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What if Masturbation Could Heal Us?

by Alice Taylor on March 20th, 2018 in Men, Women, Students

If there’s one topic that freaks Christians out the most, it’s masturbation.

When you tune into the discussion, it can get alarmingly serious.

There are believers who stand on either side of the fence on this topic, but overwhelmingly within the Church, masturbation is considered off-limits.

In a world of passionate forbiddance, I’d like to stand up and ask…

‘What If?’

What if masturbation could heal us?

What if there are people and situations being overlooked in the debate?

What if masturbation is more of a grey area that we ever anticipated?

Masturbation Addiction Is Legit

First of all, let’s acknowledge masturbation can be a serious struggle. It can become a compulsive, damaging addiction. That’s real. For some, masturbation accompanies porn use or voyeurism. It can have real consequences, and for some people, it must remain off-limits.

Further to this, within the Christian belief system, there are clear instructions regarding sexual behaviours. Followers of Jesus are called to avoid sexual activity outside of marriage, including lustful thoughts

These realities make traversing through ‘What If?’ territory mighty uncomfortable. But we needn’t fear exploring alternative positions. Our God is big, gracious, and sovereign enough to guide us through the grey and uncomfortable.

With this in mind, let’s explore some ways masturbation might be able to heal.

Methadone Masturbation

You’ve probably heard that porn is like a drug. It affects your brain in the same way heroin or cocaine can. Both behavior and substance can become addictive, and users may become dependent, requiring heavier doses to experience the chemical ‘rush’. With both sexual behaviors and drug use, withdrawals are a common struggle when beginning the recovery journey. The suffering associated with withdrawals often leads to relapse.

The solution for heroin or other opioid addicts is Methadone. It is a prescription drug which eases withdrawal symptoms to make the transition to sobriety possible in those first few weeks or months. It is a controlled and safer substance, but is still addictive in itself and carries risk. It has been used successfully to treat recovering addicts and is a method accepted within society.

The sex or porn addict on the other hand, is expected to make a full recovery by going ‘cold turkey’ overnight. Assuming they are unmarried, the addict is encouraged to remove every sexual outlet in their life. Why do we expect success if we know other addictions are so difficult to recover from without a pseudo-drug or at least a gradual weaning process?

What if instead of eliminating absolutely everything sexual, which like a starvation diet, encourages relapse or bingeing, the addict could work on individual struggles one at a time? Masturbation may be the final frontier to conquer. What if it helped them to truly find freedom?

Perhaps masturbation could be Methadone for the recovering sex addict.

Sexual Dysfunction and Therapy

As well as those struggling with compulsive sexual behaviours, it is necessary to consider another group of people. Unfortunately, often forgotten in the Christian conversation on self-stimulation, are men and women with sexual dysfunction.

When masturbation is unequivocally demonised, people with legitimate medical issues get shamed. Consider the person who has been terribly abused. In their marriage, any sexual touch causes physical inability to have intercourse. Vaginismus is a common issue for women, which causes a great deal of distress and pain. There are many factors contributing to issues such as this, and many more ways it manifests.

It is wise to invest in sexual therapy or counselling for these issues. Often, therapists will suggest gradual masturbation as part of the healing process. Doing this can overcome physical sexual limitations as well as empowering a victim to reclaim pleasure or sexuality. It may be the only way for a couple to participate in intercourse, which is a sacred and holy part of marriage.

When someone stands out the front of Church and condemns masturbation without considering there may be exceptions or complexities, more people get shamed. This may become a barrier to both their personal healing, and relationship with God. We must not forget these people.

Masturbation may be what God uses to heal them.

Don’t Do It Alone

If you’re burning with rage, or are already scheduling in a handy little marathon, hold up. This is not a free for all. Let’s talk accountability.

How would you feel about allowing masturbation in your life…under supervision? I don’t mean your accountability partner needs to watch you do the deed. But, in your ongoing accountability journey, take two simple steps. Firstly, determine your personal boundaries. Within a Christian worldview, perhaps masturbation could be helpful if it’s private, safe, not compulsive, not being used to withhold marital intimacy or bury emotion, is free from lustful thoughts or is part of a therapeutic program (I know, makes it difficult doesn’t it?). Next, commit to being open with your accountability partner about when you do masturbate, and why.

