Christian women feel a disproportionate level of shame over one particular topic. Can you guess which one?
I’ll give you a hint: It starts with “M” and rhymes with ‘mastication’.
It’s the awkward, no-go, no-talk zone of femininity. It actually even feels more taboo than the porn talk! Yet so many women are…
Shame is eating women alive. Self-disgust rips at their souls and a feeling of grime and dirtiness invades their entire entity. I have seen this in women who struggle hour-by-hour, as well as those who do it every few weeks or months.
I am so burdened by the weight of their shame, I have found it necessary to reevaluate the way I approach the topic of masturbation. I have discovered it isn’t as black and white as I once thought. I am still not sure how this plays out practically… but here are four radical ideas on female masturbation:
1. Women are asking all the wrong questions.
‘Is it sinful?’
‘What if I can do it without lust?’
Obedience to God and thoughtful curiosity are good things. Let’s be honest, though, those are loaded questions. What you’re actually asking is ‘For the love of God can I please do this and not feel guilty about it?!’. This is about desire, not honor. The wrong questions dominate the discussion on masturbation and completely miss the point.
The wrong debates distract from healing, rather than facilitating it. They are not holistic. They limit the conversation. Stringent rule-making and forbidding behaviors do not lead to recovery. In the same way that a rigid, black-and-white upbringing often produces rebellious, wounded children, so too has the Christian community borne dysfunctional disciples.
Let’s be free and brave to explore the gray area that masturbation is. Let’s ponder the reality that there is more to healing than working around a rule book and ‘behaving’.
2. Masturbation isn’t about sexual pleasure but medicating pain
Masturbating is definitely pleasurable. No way around that. It’s often not only pleasurable, though. It can become a guise for negative emotion. Makes sense right? When you feel lousy, you do what you can to feel better.
It may be deeply subconscious, but try to note what you’re feeling when you have an urge. Are you lonely, anxious, depressed, scared, feeling rejected or in physical pain or tension? Often, masturbation is a coping mechanism for emotional pain, particularly trauma. Consider keeping a diary to track these patterns. I trust you will notice them.
Rather than asking ‘Is it sinful?’ you should be asking ‘What pain am I medicating? And why am I too afraid to face it?’
3. The shame you feel is worse than the act of masturbation
This may shock you but your problem is shame, not masturbation.
That shame is likely more dangerous, detrimental and damaging than masturbation ever will be. I may even suggest it grieves God’s heart more than what you’re ashamed of.
The shame you feel isolates and feeds you damaging lies. It tells you, ‘you are unworthy, you are unloveable!’, defying the words God speaks over you. Shame hides you from community and hinders relationships. It acts as a nebulous gap between yourself and your savior, Jesus.
You may place the emphasis of these damages on masturbation itself. While the act itself can damage and harm relationships, I would say it is not those few moments under your blankets at night that hurt you most. Rather, it is the shame that haunts you every hour. It is constant, and heightened in the wake of a ‘slip up’.
Shame causes more harm than masturbation. It’s time to spend your energy on what’s underneath the behavior, not on following the rules.
4. You’re not addicted to masturbation, but a slave to shame
Feeling shame sucks. It leads women to self-medication for emotional escape. So women use masturbation to escape shame, and then feel even more shame when they masturbate. Can you see the cycle beginning? The feeling of shame induced by a rules-based theology actually fuels the ‘forbidden’ act!
The identifiers of addiction are: compulsion, obsession, continuing despite harm, and tolerance. I wrote more about this HERE.
Masturbating often – or more than you’d like to – doesn’t mean you’re addicted. But it doesn’t mean you’re not. Either way, the intense shame you feel definitely feeds the cycle of habit.
Imagine if you were able to give that shame the boot. Imagine if you stopped giving it so much weight in your life. Imagine if failure didn’t rule your heart, and your identity. I think many women who struggle with masturbation would begin to experience freedom.
Masturbating freely might be the thing that frees you from masturbation.
These are radical statements – thoughts to help us step out of our inflexible beliefs and interact with the topic of masturbation in a new way. I do not intend for them to be an excuse to throw caution to the wind. I do not wish to diminish the real struggle that women face with masturbation addiction.
I do not intend to give you an excuse to ignore the convictions you already have, but I do want to provide a platform for gracious discussion. I want to focus on holistic, heart-level healing rather than surface-level debates over right and wrong.
May we ditch rigid obedience and loaded questions. May we dive beneath the surface to face more than just the act of masturbation, and concern ourselves with the issues that distance women from God and community: emotional wounds and shame.