation.

    So I agree that it is not a good idea to label masturbation as sin, not only because it is not mentioned by Jesus (who rather focused on more fundamental issues of love, unity, dedication, forgiveness, etc.), but also because creating and reinforcing sexual guilt is a bad idea.

    I think a good idea is to think of masturbation as a private thing. As such, it is something between you and your spouse. So a great idea is to ask your spouse how they feel about it and why. My wife sees it as something that has no place in our marriage because it decreases our emotional bonds, feeds her insecurities, and reminds her of the porn issues I used to have. I understand and respect her feelings on that. Other couples can find other arrangements, depending on their specific feelings and situations.

    One additional note on the fact that weeks without orgasm make men irritable:

    That can be overcome to a big extent by making sex less orgasm-focused. The frustration is to a big extent psychological, coming from the strong expectation of orgasm. It feels physiological and biological, but I think it is mostly psychological and conditioned.

    Reply
  26. bunkababy

    I’m going to be blunt. I hate dancing around this.

    Men GIVE their ding dongs power. They have a million different excuses on why their ding dongs reign supreme and need to be pampered.

    They clearly accept this fact. It overrides everything.

    And the absurdity of it all? Jesus had low libido. He was God. The Bible says he was fully man. It didn’t say he was fully man except for his ding dong. That is the most ridiculous mansplaining of ding dongery I have ever encountered.

    What is predominantly apparent in this blog is men’s ding dongs take rule and reign above women’s wants and needs and it is fully accepted as fact.

    The narrative of this, the belief of this must change. The men must put down their ding dongs and stop loving them so much and start loving their wives as Christ loved the church and Laid himself down for her.

    I think the whole key to this whole masturbating/porn thing is pure worship of the ding dong. Men truly worship it in their hearts.

    Now I am being really nice in my comments and holding back so much. I have seen/been the victim of the most violent sexual crime. I have seen what men do to feed the need for sexual power. It is vile. And quite frankly people can’t stomach my experience.

    I actually don’t feel sorry for men sexually. Nope. You cannot give me some crying sob story about your needs. You take power from women. Men need to take ownership not power. Men in the church need to take ownership of their sin and how they abuse their wives and women/children so that they can worship the ding dong.

    And when I say abuse I also mean how they can leave the marriage bed knowing their wives lay there unfulfilled. Do you understand how Manhurt men would be if that was a constant in their lives? Oh we would never hear the end of it.

    Women are taught to accept these things. Women weep silently for years, wrapped in guilt and shame while men and their ding dongs have to have release well, because they are men.

    OH the double standard of hypocrisy. And we women have to take it all sweetly come on these blogs and nicely air our grievances and justify female masturbation because men don’t love their wives enough to please them.

    Bravo to all you brave commenters.

    Reply
  27. Nathan

    > > Men in the church need to take ownership of their sin

    We all need to do this. However, I believe that masturbating is not a sin unless you do it to the extent that it’s depriving your spouse.

    I also can’t agree that the answer to a higher sex drive than your spouse is to simply “just turn it off and/or ignore it”. That’s not possible.

    Abuse is wrong and horrible and my heart breaks for any who have suffered it. On the other hand, masturbating to fill in your urges if you have a higher sex drive is in no way abusive or sinful, unless doing so leaves your spouse unfulfilled.

    Reply
    • bunkababy

      Nathan

      I think masturbation is fine in men and women. It can be done without sinning. I have no issue with release if it can controlled. And I think it can. I don’t think humans cannot control their sexuality. One of the fruits of the spirit is self control.

      Nathan, I have a question for you. I will ask my husband when he comes home too, can men masturbate without images in their heads?

      If it is a functional thing it must be able to be done. I think the commentator above who said sexual behaviour is psychological and conditioning more than physical I think he is right.

      I just cannot believe Jesus would issue that statement about lusting after a woman and committing adultery in her in their heart and not have the ability to not to. It implies there is a choice.