Whether you feel convicted to pursue a life with or without masturbation, accountability is key. Orgasms are powerful. Once you start experiencing them, you’ll think having sex with anything and everything is a great idea. Both lifestyles open themselves to bingeing or relapsing. You need someone to keep you on track.

What if allowing masturbation and removing the shame could actually break the cycle of addiction?

Conclusion

I see the dangers of masturbation. I see its affiliation with pornography and lust. I see the chemical reactions that cause compulsion. I’ve seen the damage it can do to sexual intimacy. I’ve seen the slippery slope. And yet, I can’t shake the thought that ‘cold turkey’ recovery is kind of ludicrous.

I can’t shake the thought there could be healing that comes from masturbation, that it could somehow have a place that is accountable, pure and not compulsive.  Could it be a blessing to recovery? Could it be Methadone for the recovering addict? Could it be used to redeem sexual wounds of the past and present?

Yet, I see how apt humans are at abusing what is given to us. Our sinful natures propel us to exploit even what is pure, let alone things that sit in the grey area. Is there a way this could actually work in reality? Perhaps it is simply an idealistic theory.

I can’t tell you if masturbation is entirely wrong or not. So, join me in mulling this ‘What If’ over in your mind. Continue to walk in integrity and stick to your convictions if you know masturbation needs to remain out of bounds for you. Don’t use this blog as an excuse, but consider it rather as a safe place to muse, pray and discuss how we might release each other from shame and that which enslaves…which is sometimes masturbation.

And, let me know if you figure it all out.

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  • While your intentions in writing this article are very noble, the message you’re sending to readers is very confusing. Especially for those who consider themselves believers. Early in your article you write: “Further to this, within the Christian belief system, there are clear instructions regarding sexual behaviours. Followers of Jesus are called to avoid sexual activity outside of marriage, including lustful thoughts. These realities make traversing through ‘What If?’ territory mighty uncomfortable. But we needn’t fear exploring alternative positions. Our God is big, gracious, and sovereign enough to guide us through the grey and uncomfortable.” I’m sorry, but as a follower of Christ, I consider His Word definitive. I can’t afford to have my own “opinions” of what I think is okay and sexually healthy or not. God’s Word is clear as to the kind of life He calls us to. And my own story of brokenness and addiction serves to only further prove that. When articles like this are written, it gives permission for people truly think with the wrong head. Sure, the reality is that a person most likely will not overcome masturbation “cold turkey”, but you discount the incredible ability for God to heal someone’s mind, their desires, their cravings, etc. without having to use acting out as a transitional behavior to freedom. I haven’t known one man who actually has ever come to me and said: “Frank, you’ll never believe it: I don’t look at porn anymore! It’s because I masturbated my way out of it.” As for those with sexual dysfunction, I reference you back to my comment about God’s ability to heal and the incredible power of therapy and counseling. We serve a miraculous God who is capable of anything He wishes. Bottom line: The very act of masturbation doesn’t liberate (and definitely doesn’t heal). It only brings upon more shame and secrecy to the person doing it. I know it, I was there for so many years and I’ve met countless men who have the same story. XXXchurch and yourself should be very careful with these kinds of confusing articles. They are potentially very harmful.

    • C S

      I absolutely agree with everything Frank said.

