What About Masturbation? I Can’t Find Anything In The Bible About This?

In an effort to be helpful, let me address this both biblically and practically. First, we need to define it. Masturbation is genital self-pleasuring. I am not counting as masturbation genital pleasuring between a married couple. What a married couple does together is for their pleasure and freedom. What I am referring to by masturbation is self-pleasuring done in isolation, which is usually accompanied by unbiblical lust.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, pornography exists primarily for the purpose of masturbation. Porn and masturbation is not just a male issue but is also something women struggle with. While no survey that I am aware of has discovered a culture where more women masturbate than men, it is still a struggle for both genders.

Until recent years, masturbation was widely regarded as a deviancy. However, times have certainly changed, as it is now championed as normal and natural. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld may have summarized the modern opinion of masturbation best when he said, “We all have to do it. It’s part of our lifestyle, like shaving.”

The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior and Sex in America indicates that masturbation is frequent

  • Single men who admit to masturbating once a week or more - 46%
  • Married men who admit to masturbating once a week or more - 44%
  • Divorced men who admit to masturbating once a week or more - 68%

Many Christian pastors have tried in vain to find a mention of masturbation in the Scripture so they can condemn it. Unable to find any verses on the matter, some have used the story of Onan in Genesis 38:6-10 as their proof text. This is unfortunate. The story of Onan says nothing about masturbation. Instead, the story is about a man who died, leaving his wife a childless widow. The dead man’s brother was then expected to marry his widowed sister-in-law, have normal sexual relations with her, and enable her to have children. Although Onan was happy to have sex with his sister-in-law, he would pull out of her just prior to his orgasm and ejaculate on the ground rather than obey God and become a father. This is about a man neglecting his responsibilities, not about masturbation.

The question remains, is it permissible for God’s people to masturbate? Yes and no. It must be noted that the Bible does not condemn masturbation outright. The Bible’s silence on the matter should cause us to avoid calling something a sin God does not. We must examine this issue with the following questions.

  1. Can you masturbate without lusting (Job 31:1)?
  2. Can you masturbate in a way that builds oneness with your spouse, pulling you together more intimately through the act (Genesis 2:24)?
  3. Can you masturbate without experiencing shame (Genesis 2:25)?
  4. Can you masturbate with a clear conscience (Titus 1:5)?
  5. Can you masturbate without capitulating to the cravings of your sinful desires and thoughts (Ephesians 2:3)?

It is possible someone could masturbate without violating the biblical principles revealed by these questions, but it is unlikely. There are additional practical reasons why it is not wise to masturbate.

First, masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a spouse of the opposite gender. Conversely, if people were to masturbate while in intimacy with their spouse, they would not be doing so in a homosexual way.

Second, masturbation is a form of monosexuality because it does not include another person. Since sex is given for the purposes of oneness (Genesis 2:24), intimate knowledge (Genesis 4:1), and comfort (2 Samuel 12:24), having sex with oneself seems to miss some of the significant biblical reasons for sexual intimacy, though that does not make it inherently sinful.

Third, masturbation is often done in haste because of the mortifying embarrassment of possibly being caught in the act. Subsequently, this encourages a man to become unskilled in the self-control necessary to satisfy a wife. Also, a wife can become so accustomed to pleasing herself that she is incapable of being satisfied by her husband.

Fourth, masturbation can establish a pattern of laziness. I’ll use men as an illustration here. If a single man wants to have an orgasm, he first needs to become a man and undergo the hard work of courting and marrying a woman. If a married man wants to have an orgasm, he first needs to undergo the hard work of loving, leading, and romancing his wife. But lazy men are prone to masturbate rather than undergo the labors usually associated with the responsible masculine married life.

Fifth, though masturbation is not biblically condemned, the question remains whether it is beneficial for you (1 Corinthians 10:23). God’s people are quite divided on this matter. Many claim it can be beneficial before marriage or during seasons of marriage when they are away from their spouse. Conversely, others claim that masturbating is not beneficial because they become mastered by it and are unable to keep it under control (1 Corinthians 6:12). The latter is biologically caused by the fact that masturbating does temporarily relieve sexual urges, but it also causes greater and more frequent biological urges for sexual release. So, while masturbation may be permissible, people really need to examine if it is beneficial for them. They also need to examine their heart and thoughts in the act of masturbation.

(This explanation is also presented in the book Real marriage: The truth about sex, friendship & life together by Mark and Grace Driscoll, pg. 181.)