      Reply
      • Doug

        There is always a choice bunkababy.

        As to your question. “Can a man masturbate without images in their head?”

        The answer is yes, of course. It doesn’t take any particular skill, or even self control. Masturbation doesn’t even have to be sexual, in the most literal sense of the word. Sometimes it is purely a physical release. My own attitudes about masturbation for myself are not set in stone. It might be OK for me at one time, and another time I might decide it isn’t, within identical circumstances.

        At 3AM when I am staring at the ceiling, knowing I have to get up un 2 hours, I might use it as a sleep aid. If I am stressed or anxious, I know that tje release of chemicals in my brain will put me at ease almost instantly. It is a purely physical act with a known outcome. In 5 minutes, I will be asleep. The idea that I would invite a lot of fantasy into it is rather absurd.

        Now, if I am lying next to my wife at that time, I may well just get up, make a pot of coffee, and do the dishes or something, and just go without sleep. Another time, I might be aware of how much I need the sleep.

        That is only one example, but it demonstrates clearly that you can masturbate without thinking of sex at all.

        Another scenario might be me away on an extended trip away from home and I might suddenly find myself very lonely for my wife. I might invite fantasy and imagry of her into my mind, and it would be completely different. Even with that sexual side of it fully engaged, it would not be sinning.

        The question isn’t whether you can masturbate without images in your head. It is about what images you invite in.

        Reply
        • K

          Thanks for sharing

          Reply
      • Wynd

        As a single man, I reached a point where I could masturbate without any images in my head. Images for most men are incredibly strong – and masturbation to an image strengthens this. Images are quicker, easier, more seductive – it is *much easier* to become aroused to a image (either from something seen, or from something imagined), but it is not a prerequisite. For many men, the image(mental or physical) is a shortcut that helps them “get it over with”/get the sex drive out of the way faster and focus on more important things. There should be allowance for the strength of will – I may not be able to control what pops into my head, but I can control what I dwell upon. As a married man, I try very hard to keep my wife foremost in my thoughts when masturbation becomes necessary.

        I can scratch my own back or massage my sore feet without needing erotic imagery – at some point just focusing on the physical sensation is enough.

        Reply
  28. Nathan

    > > Nathan, I have a question for you. I will ask my husband when
    > > he comes home too, can men masturbate without images in their heads?

    I’m not sure that we can do so. I can only speak for myself, though.

    > > I just cannot believe Jesus would issue that statement about
    > > lusting after a woman and committing adultery in her in their
    > > heart and not have the ability to not to. It implies there is a choice.

    Fair enough, but there’s a difference between noticing, even being sexually attracted and aroused, versus lust.

    Reply
  29. bunkababy

    So if a man can’t masturbate without an image in his head, or an image on a screen or film then he can’t masturbate?

    So the issue isn’t physical it’s in your mind and not your pants? So my ideas that it is all about your thought life , your viewing choices are correct?

    Reply
    • Anon Guy

      Yes, men can masturbate without images in their head.

      There are so many generalizations made in your comment above that it is hard to read. My experience doesn’t define your experience, and vice versa. Perspectives are unique to the individual. The male characteristics and behaviors you describe may be your truth, but they are not true for everyone. And this…

      >> I actually don’t feel sorry for men sexually. Nope. You cannot give me some crying sob story about your needs. You take power from women.
      >>

      This is sad to me. I empower my wife every chance I get. I build her up and encourage her. I want to satisfy her needs, both emotionally and physically, to the best of my ability. I am to love her as Christ loved the church.

      Reply
      • Bunkababy

        Anon guy .Then your wife is a very lucky woman. And you in my experience are very unusual. I make no bones about my negative frame of mind. And unfortunately it gets reaffirmed everytime another pastor or lay person in the church. Or auditoriums are filled with men using porography , or abusing women and children. Your wife is super lucky.