    • John Rood

      Frank, thanks for your desire to promote submission to scripture and for your concern that we take the right approach to this issue. Honestly, I believe that your comment is misleading. You say “as a follower of Christ, I consider His Work definitive”. Certainly scripture gives definitive answers to some questions about sexuality, but it doesn’t logically follow that scripture gives a definitive answer to this particular question. Wouldn’t you agree that there are many ethical issues that scripture doesn’t speak definitively to (such as gmo farming or public vs private school)? I’m very open to your claim that “masturbation doesn’t liberate,” but I’ve searched scripture and I haven’t found any place where masturbation is definitively forbidden. I recognize that this doesn’t necessarily mean that masturbation isn’t sin. However, if we say that scripture speaks definitively about something when it does not, then it might rhetorically sound like we’re putting our opinions under submission to what God’s Word says, when ironically we might actually be putting our understanding of what God’s Word says in submission to our opinions. Nonetheless, I really do appreciate your concern, and I agree that we should be very carful with this issue. Thanks

      • Hi John – thanks for your response. Actually, to be clear (and if you go back and read what I wrote), that specific comment I made was referring to what Scripture says about sexual immorality and lust. While I never said that God’s Word speaks specifically to the issue of masturbation, I did comment how unhealthy it is. People always tend to take this stance about masturbation: “Well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about it, so it must be okay.” That is an OVER generalization of the issue and a very harmful, immature line of thinking. There are TONS of things the Bible doesn’t speak to in specific, but if we zoom out and widen the lens we can see what Scripture says about issues of lust and issues of sexual impurity. The Bible DOES speak to sexual intimacy only being in the context of marriage between a man and his wife – not a man and his hand. So I would urge you go again to back and re-read what I wrote brother. And remember that just because the Bible doesn’t speak to a specific issue, doesn’t make it a healthy activity – especially as it refers to masturbation – which is essentially having sex with yourself. Is it mentioned in the Bible? No. But is it enslaving men and women every day? Absolutely yes.

        • John Rood

          Thanks for clarifying. I apologize, I thought that you were implying that scripture spoke definitively to masturbation, but it looks like I misunderstood what you were saying. I’m sorry for misrepresenting you in that way. I also completely agree that’s scripture’s silence on masturbation does not necessarily mean it isn’t sin. Did it seem to you like the author or I were using that argument or implying it in some way?

          • Your statement here seems like you’re on the fence: “I’m very open to your claim that “masturbation doesn’t liberate,” but I’ve searched scripture and I haven’t found any place where masturbation is definitively forbidden.” And yes, I agree the Bible doesn’t address the actual act of masturbation as sin. But we can look at Jesus’ words about lust, the call to flee from sexual immorality, the call to sexual intimacy only in the confines of marriage (again, not as a solo act). All of these are clues to me and help me to formulate an opinion that if this is what the Bible says about these things, it’s probably not hard for me to guess that masturbation is also an unhealthy behavior, and I might go so far as to say, sinful behavior. That’s my two cents.

  • Tony Campbell

    Interesting. Have you done any research or heard any stories where this has been the road of recovery for someone?

    • I don’t believe it’s based on any research. Only opinion.

  • Paul Robinson

    Great post Alice. This is definitely a way of thinking that has become increasingly helpful to me when thinking about porn and masturbation.

    Seth Taylor does a lot of great work around this idea of what if we used those times we masturbate to stop and notice what is going on. Without judgement of ourselves or others. It can be incredibly helpful and I think can actually loosen the power that it has over many, if for no reason it helps to removes the shame.

    Many of us especially those raised in the Church find it tough to just let go of the shame and notice how this affects us but when we do can find amazing results.

    Thanks for writing this, Alice.

    • Alice Taylor

      Thanks Paul! I appreciate the encouragement! I used to be a firm ‘No masturbation! It’s a sin!’ kind of believer, but as I’ve walked with women, and grown in my own journey, removing the shame seems to be the most powerful force for healing and self-awareness. Which kind of feels ‘anti-God’ or ‘anti-bible’ but…it works! I love Seth’s work, it’s really out of the box stuff. But, that’s what we need. The super ‘Churchy’ methods just don’t seem to be liberating people like they’re promised. Forgive me for responding so late, I was avoiding reading comments for a while! #sensitivewriter

  • Christian Sexual Wholeness

    If that isn’t specifically your personal experience then I can say that it is definitely mine, and was the way I began a journey out of sexual addiction, and ultimately I believe, towards fulltime ministry of healing others in this area. Bless you.

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