        Reply
        • Doug

          Anon, it may be reaffirmed in your mind, but that does not make it true. Most men are decent and caring, and as appalled by the rotten ones as you are.

          I agree that you hear about the bad ones way to often, butthat doesn’t make them the majority. You just don’t hear about the guys who live decent lives, and try to do right by their wives and families. Truth be told, even the decent ones aren’t perfect either. Many of us have made mistakes along the way, but that is a far cry from the way you portray men.

          Speaking personally, my wife and I just celebrated 37 years. Neither of us got this far without some misteps, and you can be sure that we would not have gotten this far without a full measure of grace from time to time. Like Anon Guy, I was taken aback by your remarks. That is a pretty broad brush you paint men with. While I am sorry for what you endured, I think you take a little too much license with the truth.

          Clearly, you make no bones about your frame of mind. But that doesn’t make you right.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            There are truly LOTS of great guys. My husband is wonderful, and has never used porn. My two sons-in-law don’t use porn, and are wonderful, too. We have so many wonderful friends in our circle who are men.

            I also know many that I would never have wanted my girls to date (and told them so). But there are wonderful men out there.

          • bunkababy

            Doug

            My comments might take you and Anon Guy aback. My reasons for being honest are because most women like me in the Christian sphere are not taught, or allowed to say it.

            My husband and I discussed this forum at length, I read him the comments. His opinions are in agreement with me because this has been an ongoing discussion for years.

            While you and others may think I am very broad in my thinking , I think you should visit the places I do, where Christian women are being held captive by Christian men who in the name of God treat them like meat in and out of bed because of their ding dong.

            Men inside the church actually treat their women worse than outside the church. Again you might think that a very broad statement. But my Christian friends who left the church are confirming these things to me.

            The reason I said that I don’t care about men’s sexual problems is this. Porn is a choice. You chose that choice. If it ruins your life then you have to bear the consequences of that choice like all sin. Like we all do.

            Women bear the consequences of that choice. Women bear the consequences of childhood sexual abuse by men. They bear the choice of men oppressing them by telling them what to wear, holding them accountable for men’s lust in many different ways. Women inside the church are told to be joyfully available whenever HE wants. Women are held to the purity culture to be chaste to the point of one pastor taking in his late teen daughter in to get her hymen checked yearly.

            And now we have to worry and feel sorry that men are caught if in a cycle of porn?
            I now have to worry because a man is not getting satisfied?
            All our culture teaches us is that men’s needs are primary. Their satisfaction or lack of rises like cream to the top. An women silently repress their dissatisfaction so he can finish. I am guilty of this too.

            In general women are dying underneath a sexual system in the church of repression and are fighting even using the word mutuality.

            So my thoughts are you want us to bear our own negative experiences and then feel compassion for your own issues that are usually brought on by your own choices to sin?

            Sheila you may have “lots” of great guys surrounding you , you are lucky.
            I have two girls ages 29 and 31 . They and their friends have a very different story. They have spent years in different churches, in different metropolitan areas and the problem seems to be universal.

            I have friends and their daughters have this issue. So I am more inclined to think you live in a different sphere. My one friend sent her daughter to counselling because her treatment from young church men was causing great distress.

            She came out of it and went on a solo journey to Europe and married a wonderful Italian man. She grew up in the Bible belt and her experience was not unusual.

            I go to a Christmas Eve event at my daughters church and while making small talk at the coffee counter some old guy kisses me on the cheek? I didn’t know him. I was stirring my tea trying to be polite. What liberties men think they have!!

            I rushed back to my seat beside my husband and daughter completely freaked out. I was 48 yrs old. I am 53 now. A few year later that whole church folds because the pastor was having an affair with his secretary.

            I have a lot of raw stories. Maybe because I am willing to talk. Maybe my view isn’t as broad as you think.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Hi Bunkababy,

            I’m so sorry that you’ve had this experience. I will confirm that my experience of men in Christian circles was made much, much worse when I got involved in ministry and saw the men in the American church (I’m sorry to pick on Americans, but there it is). I think it’s something with the megachurch/purity culture teaching; I’m not sure. But like I said, this simply hasn’t been my experience. In one church in Canada it was, but we left that church, and we simply haven’t had that experience. My daughters will tell you the same thing.

            I also wonder if it’s an education thing? Instead of going to Bible colleges, we went to secular universities and met men there.

            But I will agree that when I started to read the teaching about sex that was prevalent in the evangelical American church, I really was quite appalled.

            I’m hoping that our survey will be able to tease some of this out. But I have seen much of what you see; I would just caution to say that it isn’t the whole church. I do hear you about your daughters’ experiences, though. I am hoping to change that–really I am. I’m hoping that we can get some better teaching so that women won’t be discounted, and so that sex can become something which is mutual, rather than male-focused.

            And that is so sad, but honestly not surprising, that that young woman had to go to counseling because of her treatment. But, again, I would just suggest that you look for other denominations that do value women. I do believe they’re out there. They have to be, because the Holy Spirit does work, and He doesn’t leave us empty. There have to be places where people treat each other well. I’ve certainly found them, and honestly, it hasn’t been that hard. So again, maybe it’s a geography/denomination thing? I don’t know. But you are not the only one who has said this, and I know that this is very common in certain areas where certain teachers/preachers are lauded.

            I’m sorry. I really am.

            By the way, I think this is very insightful: “All our culture teaches us is that men’s needs are primary. Their satisfaction or lack of rises like cream to the top. An women silently repress their dissatisfaction so he can finish.” I think this is so true. The number of women who write in that their husbands can’t be bothered to make sure they feel good, and yet these women still give sex several times a week even though they’re seriously frustrated, is astounding.

          • Lea

            “The reason I said that I don’t care about men’s sexual problems is this. Porn is a choice. ”

            Where I get irritated is where I hear women in public who are dressed being blamed for the actions of men who voluntarily seek out images of naked women in private.

    • Anonymous

      At the risk of getting jumped all over I’m female and can’t have sex without images in my head. Or masturbate for that matter. Is this limited to men?

      Reply
      • Blessed Wife

        None of this is limited to one gender or the other. Some people need images, some don’t, and I don’t think it’s really a gender issue

        I think it’s really sad to see so many people get angry with an entire gender because a man or woman, or even several, treated them horribly!

        Reply
  30. Diana

    I have heard from 2 different men now (close family) that if a woman doesn’t feel comfortable with sex or with her body that she should masturbate to teach herself. One commented, “If you don’t want to have sex with yourself, why would someone else want to have sex with you.” Sounds terrible!
    I know they were both thinking they were offering the best advice on the planet, but I have 2 issues with this. Please tell me if I’m off base here.

    1. Guys should primarily be offering advice to other guys. Let women advise women.
    2. Even if a woman feels uncomfortable with sex and with her own body, isn’t that something to be worked out with her husband whenever possible?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      In regards to #1, totally agree. In regards to #2, I can definitely see a role to a woman exploring a bit, because of the biofeedback. If sex has never felt good; if it’s always been associated with something bad (like abuse) and then it’s never felt good in marriage; if she can’t become aroused; often it’s because everything has gotten so tense. And sometimes women can’t learn to relax until they learn to accept their own bodies. When you touch yourself, then you get the immediate feedback if something is too rough, too light, in just the wrong place.

      While I generally advise that you hold your husband’s hand and guide it, sometimes that doesn’t work. And in those cases, I can see how her getting used to her body can help her to feel like sex can be pleasurable, as several people have said on this thread. Does that make sense?

      Reply
  31. Lindsay

    I’m surprised this article is so controversial, Sheila. I guess I shouldn’t be. My way of looking at it is this. In our marriage, my ideal dinner goes like so: I have 45 minutes to make a delicious, nutritious dinner with lots of vegetables, which my husband and I eat together, slowly, enjoying a delightful conversation. But if his work schedule or mine doesn’t allow for that (which in this season, alas, is the case), there’s nothing wrong with him getting a sandwich on his way home from work or me heating up leftovers late when I get home. Neither of us expects the other to skip dinner because we can’t eat it together.

    Sometimes needs don’t always match up, and if one or the other of us is super horny and the other is too exhausted or sick or simply not there, well, it happens, and we take care of business. It’s obviously not our preferred solution, by any stretch of the imagination (ha! sorry). We make sure it doesn’t get weird or disrespectful or deprive-y or anything like that. Our first responsibility is to each other, and our sex life is plenty active, thank you very much. 😉 But I do also see it is as self-care. My body, and all of its different needs, are gifts. To take care of them all is a way of respecting and caring for myself–including this.

    Reply
    • Tory

      I love your approach Lindsay, and I personally agree as well. People are hung up on sex stuff enough to give them more to feel guilty about it. A little “snack” or “junk food” now and then will not ruin your life. If God didn’t call it sin then I won’t either. My husband and I each occasionally do this and we don’t keep it a secret from one another and though it’s not ideal, I will not feel bad or dirty about it. I like how you reframe it as “self-care” !

      Reply
  32. Private

    It took us way too long to truly build a good sex life.
    We just didn’t have the understanding or the tools.
    Absolutely clueless Virgins with no info,
    we endured years of painful and bad…
    our commitment to each other was never in question
    but we missed out on so much good due to lack of knowledge.
    Learning how to orgasm required masturbation
    and is recommended by many therapists.
    We have grown to enjoy mutual and self-care
    as our sexuality has matured together.
    It takes me a long time and we’d not have many morning quickies if I couldn’t relieve my ‘pink walls’ after giving him a nice work send off.
    I definitely do get frustrated and irritable from being congested.
    Sometimes things don’t go as desired
    and he feels guilty if I don’t ‘get there.’
    Sometimes I get things ‘jump started ‘ so that we can arrive together.
    Masturbation is not a detriment but an enhancement in our enjoyment.
    We’ve had the most frequent and fulfilling sex of our marriage
    in the years past our 30th anniversary.

    Reply
  33. BoundByLove

    As an unmarried guy, I don’t have much a dog in this particular fight. But also as an unmarried guy, I think we need to rethink masturbation on the whole. Unfortunately many young adults introduction into masturbation involved some kind of ilicit material…So for many now the association is extremely hard to separate. There should be more focus on working past these not going hand in hand *coughs* This is something as a someone with a high drive that I’ve HAD to do. Prayerful masturbation has actually helped keep me from screwing up online with stuff I know I shouldn’t even get near. As with choosing to look at porn, choosing to what go through my head is my choice. My heart can be retaught.There may be some things some people also need to address if they masturbate, like training their body’s how to respond to their spouse and not just their hands, but I believe it is doable.
    But going back to the article’s topic I agree that married people shouldn’t be selfish with their sexuality, but even if they are separate, or sick, there should always be mutuality and understanding and grace.
    I have had a stretch where I held off on masturbation for over 9 months. I felt great about my self during that time. I also had to deal with some really bad insomniatic nights, tension, elevated irritation at times, and some genital pain. And contrary to popular belief, some people don’t get regular nocturnal emissions if they don’t masturbate, which can be really really frustrating. I tried to stop this last November, but in this season of life it is better for my emotional health to continue. I conclude that everyone situation is different, and that we should all learn a little more grace and love to our brothers and sisters.

    Reply
  34. Bunkababy

    Sheila I am Canadian on the west coast. I find Canadians by far less affected by American style purity/fundamentalist teaching by far. But it is creeping in. I come from a conservative back round and have other denominations experience also.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, it’s that bad out there, too? Isn’t that sad?

      I would also say this, and I found this a very freeing thing when I realized it, and it may help your daughters, too. Jesus said that they would know His followers by their love, and that those who know Him will have good fruit, and will demonstrate that fruit. He said that whoever loves Him will do the things He says.

      Today, though, if you were to ask someone, “what is a Christian?”, they would tell you, “someone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for my sins.” We base it all in belief. Now, belief is important. But “even the demons believe”, as James acknowledged. So what I’ve realized is that many of our churches are filled with people who aren’t Christians. They say they believe, but they show absolutely none of the fruits of the Spirit; they’re enslaved by sin; and they blame women for it. That does not sound like a Christian. So perhaps it’s that your daughters have been treated terribly by men who go to church; but not by Christian men. And perhaps it’s just harder to find those Christian men. That was quite freeing to me, to realize that not everyone in church is a Christian. Jesus even talked about this, too, in the parable of the wheat and the tares, how they will be side by side until the harvest day. You can’t separate them, but it doesn’t mean that weeds are wheat.

      Does that make sense?

      Reply
  35. Nathan

    All I can say is that if there are men who can go months without any kind of release of any kind, then they’re pretty amazing.

    I could probably go three or four weeks at the most, I suppose, but then I would have to do something.

    My wife and I make love about once a week and I go off on my own about once a week. That’s a good balance for both of us. That way, we both get the intimacy that we want, and I don’t pressure her to do more than she’s comfortable with. I “balance the books” by myself every now and then and I don’t see that as sinful or abusive or wicked in any way.

    And in response to a comment way above, yes, Sheila does respond to men! I heard of a college professor who SPECIFICALLY would not answer questions from male students, but Sheila’s way more mature than that.

    Reply
  36. Nathan

    Just to make one point clear again.

    I’m not justifying lusting, porn, adultery, or demands that my wife “serve” my needs or anything like that. I’m just saying that sometimes I (and maybe others of both genders) need to release some pent up sexual energy now and then. And I honestly cannot see anything wrong with doing that.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think most men would agree with you here–there is a physical pent up feeling that many women don’t have, but many men do. It isn’t that easy to just abstain without feeling irritable, etc.

      Reply
    • Charissa

      My husband and I have similar drives – but if we didn’t, I absolutely agree that this is a kind and respectful way to manage differing sex drives in marriage as long as you both feel good about the frequency. If you are both satisfied with this, I’m so glad you and your wife have found a way that works for you.

      Reply
  37. Maria

    If masturbation is a sin, then could there be mitigating circumstances? That make a person not fully culpable?

    Suppose it is a sin and person masturbates while sincerely believing that it is not. Is he or she not culpable in the slightest?

    Or suppose that a person is genuinely trying to overcome force of habit and/or addiction. He or she fails in that effort and masturbates despite trying not to. Only partly culpable? (Again, presuming it is a sin in the first place).

    Suppose it is a sin, a person completely understands that it is a sin, doesn’t care and chooses to do it anyway. Fully culpable?

    Or, suppose it is not a sin but someone believes it is while masturbating. Not culpable of any wrong doing, because no wrong committed?

    Reply
    • Wynd

      I always find it interesting that Scripture never addresses masturbation. It is not that Hebrew and Greek don’t have words for it, they do. I don’t think space was the issue, if so maybe trim out part of Numbers or one of the many genealogies and free up a few lines. I mean – the Scripture has no problem dealing with bestiality multiple times, multiple flavors of incest, rape, ….. Jesus made it clear that heart issues were the actual problem. The single “proof verse” against masturbation (Onan) deals with heart issues and not the act. On the other hand, there is this little gem:

      “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” — Eccl 9:10

      Reply
  38. Debra

    My husband of 14 years has been working away for 2 years. He is away for 4 weeks at a time, then home for a weekend. In the middle of this year, he was home for an extended time only because I had pelvic floor repair surgery – so no sex for 6 weeks anyway. The other night we were video calling, with the kids, and I happened to have my blouse slightly unbuttoned. (I was going for a shower) It perked my husband’s interest and we decided to video call later, once the children were asleep. It is the first time either of us have even thought about it, and it was very awkward at first, but it has become something we look forward to once or twice a week. And I must add, our communication is a lot more open since we started this. I guess being vulnerable in front of each other has really changed our marriage. My husband is due home this weekend (after 7 long weeks) and the “excitement” is so much stronger. The masturbation has in no way replaced the desire for sex.

    Reply
  39. Nathan

    Genesis 20 (Onan) actually has nothing to do with masturbation. His older brothers wife was widowed and his father (supposedly via God) commanded him to make a baby with her, and he didn’t want to, for various reasons, so he “spilled his seed onto the ground” whenever they were intimate.

    I honestly believe that it’s not sinful, unless you do it to the extent that you’re depriving your partner of intimacy.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, exactly. The Onan story is about justice–how they were denying Tamar justice.

      Reply
  40. Nathan

    Note: I meant Genesis 38

    Reply
  41. Nathan

    Very true, Sheila. It IS about justice, about Tamar getting what she was owed.

    I also looked at it as a story about selfishness. From what I understand about that time, if a man is unmarried, but his older brother has a wife, then the older brother dies, the younger brother has a responsibility to marry the widow to “keep her in the family”. However, in that case, if the two have children, the society of that time would consider the children to be those of the dead older brother.

    I guess that Onan didn’t want to do all the work of raising and providing for one or more kids and then have society credit somebody else.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep. That’s really the basis for the story. And then Tamar was stuck in limbo. She couldn’t remarry because Judah had promised her his youngest son, but wasn’t giving her the youngest son. So she was all alone, and couldn’t move on with her life or she would have been considered an adulteress (since technically she was engaged to Judah’s youngest son). So that’s why she did the bait-and-switch with Judah and got pregnant by him. And the Bible only ever calls her righteous, and doesn’t condemn her for this, because she was in an impossible situation.

      Reply
  42. Christian Sexuality & Healing

    We believe that masturbation can be constructive for either Christian singles or couples provided that they remain focused on their relationship with God when participating. All sexual acts have a spiritual component to them. Masturbation is simply another form of sexual activity that a couple can share between them. A single person can masturbate and choose to engage with God for the spiritual component of masturbation. There are currently a number of viewpoints being expressed that masturbation for a single Christian person can be sexually therapeutic.

    Reply
    • Maria

      What do you mean all sexual acts have a spiritual component? Does the spiritual component come from Heaven or from Hell? Because some sexual acts are sinful.

      And it is true a couple can share masturbation between them. Would it be a good thing for them to do, though? If it’s a sin then any benefit that it seems to provide has to be a lie.

      Studies proving that it’s therapeutic? There are also studies that “prove” that porn is good for relationships.

      Reply
  43. Ngal

    I am so glad you are on a more ‘conservative’ side regarding this, and sex toys.. Many Christian marriage / sex therapists I know about are so open minded that they recommend toys and ‘self release’ for singles. I find it deeply hurtful and my gut just reacts with grief… Teachings like that make us ‘less liberal’ individuals seem an feel like some repressed dried up prunes, who need to be taught how to have a good time..
    What happened to holiness and purity?! And yes, I am fully expecting to be married soon one days (am single never married 48 years old..) and be fully available for my husband..
    But no matter how much I might suffer due to a high libido, all the sex toys in the world will not take that yearning away!

    Reply
  44. Ronne

    Nice article, older male here, married 30 years. Masturbation is something that many males struggle with and probably some females.

    Over the years, this is the ground rules we developed and has worked great for us.

    Like your statement, we never masturbate in secret or hide it ever. If we do it, we do it together. I did it in secret for a while after we married, but later stopped. It was a very freeing experience.

    The other thing and especially for men, masturbating takes energy away from your spouse. This is true and well documented. After orgasm, men’s brain chemistry changes for a while, it makes sex undesirable for a while and the older you get, the longer this feeling lasts. Women do the same thing, but theirs doesn’t last nearly as long. For men, it makes them less likely to want to do things with their wife. As one writer posted, instead of masturbating, let the husband cuddle with the wife, rub her feet etc. You will stay more on a love high and the need to ejaculate is reduced. The trick here is not get over stimulated and want to finish, just take it easy and enjoy cuddling. If you ejaculate, the males desire to do this is greatly diminished.

    Reply
  45. Charissa

    I agree that this is a complex topic – and I wanted to share that for MY marriage, choosing to masturbate was one of the best gifts I ever gave my husband. I was raised steeped in purity culture and watched many of my friends start their sex lives terribly. There was so much pain, vaginismus for many, and definitely no orgasms for women. Honestly, it was terrible to watch – particularly after the church had promised us that if we all saved ourselves for marriage we would have fantastic sex lives. I married later, so I got to watch the FRUIT of this teaching and say – something about this isn’t right. It is not producing flourishing, and I want a different path. I married a wonderful man at age 36 – but my sex drive really kicked in at 30. I had lots of hang ups about masturbation because of church teaching but was able to work through that with a licensed counselor and learned to bring myself to orgasm on my own. I did this a couple of times a week as a single person to help with my own need for physical release as I was saving intimacy with another person for marriage. When I got married to my husband, I started out completely orgasmic – usually multiple – from day 1. The orgasm gap in our relationship is heavily in my favor (because frankly biologically this makes more sense since men have refractory periods and women don’t), and we have a fabulous sex life that I have enjoyed immensely the entire time we have been married. I honestly think that women need to be more empowered to understand their OWN bodies in order to have good sex. Masturbation is a tool women can use to do this, and my husband would argue that choosing to masturbate is a gift I gave to our marriage. I allowed myself to embrace my own sexuality and understand my own body so that I could easily welcome him into sex with me. Currently I hardly ever masturbate because I don’t need to now that I have him – and sex with my husband is way better than masturbation anyway. But I also have no problem with either of us using masturbation for release if we needed it during a period when we were unavailable to each other. The reality is that the Bible is silent about masturbation. It is morally neutral – what you are using it FOR is what makes it better or worse for you. And I think we could actually help women have much better sex lives from the beginning if we gave them permission to understand their own bodies better. In the right context, masturbation can be a gift to marriages, not a problem.

    Reply
    • Frustrated

      I’m seeking out how to unpack my situation. My husband’s sex drive has always been higher than mine, and he’s definitely madturbated since early on in our marriage. We had a rough patch in our marriage for a time, which God redeemed, and made our marriage better and stronger. In the past 6 months I had been devastated to find that he had been masterbating and I did come to him and tell him how it made me feel. I cried in his arms and felt like he heard what I was saying. I wanted him to rely on me and communicate his desires so that I could take care of his needs, as I strongly believe God has designed marriage to be; Instead of feeling deep sorrow that he would choose that over the effort to grow closer physically and emotionally and honor our marriage vows.

      Fast forward 6 months later and I walked upstairs into his work area and saw him immediately hide a crumpled tissue. 😞 I pretended to ignore it in the moment but felt such deep sorrow, and emptiness. I was distant for a few days and then he communicated his needs, and I out of anger did ask him if he was sure that he wasnt taking care of himself, to ehich he said no. Thats when i told him about what i saw when I walked in and saw him hide the tissue days before. While that was the wrong approach, he didn’t apologize or anything.. he just said okay love you goodnight. He’s usually one that would rather avoid talking about something than dealing with the conflict it may bring.

      I feel like there’s no pouring into our marriage. There is low effort on his part for togetherness, or effort to hang out with me. And now I feel so frustrated and depressed that it’s hard to get through the day and function let alone be an affectionate loving wife. I am thankful for God’s comfort and steadfastness, but feel so lost especially since I thought we talked about this and I shared my heart only to find out he’s still doing it, which makes me feel like he cares more about himself than me.

      Reply

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